It doesn't seem like much. A little shorter than your thumb, yellowed and scarred with age, and cracked clean through.
This small piece of mammoth ivory recovered from a cave in Poland has turned out to be an important piece of human history. The object is believed to be the oldest known piece of decorated jewelry made by Homo sapiens.
The pendant was found in the archaeological site in Stajnia Cave, Poland, in 2010. The new work was done during the Upper Paleolithic, around the same time that Homo sapiens was starting to disappear.
"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 solve the debate on when mobiliary art emerged in Paleolithic groups, we need to radiocarbon date them.
The Cave of Stajnia is located in Poland. There is a person named Marin arski.
The pendant is made of horse bone and was discovered with an awl. It's 4.5 centimeters long, drilled with two holes, and decorated with a loop of at least 50 tiny impressions that may be puncture marks.
The style of geometric, punctured patterning is consistent with other decorated mammoth ivory objects recovered from France and Germany.
There are old examples of pendants made from materials like bear teeth. This is the first one that has a pattern on its surface.
Archeologists and anthropologists are interested in how decoration and adornment of the human body emerged in different cultures and different parts of the world.
The timing of personal ornaments in the archaeological record is important for reconstructing the trajectory of abstract thinking of archaic humans.
The pendant and awl were subjected to micro-tomographic scans. The researchers were able to reconstruct the objects in three dimensions, which allowed them to measure and analyze the artifact for which it may have been too fragile.
Neanderthals occupied the Cave at different times. The pendant and awl were found in a layer.
The analysis of material from the cave suggests a history of frost and recent human interference. The two objects were linked to the occupation of the cave through precise radiocarbon dating.
The front and back of the pendant. lamo et al. Rep., 2021.
They concluded that the pendant was likely discarded there after it broke and buried under the cave floor, where we would find it tens of thousands 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 Woletta Nowaczewska of Wrocaw University in Poland.
The plate is about 3.7 millimeters thick and has an amazing precision on carving the punctures and the two holes.
It's not clear what the loop of dots means. The changing position of the Moon in the sky at the same time of day could be a lunar analemma. The researchers think it could represent kills made on the hunt.
The fact that similar patterns were found on other objects from across Europe, made completely independently, would suggest some kind of symbolic significance.
Future analyses of these enigmatic patterns, including precise radiocarbon dating of the other artifacts, could help figure out what that is.
The work helps fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of the expansion of H.
The dispersal of Homo sapiens in Poland took place as early as in Central and Western Europe, according to an anthropologist.
The result will change the perspective on how the early groups were able to adapt and call into question the model of the Aurignacian's artistic innovation.
The research has been published.