Avert your gaze

The fragment of an engraved horn baton depicted below is an example of mobiliary art from the Grotte de Saint Marcel et Lorthet in the Hautes Pyrénées department of France. The baton is thought to be at least 10,000 years old.

It has two pictographs of eyes. Mù is Chinese radical number 109.

Image: W. J. Sollas
Image: W. J. Sollas

The scene portrayed is of a male reindeer averting his gaze from the sight ahead.

For an interpretation of the two eyes, I would suggest that we refer to the Shuowen Jiezi and the Gǔwén version of the character juàn, which Xu Shen defines as disgraceful.

The line between the two eyes is a piě 丿. It denotes movement. (Try raising your eyebrows and then look away.) However, a piě is not needed in the image on the baton, because the reindeer portrays the action.

Image: Shuowen Jiezi: research tool


Image Credits:

Deer and salmon incised on a piece of horn (After Piette, 1894, L’Anthropologie, Vol. V. p.144, fig. 15.): Ancient Hunters and Their Modern Representatives: W. J. Sollas, 1924, p. 339, Macmillan: Source: http://geology.geol.cwru.edu/~huwig/catalog/slides/756.I.10.jpg: Accessed: 23 January 2013

Small seal script character (identical to the Gǔwén character): Shuowenjiezi: research tool in Chinese traditional philology: http://www.shuowenjiezi.com/