In 1866, the French engineer, Peccadeu de l’Isle discovered two pieces carved from the tip of a mammoth tusk inside a rock shelter near the village of Bruniquel, in the south of France.
It was not until the early 20th century (1904) that Abbé Henri Breuil while visiting the British Museum, realized that the two pieces form a single sculpture which depicts a male and a female reindeer swimming closely one behind the other. The sculpture dates from the end of the last Ice Age and is thought to be at least 13,000 years old.
The leading figure is a female reindeer with a small body and antlers closely followed by a larger male figure. Both animals are shown with their chins up, antlers back and legs at full stretch as if they are swimming.
Experts believe that the figure was created in autumn when animals migrate because only during this season both male and female reindeer have full antlers and coats.
The sculpture is the result of four separate stone technologies. First, the tip of the tusk was chopped with a chopping tool.
Then, the outlines of the animal were whittled with a stone knife and scraper. Next, powdered iron oxide, mixed with water, was used to polish off the entire piece which was later buffed with chamois leather. Finally, a stone engraving tool was used to incise the details carefully.
It was bought by the British Museum in 1887 and, now, it is part of the Christy Collection.
It is one of the most beautiful pieces of Ice Age art ever found and kept in a climate-controlled case due to its delicate nature.