Dutch art from the Ice Age discovered in the North Sea

Dutch art from the Ice Age discovered in the North Sea

An ancient piece of art has been discovered at the bottom of the North Sea. During the Ice Age, the North Sea consisted of dry land on which people lived their lives, and increasing evidence draws new attention to "the importance of continental shelves as archaeological archives". 

The oldest piece of art in the Netherlands

The prized object in question is a bison bone covered in zig-zag carvings. It was analysed by experts at the archaeological museum in Leiden and has been confirmed to be 13.500 years old. It has been dubbed the oldest piece of art in the Netherlands.

The bone is part of the private collection of Jan Glimmerveen, who gave permission to expert researchers at Leiden University and the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden to determine the date of the object.

Dutch art from the Ice Age

The bone is decorated with a carved zig-zag pattern and is presumed to have been used for rituals, rather than as an everyday tool. This was the conclusion of prehistory curator at the Leiden museum, Luc Amkreutz, who stated, "I wouldn’t know what else you would do with a decorated horse’s jaw".

This is a very rare find – one of just four of its kind. Archaeologists had previously discovered a similar pattern on a horse’s jaw in Wales, deer antlers in France and moose antlers in Poland.

What does the piece of Dutch art mean?

The Ice Age civilisation that decorated objects using zig-zag and herringbone motifs were clearly doing so for a reason. But what that reason is? "We will never really know," Luc Amkreutz said.

The zig-zags were meaningful for the people at the time – whether it referred to water, movement or a system for counting. Whatever intention the artist had will always remain a mystery.

Rachel Deloughry


Rachel Deloughry

Rachel is a writer, editor and digital content creator, passionate about the arts, culture and lifestyle.

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