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