As our species spread across Eurasia and briefly shared a continent with the last Neanderthals, someone took the time to carefully shape an oval pendant out of mammoth ivory and then adorn it with a dotted bow. The pendant excavated in the Stajnia Cave in Poland was recently dated with radiocarbon to an age of approximately 41,500 years. This makes it the oldest known example of a Paleolithic fashion that reached from France to Siberia 42,000 to 30,000 years ago.
An old ivory pendant
Archaeologists excavating the cave found the ivory pendant broken in two. When reassembled, the fragments form most of an oval with one end still broken and missing. About 50 puncture points line its surface and form a sharply curved, loop-shaped shape. The edges of the pendant are smooth and rounded, and although its surface is cracked and weathered after tens of thousands of years in the ground, it is easy to see that it must have been an elaborate, beautiful piece of jewelry – or as archaeologists say: “wearable art “.
Today we do not know what the dotted curved lines on the mammoth ivory pendant meant to the people who made and wore the object. We have lost these details, but the paleoanthropologist Sahra Talamo of the University of Bologna and her colleagues propose to keep records or records of the course of phases or cycles of the moon.
Under a scanning electron microscope, the small puncture sites are V-shaped in cross-section and vary somewhat in width and depth. The result looks like the ancient craftsman who pricked the dotted lines on the ivory used a sharp flint tool with a slightly irregular edge, according to Talamo and her colleagues. And a drill, probably made of bone, helped drill two round holes through the ivory disk, one in the center of each of the long sides of the oval.
Archaeologists found the ivory pendant in the same layer of sediment as a broken horse bone awl that was 42,200 years old; Mass spectrometry helped identify the type of bone in each artifact. Talamo and her colleagues say that the people who made and used these objects only lived transiently in the cave. But the trailer suggests that they had at least some cultural connection with people who lived as far as Siberia.
Paleolithic fashion trends
In a cave in Germany, a similar pattern of curved dashed lines adorns the back of a human figure that was carved 38,800 to 40,200 years ago. A small handful of French sites have artifacts with similar motifs that are 40,700 years old and 30,800 years old. Ivory beads and a baton from a location east of Moscow were decorated with similar patterns of puncture sites 34,800 to 33,500 years ago. And the same motif adorns ivory headgear and bone needles at a 32,400 to 30,800 year old site in Siberia.
At around 2,000 years old, the Stajnia pendant is the oldest example of ivory with dotted curves to date. Talamo and her colleagues suggest that its presence might shed a little more light on cultural innovations – such as new decorative motifs, new types of tools, and other ideas – that spread across much of Eurasia during what is known as the first Upper Paleolithic . At least the age of the Stajnia pendant could give archaeologists a reason to reconsider the notion that the mountains in southwest Germany were the breeding grounds of the new Eurasian culture at that time.
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