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

It doesn’t search like much. A minor shorter than your thumb, potentially, yellowed and scarred with age, and cracked clean up via.

But this tiny piece of mammoth ivory recovered from a cave in what is now Poland has turned out to be an incredible and critical piece of human heritage. According to a new archaeological analysis of the object, it is really the oldest acknowledged piece of decorated jewelry created by Homo sapiens in all of Eurasia.


It is a pendant, designed of mammoth bone patterned with small holes, found out in the archaeological web page in Stajnia Cave, Poland in 2010. The new do the job dates it to around 41,500 yrs ago, during the Higher Paleolithic – all around the exact time that Homo sapiens was starting to disperse in the course of Europe.

“Pinpointing the actual age of this jewelry was elementary for its cultural attribution, and we are thrilled of the final result,” claims archaeologist Sahra Talamo of the College of Bologna in Italy.

“If we want to critically solve the debate on when mobiliary artwork emerged in Paleolithic groups, we need to radiocarbon date these ornaments, particularly those people found in the course of previous fieldwork or in sophisticated stratigraphic sequences.”

Stajnia Cave polandStajnia Cave, Poland. (Marcin Żarski)

The pendant, found out with an axe made of horse bone dated to approximately the exact period, is fascinating. It is 4.5 centimeters (1.8 inches) very long, drilled with two holes, and adorned with a prolonged, irregular loop of at the very least 50 tiny impressions that might be puncture marks.

This design and style of geometric, punctured patterning is dependable with other adorned mammoth ivory objects recovered from France and Germany, the relationship of which has been inconclusive.


Slightly more mature illustrations of pendants have been uncovered in Europe, created from components like bear enamel. This, however, is the very first discovered with a pattern amazed on to its floor.

Since decoration and adornment of the human physique is regarded as to be just one of the earliest manifestations of symbolic actions, archaeologists and anthropologists are eager to detect when and how it emerged in various cultures and distinctive components of the earth.

“Timing when and wherever individual ornaments appeared in the archaeological history are important for reconstructing the trajectories of summary imagining of archaic human beings and knowledge how figurative representations diversified by means of time,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

In addition to radiocarbon courting, they subjected the pendant and awl to micro-tomographic scans. This authorized the researchers to reconstruct the objects in a few dimensions, which in transform permitted detailed measurements and analyses for which the artifact may perhaps have been also fragile.

Stajnia Cave was occupied, at unique instances, by each H. sapiens and Neanderthals. The layer in which the pendant and awl had been uncovered integrated traces of both of those.

What is more, assessment of material from the cave indicates a history of frost and the latest human interference could possibly have moved things all around. It was only through exact radiocarbon relationship that the research workforce was capable to link the two objects with the H. profession of the cave.

stajnia pendant front and backThe front (remaining) and back of the Stajnia pendant. (Talamo et al., Sci. Rep., 2021)

They concluded that the pendant was possible discarded there soon after it broke, exactly where it turned buried underneath the cave ground, the place we would explore it tens of 1000’s of a long time later.

“This piece of jewelry reveals the terrific creativeness and amazing manual abilities of members of the group of Homo sapiens that occupied the web-site,” claims paleoanthropologist Wioletta Nowaczewska of Wrocław University in Poland.


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

It truly is unclear what the loop of dots suggests. It could characterize a lunar analemma – the shifting situation of the Moon in the sky at the identical time of working day over the course of a calendar year. It could also, the researchers speculate, signify kills manufactured on the hunt.

Or it could just be that whoever designed or wore it appreciated the sample – but the point that comparable patterns were being identified on other objects from across Europe, created totally independently, would recommend some form of symbolic importance.

Foreseeable future analyses of these enigmatic patterns, together with exact radiocarbon dating of the other artifacts, could assistance determine out what that is.

Meanwhile, the researchers stated, the function assists fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of the growth of H. sapiens through Europe.

“The ages of the ivory pendant and the bone axe observed at Stajnia Cave lastly display that the dispersal of Homo sapiens in Poland took location as early as in Central and Western Europe,” says anthropologist Andrea Picin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

“This impressive result will modify the point of view on how adaptable these early groups ended up and contact into concern the monocentric product of diffusion of the inventive innovation in the Aurignacian.”

The research has been released in Scientific Reports.