The lionheaded figurine is one of the oldest human sculptures of the World. It was found 1939 in the Stadel im Hohlenstein (7427/04) near Asselfingen, Alb-Donau-Kreis. The original is now on display in the Ulmer Museum (City Museum of Ulm), but some other museums own a copy of this unique find.
The sculpture is 29.6 cm high, 5.6 cm wide and 5,9 cm thick. It is carved out of mammoth ivory. The bent form of a mammoth tooth explains the characteristic shape of the statute.
The age was determined by C14-dating of other finds in the same horizon to 32,000 years. This time is called Aurignacien, after the town Aurignac in France, where the first remains from this epoch were found.
The first systematic archaeological excavations in the Stadel started 1937 and were conducted by Prof. Robert Wetzel, but they ended abruptly at the beginning of World War II. The finds were stored provisionally and were not scientifically analyzed. The figurine was discovered on the 25th of August 1939, the last day of the excavations in the form of hundreds of small fragments by Otto Völzing and Robert Wetzel.
The fact that the fragments belonged to a figurine was discovered in 1969 by Prof. Dr. Joachim Hahn, an archaeologist from Tübingen, while making an inventory of the finds. He mentioned a similarity of several small peices and puzzled a first version of the figurine with nearly 200 fragments.
The figurine shows a standing person, having both, human and animal features. The human body has the head of a cave lion. Hahn interpreted this to be a rare evidence of the mystic-religious imagining of the people of Old Stone Age.
Some years ago the scientific examination of the sculpture was redone completely by Elisabeth Schmid. Some more bones, found during the original excavation, could be added to the figure. Mainly the head and the second arm were completed. The figurine changed its looks completely.
Joachim Hahn interpreted the figurine as being male. Elisabeth Schmid derived from some details that the figure was a woman and called it lionlady. All in all there is no objective proof for the gender of the figurine and the discussion is more or less ideologic.
But the arms of the figure look like paws, and the proportions of the body are not really human. The human feet could be interpreted as naive or unsuccessful representation of an animal. Another possibility, between the above extremes, are the paintings of shamans from the Magdalénien of southern France, which have a body composed of several animals with human feet for dancing(?). This drawings have no gender at all.
Some of the remaining mysteries will probably be solved soon. In 2011 the Stadel cave was excavated for the first time since 1939. The excavation at the same place as then, and in the rubble pile which was created by the first excavation, numerous fragments of ivory were discovered. About 1,000 pieces are thought to belong to this figurine. As a result the figurine was removed from the museum and all glue and the beeswax filler were removed. Now the figurine will be reassembled piece by piece. As many of the fragments are tiny, the final result is unclear, but it is evident, that one of the pieces is actually most of the missing right arm.
The best place to see this figurine is the Ulmer Museum (see below). Copies of the figurine are on display at:
The copy from the Urgeschichliches Museum Blaubeuren on the left picture above shows the figurine how it was reconstructed 1969.