Afterlife - what remains are there and how did they survive?

"For transportation: for the tow-barge f.2.00, for the Antelopes f.0.60. For delivery f. 0.85. For consumptions f. 0.75. For the purchase of the antelopes f. 47.10. Total f. 51.30." (Receipt for passge from Haarlem to Leiden, 1842)

Amsterdam canal

The afterlife of Blue Antelopes is concentrated in scientific literature, with a preoccupation on its classificatory place and relationships. It is resuscitated in zoological discourse: did Hippotragus leucophaeus exist as a 'good' species? Evidence available is slim but the species has passed this test (Renshaw, 1901:446, Robinson and Bastos, 1996). Are curatorial claims about the fragments justified? Are the remains not simply from close relatives, roan and sable antelope? Knowledge integrated and disintegrated as generations and paradigms renewed. 'New' specimens appeared and disappeared - one skull appeared in the caste, at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, 1904. However, it was destroyed with two thirds of the collection in the Blitz of 1941 - now the collection does not hold so much as a photograph nor a record of its object history. Further finds were made, as you can find out by clicking on the thumbnail images immediately below. In another section, "Habitats", there is some information about the few archaeological remnants found in South Africa.

After its demise, the blue antelope was linked genealogically to the roan and sable antelopes 'discovered' in the 19th century. But its relatives are also prone to appearance and disappearance. A sub species of the great sable was thought to be extinct until it reappeared in Angola, documented by a camera trap in 2006. For some, rarity is irresistibly seductive - great sable are bred to be shot at expense.

The four remaining skins

"For a [skin of a] blue antelope, I'd give a finger of my right hand"(Harris, 1832)

There are four mounted specimens of Blue Antelopes, each in an old University collections of northern Europe. Click on the images below for more information:

Naturalis Vienna Uppsala Paris
Leiden, the Netherlands Vienna, Austria Uppsala, Sweden Paris, France

Skulls in museum collections

"The authentication of even one skull of this extinct antelope would be a significant event" (Groves and Westwood, 1995)

The most recent scientific opinion is that two skulls have survived - one in Glasgow and one in Amsterdam. Click on the images below for more information about the possible existence of Blue Antelope skulls:


Hunterian Glasgow Amsterdam London other sites
Hunterian, Glasgow Amsterdam Hunterian, London Other sites?

Animal as object

When is it that an animal becomes an object? In the case of a taxidermy mount, is it when the animal is set in a rifle site, or at the moment of death? When it is mounted, or added to a collection? Or perhaps when it is put on public display? Merle Patchett has considered the afterlife of one particular taxidermy mount - the Leiden Blue Antelope - to explore the notion of animal as object.

Click on the logo below for a pdf copy:

Animal as Object
Animal as Object © Merle Patchett (2006)

A particular skull

Click on the image below for recent drawings and texts about the "Glasgow" skull by Kate Foster and Hayden Lorimer:

Accession Number