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Europe's Ice Age hid nine forgotten societies

Europe's Ice Age hid nine forgotten societies

Since ancient times, people have worn personal jewelry that links them to their people; Valuable items that reflect the clan's identity for life to the grave. But these cultural associations do not always seem to follow family lines.

Decorative traditions are widespread in Europe

the The nature of human behavior A new study, published in the journal, compared thousands of medallions from the Ice Age in Europe between 34,000 and 24,000 years ago. The results show that at least nine different cultural groups of hunter-gatherer societies existed within the broader population known as the Gravity culture. And

Each had a relatively different decorative style.

Further analyzes of genetic data from burial sites revealed that some of these groups used the same cultural motifs, despite their different origins.

Pendants made by the Graffiti culture from animal teeth (left side), bone, ivory, stone, and amber (right side)Source: Becker et al., The Nature of Human Behavior, 2024

We have shown that there can be two different genetic groups of people who actually share a common culture – said Jacques Becker, lead author of the study, a doctoral student in archeology at Bordeaux University in France Science Alert Online scientific portal.

The oldest known case of ancient people adorning themselves with pearls dates back to about 140 thousand years ago: Shell beads indicating this have been found in present-day Morocco. However, experts point out that the practice of wearing pearls did not really spread until about 45,000 years ago, when the decorative tradition spread to Europe.
This is the moment when personal ornaments began to show a degree of diversity Baker and colleagues explain in their study. This, in turn, enables researchers to examine their role as cultural markers more precisely.

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For the investigation, Becker collected existing records of thousands of hand-carved beads and pendants found at one hundred and twelve sites across Europe, from Portugal to Russia.

Cultural boundaries were sometimes fluid

Based on their age and other relevant findings, these ornaments were previously attributed to a single culture, the graffiti culture. The most important archaeological culture of the Upper Paleolithic is known for its Venus figurines, including the Venus of Willendorf, which flourished across Europe for about 10,000 years before becoming extinct before the height of the last Ice Age.However, the diversity of the ornaments is impressive: scholars have identified one hundred and thirty-four different types of beads made by members of the Gravity culture from animal bones, teeth, shells, amber and stone. Some looked like fishtails, others looked like owls.

Although most of the 'trinkets' were found in the ruins of Upper Paleolithic dwellings, some have been excavated from burial sites where DNA samples have also been collected.

The nine cultural groups were identified based on decorations found on dwellings (shaded dots) and burial sites (shaded squares).Source: Becker et al., The Nature of Human Behavior, 2024

By comparing jewelry across geographic distances, Baker and his colleagues identified nine different cultural groups that had unique preferences for different types of beads depending on their geographic location. According to scientists, these differences “crystallized” in the finds in the graves, and people used jewelry to identify each other as quickly as possible. However, the analysis also indicates that Cultural boundaries proved fluid at times, and neighboring groups occasionally exchanged styles.The findings also prove that even during harsh ice ages, our ancestors carved beautiful pendants in order to identify their people and distinguish themselves from others.

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