| 7 January 2021
Prehistoric ivory items from Siberia
The skill of ivory softening was used more than 12,000 years ago to make tools - or decorations - that still puzzle modern science. A dozen solid elongated ivory bars crafted from softened ivory, and several figurines made from spongy parts of large mammoth bones, and resembling various animals were found at the Afontova Gora-2 archeological site by river Yenisey in Krasnoyarsk (Russia).
The finds were made in early 2000, but were re-examined recently by Dr Evgeny Artemyev who said that the figurines can be either Ice Age toys made by people who populated this area of the modern-day Siberia, or a form of primeval art. "When you look at them at different angles, they resemble different types of animals. It is possible that this is the new form of Palaeolithic art," the archeologist said.
The two prehistoric figurines appear similar to a bear and a mammoth, says Dr Artemyev, who has worked at the site since the 1990s. Looked at from another angle, one of the figurines may be a sleeping human.
"The mammoth tusk was softened to the extent that it resembled modern-day playdough. We don't know yet how ancient people achieved that", Dr Artemyev said. "On the items we can see traces of stone implements and the flows of the substance before it stiffened. This means that the tusk was softened significantly, the consistency was viscous."
While the scientists can't yet fathom why these shapes were made, the 'playdough' crafting technique helps them realise that these ancient people had much greater skills than they have imagined.
Edited from Siberian Times (2 January 2021)
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