The first evidence of humans decorating jewelry in Eurasia – Eurasia review

When dispersed in central and western Europe around 42,000 years ago, groups of Homo sapiens begins to manipulate mammoth tusks for the manufacture of pendants and movable objects, such as sculpted statuettes, sometimes decorated with geometric patterns. In addition to lines, crosses and hashtags, a new type of decoration – the alignment of punctuation marks – has appeared in some ornaments in southwestern France and in figurines from the Swabian Alb in Germany. So far, most of these ornaments have been discovered from older excavations, and their chronological attributions remain uncertain. Thus, the questions concerning the emergence of the increase of the human body and the diffusion of movable art in Europe remained strongly debated.

A new study, led by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, the University of Bologna in Italy, the University of Wrocław in Poland, the Polish Geological Institute-National Research Institute from Warsaw, Poland, and the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals Polish Academy of Sciences, reports the oldest punctuated ivory pendant found in Eurasia. Its age of 41,500 years places this personal ornament from the cave of Stajnia in the record of the first dispersions of Homo sapiens in Europe.

Methodological advances in radiocarbon dating

“Determining the exact age of this piece of jewelry was fundamental to its cultural attribution, and we are delighted with the result. This work demonstrates that using the most recent methodological advances in the radiocarbon method allows us to minimize the amount of sampling and obtain very precise dates with a very small error range. If we are to seriously resolve the debate on the emergence of movable art in Paleolithic groups, we have to date these radiocarbon ornaments, especially those found in previous fieldwork or in complex stratigraphic sequences, ”says Sahra Talamo. , principal author of the study and director of the BRAVHO radiocarbon laboratory of the G. Ciamician Chemistry Department of the University of Bologna.

The study of the pendant and the punch was also carried out using digital methodologies from micro-tomographic scans of the finds. “Using 3D modeling techniques, the findings were virtually reconstructed and the pendant appropriately restored, allowing for detailed measurements and supporting the description of the decorations,” notes co-author Stefano Benazzi, director of the osteoarchaeology laboratory and of paleoanthropology (BONES Lab) of the department. of cultural heritage, University of Bologna.

The personal ornament was discovered in 2010 during fieldwork led by co-author Mikołaj Urbanowski among animal bones and some stone tools from the Upper Paleolithic. Separate short-term occupations by Neanderthals and Homo sapiens groups have been identified from the archaeological records of the cave. Disposal of the pendant likely took place during a hunting expedition to the Krakow-Częstochowa highlands where the pendant broke and was left in the cave.

Similar decorations appeared independently across Europe

“This jewel shows the great creativity and the extraordinary manual skill of the members of the group of Homo sapiens who occupied the site. The thickness of the plate is around 3.7 millimeters, which shows an amazing precision for carving the perforations and the two holes for carrying it, ”explains co-author Wioletta Nowaczewska from the University of Wrocław. “Whether the looping curve of the Stajnia pendant indicates a lunar analemma or whether the destruction scores will remain an open question. However, it is fascinating that similar decorations have emerged independently across Europe, ”notes co-author Adam Nadachowski of the Institute of Animal Systematics and Evolution of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

In the large-scale scenarios on the first expansion of Homo sapiens in Europe, the territory of Poland is often excluded, suggesting that it remained deserted for several millennia after the disappearance of the Neanderthals. “The ages of the ivory pendant and the bone awl found in the cave of Stajnia finally demonstrate that the dispersion of Homo sapiens in Poland took place as early as Central and Western Europe. This remarkable result will change the perspective on the adaptability of these early groups and challenge the monocentric model of diffusion of artistic innovation in the Aurignacian, ”says co-author Andrea Picin of the Max Planck Institute of Anthropology. evolution of Leipzig.

Further detailed analyzes of ivory assemblages from the Stajnia cave and other sites in Poland are currently underway and promise to provide more information on strategies for the production of personal ornaments in Central and Eastern Europe.

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