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The Siberian Times

Ancient coloured ‘pencil’ up to 50,000 years old found in Siberia

By The Siberian Times reporter
12 December 2018

Cave-dwellers used hematite crayon for art work in Altai Mountains, say archeologists.

‘We cannot say how exactly it was used, but we believe it was for some artistic purpose'. Picture: SBRAS Institute of Archeology and Ethnography

The pre-historic artists were not Homo sapiens but Denisovans - a long-extinct branch of ancient man - or possibly Neanderthals, another vanished sub-species, believe scientists. 

The crayon was used to make reddish brown marks. 

It was found in a layer of the world famous Denisova Cave this summer. 

Pencil


Pencil in hand

The crayon was used to make reddish brown marks. SBRAS Institute of Archeology and Ethnography

This layer dates to between 45,000 and 50,000 years ago and was occupied mainly by the long-gone Denisovans whose closest modern-day descendants live thousands of miles away as the native peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea. 

However, the cave also had Neanderthal dwellers and it is known that there was cross breeding between the branches of fancier man. 

Denisova Cave pencil


Denisova Cave pencil


Denisova Cave pencil


Denisova Cave pencil

Researches work inside the Denisova cave, views from outside and inside the Denisova Cave. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya/The Siberian Times


The disclosure of the ancient crayon - the first of its kind found among the treasures of Denisova - comes after the discovery of a ‘tiara’ made of woolly mammoth ivory dating to the same period. 

Other finds include ivory and talc (soapstone) beads and a marble pebble with traces of ocher. 

The collection of ivory jewellery is beliOther finds include ivory and talc (soapstone) beads and a marble pebble with traces of ochereved to be the world oldest. 

The crayon - or coloured pencil - discovery was announced by Professor Mikhail Shunkov, head of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. 

Colored pebble


Talc beads

Other finds include ivory and talc (soapstone) beads and a marble pebble with traces of ocher. SBRAS Institute of Archeology and Ethnography

‘This summer we made a unique find for Denisova Cave,’ he said. ‘We call it a 'pencil', it has a natural pigment - hematite, which prehistoric artists, used for different art, while living in the cave. 

'The piece of hematite was processed. 

‘We cannot say how exactly it was used, but we believe it was for some artistic purpose. 

‘We previously found similar 'pencils' at Karabom Paleolithic site, some 120 kilometres from Denisova Cave. 

‘So far we do not know other similar finds, but we hope there will be more.’ 

Mikhail Shunkov

Denisova Cave pencil


Denisova Cave pencil


Denisova Cave pencil

Professor Mikhail Shunkov, and team of researchers working on washing and sorting through every bucket of soil from the Denisova Cave. Pictures: The Siberian Times


The 'pencil' was found in southern gallery of Denisova Cave, the excavations of which were resumed this year.

Older such drawing implements have been found in Africa but this would seem to be one of the oldest discovered in Eurasia. 

Denisovans appear to have been advanced for the period in which they lived. 

While this branch of ancient man became extinct thousands of years ago, their DNA lives on - but nowhere near Siberia. 

The native peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea have five per cent Denisovan DNA, say scientists, indicating a huge migration in prehistoric times . 

The Denisovans were first identified a decade ago when a tiny finger bone fragment of so-called 'X woman' was discovered in this cave in Altai,  a young female who lived around 41,000 years ago.

She was found to be neither Homo sapiens nor Neanderthal. 

Denisova Cave pencil

Another sensational discovery from the Denisova Cave that was made this summer seasion, the woolly mammoth ivory tiara


Earlier this year details were revealed in Nature journal of the discovery of a fragment of bone belonging to an inter-species love child called Denny who lived some 90,000 years ago.

She was the product of a sexual liaison between a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father, according to DNA findings. 

Comments (9)

If we ever get some Homo erectus DNA I'll bet it is Denisovian or close.
Tom Baldwin, Cedar City, Utah, USA
08/04/2019 10:31
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I too wonder Morak, what is the *percent distribution* of pre-sapiens genes that *averages* to 4%, in today's H. sapiens. It's just not that rare to encounter a person who seems like they would fit right in with the Denisova Cave crowd, 50k years ago. "That's 4%?? ... looks like it needs another zero tacked-on!"

For sure, how many more of these species-surprises are yet to be found? The Red Deer Cave skulls look pretty special ... but no DNA has - yet - been found from these remains.

http://JohnHawks.net/ is one of my favorites. I would trawl the YouTube trove, but I live in God's Country and one of the costs is the slowest connection in captivity.

And here in the gorgeous temperate maritime rainforest (west of Seattle) ... we had an intense windstorm last Friday, and I just got power back, four full days living like it was Denisova-times. ;)
Ted Clayton, Forks, WA USA
19/12/2018 05:10
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http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/denisova/biology-of-genomes-pennisi-update-2013.html Ted, there are some excellent links on youtube. As in this one, apparently, there are still MORE people involved, not only these 2 types. And what I find interesting is the conclusion, that up to 4% of the genes from modern - man -, that is us, is still from these early cave dwellers. Judging though from the behaviour of some people, I have the feeling the must have much more of these genes in their DNA pool...
MORAK Benedikjt, Moscow
16/12/2018 08:13
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1
Good luck Professor Mikhail Shunkov and your team members .... I am waiting to find out Denisovans fossil in south Asia...
Praveen Kumar, REVA, India
14/12/2018 15:59
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Looking out of the mouth of the cave and across the beautiful valley makes me understand at least one reason that people lived there for so long.
Paige, Hallsville,USA
14/12/2018 11:06
2
1
quote: "This layer dates to between 45,000 and 50,000 years ago and was occupied mainly by the long-gone Denisovans whose closest modern-day descendants live thousands of miles away as the native peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea.
However, the cave also had Neanderthal dwellers and it is known that there was cross breeding between the branches of fancier man." :endquote.

I found that a little confusing. The high-profile crossing currently is the Neanderthal-Denisova girl, so the author ISN'T saying the Neanderthal is Mr. Unfancy. I'm guessing that all three types here are being called Fancier, as opposed to what existed as the common base of all three.

But I'm not betting the farm on that guess.

Hey MORAK Benedikjt, Moscow! You got an inside-clue on this?? :)
Ted Clayton, Forks, WA USA
14/12/2018 10:52
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1
Ancient art finds:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/journey-oldest-cave-paintings-world-180957685/
https://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/14/science/14paint.html

and I wish I knew the Russian (?) term that yields the English phrase "fancy man" because I have never heard that phrase in American English discussions of human evolution.

The Denisovan cave area is so interesting. Thank you.
KATHARINE W FERNSTROM, United States
14/12/2018 07:48
4
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Excellent article, thanks!
Michael, Israel
13/12/2018 21:01
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well done the team there indeed. just NEVER show or reveal the real site or location to anyone or anywhere. so the -black- diggers will not come and just get the best parts and destroy the rest. would be a shame indeed.
MORAK Benedikjt, Moscow
13/12/2018 14:30
10
0
1

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