The Lion Man is a masterpiece. Sculpted with great originality, virtuosity and technical skill from mammoth ivory, this 40,000-year-old image is 31 centimetres tall. It has the head of a cave lion with a partly human body. He stands upright, perhaps on tiptoes, legs apart and arms to the sides of a slender, cat-like body with strong shoulders like the hips and thighs of a lion. His gaze, like his stance, is powerful and directed at the viewer. The details of his face show he is attentive, he is watching and he is listening. He is powerful, mysterious and from a world beyond ordinary nature. He is the oldest known representation of a being that does not exist in physical form but symbolises ideas about the supernatural.
Found in a cave in what is now southern Germany in 1939, the Lion Man makes sense as part of a story that might now be called a myth. It is impossible to know what that story was about or whether he was deity, an avatar to the spirit world.
Obviously, the story involved humans and animals. Lion Man is made from a mammoth tusk, the largest animal in the environment of that time and depicts the fiercest predator, a cave lion, now extinct, that was about 30 centimetres taller than a modern African lion and had no mane. Perhaps this hybrid helped people to come to terms with their place in nature on a deeper, religious level.
An experiment by Wulf Hein using the same sort of stone tools available in the Ice Age indicate that the Lion Man took more than 400 hours to make.
Stadel Cave faces north and does not get the sun. It is cold and the density of debris accumulated by human activities is much less than at other sites. This was not a good place to live. Lion Man was found in a dark inner chamber, carefully put away in the darkness with only a few perforated arctic fox teeth and a cache of reindeer antlers nearby. These characteristics suggest that Stadel Cave was only used occasionally as a place where people would come together around a fire to share a particular understanding of the world articulated through beliefs, symbolised in sculpture and acted out in rituals.
Lion Man is the oldest known evidence for religious beliefs and Stadel Cave suggests that believing and belonging have a deep history crucial to human societies and originating long before writing.
The original text has been taken from here.
You can read about The Lion Man in Russian here.
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