Caveman jewelry: Ostrich eggs in Siberia?

Siberian Times looks at the things that people thought were precious before people were Homo sapiens – a trove of Denisovan jewelry made from such exotic materials as ostrich eggshells:

Maksim Kozlikin, researcher at the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, Novosibirsk, said of the Siberian ostrich egg beads: ‘This is no ordinary find. Our team got quite excited when we found the bead.

‘This is an amazing piece of work. The ostrich egg shell is quite robust material, but the holes in the beads must have been made with a fine stone drill.

‘For that time, we consider this to be an exquisite jewellery work of a very talented artist.’

The skills and techniques used some 45,000 to 50,000 years ago are remarkable and more akin to the Neolithic era, dozens of millennia later.

He believes the beads may have been sewn into clothing – or formed part of a bracelet or necklace.

The latest discovery ‘is one centimetre in diameter, with a hole inside that is slightly wider than a millimetre,’ he said.

Yet he admits: ‘As of now, there is much more that we do not know about these beads than we do know. For example, we do not know where the beads were made.

‘Whichever way we look at it, it shows that the people populating the Denisova Cave at the time were advanced in technologies and had very well-established contacts with the outside world.’

How did the beads, or the material for them get to Siberia? How much did they cost?

‘What we do know for sure is that the beads were found in the Denisova Cave’s ‘lucky’ eleventh layer, the same one where we found the world’s oldest bracelet made from rare dark green stone. All finds from that layer have been dated as being 45,000 to 50,000 years old.

‘We had three other beads found in 2005, 2006 and 2008. All the beads were discovered lying within six metres in the excavation in the eastern gallery of the cave.

‘We cannot say if they all belonged to one person, but visually these beads look identical.’

Yet they also appear similar to ostrich egg beads found in an area called Border Cave in South Africa that have been dated up to 44,000 years old. The site is in the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains in KwaZulu-Natal.

Pictures at the link – lots of ’em.

[via Archaeological News]