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Lion Man of Hohlenstein Stadel

lion man of hohlenstein stadel

Being the oldest known zoomorphic figure in the world (circa 38.000 BC), the Lion Man of Hohlenstein Stadel was discovered by the archaeologist Robert Wetzel in a cave on Mount Hohlenstein in the Swabian Jura in southwest Germany in 1939. Due to the outbreak of World War II just a week after the discovery, the finds were never studied and thus forgotten.

Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave

Excavations at Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave in 1937-Colorized.

The pieces that were forgotten for thirty years after the outbreak of the Second World War were rediscovered and partially reassembled by Professor Joachim Hahn from the University of Tübingen in 1969. However, this assembly was not successful due to some missing parts. The figurine was restored again in 1987/88. In the period after 2008, other missing pieces were unearthed during the excavations conducted in the cave, and in 2012, the figurine was separated into separate pieces, and newly discovered pieces were added to the old pieces. As a result of the restoration works, nearly 300 pieces of the figurine were completely combined in the late 2013.

The Lion Man, 31 centimeters tall, 6.3 cm wide, and 5.9 cm thick, was made from a mammoth tooth, which was the largest animal of the time. An experiment using the same type of stone tools invented in the Ice Age shows that it took more than 380 hours to carve the Lion Man. So, it was a very demanding job.

Lion Man of Hohlenstein Stadel

Lion Man of Hohlenstein Stadel. Photo Credit: Ulmer Museum, Germany.

The plate standing in the groin area of the Lion Man, part lion and part human, is interpreted as stylized male genitalia. Some parts of the front side of the Lion Man’s body are missing. The posture and muscularity of the shoulders resemble a man standing on his toes and arms at his sides. The head of the figurine is forward facing and directed towards the viewer, with a stimulating gaze emphasized by a strong jawline and erect ears. The details of the Lion Man’s face show that he is attentive, watching, and listening. The left upper arm is marked with incisions depicting a tattoo or a scar. We do not know if this figure depicts a man (perhaps a shaman) wearing a lion’s headdress or a legendary being.

Lion Man of Hohlenstein Stadel, details.

Details, Lion Man of Hohlenstein Stadel. Photo Credit: Ulmer Museum, Germany.

Researchers have determined that the Stadel Cave, where the Lion Man is located, was not a suitable place to live 40.000 years ago due to its north facing position and position in the sun. For this reason, it is likely that the cave was a gathering place for rituals. In 2017, UNESCO declared the Stadel Cave and other Swabian sites as World Heritage. The Lion Man statue is exhibited in the Ulmer Museum in Germany today.

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