Back in 2008, paleontologists unearthed a remarkable stone bracelet in the Denisova Cave which is located in Siberia’s Altai Mountain Range. Dubbed as the “oldest piece of jewelry ever found,” the bracelet is thought to have been made by an extinct species of ancient humans known as “Denisovans.” In-depth analysis of the artifact has revealed its age to be between 40,000 and 50,000 years. The sophistication with which the stunning bracelet was crafted challenges our understanding of our prehistoric human ancestors. The Denisovans may have been far more advanced than we ever realized.
The techniques and tools used for crafting this bracelet are not characteristic of the Palaeolithic era. The design shows signs of easel speed-drilling and use of a rasp similar to modern boring tools. The green-hued stone was also polished using skins and leather that had varying levels of tanning.
The intricate design of the modern-looking jewelry has long bewildered experts. The two fragments that scientists discovered were 0.9 cm thick and 2.7 cm wide. They estimated that the bracelet had a diameter of 7 cm. They also found a drilled hole that has a diameter of approximately 0.8 cm. After carefully studying the bracelet, experts found that the drill had a high-speed rotation and minimal fluctuation. This sophisticated technology, though common today, had up to then been considered too advanced for the time the bracelet was created.
The outer surface near the drilled hole also shows a polished zone. Experts believe that a soft organic material was used for polishing. It is suggested that the bracelet had a leather strap attached to some kind of a charm which was heavy. The positioning of the polished section also helped to identify the “bottom” and “top” part of the bracelet, and it was concluded that the jewelry was made to be worn on the right hand. Earlier assumptions were that artifacts of such sophistication were first made 12,000 years ago during the Neolithic era.
The green stone that the bracelet is made of is rich in chlorite. Since the mineral is not available in the area, it is thought that the stone was imported. All the evidence also points to the idea that the jewelry was made for a woman belonging to the highest ranks of society.
Made of chlorite, the stone bracelet sports a striking green color. Remarkably, chlorite is not found where the artifact was discovered which means it must have been imported from over 150 miles away. Under bright sunlight, the bracelet sparkles and reflects the rays of the Sun. At night, however, it shows a dark green hue when seen under the light of a fire.
The rarity of the stone and the technical sophistication suggest that it was an exceptionally precious item made specifically for a prehistoric princess or a woman belonging to high society. Experts believe that the beautiful and fragile bracelet was worn only on special occasions. Moreover, ancient people associated jewelry with magical properties. So, the artifact must have held some special significance for the wearer.
Besides being a bustling tourist destination, the Denisova Cave is also of great paleontological importance. Over the years, many ancient artifacts and remains have been discovered there.
Situated beside the Anuy River, approximately 93 miles south of Barnaul, the famous Denisova Cave attracts a fair share of tourists. It also has a major paleontological significance. Over the years, the remains of many extinct species have been discovered there. Some examples include the woolly rhino and woolly mammoth among 66 other mammals and 50 different bird species. However, the most exciting was the discovery of the remains of the early human species called the “Denisovans.” Also known as Denisova hominins, this species was different from both the Neanderthals and modern Homo sapiens, and they can be traced back to 600,000 years ago.
The remains of this ancient human species have only been discovered in the Denisova Caves. However, DNA analysis places them all over Siberia and even in Southeast Asia. In fact, Denisovan DNA traces can be found in the genome of modern humans that belong to these areas. Besides the bracelet, scientists also discovered the finger bone fragment of a Denisovan girl. The DNA analysis revealed that it was a seven- or eight-year-old female of a species that is closely related to the Neanderthals but markedly different. In the year 2000, experts found two teeth of a young adult that belonged to the same species.
Not much is known about the physical characteristics of the Denisovans. So far, only a toe bone, a finger bone, and two teeth have been discovered. However, analysis of the finger and toe bone suggests that members of the species looked a lot like their cousin Neanderthals with broad and robust features. Despite being an archaic species, the Denisovans are believed to have been quite advanced. If the bracelet and other items (such as a marble ring) were indeed made by them, it would certainly challenge our perception of them.
After over a decade of careful analysis, some archeologists are now debating over whether the stone bracelet was actually made by Denisovans or any early Homo sapiens.
Professor Mikhail Shunkov, an eminent Siberian archeologist and others, have recently challenged the Western claims that the stone bracelet was made by Denisovans. A couple of studies have brought forth new ideas related to the origin and creation of the bracelet and other artifacts discovered in the Denisova Cave. There is no doubt about the existence of the ancient human species. It is said that Denisovans did occupy the limestone cave some 55,000 to 287,000 years ago. At one point, they existed alongside Neanderthals. However, a new timeline has raised doubt over who created the green-colored chlorite bracelet among other artifacts found at the site.
Recent studies have revealed that even though Homo sapiens did not exist anywhere near the Denisova Cave long ago, evidence of human existence can be found some 994 miles away. The results of these studies show that all the Denisovan and Neanderthal fossils predate the Upper Palaeolithic. However, the jewelry found in the cave can be dated to the time when Homo sapiens existed in western Siberia. Though modern humans were nowhere near Altai, it is suggested that they may have been involved in the creation of these artifacts.