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Stone bracelet is oldest ever found in the world

By Anna Liesowska
07 May 2015

Dating back 40,000 years to the Denisovan species of early humans, new pictures show beauty and craftsmanship of prehistoric jewellery.

While bracelets have been found pre-dating this discovery, Russian experts say this is the oldest known jewellery of its kind made of stone. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

It is intricately made with polished green stone and is thought to have adorned a very important woman or child on only special occasions. Yet this is no modern-day fashion accessory and is instead believed to be the oldest stone bracelet in the world, dating to as long ago as 40,000 years.

Unearthed in the Altai region of Siberia in 2008, after detailed analysis Russian experts now accept its remarkable age as correct. 

New pictures show this ancient piece of jewellery in its full glory with scientists concluding it was made by our prehistoric human ancestors, the Denisovans, and shows them to have been far more advanced than ever realised.

'The bracelet is stunning - in bright sunlight it reflects the sun rays, at night by the fire it casts a deep shade of green,' said Anatoly Derevyanko, Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, part of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Denisovan bracelet


Denisovan bracelet

Made of chlorite, the bracelet was found in the same layer as the remains of some of the prehistoric people and is thought to belong to them. Pictures: Anatoly Derevyanko and Mikhail Shunkov

'It is unlikely it was used as an everyday jewellery piece. I believe this beautiful and very fragile bracelet was worn only for some exceptional moments.'

The bracelet was found inside the famous Denisova Cave, in the Altai Mountains, which is renowned for its palaeontological finds dating back to the Denisovans, who were known as homo altaiensis, an extinct species of humans genetically distinct from Neanderthals and modern humans.

Made of chlorite, the bracelet was found in the same layer as the remains of some of the prehistoric people and is thought to belong to them.

What made the discovery especially striking was that the manufacturing technology is more common to a much later period, such as the Neolithic era. Indeed, it is not clear yet how the Denisovans could have made the bracelet with such skill.

Denisovan bracelet


Denisovan bracelet

New pictures show this ancient piece of jewellery in its full glory with scientists concluding it was made by our prehistoric human ancestors. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

Writing in the Novosibirsk magazine, Science First Hand, Dr Derevyanko said: 'There were found two fragments of the bracelet of a width of 2.7cm and a thickness of 0.9 cm. The estimated diameter of the find was 7cm. Near one of the cracks was a drilled hole with a diameter of about 0.8 cm. Studying them, scientists found out that the speed of rotation of the drill was rather high, fluctuations minimal, and that was there was applied drilling with an implement - technology that is common for more recent times.

Denisovan bracelet


Typical Neolithic bracelet

Traces of the use of drilling with an implement on the bracelet from Denisova Cave. Polished stone bracelet of Neolithic era. Pictures: Anatoly Derevyanko and Mikhail Shunkov, Vera Salnitskaya

'The ancient master was skilled in techniques previously considered not characteristic for the Palaeolithic era, such as drilling with an implement, boring tool type rasp, grinding and polishing with a leather and skins of varying degrees of tanning.'

Chlorite was not found in the vicinity of the cave and is thought to have come from a distance of at least 200km, showing how valued the material was at the time.

Dr Derevyanko said the bracelet had suffered damage, including visible scratches and bumps although it looked as if some of the scratches had been sanded down. Experts also believe that the piece of jewellery had other adornments to make it more beautiful.

'Next to the hole on the outer surface of the bracelet can be seen clearly a limited polished zone of intensive contact with some soft organic material,' said Dr Derevyanko. 'Scientists have suggested that it was a leather strap with some charm, and this charm was rather heavy. The location of the polished section made it possible to identify the 'top' and 'bottom' of the bracelet and to establish that it was worn on the right hand.'

Denisovan bracelet


Denisovan bracelet

Polished zone of intensive contact with some soft organic material. General reconstruction of the view of the bracelet and compraison with the moders bracelet. Pictures: Anatoly Derevyanko and Mikhail Shunkov, Anastasia Abdulmanova

Located next to the Anuy River, about 150 km south of Barnaul, the Denisova Cave is a popular tourist attraction, such is its paleontological importance. Over the years a number of remains have been found there, including some of extinct animals such as the woolly mammoth. In total evidence of 66 different types of mammals have been discovered inside, and 50 bird species.

The most exciting discovery was the remains of the Denisovans, a species of early humans that dated back as early as 600,000 years ago and were different to both Neanderthals and modern man.

In 2000 a tooth from a young adult was found in the cave and in 2008, when the bracelet was found, archaeologists discovered the finger bone of a juvenile Denisovan hominin, whom they dubbed the 'X woman'. Further examination of the site found other artifacts dating as far back as 125,000 years.

The institute's deputy director Mikhail Shunkov suggested that the find indicates the Denisovans - though now extinct - were more advanced than Homo sapiens and Neanderthals.

Denisovan bracelet


Denisovan bracelet

The traces of reparation on the cracks. Bracelet had suffered damage, including visible scratches and bumps. Pictures: Anatoly Derevyanko and Mikhail Shunkov

'In the same layer, where we found a Denisovan bone, were found interesting things; until then it was believed these the hallmark of the emergence of Homo sapiens,' he said. 'First of all, there were symbolic items, such as jewellery - including the stone bracelet as well as a ring, carved out of marble.'

The full details of the ring are yet to be revealed. 

'These finds were made using technological methods - boring stone, drilling with an implement, grinding - that are traditionally considered typical for a later time, and nowhere in the world they were used so early, in the Paleolithic era. At first, we connected the finds with a progressive form of modern human, and now it turned out that this was fundamentally wrong. Obviously it was  Denisovans, who left these things.'

This indicated that 'the most progressive of the triad' (Homo sapiens, Homo Neanderthals and Denisovans) were Denisovans, who according to their genetic and morphological characters were much more archaic than Neanderthals and modern human.' 

Denisova Cave, Altai Mountains


Denisova Cave, Altai Mountains

The entrance to the Denisova cave and the archaeological excavations inside. Pictures: The Siberian Times

But could this modern-looking bracelet have been buried with older remains?

The experts considered this possibility but rejected it, saying they believe the layers were uncontaminated by human interference from a later period. The soil around the bracelet was also dated using oxygen isotopic analysis.

The unique bracelet is now held in the Museum of History and Culture of the Peoples of Siberia and the Far East in Novosibirsk. Irina Salnikova, head the museum, said of the bracelet: 'I love this find. The skills of its creator were perfect. Initially we thought that it was made by Neanderthals or modern humans, but it turned out that the master was Denisovan, at least in our opinion.

Irina Salnikova

 Irina Salnikova, head the Museum of History and Culture of the Peoples of Siberia and the Far East in Novosibirsk. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

'All jewellery had a magical meaning for ancient people and even for us, though we do not always notice this. Bracelets and neck adornments were to protect people from evil spirits, for instance. This item, given the complicated technology and 'imported' material, obviously belonged to some high ranked person of that society.'

While bracelets have been found pre-dating this discovery, Russian experts say this is the oldest known jewellery of its kind made of stone.

Comments (44)

Where has this article been linked? Because up to now (June 5, 2015), the preponderance of the comments seem to be of the woo-woo type. A 'channeler's' DNA changed while 'channeling' a 35,000 yr old man? Yikes. But a very interesting discovery - perhaps more indicative of trade rather than indigenous industry? Especially if the find is unique.
Lethe, Chicago/USA
06/06/2015 09:16
10
2
I am a pacific islander maybe with 4% Denisovan DNA - My kiwi cousins in the pacific have similar jewelries.
Pete Griffiths, Lancaster CA. USA
29/05/2015 01:32
13
3
Maybe the dangle on the bracelet was a ring for a finger. That for of jewelry is a Mid-East custom.
Evelyn, Georgia USA
26/05/2015 19:33
7
4
Very interesting indeed - WOW is right - I might have about 4% of Denisovan dna due to where I am oringinally from. The south Pacific.2054
Pete Griffiths, Lancaster , CA USA.
26/05/2015 13:04
4
2
If anyone did not get to this article thru Educating Humanity website, check them out. They publish many stories on UFOs, many credible, some not so, but also stories like this... Ancient artifacts that would be impossible to manufacture today despite our "superiority". Think about it...when our civilization disappears most of our technologies will not survive 40k years, but our bones will. From our small skulls it will be surmised that we were intellectually inferior. But we will have possessed at least some technology that the future race does not. All civilizations advance, but in different ways.
glenn flanagan gjflanagan8@gmail.com, Vernon,ct usa
18/05/2015 04:10
7
10
I agree with another comment that we will find that some ancestral races were extremely intelligent. Check out Ramthas website. He is channeled and once lived 35k years ago. Claims that cromagnon man had highly developed brain and was technological. His channeler recently had 3 DNA samples taken when herself and 3 when channeling, sent to 3 separate labs. DNA was completely different when channeling Ramtha! He says we will soon make many discoveries to support ancient intelligence and technology.
glenn flanagan, Vernon, ct usa
18/05/2015 02:18
4
8
and they laughed @ Roerichs' ideas on Altai and Siberian ethnogenesis.
Rik Chapman, amerika rikchapman23@yahoo.com
17/05/2015 20:18
4
0
This seems strange. 40,000 years ago was the middle of the last Ice Age. And this was found in Siberia? How could people have lived up in Siberia in the middle of the Ice Age? Were the Denisovans somehow incredibly resistant to cold? Were they covered in heavy fur like polar bears or woolly mammoths?
Gradivus, USA
14/05/2015 13:10
5
13
Could the bracelet be a shackle by any chance, with the hole being for a rope tether?
Andrea, USA
11/05/2015 03:57
5
11
I participated in the National Geographic's Genome study. The results were interesting. I was also introduced to my Denosovian and Neanderthal genetic make up. Prior to that I was unaware of the Denosovian's. I loved reading some of the comments posted here especially the ones of an unusual and highly imaginative nature.
Mike Leptuch, Simi Valley, CA.
10/05/2015 23:53
9
1
when is Siberian Times doing a follow-up piece on the Denisovan Marble Ring?
Mike Philbin, Oxford, UK
10/05/2015 16:40
12
2
There seems to be an assumption amongst many archaeologists that people living in the past were less intelligent than those living today. Why else would it come as surprise that our ancestors were as capable as we are in coming up with technological solutions to specific problems? Just because someone lived a long time ago does not automatically make them stupid. And as further digging occurs it wouldn't surprise me if even more advanced technology was discovered.
Mike Earussi, Sandy, Oregon, USA
09/05/2015 20:28
44
4
Chlorite is an incredibly soft stone : 2-2,5 on Moh's scale. To give that some perspective : Gypsum is 2, Calcite is 3, Quarz is 7 and Diamond is 10. The image suggests some sort of Jadeite which is very tough, hard and difficult to work. Calcite on the other hand could be worked extremely easily, and drilling it would be an intellectual feat rather than a technological feat.
Jacky , Cape Town/South Africa
09/05/2015 19:51
23
0
The Denisovan specimen has Australopithecine teeth: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v468/n7327/fig_tab/nature09710_F4.html The tiny finger bone isn't from a juvenile, they were a sub-pygmy species, descended from the Australopithecine-Erectus hybrids at Dmanisi. Homo floresiensis from Indonesia is a Denisovan with Homo sapiens interbreeding. These are the "little people" in European oral history, and their pixie features, pointed ears, short stature, and low IQ are among us today. The Denisovans were far too primitive to make this bracelet, and their wrists too small to wear it. If it really is 40,000 years old, it was produced by the (partly mixed) Cro-Magnons known to have been in Siberia at that time, or passed by trade from the center of the Cro-Magnon cultural revolution in Western Europe. If it really is associated with Denisova-species remains, this is because, like those leprechauns with their pots of gold, they liked to steal shiny things from the big people.
Katrina, USA
09/05/2015 17:46
4
34
Denisovan genes are found in w pacific island people who also have a history of working jade and other hard stones to a fine finish. It's a long shot but maybe some cool history there.
Bill, Albion USA
09/05/2015 13:10
12
3

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