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Object of the Month

COVA DES MUSSOL

 COVA DES MUSSOL

ANTHROPOMORPHIC CARVING FROM THE COVA DES MUSSOL CAVE

 

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Origin:

Cova des Mussol cave (Ciutadella)

Matter:

Olea europaea wood      

Size:

Height: 94 mm.; frontal width: 53 mm.;

side thickness: 64 mm.

Culture:

Prototalayotic                                                 

Excavation reference:

MU-S3c-VM-10a                                                                                                

Date:

1279 - 993 cal BCE (95.0%)

987 - 980 cal BCE (0.4%)

(Beta-110137: 2930±50BP)  

Carving made from olive tree wood that depicts a man’s head, face and neck. It shows rather realistic anatomical features among which the superciliary arches, the jaw and the half open mouth are worth highlighting. This individual was depicted with a slight extension of the neck that makes it seem as if it was looking upwards.

It was carved using the trunk or main branch of a tree that was growing a secondary part as, can be seen from the two points of growth that are on this wood fragment. One shaft follows the direction of the neck and the other goes from the jaw to the upper-rear part of the skull. This object is finished to a high standard and its surface is almost entirely polished, and in order to accomplish this level of detail in the physical features it would have been necessary to alternate between polishing and carving.

The condition of its conservation is rather good, despite the loss of its right ear and tip of its nose, two cracks going between what is left of the nose and ear, and the left cheek having insect holes.

This carving is part of a group of wooden artefacts and small ceramic pots found inside room 3c of the Cova des Mussol cave. This cave is located on a cliff, in Cala Be cove, in the area of Punta Nati (Ciutadella). Its access is rather difficult and dangerous by both land and sea. the cave has two entrances, the main one, and then a secondary one 20 m above sea level. The main access is only a few meters below. It is a cave of karstic origin with an uneven floor due to fragments of rockfall from the ceiling. The deepest rooms present diverse speleothems.

The Cova des Mussol cave was first explored by Pere Arnau on 26th June 1997, who discovered its archaeological content. Apart from the content in 3c, it was documented that room 1 was used as a mass burial cemetery -between 1050 and 800 BCE- and some of the interior rooms were used as ritual sites between 1600 and 1400 BCE, and also as a deposit of votive objects in the 9th century BCE.

Room 3c is not the deepest room however it is one of the most hidden away and difficult rooms to access of the whole cave and its two entrances were found covered up by stone slabs purposefully placed to close them up. The room is small and it is impossible to stand up as it does not go above 90 cm of height at any point.

The ceramic objects found inside and outside room 3c are thought to be lamps. These lamps would light up the space where the depicted individual in the first carving would observe a second zoo-anthropomorphic carving placed on a higher point.

There are no equal findings of these carvings around the Mediterranean and the most similar are findings made in lagoons and peat bogs in Northern Europe and the British Isles. However, in these other cases, the full body is usually represented and the chronology is rather wide, the oldest being one from 5300 BCE in Volkerak and the most modern being one found in Friesack dated from 600 CE.

​                                                                                                                                           

 ZOO-ANTHROPOMORPHIC CARVING FROM THE COVA DES MUSSOL 

 
   

 

 

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Origin:

Cova des Mussol cave (Ciutadella)

Matter:

Olea europaea wood      

Size:

Height: 149 mm.; frontal width: 55 mm.;

side thickness: 40 mm.

Culture:

Prototalayotic                                             

Excavation reference:

MU-S3c-VM-14a/15a                                                                                                

Date:

1434 - 1192 cal BCE (94,4,0%)

1143 – 1132 cal BCE (1%)

(Beta-110137: 3060±50BP)  

Carving made from olive tree wood that depicts the head, face and neck of a being with both human and animal features.  The face could be human however, it presents two horns on the upper part of its head. Two oblique incisions form the eyes and the mouth is created by one horizontal incision. It had no ears and its chin is narrow but prominent. These features give it a serious and arrogant expression.

It was carved using the trunk or main branch of a tree that bifurcated into two shafts. When it was discovered, the carving had two cracks that were repaired in the laboratory as well as many insect holes.

This carving is part of a group of wooden artefacts and small ceramic pots found inside room 3c of the Cova des Mussol cave. This cave is located on a cliff, in Cala Be cove, in the area of Punta Nati (Ciutadella). Its access is rather difficult and dangerous by both land and sea. the cave has two entrances, the main one, and then a secondary one 20 m above sea level. The main access is only a few meters below. It is a cave of karstic origin with an uneven floor due to fragments of rockfall from the ceiling. The deepest rooms present diverse speleothems.

The Cova des Mussol cave was first explored by Pere Arnau on 26th June 1997, who discovered its archaeological content. Apart from the content in 3c, it was documented that room 1 was used as a mass burial cemetery -between 1050 and 800 BCE- and some of the interior rooms were used as ritual sites between 1600 and 1400 BCE, and also as a deposit of votive objects in the 9th century BCE.

Room 3c is not the deepest room however it is one of the most hidden away and difficult rooms to access of the whole cave and its two entrances were found covered up by stone slabs purposefully placed to close them up. The room is small and it is impossible to stand up as it does not go above 90 cm of height at any point.

The ceramic objects found inside and outside room 3c are thought to be lamps. These lamps would light up the space where the zoo-anthropomorphic carving was found fallen on the ground and facing the wall.

Despite this, it seems that originally it might have been placed on a rock protuberance higher up the wall looking towards where, on a lower level, the anthropomorphic carving was.

There are no equal findings of these carvings around the Mediterranean and the most similar are findings made in lagoons and peat bogs in Northern Europe and the British Isles. The researchers who carried out the dig and analysed the Cova des Mussol's content dated the carving between 1200 and 1000 BCE and called it "the horned god”. Due to the characteristics of its horns, it has been related to a predecessor of the Celtic divinity Cernunnos.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

LULL, V., MICÓ, R., RIHUETE HERRADA, C. i RISCH, R. (1999), Rituales de vida y muerte en la prehistoria de Menorca. La Cova des Càrritx, Consell Insular de Menorca, Barcelona

LULL, V., MICÓ, R., RIHUETE, C. i RISCH, R., (1999), La Cova des Càrritx y la Cova des Mussol. Ideología y sociedad en la prehistoria de Menorca, Barcelona.

                                                                                                                                           

 

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