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19 December 2018
Ancient 'pencil' up to 50,000 years old found in Siberia

According to archaeologists, cave-dwellers used hematite crayon for art work in Altai Mountains - a mountain range where Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan come together. 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 ancient crayon scientists found in a layer of the southern gallery of the world famous Denisova Cave this summer was used to make reddish brown marks. "We cannot say how exactly it was used, but we believe it was for some artistic purpose", the expert say.
     The layer where the item was found 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.
     The disclosure of the ancient crayon - the first of its kind found among the treasures of Denisova - comes after the discovery of a 'tiara' (an ornamental crown) 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 ochre.
     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.
     "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. 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."

Edited from The Siberian Times (12 December 2018)

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