Exhibtions: Dewback

Special thanks are due to, alphabetically:

London: Bonhams

An original dewback prop head was impressively exhibited at Bonhams auction house in London, from 24 – 26 April 2005. On 27 April 2005 the dewback was due for auction. Below are some photographs of the dewback as it appeared on display on 26 April 2005.

According to documents and the catalogue of the Bonhams auction house, the dewback is one of two made by freelance artist Fred Pearl for Lucasfilm in 1976. The brown version is the master copy, and remained in Pearl's possession until 2005. A green version was used in ANH and publicity photographs, then (it is said) kept by Lucas. The green dewback head isn't known to have been exhibited; the brown head at Bonhams was the first opportunity for any members of the public to view the artwork and study dewback anatomy.

The dewback head was designed to be attached to a pre-existing rhino body. The join was originally disguised by a stiff neck frill, but in the movie there was only a sort of furry mane. Several rectangular sections of hide from the dewback's reptilian tail were also up for auction at Bonhams. These hides were uncoloured.

beak, chin and neck

The upper left side of the dewback's beak.

What is the reason for the redness of parts of the scales in the crack of the beast's mouth? Is the skin thinner there, showing more of the underlying (presumably red) blood? Is it a residue of the dewback's meal? Is it pigment, meant for display?

Upper surfaces of the beak, seen from slightly to the dewback's left side. What functions do the beak serve? Is this tough, horny material meant for digging or other abrasive work? Is the beak a clue to the dewback's diet (for breaking hard or tough food)?

The tip of the animal's beak, seen from below the front. The photograph of the early dewback construction is visible on the wall in the right background.

Front-left surfaces of the upper jaw, seen in relation to the beak. The singularly large scale of the beak stands out as unique, but its immediately neighbouring scales on the “lip” are also slightly larger than average facial scales.

A similar view of the upper lip scales of the right side, near the beak.

The scales of under the right side of the dewback's neck. Their colour is not very much different from that of the dorsal scales.

right side

Back of the right side of the head, including the joint of the jaw, and the dewback's right eye.

Scales at the back of the head and front of the neck. Joint of the jaw on the dewback's right side.

Rear-right surfaces of the dewback head, including the eye and joint of the jaw. What is the depression in the skull immediately above and forward from the eye socket?

Close view of the dewback's right eye. The surface is globular and transparent. Inside, the dark optical aperture is defined by a ring of red tissue (muscular?).

Closeup of part of the snout around the right nostril.

Several, nearly direct views of the right side of the dewback's head. The relative sizes of the eye and nostril are apparent. The dewback's sense of smell is probably more important than sight, compared to human senses. There is no visible ear aperture like that of a terrestrial reptile. Are dewbacks deaf, or do they use a different organ to detect sound? Is the ear actually within the nostril?

left side

Left side of the jaw, and left eye. Notice how middle lip scales are elongated parallel to the crease of the mouth. Nonetheless, it appears that all scales are essentially hexagonal.

Upper left side of the dewback's head, including ridge of the head, brow, eye, nostril and upper jaw. What is the ridge above the nose adapted to do? What is its biological function? [In extratextual terms, this volume was probably necessary to fit the horn of the underlying rhino model.]

Close views of the left nostril. Notice the multiple rings of substructure within the hole. Are they tough and inflexible (like the surrounding hide of similar colour) or are they muscular and able to close? It would be a good adaptation if a dewback could close its nostril, e.g. protecting the red inner tissues against windblown dust and sand when the desert winds rise.

The area of the nostril is large enough that it could fit a man's fist.

Scales of around the left lips, left upper jaw, left lower jaw and lower neck.

situation within the exhibition

A nearby view of the whole dewback head. The ridge above the nose casts a distinct shadow.

In the dewback's surroundings, we see the photo of the frilled dewback (right of image); an electrical outlet (below, useful for scaling purposes) and part of the tail hide samples (on the floor).

A nearly direct view of the dewback head, almost perpendicular to the wall and parallel of the axis of the animal. Note how little the eyes appear from the front. This animal's forward vision is peripheral; it has a better view to the sides. It therefore has a wide field of view, but poor stereoscopic sense — as is typical for many kinds of herbivorous, prey species on Earth.

Near view of the dewback head, but seen from further to the beast's left side. The brow, jaw, eye and nose structure is seen clearly overall.

The rectangles of tail hide are visible on the floor. The frilled dewback photo is off to one side. Part of the ROTLA idol intrudes into the bottom-right corner of the latter photo.

Intermediate-range images of the dewback head and immediate surroundings. The rectangular hides are fully visible on the floor. The animal may be facing slightly to its right, or else the photographer is slightly to its left.

The protrusion of the dewback's lips and beak appears very clearly in this light and from this point of view. Later representations of dewbacks [e.g. in the ANH: Special Edition] have not accurately reproduced thsi aspect; the beak seems subdued. Is this a species or gender difference among dewbacks?

Distant photos with the dewback facing almost directly towards the viewer. Is the facing straight or is the neck bent slightly to the dewback's right? There upper neck seems slightly curved to one side, but is this just a trick of projection?

Extraneous objects: the pale dress on the left is Dorothy's from Wizard of Oz. The golden idol from Raiders of the Lost Ark stands on a plinth between two men's jackets on the right wall.

View into the exhibition room from its public entrance. The dewback hung on the wall in the opposite corner (behind the auction stage and a glass display of memorabilia).

tail hide

Square panels of dewback hide, reportedly from the tail area.

Extra-textually: The base of each fragment appears to be a coarse fabric. The skin surface looks like it might have been applied as a paste, and then a scale pattern pressed into it. The scales are approximately the shape and size of the hexagonal cells of “chicken wire”.

To judge the dimensions: observe the electric plug (British standard) in a wall socket.

neck frill

An early photograph of a dewback [from 1976] showing a stiff frill around the back of the head. It appeared thinner than the frill of a ceratopsia dinosaur. The discontinuous way it stands out from the head surface may suggest that it isn't a skeletal feature, but is rather a growth like hair or horn.

What is the function of the frill [in “in universe” terms]? Some dewbacks are frilled; others are not [shown in ANH and TPM]. Is it a distinction of age, gender or subspecies? Is the frill permanent, or does it grow during a certain season or stage of the life-cycle?

Zoology: Dewback
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Last updated 2 May 2005.

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