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Dig unearths Stone Age sculptures

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    Monday, 1 December 2008 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7758986.stm Dig unearths Stone Age sculptures  The carving has a feminine form,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2008
      Monday, 1 December 2008

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7758986.stm

      Dig unearths Stone Age sculptures



      The carving has a feminine form, reminiscent of "Venus" figurines found from Siberia to the Pyrenees

      Rare artefacts from the late Stone Age have been uncovered in Russia.
      The site at Zaraysk, 150km south-east of Moscow, has yielded figurines and carvings on mammoth tusks.
      The finds also included a cone-shaped object whose function, the authors report in the journal Antiquity, "remains a puzzle".
      Such artistic artefacts have been found in the nearby regions of Kostenki and Avdeevo, but this is the first such discovery at Zaraysk.
      The Upper Palaeolithic is the latter part of the Stone Age, during which humans made the transition from functional tool-making to art and adornment.



       This collection of artefacts is spectacular in a number of ways



      Jeffrey Brantingham, UCLA
      The new artefacts, discovered by Hizri Amirkhanov and Sergey Lev of the Russian Academy of Sciences, include a mammoth rib inscribed with what appear to be three mammoths, a small bone engraved with a cross-hatch pattern, and two human figurines presumed to be female.
      Such "Venus" statuettes have been found in locations ranging from the mountains of Spain as far east as Siberia, but their cultural significance remains a point of debate among anthropologists.
      'Unique picture'
      At Zaraysk, the two figurines were found carefully buried in storage pits. Underneath each was a round deposit of fine sand toward the south; toward the north, there was a deposit of red ochre - an iron-based pigment.
      Each of the figurines had been covered with the shoulder-blade of a mammoth.
      One is presumed to be finished and stands at a height of nearly 17 cm (6.7 in); the other is clearly unfinished and about half as big.


      A bone fragment shows an "oblique cross" pattern of ornamentation
      However, both resemble examples of such statuettes found at the Avdeevo site to the south-west, suggesting cultural links between the two.
      "This collection of artefacts 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 Palaeolithic life."
      Also among the finds was an object carved from mammoth ivory, shaped like a cone with its top removed. The cone is densely ornamented and has a hole running through its centre.
      The authors note that the object is unique among Palaeolithic artefacts. "The function of this decorated object remains a puzzle," they say.



      Three views of the mysterious cone-shaped object found at Zaraysk

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