|28 November 2019
Cave lion figurine found at Denisova Cave
A 42 millimetre long, 8 millimetre thick and 11 millimetre high figurine of a cave lion carved from mammoth ivory between 40,000 and 45,000 years ago has been discovered in the Altai Mountains of Siberia by a team of archeologists from Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography.
The precise age is yet to be confirmed, but this might be the oldest animal figurine in the world. It is already the oldest sculptural zoomorphic image found in Siberia, or throughout Northern and Central Asia.
The hind legs, hind quarters, back, and belly are preserved. The head is missing. The sides are decorated with rows of notches, and all or part of the figure had been coloured with red ochre. In 2018 a 'pencil' and a marble stone with traces of ochre powder were discovered in the same area of the cave - the first set of its kind in Siberian archeology. The ivory came from at least 100 kilometres away.
Mikhail Shunkov, head of the Institute's Stone Age Archeology Department, says the posture is that of a big cat preparing to pounce. The style is unique, but not entirely unlike cave lion figurines from Vogerfelt Cave in southwest Germany, and caves in southwest France.
The Denisova Cave is above the river Anuy at the border of the Altai region and the Altai Republic in the south of Western Siberia. Locals call it Ayu Tash, which means Bear Rock. It is relatively small, with a floor area of about 270 square metres, and has a South Gallery, an East Gallery, and a Central Chamber with high arched ceiling and a hole that lets in natural light. The cave first caught the attention of Soviet scientists in 1970s when they found first palaeo-archeological remains. Now the site has a permanent research camp.
It was inside the Denisova Cave in 2008 that Siberian archeologists discovered a tiny finger bone fragment of 'X woman', a juvenile female believed to have lived around 41,000 years ago. Analysis showed she was genetically distinct from both Neanderthals and modern humans. Further research showed that the Denisovans were a sister group of Neanderthals. The two groups split from a common ancestor around 390,000 years ago, and like Neandertals, Denisovans lived until about 40,000 years ago.
Edited from The Siberian Times (20 November 2019)
[14 images, 3 drawings, 1 video]
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