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Journal Article

Backdating systematic shell ornament making in Europe to 45,000 years ago


Benazzi,  Stefano
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Arrighi, S., Bortolini, E., Tassoni, L., Benocci, A., Manganelli, G., Spagnolo, V., et al. (2020). Backdating systematic shell ornament making in Europe to 45,000 years ago. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 12: 59. doi:10.1007/s12520-019-00985-3.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-C5BB-A
Personal ornaments are commonly linked to the emergence of symbolic behavior. Although their presence in Africa dates back to the Middle Stone Age, evidence of ornament manufacturing in Eurasia are sporadically observed in Middle Palaeolithic contexts, and until now, large-scale diffusion has been well documented only since the Upper Palaeolithic. Nevertheless, little is known during the period between ca. 50,000 and 40,000 years ago (ka), when modern humans colonized Eurasia replacing existing hominin populations such as the Neandertals, and a variety of “transitional” and/or early Upper Palaeolithic cultures emerged. Here, we present shell ornaments from the Uluzzian site of Grotta del Cavallo in Italy, southern Europe. Our results show evidence of a local production of shell beads for ornamental purposes as well as a trend toward higher homogeneity in tusk bead shape and size over time. The temporal interval of the layers of interest (45–40 ka) makes Cavallo the earliest known shell ornament making context in Europe.