The oldest jewellery in Europe

This is a collection of bone points and pierced teeth retrieved by researchers led by Katerina Douka of the UK’s University of Oxford from the Denisova Cave in the Bashelaksky Range of the Altai mountains in Siberia, Russia.

The cave is highly significant because evidence shows it was inhabited – at times, perhaps, simultaneously – by both Neanderthals and the little-known hominins known as Denisovans.

In a pair of papers published in the journal Nature, scientists report that Denisovans occupied the cave approximately 287,000 to 55,000 years ago, while Neanderthals lived there between 193,000 and 97,000 years ago.

Dates calculated by the two groups of researchers don’t completely agree, although are not wildly divergent. Douka’s team calculated the bone and tooth artefacts date from between 49,000 and 43,000 years ago. This makes them the oldest such artefacts so far found in northern Eurasia, and possibly of Denisovan origin. 

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