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Der L÷wenmensch L┤Homme Lion The Lion Man

The lion man

About 40,000 years ago, at the beginning of the upper paleolithic period, the Swabian Jura was part of the living area of the early, anatomically modern, humans (homo sapiens). They crossed the valleys marked by the ice age in small groups tracking animals such as mammoths, reindeer, bisons and wild horses. In the caves we find evidence that they have lived there in traces of campfires, tools, weapons and jewelry made out of stone, bone, antlers and ivory.

Furthermore, in four caves several small sculptures were discovered. Carved with stone tools out of mammoth ivory, they show the most important big animals there were to hunt, but also smaller ones such as birds or fish. An archaic female sculpture ("Venus") is the sole human representation. A large number of figures show the most dangerous animals such as cave-bears and cave-lions. All together they represent the worldwide oldest objects of mobile art.

The tallest and most spectacular of the ivory figurines is the Lion Man, a fabulous therianthropic creature. The fragmented sculpture had been discovered in the Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave in the Lone valley on the very last day of the 1939 excavation which was halted when World War II began. It took more than thirty years for the ivory pieces to be recognized as being part of a figurine, and another two decades for the statuette to be professionally restored. Nevertheless, important parts of the figurine were still missing.

In 2009, surprisingly, the adventurous story of the Lion Man was to be continued. New excavations inside the Stadel Cave led archaeologists to the re-discovery of the original finding place of the statuette of 1939. They were able to retrieve numerous additional fragments of the figure. As a result, it was possible to further reassemble the Lion Man in the course of a very complex restoration project in 2012 and 2013. The sculpture, now consisting of more than 300 fragments, is almost complete and reveals many more details allowing further knowledge of its production-process and new ideas concerning its interpretation and possible use.

The statuette, masterly sculptured out of a mammoth tusk, combines animal and human attributes. The animal part is represented by the lion-head, the long shaped body and the arms formed as forelegs and paws of a big cat, the human part by the legs and feet, as well as the upright position. Thanks to new observations made during the actual restoration, it seems that the statuette can be characterized as being that of a man. In any case, the fantastic creature of the Lion Man represents a unique relic, which leads us into the spiritual world of the humans during the last ice age, although we never shall be able to decipher their, certainly complex, view of the world.