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This Enigmatic Pendant Is The Oldest Known Ornate Jewelry in All of Eurasia

It would not seem like a lot. A bit shorter than your thumb, maybe, yellowed and scarred with age, and cracked clear by means of.

But this small piece of mammoth ivory recovered from a cave in what’s now Poland has turned out to be an incredible and essential piece of human historical past. According to a brand new archaeological evaluation of the item, it is the oldest recognized piece of adorned jewellery made by Homo sapiens in all of Eurasia.


It’s a pendant, made of mammoth bone patterned with small holes, found in the archaeological website in Stajnia Cave, Poland in 2010. The new work dates it to round 41,500 years in the past, through the Upper Paleolithic – across the identical time that Homo sapiens was beginning to disperse all through Europe.

“Determining the exact age of this jewelry was fundamental for its cultural attribution, and we are thrilled of the result,” says archaeologist Sahra Talamo of the University of Bologna in Italy.

“If we want to seriously solve the debate on when mobiliary art emerged in Paleolithic groups, we need to radiocarbon date these ornaments, especially those found during past fieldwork or in complex stratigraphic sequences.”

Stajnia Cave polandStajnia Cave, Poland. (Marcin Żarski)

The pendant, found with an axe made of horse bone dated to roughly the identical interval, is fascinating. It’s 4.5 centimeters (1.8 inches) lengthy, drilled with two holes, and adorned with an extended, irregular loop of a minimum of 50 tiny impressions that could be puncture marks.

This type of geometric, punctured patterning is in keeping with different adorned mammoth ivory objects recovered from France and Germany, the relationship of which has been inconclusive.


Slightly older examples of pendants have been uncovered in Europe, made out of supplies like bear tooth. This, nevertheless, is the primary recognized with a sample impressed onto its floor.

Because ornament and adornment of the human physique is taken into account to be one of the earliest manifestations of symbolic conduct, archaeologists and anthropologists are eager to establish when and the way it emerged in completely different cultures and completely different elements of the world.

“Timing when and where personal ornaments appeared in the archaeological record are important for reconstructing the trajectories of abstract thinking of archaic humans and understanding how figurative representations varied through time,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

In addition to radiocarbon relationship, they subjected the pendant and axe to micro-tomographic scans. This allowed the researchers to reconstruct the objects in three dimensions, which in flip allowed detailed measurements and analyses for which the artifact could have been too fragile.

Stajnia Cave was occupied, at completely different occasions, by each H. sapiens and Neanderthals. The layer in which the pendant and axe have been discovered included traces of each.

What’s extra, evaluation of materials from the cave suggests a historical past of frost and up to date human interference may need moved gadgets round. It was solely by means of exact radiocarbon relationship that the analysis crew was in a position to hyperlink the 2 objects with the H. occupation of the cave.

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

They concluded that the pendant was probably discarded there after it broke, the place it grew to become buried below the cave ground, the place we might uncover it tens of 1000’s of years later.

“This piece of jewelry shows the great creativity and extraordinary manual skills of members of the group of Homo sapiens that occupied the site,” says paleoanthropologist Wioletta Nowaczewska of Wrocław University in Poland.


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

It’s unclear what the loop of dots means. It may characterize a lunar analemma – the altering place of the Moon in the sky on the identical time of day over the course of a yr. It may additionally, the researchers speculate, characterize kills made on the hunt.

Or it may simply be that whoever made or wore it preferred the sample – however the truth that comparable patterns have been discovered on different objects from throughout Europe, made fully independently, would recommend some variety of symbolic significance.

Future analyses of these enigmatic patterns, together with exact radiocarbon relationship of the opposite artifacts, may assist work out what that’s.

Meanwhile, the researchers mentioned, the work helps fill in some of the gaps in our data of the enlargement of H. sapiens all through Europe.

“The ages of the ivory pendant and the bone awl found at Stajnia Cave finally demonstrate that the dispersal of Homo sapiens in Poland took place as early as in Central and Western Europe,” says anthropologist Andrea Picin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

“This remarkable result will change the perspective on how adaptable these early groups were and call into question the monocentric model of diffusion of the artistic innovation in the Aurignacian.”

The analysis has been revealed in Scientific Reports.


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