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7 December 2017
Adornments tell about culture of Paleolithic people

Sungir Upper Paleolithic site is about 200 kilometres east of Moscow, and dates to 29,000-31,000 years BP - one of the earliest records of Homo sapiens in Europe. Scientists began to study the site over 30 years ago. The encampment of prehistoric hunters includes a burial site of a 40-50 year old man and a grave of two children who died at around 10 to 14 years of age. Excavations have revealed over 80 thousand different artefacts.
     Led by Moscow State University archaeologist Dr Vladislav Zhitenev, a group studying bone jewelry found at the site found that many items were crafted specifically for burial purposes, while others were worn on a daily basis.
     Dr Zhitenev says the children's grave contains more adornments and other burial items than any other Upper Paleolithic burial site in Eurasia. Pendants made from the teeth of Arctic fox, bone beads, and other personal ornaments show signs of having been worn for a long time. Other ornaments found at the burials were hurriedly made, evidently crafted specifically for the burial ceremony. These include a large but roughly polished horse figurine, and a carelessly made tusk disk. It is thought some burial items were made by children. Separated by several generations at most, the style of the ornaments found in both the children's grave and the later adult burial are identical.
     Influenced by many cultures of Europe and the Russian Plain, Sungir adornments are difficult to classify. They have a lot in common with the Aurignacian culture that was widely spread in Western and Central Europe in the Early Upper Paleolithic, as well as artefacts some early sites in Kostenki, all combined with stone objects crafted using a Neanderthal technology, although the remains are of Homo sapiens.
     Dr Zhitenev plans to focus further studies on intercultural communication, comparing sites with and without a Neanderthal component.

Edited from EurekAlert! (30 November 2017)

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