With its monumental porch, the Mas-d'Azil cave has always attracted the attention of men. However, it was not until the XNUMXth century that the site became the place of curiosity and interest in a completely new discipline, Prehistory. The scholars and excavators then come to survey the places, and begin to discover the first objects, vestiges of ancient occupations.
In a letter from 1901, the prehistorian Édouard Piette recounts the discovery of an exceptional piece in the cave by the village pastry chef, Jean Maury and his friend.
Maury had never searched and was not searching when the ibex were found; he was walking in the cave with one of his friends, when one of them pushed them with the end of his cane. The other picked it up. Edouard Piette
The object in question is a carved sperm whale tooth… yes, you read that right, a sperm whale tooth!
In this totally original work, we can see two ibex carved in bas-relief, on either side of the room. They are accompanied by geometric patterns. Three perforations suggest that this object was intended to be suspended, the famous Abbé Breuil saw in it a pendant or even an amulet.
The study showed that it was not a fossil tooth, so it was taken from a sperm whale washed up on a shore off the Atlantic or Mediterranean coasts. It was therefore cool at the time of the sculpture.
It is thus the witness of journeys or exchanges carried out by groups of modern men, through the Pyrenees, about 16 years ago!
Now kept at the National Archeology Museum and National Domain of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (78), this decorated sperm whale tooth is one of the masterpieces of prehistory!
Currently, only one other decorated sperm whale tooth is known in Paleolithic art. It was found in the north of Spain, in Asturias, on the site of Las Caldas, or nearly 712 km from Mas-d'Azil! Do both teeth come from the same sperm whale ?!
For the rest of the story ... On the strength of this discovery, Jean Maury asked the prefect for permission to excavate at Mas-d'Azil. The latter refused him and wrote to Edouard Piette: "Let us leave him to his brioches".