Magic in Palaeolithic times

Andrej Abplanalp

Andrej Abplanalp

Historian and communications chief of the Swiss National Museum.

When the last Ice Age was drawing to a close 15,000 years ago, human beings found a perfect shelter under an overhanging rock in the canton of Schaffhausen. Here they ate and drank and worked with flint tools and sewing needles.

The campsite was discovered in the 19th century in Herblingen, a quarter in the town of Schaffhausen. One of the artefacts found there was a perforated baton made of reindeer antler with two incised wild horses.

This is one of the oldest figural representations to be found in Switzerland.The purpose of this artefact in Palaeolithic times is unknown. Archaeologists believe that it may have been a magical implement used during hunting. Drawing is thought to have been a magical act, and hunting magic was used to gain power over the animals and ensure good fortune on the hunt.

Perforated baton, 11th century BC, reindeer antler, found in the late 19th century in Schweizersbild.

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Swiss National Museum

Three museums – the National Museum Zurich, the Castle of Prangins and the Forum of Swiss History Schwyz – as well as the collections centre in Affoltern am Albis – are united under the umbrella of the Swiss National Museum (SNM).