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© 2000 The British Museum
Horse engraved on rib bone from Robin Hood Cave.
Upper Palaeolithic art object, 12,500 years old.
This engraving of a horse on a fragment of rib is about 12,500 years old is the only example of such art known from Britain. The highly polished surface of the bone suggests that this object was a personal possession which has been handled many times and perhaps carried in a pocket. Similar works of art are known from Late Magdalenian sites in the Paris Basin, France. This object may have been brought to Creswell Crags by hunters tracking animals during the Late Upper Palaeolithic. The engraved bone was found on 29th June 1876 at the back of the western chamber in Robin Hood Cave.
The engraving clearly shows the head, neck and forequarters of a horse facing to the right. The eye and nostrils are clearly indicated and the mane is shown by a series of short engraved lines. Three parallel lines describe the horses back and the front leg is clearly indicated. Lines engraved later and over the horse include a series of verticals which may represent fence posts or possibly spears. Deep horizontally scored lines over the flank of the horse may represent an attempt to erase what went before. The rib has been deliberately grooved and snapped across at the right hand end. Unfortunately, the species of animal from which the bone came is unknown.
Glossary: Anatomically modern humans, Artefact, Assemblage, Backing, Biface, Blade, Bronze Age, Cordiform, Core, Cortex, Creswellian, Culture, Debitage, Early Upper Palaeolithic, Flake, Flake tool, Glacial, Hafting, Handaxe, Ice Age, Interglacial, Late Upper Palaeolithic, Magdalenian, Middle Palaeolithic, Neanderthal, Palaeolithic, Pleistocene, Retouch, Tool, Upper Palaeolithic