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The 40,000-year-old figurine, with its newly-attached head. Photo: H. Jensen. Copyright University of Tübingen

Archaeologists have found the missing head of a 40,000 year old figurine, whose body was excavated in 1931. The two pieces have now been reassembled, revealing that the artefact is a model of a cave lion.

Both pieces of the mammoth ivory carving were found in Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany, where archaeologists led by Prof. Nicholas Conard from the University of Tübingen have been re-excavating sediment layers first investigated over 70 years ago.

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Prof Nicholas Conard of the University of Tübingen is leading re-excavation of sediments from Vogelherd Cave, first investigated in 1931.
Photo: M. Zeidi. Copyright University of Tübingen

The site is one of four caves in the Lone Valley region that have yielded some of the world’s earliest artworks. Bone flutes found in nearby Geißenklösterle were recently dated to 41,000-40,000 years old making them the oldest-known musical instruments, while in 2008 Prof Conard led an excavation at Hohle Fels that uncovered what is thought to be the earliest Venus figurine yet found. The recently reassembled Lion Man also comes from this valley, discovered in Stadel Cave in 1939.

Vogelherd Cave has yielded the most finds, however, with over two dozen mammoth ivory figurines and thousands of tiny fragments recovered from the site to-date. Analysis of these pieces to see if any more can be reassembled, is now beginning.

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