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This 41,500-year-old pendant could be Eurasia’s oldest piece of jewellery

The ornament was found at the Stajnia Cave in Poland and radiocarbon dating revealed its age.

By: Science Desk | Kochi |
Updated: December 1, 2021 4:25:01 pm
Stajnia pendantThe Stajnia pendant is decorated with a pattern of at least 50 punctures, creating an irregular looping curve. (Antonino Vazzana - BONES Lab)

A study by an international team of researchers has now reported the oldest known ivory pendant from Eurasia. The ornament was found at the Stajnia Cave in Poland and radiocarbon dating revealed that it was 41,500 years old.

The Stajnia Cave is a natural shelter and the site has been studied since 2006. During the excavations, a series of Neanderthal remains — animal bones and other artefacts — have been discovered. The findings were published last week in Scientific Reports.

In 2010, excavators found two fragments of an ornate ivory pendant and an awl fragment. The pendant has an oval shape with rounded margins. It also has two drilled holes and decorations on it with patterns of sequential punctures.

“Whether the Stajnia pendant’s looping curve indicates a lunar analemma or kill scores will remain an open question. However, it is fascinating that similar decorations appeared independently across Europe,” said co-author Adam Nadachowski from the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals Polish Academy of Sciences.

The largest piece of the pendant is 4.5 cm long and 1.5 cm wide while the awl measures 68.33 mm in length. The team used digital methodologies such as micro-tomographic scans and 3D reconstruction.

“Through 3D modelling techniques, the finds were virtually reconstructed and the pendant was appropriately restored, allowing detailed measurements and supporting the description of the decorations,” notes co-author Stefano Benazzi, director of the Osteoarchaeology and Paleoanthropology Laboratory (BONES Lab) at the Department of Cultural Heritage, University of Bologna.

Stajnia Cave in Poland. Aerial view of Stajnia Cave in Poland. (Marcin Żarski)

Mass spectrometry analysis revealed that the pendant was made from mammoth ivory and the awl from a horse bone.

Also read: Ancient Egyptians wore jewellery made from meteorites

“This piece of jewellery shows the great creativity and extraordinary manual skills of members of the group of Homo sapiens that occupied the site,” said co-author Wioletta Nowaczewska of Wroclaw University.

Co-author Andrea Picin from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig added that the ages of the ivory pendant and the bone awl finally demonstrate that the dispersal of Homo sapiens in Poland took place as early as in Central and Western Europe.

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