December 2, 2008

Artistic Statues From Stone Age Discovered In Russia

Extraordinary artifacts from the late Stone Age have been discovered in Russia.

The location at Zaraysk, which is southeast of Moscow, has produced both the unique figurines as well as some carvings on mammoth tusks.

The discoveries also consist of a cone-shaped item whose purpose; the authors state in the journal Antiquity, "remains a puzzle". Such inventive artifacts have been previously found in the nearby areas of Kostenki and Avdeevo, but this is the first kind of find at Zaraysk.

The Upper Paleolithic is the later fraction of the Stone Age, all through which humans made the shift from practical tool making to art and embellishment.

The novel artifacts, found by Hizri Amirkhanov and Sergey Lev of the Russian Academy of Sciences, comprise of a mammoth rib decorated with what seem to be three mammoths, a small bone carved with a crosshatch pattern, and two human figurines supposed to be female.

Such "Venus" statuettes have been previously discovered in areas ranging from the mountains of Spain as to far to the east as Siberia, but their cultural importance is a point of dispute among anthropologists.

At Zaraysk, the two figurines were discovered cautiously buried in storage pits. Beneath each was a round deposit of sand facing the south; in the direction of the north, there was a section of red ochre, an iron-based pigment.  

The figurines were individually covered with the shoulder blade of a mammoth. One is assumed to be complete and stands at a height of 6.7 in; the additional figurines are obviously unfinished and about half as tall.

Nevertheless, both bear a resemblance to examples of such figurines discovered at the Avdeevo site to the southwest, implying cultural similarities between the two.

"This collection of artifacts is spectacular in a number of ways, not only for the range of representations of both humanistic and animal but also for the range of materials that is used," says Jeffrey Brantingham, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"These finds are really incredibly rare, and they offer a unique picture into human Upper Paleolithic life."

Also in the middle of the discoveries was an item carved from mammoth ivory, fashioned like a cone with its top detached. The cone is simply decorated and has a hole in its center.

The authors indicate that the item is the only one of its kind in discovered Paleolithic artifacts. "The function of this decorated object remains a puzzle," they add.


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