Swimming Reindeer: Difference between revisions

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De l'Isle wrote a paper on his discovery, and his finds were exhibited in 1867 at the [[Exposition Universelle (1867)|Exposition Universelle]] in [[Paris]]. People were intrigued to see the sophistication of his finds and this sculpture in particular. The carvings were remarkable in that they illustrate [[reindeer]], which no longer live in France. Dating was possible as the two reindeer were carved in the ivory of an extinct animal. This dated the find as ancient and required a re-evaluation of the life of humans in the late [[Ice Age]].<ref name="brad"/> This find was particularly astounding, as at that time no [[cave paintings]] had been discovered, and it was to be some years before those that were found were accepted as genuine.<ref name="focus">[http://my.page-flip.co.uk/?userpath=00000013/00012513/00053413/&page=11 The Swimming Reindeer], British Museum Objects in Focus, accessed 3 August 2010, ISBN 978-0-7141-2821-4</ref> In fact it was only the work of [[Henry Christy]] and [[Edouard Lartet]] that had recently persuaded informed opinion that mankind had lived during the ice age and coexisted with mammoths.<ref name="focus"/>
The evidence for coexistence came not only from the reindeer but also from a carved spear thrower which was found in the same location. This device was used to gain extra leverage when throwing a spear. In this case it was made from a piece of reindeer antler that had been carved into the shape of a mammoth.<ref>[httphttps://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pe_prb/s/mammoth_spear_thrower.aspx Mammoth Spear Thrower], British Museum, accessed 7 August 2010</ref>
The reindeer sculptures were again exhibited in 1884 in Toulouse, when it is speculated that a French buyer might have been found, but they were eventually procured by the British Museum in 1887.<ref name="brad"/> De l'Isle initially offered his finds to the British Museum for the large sum of 150,000 francs, which would have a value in excess of half a million pounds in 2010. The offer was considered much too high and was not accepted by [[Augustus Wollaston Franks|Augustus Franks]], an enthusiastic antiquarian who was in charge of the north European collection at that time. Franks had been known to fund the museum's acquisitions himself, and he sent [[Charles Hercules Read]] to negotiate with de l'Isle. Read successfully managed to bring the price down to £500 (about £30,000 today). The purchase was funded by the Christy Fund, a £5,000 bequest by [[Henry Christy]] who had also left his own collections to the museum.<ref name="focus"/>
{{wide image|Sleeping Reindeer - horizontal.jpg|1000px|The male reindeer is on the left, the female is to the right.}}
The sculpture shows a female reindeer closely followed by a larger male reindeer. The larger male is indicated by his size, antlers and genitals, whilst the female has her teats modelled. The reindeer are thought to be swimming in illustration of the migration of deer that would have taken place each autumn. It is known that it would be autumn as both reindeer are shown with antlers, and only during autumn do both male and female reindeer have antlers.<ref name=trans>[http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/about/transcripts/episode4/ Transcript of Episode 4], ''History of the World in 100 Objects'', BBC, accessed 9 August 2010</ref> At this time of year reindeer would be much easier to hunt, and the meat, skin and antlers would be at their best.<ref name="ahotw">[http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/DyfP6g6dRN6WdwdnbIVbPw Swimming Reindeer], bbc.co.uk, accessed 2 August 2010</ref> Each of the reindeer has been marked with a [[burin]] to show different colouring and texture in the deer's coat. Oddly there are ten deeper cuts on each side of the back of the leading female reindeer. These may have been intended to indicate coloured markings, but their purpose is unclear.<ref name=bm>[httphttps://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/past_exhibitions/2010/archive_swimming_reindeer.aspx ''Swimming reindeer''], British Museum, accessed 3 June 2010</ref>
Former Director of the British Museum [[Neil MacGregor]] says of the manufacturing process:
{{Use dmy dates|date=July 2011}}
[[Category:Art of the Upper Paleolithic]]
[[Category:Prehistoric objects in the British Museum]]