sábado, 8 de septiembre de 2012

Art of the Azilian: 14,000 year old Amber Elk Figurine

The Azilian or Federmesser period in Europe is of great interest today, because it exemplifies the struggles that humans have experienced under great climate change.

At the end of the last Ice Age, the world began its long slow recovery from being under ice. The period known as the Alleröd brought the first warming trend to the European continent, changing the climate from steppe tundra to temperate pine and birch forest. The material culture of the people who survived this change is known as Azilian or Federmesser culture.

Such a climate change killed off a chunk of the population, as people had to learn a whole new way of living, and the effect of that is seen in the kinds of tools they made, the kinds of raw material they had access to, and even the kinds of symbolic art they produced. The art turned from naturalist styles seen in Upper Paleolithic cave paintings, and became more stylized, with more geometric techniques as seen in the following Mesolithic period.

Side view of the re-assembled elk cow figurine from Weitsche, Germany. The forelegs haven't been found yet (photograph: U. Bohnhorst, © Stephan Veil, Landesmuseum, Hannover)
This 9 centimeter (4 inch) long sculptured figurine of an elk from the Federmesser site of Weitsche, Germany is carved from amber, and it combines some of the realism of the Upper Paleolithic in its carving of the elk's dewlaps, and some of the geometrics of the Mesolithic, in the hash-mark representation of its mane. Further, it is a woodland creature, not that of the steppes, and it is likely (the tests are not as yet complete) of local Baltic amber. A perfect example of the transition exemplified by the Azilian. archaeology.about.com/

Link 2: Veil S, Breest K, Grootes P, Nadeau M-J, and Hüís M. 2012. A 14 000-year-old amber elk and the origins of northern European art. Antiquity 86(333):660-673.

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