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Lost and found: the remarkable curatorial history of one of the earliest discoveries of Palaeolithic portable art

  • S.M. Bello (a1), G. Delbarre (a1), S.A. Parfitt (a2) (a1), A.P. Currant (a1), R. Kruszynski (a1) and C.B. Stringer (a1)...
Extract

Reassessment of archives, early publications and the auditing of museum collections have often led to the discovery or rediscovery of long-forgotten specimens (e.g. Hollmann et at. 1986: 330; Fainer & Man-Estier 2011: 506, 520). The combination of initial poor recognition, insufcient scientic analysis and inadequate storage conditions, can cause the loss to science of important archaeological specimens. New analytical techniques may allow reconsideration of previous interpretations (e.g. P illon 2008: 720, 723-24; Hello et aZ. 2011; Higham et aZ. 2011: 522, 524) but in some cases it is the scientific value of a specimen that is not recognised at the moment of its discovery (e.g. Rosendahl et aZ. 2003: 277; Kaagan et aZ. 2011). Particularly revealing examples are those where the specimen found is the first of its kind. This was the case with the first handaxe recognised as manufactured by humans (Gamble & Kruszynski 2009: 468-70) or the rst two sets of Neanderthal fossil remains found respectively at Engis in 1829-30 and Gibraltar in 1848, which were not recognised as an early human species until after the 1856 discovery of _Neanderthal 1 at the Kleine Feldhofer Grotte in the Neander Valley near DUsseldorf, Germany (Stringer & Gamble 1993: 13). Similarly, lack of recognition caused the near loss of an engraved antler from the Magdalenian site of Neschers (France), possibly one of the first examples of Palaeolithic portable art.

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Author for correspondence (Email: s.bello@nhm.ac.uk)
References
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Antiquity
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