Denizens of Madrid’s Pleistocene Woods: the deer Haploidoceros

For a paleoartist, few things are as exciting as the opportunity to be the first one to make a detailed reconstruction of an extinct animal. After all, before somebody can take the time to reconstruct a fossil species, it is essentially a pile of bones in a museum collection, labelled with some unpronounceable latin name. And as latin names go, Haploidoceros mediterraneus certainly ranks among the less pronounceable ones!

The males of this species (larger than a fallow deer, but quite smaller than a red deer) had a pair of antlers unlike those of any deer we can see today.

A male Haploidoceros in its prime in a wooded Pleistocene setting in the Madrid valley.

Antlers are tricky three-dimensional objects to draw when you lack a live model to look at, so in order to make sure I got the shape of this one right, I created a digital 3D model based on orthogonal views of several fossil antlers, a model which I could rotate and light at will in the 3D program, then render it in 2d to serve me as a model for the final drawing.

Here is the render of the 3D model of the Haploidoceros head and antlers
haploidoceros 3d

The exceptional fossil which served as the main basis for my reconstruction was found at the late Pleistocene (about 85,000 years old) fossil site of Preresa in the Madrid province, which also yielded fossils of many other mammal species together with a range of stone tools attributed to Neanderthals. This fact led the exhibit curators to propose that I would create a scene where a Neanderthal is seen carrying a freshly hunted Haploidoceros. A rather brutal end for my lovely little deer, but an episode that very likely took place many times in the Madrid valley shortly before the last Ice Age!
Neanderthal and deer

Now this fossil finding is the center of a temporary exhibit in the museo Arqueológico de la Comunidad de Madrid, in Alcalá de Henares.

The Neanderthal-Haploidoceros scene is featured in a gigantic banner on the Museum building…
2014-12-18 11.33.06

It has been quite satisfaction to see the finished exhibit this morning at the museum, and also to get a copy of the accompanying book, to which I have contributed a chapter about the reconstruction process that led to the creation of the Hapliodoceros images.

Here is the cover of the new book
book cover haploidoceros low res


Posted on 18/12/2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I am extremely happy to finally see a life reconstruction of such an interesting animal, so mysterious to us yet so familiar to our European predecessors. It might be the least well known of the Late Pleistocene European megafauna. Next one on my wish list is Soergelia, can I ask for it until Christmas next year? 😉

  2. Sheila Collins

    Wonderful! What program do you use, to create your 3D computer simulations? Is it available for other artists to use?

  3. What a beautiful reconstruction! The first image, with it alive, is certainly a happier one for the deer. Nevertheless, you did a great job with the hunting image as well. It is very dynamic and the pose really shows off those unique antlers. (Still, if I were to get a framed print, the live one would be my pick!) How interesting that some ancient people regularly ate these animals, and yet no person alive has ever seen a living Hapliodoceros. Your beautiful art makes it feel like they aren’t long gone.
    It’s wonderful that the advent of 3D modeling programs have opened up more possibilities for reconstructions. I look forward to seeing what other previously-untouched species you resurrect in the future!

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