Mammoth ivory headband found in Denisova Cave


A 50,000 year old tiara made of woolly mammoth ivory has been found in a cave in Siberia – and it was an ancient fashion icon for men not women, say archaeologists.

Mammoth ivory headband found in Denisova Cave
Front, back and side views of mammoth ivory headband piece [Credit: Novosibirsk Institute 
of Archeology and Ethnography]

This remarkable headwear was not made by Homo sapiens but rather by an extinct branch of early man known as Denisovans. It was manufactured from the tusks of a beast that was probably hunted by the cave-dwellers in the Altai Mountains.

The find was made this summer in the world famous Denisova Cave, a home used variously by Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and this little-known third branch of early man.

The Palaeolithic tiara had a practical use – to keep hair out of the eyes, and did not include symbols indicating it was for religious purposes, said a report in Russia today.

‘The tiara maybe the oldest of its type in the world,’ the The Siberian Times also reported, which made clear it is between 45,000 and 50,000 years old.

Mammoth ivory headband found in Denisova Cave
Piece of headband in situ [Credit: Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography]

‘But it’s size indicates it was for male, not female, use – fitting a large-headed male. Marks on it show it had ‘wear and tear’ before being discarded as broken in a cave that is seen by archaeologists as one of the most significant treasure troves of early man anywhere in the world.’

The cool mountain climate and soil in the cave preserved ancient artefacts to a remarkable extent, allowing scientists to glimpse deep into the past.

Previous items from Denisovan craftsmen include a bracelet made from made from stunning green-hued chlorite, bead jewellery comprising ostrich eggs, and a needle – still useable today.

‘Finding one of the most ancient tiaras is very rare not just for the Denisova cave, but for the world,’ said researcher Alexander Fedorchenko, from Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography.

Mammoth ivory headband found in Denisova Cave
Excavations at Denisova Cave [Credit: Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography]

Ancient people used mammoth ivory to make beads, bracelets and pendants, as well as needles and arrow heads. The tiara may have denoted the family or tribe of ancient man, acting like a passport or identity card, it is believed.

‘The fragment we found is quite big. And judging by how thick the (strip) is, and by its large diameter, the headband was made for a big-headed man.’

He said the ivory headband fitted him perfectly. There is a hole in the rounded end of the tiara, where a cord was threaded to tie it at the back of the head.

Similar tiaras and diadems have been found in Siberia at a site near the Yana River in Yakutia region – but some 20,000 to 25,000 years younger.

Mammoth ivory headband found in Denisova Cave
Credit: The Siberian Times

Russian scientists believe the ancient people some 50,000 years ago had the knowledge to soak ivory lengths in in water ‘to become more ductile and not crack during processing, and then they were bent under a right angle’.

They were also adept at whittling, bending, grinding, polishing and drilling.

While Denisovans 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, a young female who lived around 41,000 years ago.

She was found to be neither Homo sapiens nor Neanderthal.

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.

Author: Will Stewart | Source: DailyMail [December 09, 2018]