Thursday, January 20, 2022

Personal Ornaments

Environmental &  Science Education, STEM, Archeology, Culture, Society

Ed Hessler

A short  report in the British journal Nature by Tosin Thompson is about one of the oldest ornate jewelry pieces found in Eurasia. It is a pendant made from a woolly mammoth tusk with two drilled holes "with at least 50 smaller puncture marks that create a looping curve." It was "found in the Stajnia Cave, a natural rock shelter in southern Poland. Based on radiocarbon dating it is between 41,730 and 41,340 years old.

In addition to the pendant a tool for making holes made of horse bone was also found. "The spiked end of the ... awl is worn indicating extensive use." The awl is "around 42,000 years old."

The researchers don't know the "purpose and meaning of the dots...but they could represent a counting system, lunar observations or a way of scoring kills." 

Thompson writes that "The pendant itself couldn’t have been much older than its decoration — mammoth tusks were not often preserved in the region because of the local ecological conditions. (Additionally,) "an old mammoth tusk would have been unworkable for shaping the Stajnia ornament and carving the punctate motif,' says Sahra Talamo, a chemist at the University of Bologna in Italy, who led the study."  There is a very short discussion about the date and whether it is the oldest piece of ornate jewelry in Eurasia.

The research was published in Nature's open access on-line journal Nature Reports. While detailed, the report includes maps, photographs of the awl and pendant, a virtually reconstructed pendant and photomicrographs, the identifiable punctuations, and a photograph of the cave opening. It may be downloaded as a PDF.


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