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Six lines carved into a bone 120,000 years ago: a find in Israel could mark a milestone in human history

(Marion Prévost via The Times of Israel)
(Marion Prévost via The Times of Israel)

Six lines carved into a 120,000-year-old bone fragment found in Israel could be one of the earliest known uses of symbols found on Earth, according to Israeli and French researchers.

The bone fragment, recently found during an excavation near the city of Ramle, in the center of the country, has six similar engravings on one side of the bone. After analyzing the remains in a laboratory, the researchers concluded that it was deliberately carved symbolsaccording to a joint statement from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Haifa published on Wednesday.

“It is fair to say that we have discovered one of the oldest symbolic engravings ever found on earth, and certainly the oldest in the Levant”, said Yossi Zaidner, from the Institute of Archeology of the Hebrew University. “This discovery has very important implications for understanding how symbolic expression developed in humans ”.

A team from the French National Center for Scientific Research also participated in the research. The findings were published in the scientific journal Quaternary International.

(Yossi Zaidner via The Times of Israel)
(Yossi Zaidner via The Times of Israel)

The six engravings range between 38 and 42 millimetersthe researchers said. The scientists used three-dimensional images, microscopic methods of analysis, and experimental reproduction of prints in the laboratory and They were even able to determine that the work was done by a skilled craftsman in a single work session.

“Based on our laboratory analysis and the discovery of microscopic elements, we were able to assume that people in prehistoric times used a sharp tool made of flint stone to make engravings.”said in the article in Quaternary International Iris Groman-Yaroslavski, from the University of Haifa.

Scientific analysis determined that the carvings were definitely made intentionally by man and could not have been the result of animal killing activities or natural processes over millennia. Too they ruled out the possibility that the carvings could have been “inadvertent squiggles.”

“That kind of artwork would not have seen this level of attention to detail”said Marion Prévost of the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University.

Specialists believe that the bone, of an aurochs, a large wild cattle now extinct, was deliberately chosen.

“We presumed that the choice of this particular bone was related to the status of that animal in that hunting community and is indicative of the spiritual connection that hunters had with the animals they killed.”, it reads in the article.

(Yossi Zaidner via The Times of Israel)
(Yossi Zaidner via The Times of Israel)

Given its likely deliberate nature, the researchers concluded that the symbols must have had some meaning. “This engraving is most likely an example of symbolic activity and is the oldest known example of this form of messaging that was used in the Levant “says the statement.

Experts believe that stone and bone engravings have been used as a form of symbolism dating back to the Middle Palaeolithic period. (250,000-45,000 BC), but the findings that support that theory are extremely rare. Only five similar finds have been found in the entire Middle East.

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