This green stone bracelet might be the oldest artifact in human history.

He who understands the past will understand the future and yet the bracelet that belonged to an important member of the Denisovan society remains a mystery despite the newly gathered information. It is not easy to understand the ancient times because the time has hidden the crucial information we need for a full understanding of our ancestors.

The greenstone bracelet was discovered in 2008, and after a detailed analysis, scientists concluded that its age is 40.000 years! This might not only be the oldest piece of this kind of jewelry we know of but one of the oldest, if not the oldest artifact that required the use of tools.

Our perspective of the prehistoric era is constantly changing as new artifacts are being discovered. In only a short period of time, we learned that the first forms of culture appeared much earlier than we originally thought.

Who were the Denisovans and how were they able to treat a piece of stone with such precision and attention to detail are just a few questions that attract the attention of archeologists and paleontologists.

The Denisova cave

The Denisova cave is located in Siberia’s Altai mountains that got its name from a hermit Dennis (Dionisij) who lived there in the 18th century. The first findings were made during the 1970s and consequently led to more excavations. At the moment, there are 22 layers in the cave that are being researched, strata that cover the period of time from the 18th century AD to 120.000 – 180.000 BC.

denisova cave
Xenochka / CC BY-SA 

An important discovery was made in 2008, approximately the same time the chlorite bracelet was found, when researchers unearthed a finger bone of a woman.

The analysis of this and few other artifacts led to the discovery of a previously unknown species of hominin, now known now as Denisova hominin. Denisova 3 or X-Woman is among the first known remains of this newly discovered species of humans, and according to the results of the examination, she is 41.000 years old.

Compared to the fossil remains of Neandertals and modern humans, the DNA results showed variations which led scientists to believe that Denisovans were sister spices of Neandertals.

A previous discovery of a molar made eight years before the Denisova 3, is now attributed to a young male that also belonged to the Denisovans. A study that was conducted in collaboration with researchers from Oxford gave proof that we are looking at the species of hominin that was in many ways different than all of our other relatives.

The scientists are speculating that they migrated from Africa, sometime after Homo Erectus and much earlier than Homo Sapiens. All the evidence points out that for a period of time, the Neanderthals, Modern man, and Denisovans lived in the same area, and that Denisovans were the most advanced.

The bracelet

The proof is the stone bracelet the production of which required the possession of what would be considered hi-tech tools at the time. When and why these mysterious prehistoric men left the face of the Earth remains unknown, but hopefully, the Denisova cave might shed some light on that problem in the future.

The very same strata that hid the bones of our long-forgotten ancestors concealed an astounding chlorite bracelet, a piece of jewelry that was probably used for more than just decorative reasons. What really boggles the mind are the holes that were discovered on this artifact.

According to one of the team members Dr. Derevyanko, they found a hole with 0.8 cm diameter in the artifact, which left them wondering what sort of tool could pierce an object that is 0.9 cm thick. The only logical explanation is that the makers of this artifact were in possession of tools that were believed to belong to a period some 30.000 years later.

This artifact isn’t the only modern looking piece of jewelry that was discovered in this intriguing cave. Although the full description of these objects hasn’t been released yet, the team has stated that they found rings that were manufactured using the same technology as the bracelet. Dr. Derevyanko explained in an interview for the Science First-Hand magazine that:

The ancient master was skilled in techniques previously considered not characteristic for the Paleolithic era, such as easel speed drilling, boring tool type rasp, grinding and polishing with a leather and skins of varying degrees of tanning.

He goes on to add that:

Next to the hole on the outer surface of the bracelet can be seen clearly a limited polished zone of intensive contact with some soft organic material.

The stone used for the creation of this artifact is not common in the area in which the item was discovered, which means that the people who produced it believed that it had some kind of power. Otherwise, why would they bother to obtain a piece of rock that cannot be found in the diameter of 200 km?

All of the jewelry from the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods have a magical meaning. They wore it to protect themselves from evil spirits and the dangers carried by everyday life in such a harsh world. The rarity of the stone also suggests that the owner of the Denisovan bracelet was a person of influence and not just a regular member of the tribe.

Final words

The item is currently kept and exhibited at the Museum of History and Culture of the Peoples of Siberia and the Far East in Novosibirsk.

Although our knowledge about our ancestors remains limited, every bit of information we gather widens the picture we have about the past of our own species. It can’t be stressed enough how important these discoveries are because they allow us to take a look at the development and evolution of mankind.

I believe that they lived in a complex world in which survival was the main goal, and it is the magical objects like the Denisova bracelet that gave them the strength to go on.


  3. Featured image: Демин Алексей Барнаул / CC BY-SA

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