New Study Claims This Mammoth Bone Piece Is Oldest Known Ornate Jewelry in Eurasia

Cortez Deacetis

It won’t glance like considerably. A minor shorter than your thumb, probably, yellowed and scarred with age, and cracked clean as a result of.

But this compact piece of mammoth ivory recovered from a cave in what is now Poland may well switch out to be an important piece of human historical past. According to a new archaeological investigation of the item, it is really the oldest acknowledged piece of decorated jewelry manufactured by Homo sapiens in all of Eurasia.


It is a pendant, created of mammoth bone patterned with compact holes, discovered in the archaeological web page in Stajnia Cave, Poland in 2010. The new work dates it to all-around 41,500 yrs in the past, throughout the Higher Paleolithic – all over the exact same time that H. sapiens had been commencing to disperse in the course of Europe.

That would make the come across magnificent, but it is really not nevertheless a carried out offer. While the paper has appeared in the journal Scientific Studies, there appears to be some controversy, with a evaluate underway to address as-nevertheless-unspecified problems.

But the scientists are confident in their results.

“Identifying the actual age of this jewelry was fundamental for its cultural attribution, and we are thrilled of the result,” states archaeologist Sahra Talamo of the College of Bologna in Italy.

“If we want to severely remedy the discussion on when mobiliary art emerged in Paleolithic teams, we have to have to radiocarbon day these ornaments, primarily people found through earlier fieldwork or in complex stratigraphic sequences.”

Stajnia Cave polandStajnia Cave, Poland. (Marcin Żarski)

The pendant, identified along with an awl produced of horse bone dated to approximately the similar period of time, is fascinating. It can be 4.5 centimeters (1.8 inches) extensive, drilled with two holes, and adorned with a long, irregular loop of at minimum 50 little impressions that could be puncture marks.

This style of geometric, punctured patterning is reliable with other decorated mammoth ivory objects recovered from France and Germany, the courting of which has been inconclusive.


A little bit older examples of pendants have been uncovered in Europe, designed from elements like bear enamel. This, however, is the initial determined with a sample amazed on to its floor.

Simply because decoration and adornment of the human system are regarded as to be between the earliest manifestations of symbolic behavior, archaeologists and anthropologists are eager to identify when and how it emerged in various cultures and unique sections of the planet.

“Timing when and in which personalized ornaments appeared in the archaeological report are vital for reconstructing the trajectories of abstract contemplating of archaic individuals and knowing how figurative representations diversified as a result of time,” the scientists wrote in their paper.

In addition to radiocarbon dating, they subjected the pendant and awl to micro-tomographic scans. This permitted the researchers to reconstruct the objects in three proportions, which in transform permitted thorough measurements and analyses for which the artifact may well have been much too fragile.

Stajnia Cave was occupied, at different periods, by both of those H. sapiens and Neanderthals. The layer in which the pendant and axe had been identified involved traces of both.

What is much more, assessment of material from the cave indicates a historical past of frost and current human interference may well have moved products all around. It was only through precise radiocarbon relationship that the research team was in a position to backlink the two objects with the H. sapiens occupation of the cave.

stajnia pendant front and backThe front (still left) and again of the Stajnia pendant. (Talamo et al., Sci. Rep., 2021)

They concluded that the pendant was most likely discarded there soon after it broke, where by it grew to become buried under the cave flooring, wherever we would uncover it tens of thousands of years afterwards.

“This piece of jewelry exhibits the great creativity and amazing guide expertise of members of the group of H. sapiens that occupied the web-site,” says paleoanthropologist Wioletta Nowaczewska of Wrocław College in Poland.


“The thickness of the plate is about 3.7 millimeters, displaying an astonishing precision on carving the punctures and the two holes for wearing it.”

It is unclear what the loop of dots signifies. It could signify a lunar analemma – the switching position of the Moon in the sky at the same time of day above the course of a calendar year. It could also characterize kills created on the hunt, the researchers speculate.

Or it could just be that whoever produced or wore it appreciated the pattern – but the simple fact that similar patterns have been discovered on other objects from across Europe, made wholly independently, would suggest some form of symbolic significance.

Upcoming analyses of these enigmatic patterns, which include precise radiocarbon relationship of the other artifacts, could enable figure out what that is.

In the meantime, the researchers stated, the do the job aids fill in some of the gaps in our know-how of the expansion of H. sapiens during Europe.

“The ages of the ivory pendant and the bone axe located at Stajnia Cave ultimately demonstrate that the dispersal of Homo sapiens in Poland took area as early as in Central and Western Europe,” suggests anthropologist Andrea Picin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.


“This extraordinary end result will improve the viewpoint on how adaptable these early groups had been and call into query the monocentric product of diffusion of the artistic innovation in the Aurignacian.”

That is, of system, if the function stands. As Springer has mentioned in an editor’s be aware:

“Audience are alerted that concerns have been elevated about this Write-up and are staying deemed by the Editors. A further more editorial reaction will observe following all functions have had an chance to reply in total.”

The exploration has been released in Scientific Stories.


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