A NEW artwork celebrates the life and work of one of the town’s most famous sons.
The Tortiphant – a paper mache sculpture by Aberdeenshire artist Dom Buxton - represents Victorian natural historian Hugh Falconer’s time in India, and is now on display at the Falconer Museum.
Development project officer Anne Owen confirmed the statue was commissioned by the Friends of the Falconer Museum and now has pride of place at its centre.
She explained: “Inspiration for the piece came from a sketch by one of Falconer’s friends, Professor Edward Forbes, in Falconer’s Palaeontological memoirs. The sketch, entitled, ‘The Elephant victorious over the tortoise, supporting the world and unfolding the mysteries of the Fauna Sivalensis,’ shows a be-spectacled Falconer as an elephant, drinking a pint of beer, whilst reading about his Indian fossil finds in the ‘Fauna Sivalensis’. The surrounding text explains the Hindu cosmology of the earth being held up on the back on an elephant, standing on a tortoise – similar to Terry Pratchett’s disc-world idea!”
The cartoon is also a satire on Falconer’s discoveries of fossil pygmy elephants and Atlas or Colossochelys tortoises.
He also found human tools alongside extinct fossil mammal remains, leading to his hypotheses about the antiquity of humanity.
Accepted Victorian belief taught that humanity had only been on the earth for 6000 years. Falconer’s discoveries tipped the whole scientific world upside down and fed into his friend Charles Darwin’s research On The Origin of Species.
The Falconer Museum and local information point is open from April–October, Tuesday–Saturday from 10am–5pm and Sunday from 1–5pm.
“Come and visit the Tortiphant!,” said Ms Owen. “We have also got lots of events and fun planned for the season, including our ever popular family drop-ins over the summer holidays.”
Free family drop-in and making sessions are on every Wednesday from 10am-noon until August.