Face of the 26 000-year-old woman
Dolní Vestonice: Portrait Head XV
Pavlovian/Gravettian. 25,000-29,000 years old
This ivory portrait head could depict a man or a woman but the latter is usually assumed. The head is sculpted in the round so that the oval shape of the face is realistically curved. The hair is not indicated but an incised line marks the top of the forehead framing the face. Eye brows are carefully drawn above exceptionally detailed eyes; the nose and mouth are accurately proportioned. There are no ears but these might be covered by the hair.
Dolní Vestonice, Moravia, Czech Republic.
Brno Museum, Czech Republic.
Avdeevo - a Paleolithic site with strong links to Kostenki
Avdeevo is located on the Sejm River near the city of Kursk, Russia. Two oval living areas surrounded by semisubterranean lodges and pits have been identified at Avdeevo. Both were occupied between 21 000 and 20 000 BP. The tool inventory consists of Kostenki knives, shouldered points, and leaf points on blades.
The oldest know Spatula and Spoon
Noticias de Prehistoria-Prehistoria al Día mentions this week two quite impressive archaeological findings that illustrate the richness of the lives of our remote ancestors.
Ardales petrified rope
A petrified rope as found in the cave of Ardales (Andalusia). The rope now transformed into stone by the same mechanism that forms stalactites was apparently tended to allow access to a remote section of the cave rich in rock art.
Other findings are several fixed lamps created by the breaking of stalagmites, as well as several portable lamps found earlier in the research. In these lamps marrow or wax was burned.
The rope has been indirectly dated to c. 30 Ka BP, what in Southern Iberia would still be the Aurignacian period.
Evidences of ropes of slightly more recent age are also known from Moravia (Gravettian) thanks to patterns left on their famous terracotta figurines.
The other not less spectacular finding comes from Russia, where an ivory spoon was found in Avdeevo cave, near Kursk. It belongs to the Gravettian period and is dated c. 23-22 Ka BP.
The same site also provided a beautiful spatula almost identical to another one previously found in Kostenki, as well as other materials including a "Venus" figurine.
These findings illustrate the wealth of creativity displayed by the Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, not so different from ours after all.
Spoon engraved in reindeer antler. Satge: Upper Magdalenian (VI), between 13500 and 12000 BP Locality: Prehistoric site of Fontalès Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, Tarn-et-Garonne – France.
There is an abundant collection of beads made from sectioned teeth of wolf and polar fox. Cylindrical beads made from long bones of small animals were found besides the beads made from sectioned teeth of polar fox and wolf.
Spoon in mammoth ivory from New Avdeevo. This artifact resembles an alder-tree leaf with a handle. The spoon is 32 mm long, 52 mm wide. The preserved part of the handle is 30 mm in length, but it is only 1-2 mm thick. The spoon is almost plano-concave in cross-section; the straight part is an external fragment of tusk. The slightly raised edges are sharpened. The external part of the artifact is almost untreated, while the internal part is hatched with small criss-cross scratches.
The earliest swastika known has been found in Mezine, Ukraine. It is carved on late paleolithic figurine of mammoth ivory, being dated as early as about 10,000 BC. Among the earliest cultures utilizing swastika is the Old Europe, neolithic Danube Valley Civilization, Cucuteni-Trypillian and Vinca.
In Bronze Age Europe, the "Sun cross" appears most frequently of all continents, often interpreted as a solar symbol. Swastika shapes have been found on numerous artifacts from Iron Age Europe (Greco-Roman, Illyrian, Etruscan, Baltic, Celtic, Germanic, Slavic and Georgian Borjgali).This prehistoric use seems to be reflected in the appearance of the symbol in various folk cultures of Europe. The symbol has been found on vessels in the ancient city of Troy, The evidence shows that it served as a symbol of fertility and life. Its similar use can be found in Trench Graves in Mycanae, Greece, on Athenian vases and even decorating the garments of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Also the Greek Parthenon had this symbol as a Greek design just like other designs.
A definite European sign moving east into Hindus Valley Civilization. It was brought by migrating tribes to India where it is revered in the religious and cultural life of the Indo-Aryans. It did not originate in the Indus Valley Civilization as some people thought.
The antiquity of European civilization has been underlined once again with the re-dating and discovery of more pieces of the famous Lion ManIce Age sculpture from Swabia, Germany, to an incredible 40,000 B.C.
The new dating method was made using a refined radio-carbon dating of other bones found in the strata around the original discovery site, which added 8,000 years to the original date of 32,000 BC.
The Lion Man, made of mammoth ivory, was first discovered in August 1939 at the back of the Stadel Cave in the Swabian Alps, south-west Germany. The fragments were first assembled in 1970 from around 200 pieces, making up a 30cm-tall (just short of 2 inches) sculpture.
More fragments were found and added to the sculpture in 1989, but the newest additions are an incredible 1,000 new pieces—some of them tiny—found following new excavations by German archaeologist Claus-Joachim Kind.
Some of the larger pieces are now being added to the figure, and, according to British Museum curator Jill Cook, the complete statue is now being reassembled virtually using computer-imaging techniques.
Even more importantly, the new dating technique has made the Lion Man one of the oldest sculptures in the world, dwarfing what has long considered to be the "cradle of civilization," Bronze Age Mesopotamia which by comparison dates to "only" 5,000 years ago.
Art of the standard of the Lion Man is the product of a stable, established society, as it has been estimated (by making a replica) that it took about 400 hours to carve using flint tools. This means that the carver would have had to be looked after by hunter-gatherers, which presupposes a degree of social organization.
The Solutreans: Most innovative, adaptive and inventive people of the Stone Age and the people who first settled America (UPDATE)
Who were the first people in North America? From where did they come? How did they arrive? The prehistory of the Americas has been widely studied. Over 70 years a consensus became so established that dissenters felt uneasy challenging it. Yet in 2001, genetics, anthropology and a few shards of flint combined to overturn the accepted facts and to push back one of the greatest technological changes that the Americas have ever seen by over five millennia.
The accepted version of the first Americans starts with a flint spearhead unearthed at Clovis, New Mexico, in 1933. Dated by the mammoth skeleton it lay beside to 11,500 years ago (11.5kya), it was distinctive because it had two faces, where flakes had been knapped away from a core flint. The find sparked a wave of similar reports, all dating from around the same period. There seemed to be nothing human before Clovis. Whoever those incomers were around 9,500BC, they appeared to have had a clean start. And the Clovis point was their icon - across 48 states.
"The best way to get beaten up, professionally, is to claim you have a pre-Clovis site"
Michael Collins, University of Texas
An icon that was supremely effective: the introduction of the innovative spearpoint coincided with a mass extinction of the continent's megafauna. Not only the mammoth, but the giant armadillo, giant sloth and great black bear all disappeared soon after the Clovis point - and the hunters who used it - arrived on the scene.
But from where? With temperatures much colder than today and substantial polar ice sheets, sea levels were much lower. Asia and America were connected by a land bridge where now there's the open water of the Bering Strait. The traditional view of American prehistory was that Clovis people travelled by land from Asia.
This version was so accepted that few archaeologists even bothered to look for artefacts from periods before 10,000BC. But when Jim Adavasio continued to dig below the Clovis layer at his dig near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he found blades and blade cores dating back to 16,000BC. His findings were dismissed as erroneous; too astonishing to be credible. The Clovis consensus had too many reputations behind it to evaporate easily. Some archaeologists who backed Adavasio's conclusions with other similar data were accused of making radiocarbon dating errors or even of planting finds.
"The first migration was 20,000 to 30,000 years ago"
Dennis Stanford went back to first principles to investigate Clovis afresh, looking at tools from the period along the route Clovis was assumed to have taken from Siberia via the Bering Strait to Alaska. The large bifaced Clovis point was not in the archaeological record. Instead the tools used microblades, numerous small flint flakes lined up along the spear shaft to make its head.
He spotted the similarity in production method between the Clovis point and tools made by the Solutrean neolithic (Stone Age) culture in southwest France. At this stage his idea was pure hypothesis, but could the first Americans have been European?
The Solutreans were a remarkably society, the most innovative and adaptive of the time. They were among the first to discover the value of heat treating flints to increase strength. Bradley was keen to discover if Solutrean flintknapping styles matched Clovis techniques. A trawl through the unattractive flint offcuts in the storerooms of a French museum convinced him of the similarities, even though five thousand kilometres lay between their territories.
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The Solutreans were a remarkably society, the most innovative, adaptive and inventive people of the time. They were among the first to discover the value of heat treating flints to increase strength. Bradley was keen to discover if Solutrean flintknapping styles matched Clovis techniques. A trawl through the unattractive flint offcuts in the storerooms of a French museum convinced him of the similarities, even though five thousand kilometres lay between their territories....
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The first scientific expedition of the Niaux cave in France, was in 1971 when Jean Clottes and Robert Simonnet, entered these unseen pristine chambers to study the cave paintings we now term Magdalenian parietal rock art, after spelunkers had first emptied the siphons and discovered the new galleries. But as they were to discover, there was more than just the art.
It was in the Reseau Clastres that they came across the footprints, an unwitting legacy of the prehistoric people who had explored the Niaux cave millennia before. The scientists calculated that the prints belonged to children between the ages of 8 and 12. They were also able to establish that the central figure - perhaps older than the outer two - was slightly ahead, probably leading them.
When the first spelunkers explored the cave now named Reseau Clastres, in a huge chamber they discovered charcoal drawings, small in number, but beautifully executed - three bison, a horse and a weasel. The weasel was of interest for 2 reasons; not only was this subject matter unique in prehistoric art, but the stylized sophistication of the drawing allowed Jean Clottes and Robert Simonnet to determine how the artist had executed it - in 10 bold and faultless strokes. It was a figure quickly made by an experienced artist.
Radiocarbon dating has confirmed that three wooden spears found in a coal mine in Schöningen, near Hannover, Germany, are the oldest hunting weapons ever found. Some 380,000 to 400,000 years old, the six- to 7.5-foot javelins were found in soil whose acids had been neutralized by a high concentration of chalk near the coal pit. They suggest that early man was able to hunt, and was not just a scavenger. The development of such weapons may have been crucial to the settling of Stone Age northern Europe, whose cold climate and short daylight hours limited hunting.
The spears show design and construction skills previously attributed only to modern humans. "They are really high tech," says Hartmut Thieme of the Institut für Denkmalpflege in Hannover, who discovered them while excavating in advance of a rotary shovel digger used in the mine. "They are made of very tough Picea [spruce] trunk and are similarly carved." Their frontal center of gravity suggests they were used as javelins, says Thieme.
The only comparable find dating to the same period is a yew lance tip from Clacton-on-Sea, England, discovered in 1911. Thieme says the Schöningen discovery is important because it proves that the Clacton lance tip was not just a chance find and that spears were probably being made in large quantities. The Clacton lance tip suggested that people may have been hunting; the three spears from Schöningen now make it fairly certain that they were not merely scavenger-gatherers. That early man hunted big game is supported by the recent discovery of a fossilized rhinoceros shoulder blade with a projectile wound at Boxgrove, England, dated to 500,000 years ago. Studies revealed the wound was probably caused by a spear. As paleoanthropologist Wil Roebroeks of the University of Leiden points out, however, "we still haven't determined whether early man hunted in large groups, or whether they used pits to trap the animals first."
Thousands of pieces of horse, elephant, and deer bone were also found at Schöningen. The bones showed cut marks from stone flints found with grooved wooden tools that probably held the flints. If Thieme can prove the flints were hafted in the wooden tools, they will be the oldest known composite tools in the world.
First Musical Instruments (40,000 BCE) Mammoth ivory and bird bone flutes
The discovery suggests the musical tradition was well established in Europe over 40,000 years ago. This mammoth ivory and bird bone flutes are oldest musical instruments ever found. The first modern humans in Europe were playing musical instruments and showing artistic creativity as early as 40,000 years ago, according to new research.
Found with fragments of mammoth-ivory flutes, the 40,000-year-old artifact also adds to evidence that music may have given the first European modern humans a strategic advantage
It looks like our earliest human ancestors enjoyed recreational activities other than painting on cave walls. A study by Oxford University researchers revealed that the oldest musical instruments ever discovered date as far back as 42,000 to 43,000 years ago. These instruments are flutes made out of mammoth ivory and bird bones.
The instruments were discovered inside the caves of southern Germany along the Danube River valley by a team from the country's Tübingen University. They were previously thought to be only 40,000 years of age, but thanks to more advanced carbon dating equipment, it's been proven that the instruments are 2,000 to 3,000 years older. While a couple of thousand of years might seem insignificant (40,000-year-old musical instruments are still very much ancient, after all), this recent discovery sheds light on the movement of early humans in Europe.
According to Tom Higham of Oxford University, this suggests that modern humans were already in central Europe "when huge icebergs calved from ice sheets in the northern Atlantic and temperatures plummeted." Scientists previously thought that humans came to central Europe later after the shift in temperature. It's also consistent with earlier hypothesis by Tübingen University researchers that the "Danube River was a key corridor for the movement of humans and technological innovations into central Europe between 40,000 and 45,000 years ago."
Early modern humans could have spent their evenings sitting around the fire, playing bone flutes and singing songs 40,000 years ago, newly discovered ancient musical instruments indicate. The bone flutes push back the date researchers think human creativity evolved.
"Geißenklösterle is one of several caves in the region that has produced important examples of personal ornaments, figurative art, mythical imagery and musical instruments. The new dates prove the great antiquity of the Aurignacian in Swabia." The Aurignacian refers to an ancient culture and the associated tools. [Gallery: Europe's Oldest Rock Art]
The flutes are the earliest record of technological and artistic innovations that are characteristic of the Aurignacian period created the oldest known example of art meant to represent a person, found in the same cave system in 2008 (that statue seems to be about 40,000 years old). The musical instruments indicate that these early humans were sharing songs and showing artistic creativity even earlier than previously thought.
The researchers radiocarbon-dated bones found in the same layer of the archaeological dig as the flutes. This carbon dating uses the level of radioactive carbon, which is naturally occurring in the world and decays predictably into nonradioactive carbon, to estimate the age of organic materials.
They found the objects were between 42,000 and 43,000 years old, belonging to the Aurignacian culture dating from the upper Paleolithic period. So far, these dates are the earliest for the Aurignacian and predate equivalent sites from Italy, France, England and other regions.
The results indicate that modern humans entered the Upper Danube region before an extremely cold climatic phase around 39,000 to 40,000 years ago, the researchers said.
"Modern humans during the Aurignacian period were in central Europe at least 2,000 to 3,000 years before this climatic deterioration, when huge icebergs calved from ice sheets in the northern Atlantic and temperatures plummeted," study researcher Tom Higham, of Oxford University, said in a statement. "The question is what effect this downturn might have had on the people in Europe at the time."
One of the great masterpieces of late Stone Age art, this extraordinary terracotta sculpture, known as The Thinker ("Ganditorul"), was unearthed in 1956 - together with a similar statuette of a female figure, known as The Sitting Woman of Cernavoda, and numerous other similar, though headless figurines - during archeological excavations of Neolithic settlement and burial debris in the lower Danube region, near Cernavoda in Romania. Created during the Hamangia culture, it is believed to be the oldest known prehistoric sculpture that reflects human introspection, rather than the usual artistic concerns of hunting or fertility. As a result it has become an iconic sculptural figure of prehistoric art, and a striking example of Neolithic art for art's sake. It currently resides in the National Museum of Romanian History, Bucharest.
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Some 4,600 years before the Common Era, a mysterious civilization emerged on the shores of lakes near the Black Sea—not far from the modern-day city of Varna. For its time, this Varna culture was amazingly advanced, both culturally and technologically. The first evidence of its existence was found in lovely ceramics, bone and stone idols and copper tools. Then an astounding chance discovery came to light, making headlines around the world. Just a few kilometres from Varna was a Copper Age necropolis (cemetery) containing the oldest gold objects ever discovered. Between 4600 and 4200 BCE, long before Mesopotamia or the Egypt of the pyramids, goldsmithing first began on the shores of the Black Sea, in the land that is today Bulgaria. Study of the 300 or so graves in the Varna I necropolis showed that there was a highly structured society here in the Copper Age. The richest graves contained gold diadems and sceptres, heavy copper axes and spear points, elegant finery and richly decorated ceramics. A large amount of shell jewellery was evidence of trade with the South, for the molluscs in question were from the Mediterranean.
Varna civilization and the oldest gold jewelry in the world.
In the 1970s, archaeologists in Bulgaria stumbled upon a vast Copper Age necropolis from the 5th millennium BC containing the oldest golden artifacts ever discovered near the modern-day city of Varna. But it was not until they reached grave 43 that they realized the real significance of the finding. Inside burial 43 were the remains of a high status male and unfathomable riches – more gold was found within this burial than in the entire rest of the world in that period.
Most people have heard of the great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus Valley, which are all noted for being the earliest known civilizations to feature urbanization, organized administration, and cultural innovation. But few have heard of the mysterious civilization that emerged on the shores of lakes of the Black Sea some 7,000 years ago in Bulgaria.
The Varna culture, as it has come to be known, was not a small and inconsequential society that emerged in a little corner of Bulgaria and disappeared quickly into the pages of history. Rather, it was an amazingly advanced civilization, more ancient than the empires of Mesopotamia and Egypt, and the first known culture to craft golden artifacts. Varna is also now home to the largest known prehistoric necropolis in south-eastern Europe, which reflects a richness in cultural practices, complex funerary rites, an ancient belief system, and the capacity to produce exquisite and expertly-crafted goods. It has come to be known as the cradle of civilization in Europe.\nThe Rise of the Varna Culture.
Evidence suggests that it was between 4600 and 4200 BC, when gold smithing first started in Varna. As advances were made, and craftsmen mastered metallurgy of copper and gold, the inhabitants now had something extremely valuable to trade. Increased contacts with neighbours both north and south eventually opened up trade relations within the Black Sea and Mediterranean region, which was of great importance for the development of the society. The deep bay, along which the settlements of Varna, provided a comfortable harbor for ships sailing across the Black Sea and Varna became a prosperous trading center.
Increased trading activity allowed the metallurgists to accumulate wealth and very quickly, a societal gap developed with metallurgists at the top, followed by merchants in the middle, and farmers making up the lower class. Incredible discoveries made at a nearby cemetery also suggest that Varna had powerful rulers or kings – but we will come back to that. And so, the foundations had been laid for the emergence of a powerful and flourishing culture, whose influence permeated the whole of Europe for thousands of years to come.
Discovering ancient Varna
The first evidence of Varna’s ancient civilization came in the form of tools, vessels, utensils, and figurines made from stone, flint, bone, and clay. Then an incredible chance discovery came to light, that made headlines around the world. In October, 1972, excavator operator Raycho Marinov stumbled upon a vast Copper Age necropolis containing the oldest gold artifacts ever discovered. It was to become one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made in Bulgaria. Extensive excavations were launched under the direction of Mihail Lazarov (1972–1976) and Ivan Ivanov (1972–1991), revealing for the first time the magnificent civilization of Varna. More than 300 graves were uncovered in the necropolis, and between them over 22,000 exquisite artifacts were recovered, including 3,000+ items made from gold with a total weight of 6 kilograms. Other precious relics found within the graves included copper, high-quality flint, stone tools, jewellery, shells of Mediterranean mollusks, pottery, obsidian blades, and beads.
A unique item of prehistoric sculpture created during the Aurignacian culture of the Upper Paleolithic, the small ivory carving of a female figure known as The Venus of Hohle Fels (also called the Venus of Schelklingen) was unearthed during excavations in 2008 at Hohle Fels Cave in the Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany. It is dated to the period 35,000-40,000 BCE, which makes it the oldest of all the Venus figurines and the earliest undisputed example of figurative art known to archeology which is associated with the earliest presence of Cro-Magnon in Europe. This tiny work of prehistoric art has a range of unique features as well as several characteristics which are typical of later female figurines, such as the Venus of Willendorf. However, its extreme age sheds new light on the origins of Stone Age art, demonstrating that Aurignacian culture was far more advanced than previously supposed. A number of other important works of prehistoric art have been found in the area of the Hohlenstein mountain, including the first completely intact ivory carving of a mammoth (and other animals) found in the Vogelherd Cave in 2006, dating to 33,000 BCE - see Ivory Carvings of the Swabian Jura. Both the Schelklingen Venus and the Vogelherd Mammoth were discovered by archeologists from the Department of Prehistory at the German University of Tubingen. In addition, fragments of an ivory figurine - known as the Lion Man of Hohlenstein Stadel (dating to about 30,000 BCE) - were also found in the locality in 1939 and finally reassembled in 1969.
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Venus of Laussel - Was She a Goddess of Fertility, Hunting, Wine, or Music?
The Venus of Laussel, or "Femme a la corne" (Woman with a Horn in French) is a Venus figurine, one of a class of objects found in Upper Paleolithic archaeological sites throughout Europe. The Laussel Venus was carved into the face of a limestone block found in Laussel cave in the Dordogne valley of France.
The 45 centimeter (18 inch) high image is of a woman with large breasts, belly and thighs, explicit genitals and an undefined or eroded head with what appears to have been long hair.
Her left hand rests on her belly, and her right hand holds what looks to be a large horn—perhaps the core of a horn of an ancient buffalo (bison). The horn core has 13 vertical lines etched onto it: the undefined face appears to be looking at the core.
A "Venus figurine"is an art history term for a relatively life-like drawing or sculpture of a human being—man, woman or child—found in many Upper Paleolithic contexts. The stereotypical (but by no means the only or even the most common) Venus figure consists of a detailed drawing of a woman's lush and Rubenesque body which lacks details for her face, arms, and feet.
Laussel cave is a large rock shelter located near the town of Laussel, in the municipality of Marquay. One of five carvings found at Laussel, the Venus of Laussel was carved onto a limestone block that had fallen from the wall. There are traces of red ochre on the sculpture, and reports of the excavators suggest that it was covered in the substance when it was found.
Laussel Cave was discovered in 1911, and scientific excavations have not been conducted since that time. The Upper Paleolithic Venus was dated by stylistic means as belonging to the Gravettian or Upper Perigordian period, between 29,000 to 22,000 years ago.
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The Origin of Writing: While it is still generally considered that writing emerged 'independently in at least three different places - Egypt, Mesopotamia and Harappa between 3,500 BC and 3,100 BC' , we have until recently had little understanding of how and why this happened. The discovery of the Vinca script and (mother) culture c. 5,500 - 3,500 BC, has offered a possible clue as to this question, but more importantly, symbols in the Vinca script can be seen to have roots that trace back as early as Palaeolithic times. \n\nWe are now aware of the Vinca (Mother) culture which existed in Eastern Europe around 5,500 - 4,500 BC. The earliest examples of Vinca script (such as the Vinca Tablets below) were generally regarded as token or symbolic only however, following other discoveries with the same symbols in the region, it is now suspected that the Vinca script represents a proto-language similar to those from the Great civilisations that emerged a thousand years later in Egypt, The Middle East and in the Indus Valley.\n\nRichard Rudgley proposed that the Old European script emerged from a system of symbolism rooted in the subconscious of the Neolithic. He said of it...\n\n'Gimbutas proposed that it [the Old European Script] was part of a much wider corpus of signs that expressed cosmological and spiritual beliefs of the Neolithic age... Gimbautus believed that such designs were not merely decorative but were elements of an 'alphabet of the metaphysical'. \n\nThe study of such symbols shows that as the ancient world drew inspiration from the Neolithic, so too were the first farming communities of this period drawing inspiration from the symbolic traditions of the hunter-gatherers who went before them, this finding is enforced by the work of Alexander Marshack, who documented the persistence of the zigzag motif in the stone age art of the Upper Palaeolithic period echoed in the Neolithic . The zigzag also appears among the old European signs, and its significance can be traced back to ancient Egypt where the zigzag Hieroglyph means water. Maria Gimbatus found clear parallels between symbols from different emerging scripts, suggests that the thread of writing can be traced back to the end of the ice age, suggesting that writing has been an art that has come and gone in several different forms throughout time. Various styles of zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figurines are hallmarks of the culture, as are the Vinca symbols, which some conjecture to be an early form of proto-writing. The Tartaria tablets refers to a group of three tablets, discovered in 1961 by archaeologist Nicolae Vlassa at a Neolithic site in the village of Tartaria (about 30 km (19 mi) from Alba Iulia), in Romania. Two of the tablets are rectangular and the third is round. They are all small, the round one being only 6 cm (2½ in) across, and two - one round and one rectangular - have holes drilled through them. All three have symbols inscribed only on one face. The tablets, dated to around 5,300 BC, bear incised symbols - the Vinca symbols - and have been the subject of considerable controversy among archaeologists, some of whom claim that the symbols represent the earliest known form of writing in the world. subsequent radiocarbon dating on the Tartaria finds pushed the date of the tablets (and therefore of the whole Vinca culture) much further back, to as long ago as 5,500 BC, the time of the early Eridu phase of the Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia. This finding has reversed our concept of the origin of writing, and it is now believed that the Sumerians inherited a Vinca tradition of 'magical' or 'meaningful' scripture, probably following the collapse of the Vinca homeland c. 3,500 BC. \n\nSimilar motifs have been found on pots excavated at Gradeshnitsa in Bulgaria, Vinca in Serbia and a number of other locations in the southern Balkans.
Ancient tablets found in South Bulgaria are written in the oldest European script found ever, German scientists say. The tablets, unearthed near the Southern town of Kardzhali, are nearly 7,000 years old, and bear the ancient script of the Cretan (Minoan) civilization, according to scientists from the University of Heidelberg, who examined the foundings. This is the Cretan writing, also known as Linear A script, which dates back to XV-XIV century B.C. The discovery proves the theory of the Bulgarian archaeologists that the script on the foundings is one of the oldest known to humankind, the archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov announced Wednesday. Ovcharov, who is heading the archaeological expedition in the ancient Perperikon complex near Kardzhali, called the discovery “revolutionary”. It throws a completely different light on Bulgaria’s history, he said in an interview for the National Television.
The Earliest Sculpture of a Horse
Aurignacian. 32,000-35,000 years old
Sculpted from mammoth ivory this little horse is part of an originally more rounded representation with longer legs and tail. The head is complete and still shows the engraved mouth, nostrils and eyes. The ears are alert and the neck arched. The mane, back and sides are marked with crossed diagonal incisions. Is this a stallion trying to impress a mare or a horse arching and kicking backwards against a predator?
Vogelherd Cave, near Stetten, southwest Germany.
Museum Schloss Hohentübingen, Tübingen, Germany.
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The Vinca culture, also known as Turda? culture or Turda?-Vinca culture, is a Neolithic archaeological culture in Central Europe and Southeastern Europe, dated to the period 5700–4500 BCE. Named for its type site, Vinca-Belo Brdo, a large tell settlement discovered by Serbian archaeologist Miloje Vasic in 1908, it represents the material remains of a prehistoric society mainly distinguished by its settlement pattern and ritual behaviour. Farming technology first introduced to the region during the First Temperate Neolithic was developed further by the Vinca culture, fuelling a population boom and producing some of the largest settlements in prehistoric Europe. These settlements maintained a high degree of cultural uniformity through the long-distance exchange of ritual items, but were probably not politically unified. Various styles of zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figurines are hallmarks of the culture, as are the Vinca symbols, which some conjecture to be an early form of proto-writing. Though not conventionally considered part of the Chalcolithic or \"Copper Age\", the Vinca culture provides the earliest known example of copper metallurgy. The Vinca culture occupied a region of Southeastern Europe (i.e. the Balkans) corresponding mainly to modern-day Serbia and Kosovo, but also parts of Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Greece.\n\nThis region had already been settled by farming societies of the First Temperate Neolithic, but during the Vinca period sustained population growth led to an unprecedented level of settlement size and density along with the population of areas that were bypassed by earlier settlers. Vinca settlements were considerably larger than any other contemporary European culture, in some instances surpassing the cities of the Aegean and early Near Eastern Bronze Age a millennium later. One of the largest sites was Vinca-Belo Brdo, it covered 29 hectare and had up to 2,500 people. Early Vinca settlement population density was 50-200 people per hectare, in later phases an average of 50-100 people per hectare was common. The Divostin site 4900-4650 B.C. had up to 1028 houses and a maximum population size of 8200 and could perhaps be the largest Vinca settlement. Another large site was Stubline from 4700 B.C. it may contained a maximum population of 4000. The settlement of Parta maybe had 1575 people living there at the same time.
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The woolly mammoth of the ice age
Mammuthus primigenius is more popularly known as the woolly mammoth that today is regarded as the poster animal for the ice age,? ?a colloquial term for the Pleistocene period which saw a series of glaciations across the upper latitudes of the Northern hemisphere and an overall? ?reduction in global temperatures.? ?Sometimes also known as the tundra mammoth,? ?the woolly mammoth is but one species of many mammoths that inhabited northern hemisphere ecosystems,? ?but the large and often exceptional level of preservation of some remains have revealed more about this prehistoric animal than many others.
The woolly mammoth like all mammoths is closely related to elephants,? ?but features a number of special adaptations that helped it survive in the much colder latitudes of the northern hemisphere.? ?
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Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a 4,000-year-old man preserved in an Irish peat bog, marking the oldest European bog body ever found with skin still intact.
The cool, waterlogged conditions of Northern European bogs (a type of wetland) create low-oxygen, highly acidic environments ideal for body preservation. As a result, hundreds of "bog bodies" dating back thousands of years have been uncovered in the region, but many have shriveled down to mostly skeletons and tend to be closer to 2,000 years old.
A resident of central Ireland's County Laois came across the well-preserved "Cashel Man" — named for the bog he was found in — while milling for peat moss, which is used for a variety of farm purposes, including animal-bedding and field conditioning. [See Images of Cashel Man & Other Bog Bodies]
Having realized that he had come across a human body, the resident notified archaeologists at the National Museum of Ireland, who later conducted a formal excavation of the site. A summary of the dig appeared in the latest edition of the Irish journal Ossory, Laois, and Leinster.
"All that was visible to start with was a pair of legs below the knees, and a torso," Eamonn Kelly, an archaeologist at the National Museum and lead excavator of the project, wrote in the report. "The body appeared to be naked. Later, it was possible to work out that the torso had been damaged by the milling machine, which also removed the head, neck and left arm."
The team calculated the age of the body using radiometric carbon dating, in which the constant decay rate of radioactive carbon-14 is used to estimate age based on remaining levels of carbon-14 in the dead tissues. Surprised to find the body was roughly 4,000 years old, the team dated the peat above and below the body to confirm the results, and came up with about the same age. Previously, the oldest bog body ever found in Ireland was 1,300 years old, according to the Irish Times.
The team conducted computed tomography (CT) scans of the body after the dig, and found that the young man's arm and spine had been broken multiple times, seemingly from sharp blows before his death.
The researchers also found cuts along the man's back that looked like ax wounds. They uncovered axes capable of producing such wounds within the vicinity of the site.
Given this evidence of brutality, the team concluded that the young man had been killed in a ritual sacrifice, a practice commonly known in later eras, but not well documented in the Early Bronze Age of 2000 B.C., about the time this bog body would've lived.
"All the indications are that the human remains from Cashel Bog tell of the fate of a young king who, through folly or misadventure, was deemed to have failed to appease the goddess on whose benevolence his people depended, and who paid the ultimate price," Kelly wrote.
The international anthropology community has also taken note of the significance of this finding.
"This is really quite special," said Glen Doran, an anthropology professor at Florida State University who studies remains from North American bogs and was not involved in the study.
Any remains preserved as well as Cashel Man provide important opportunities to study past cultures, but Cashel Man's unusually old age makes him a particularly fruitful find. "There are fewer places that have deposits of that age, so when you find them, they represent very remarkable windows into the past," Doran said.
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Stećak (Cyrillic: Стећак, Stećci, Стећци, is the name for monumental medieval tombstones that lie scattered across Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the border parts of Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. An estimated 60,000 are found within the borders of modern Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of 10,000 are found in what are today Croatia (4,400), Montenegro (3,500), and Serbia (2,100), at more than 3,300 odd sites with over 90% in poor condition.
Appearing in the mid 12th century, with the first phase in the 13th century, the tombstones reached their peak in the 14th and 15th century, before disappearing during the Ottoman occupation in the very early 16th century. They were a common tradition amongst Bosnian, Catholic and Orthodox Church followers alike, and are often related to the autochthonous Vlach population, however the original ethnic and religious affiliation is still undetermined. The epitaphs on them are mostly written in extinct Bosnian Cyrillic alphabet. The one of largest collection of these tombstones is named Radimlja, west of Stolac in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Stecci were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016. It includes a selection of 4,000 stecci at 28 necropolises – of which 22 from Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2 from Croatia, 3 from Montenegro, and 3 from Serbia.
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The Nebra sky disk is a bronze disk of around 30 centimeters (12 in) diameter and a weight of 2.2 kilograms (4.9 lb), with a blue-green patina and inlaid with gold symbols. These are interpreted generally as a sun or full moon, a lunar crescent, and stars (including a cluster interpreted as the Pleiades). Two golden arcs along the sides, marking the angle between the solstices, were added later. A final addition was another arc at the bottom surrounded with multiple strokes (of uncertain meaning, variously interpreted as a Solar Barge with numerous oars, as the Milky Way, or as a rainbow).
The disk is attributed to a site near Nebra, Saxony-Anhalt, in Germany, and associatively dated to c. 1600 BC. It has been associated with the Bronze Age Unetice culture.The disk is unlike any known artistic style from the period.
The Nebra sky disk features the oldest concrete depiction of the cosmos worldwide. In June 2013 it was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register and termed "one of the most important archaeological finds of the twentieth century.
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The face of a Pictish man who was "brutally" bludgeoned to death 1400 years ago has been reconstructed by a Scots scientist.
The skeleton of the man was found by archaeologists in an "unusual cross-legged position" with large stones holding down his legs and arms in a cave in the Black Isle.
Forensic anthropologists identified at least five fractures to his face and skull, including broken teeth and a shattered jaw.
A bone sample sent for radiocarbon dating indicates the victim was killed sometime between 430 and 630 AD, commonly referred to as the Pictish period in Scotland.
Dame Professor Sue Black, of Dundee University, whose team of forensic experts carried out the reconstruction work, said: "This is a fascinating skeleton in a remarkable state of preservation which has been expertly recovered.
"From studying his remains we learned a little about his short life but much more about his violent death.
"As you can see from the facial reconstruction he was a striking young man but he met a very brutal end, suffering a minimum of five severe injuries to his head."
She added: "The first impact was by a circular cross-section implement that broke his teeth on the right side.
"The second may have been the same implement, used like a fighting stick which broke his jaw on the left.
"The third resulted in fracturing to the back of his head as he fell from the blow to his jaw with a tremendous force possibly on to a hard object perhaps stone.
"The fourth impact was intended to end his life as probably the same weapon was driven through his skull from one side and out the other as he lay on the ground.
"The fifth was not in keeping with the injuries caused in the other four where a hole, larger than that caused by the previous weapon, was made in the top of the skull."
The skeleton was discovered when a team of volunteers were digging to determine when the Ross-shire cave might have been occupied.
Hearths and extensive iron-working debris were found at the site, before the discovery of the skeletal remains.
Excavation leader Steven Birch, of the Rosemarkie Caves Project, said: "Having specialised in prehistoric cave archaeology in Scotland for some years now, I am fascinated with the results.
"Here, we have a man who has been brutally killed, but who has been laid to rest in the cave with some consideration -placed on his back, within a dark alcove, and weighed down by beach stones.
"While we don't know why the man was killed, the placement of his remains gives us insight into the culture of those who buried him.
"Perhaps his murder was the result of interpersonal conflict - or was there a sacrificial element relating to his death?"
Jamie Nord - Irish Forests
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Picti: The Painted Ones
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Three new mosaics were recently discovered in the ancient Greek city of Zeugma, which is located in the present-day province of Gaziantep in southern Turkey. The incredibly well-preserved mosaics date back to 2nd century BC.
Zeugma was considered one of the most important centers of the Eastern Roman Empire and the ancient city has provided a treasure trove of discoveries with 2000-3000 houses in remarkably good condition. Excavations at Zeugma started in 2007 and continue to this day.
Up until 2000 the ancient city was completely submerged underwater until a project to excavate the area received funding from a number of sources. There are still many areas of Zeugma—a city once home to nearly 80,000 inhabitants—left to excavate, including 25 houses still underwater. It’s exciting to think of what other discoveries remain to be found.
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Cattle die, kinsmen die, and so must one die oneself. But one thing I know which never dies: the fame of a dead man’s deeds.
ᛉ Pre-Christian Norse poem ᛟ
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