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Rail engineer Peccadeau de l’Isle was supervising track construction outside Toulouse in 1866 when he decided to take time off to indulge his hobby, archaeology. With a crew of helpers, he began excavating below a cliff near Montastruc, where he dug up an extraordinary prehistoric sculpture. It is known today as the Swimming Reindeer of Montastruc.
Made from the 8in tip of a mammoth tusk, the carving, which is at least 13,000 years old, depicts two deer crossing a river. Their chins are raised and their antlers tipped back exactly as they would be when swimming. At least four different techniques were used to create this masterpiece: an axe trimmed the tusk, scrapers shaped its contours; iron oxide powder was used to polish it; and an engraving tool incised its eyes and other details.
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