4 A Metal Unicorn’s Head

4 • A Metal Unicorn’s Head

Indus Valley, second half 3rd millenium BC
Size: 45 cm

The model for this unicorn is a type familiar from seals and terracotta figurines found at Harappa and other Indus Valley sites. European unicorns invariably have bodies like horses, while those further east have the bodies of bulls with the horn pointing upwards, rather than projecting forwards. Among the seals of Mohenjo-daro, 60 per cent show unicorns, and those from Harappa, 46 per cent. The area was teeming with unicorns.

According to scientists, the Siberian Unicorn, Elasmotherium sibiricum, was already extinct 350,000 years ago. However, a skull found recently in Kazakhstan proves they were still around a mere 29,000 years ago. Such a margin of error is a reminder to be wary of scientific opinion when dealing with something as delicate as the unicorn. Iron-smelting can be traced back to c. 2600 bc in the Indus Valley, which was probably where the technology was first developed.