51,000-Year -Old Bone With Strange Carvings Changes What We Knew About Neanderthals

Old bone found in Europe changes the way we perceive our past.
Old bone found in Europe changes the way we perceive our past.

Based on a current research, published at the beginning of this week, the oldest work of art ever found is a bone. It belongs to a deer and because of its curved lines, the researchers estimate it to be 51,000 years old.

This finding proves that Homo sapiens can use art to convey information full of meanings.

“This is clearly not a pendant or something like that. It’s clearly a decoration with a kind of symbolic character.  You might even call it the initial start of art, something which was not done by accident, but with a clear plan in mind.”, claims Thomas Terberger from Göttingen University.

Credit: V. Minkus, Lower Saxony Office for Heritage

What Does It Mean?

On the front part of the bone, there are lines that seem to look similar to an inverted V that point upwards and also smaller ones on the lower edge.

Tring to discover the story behind the engravings from the bone, a specialist archaeologist, named Dirk Leder, assumes that it could have been an object standing by itself, staying probably in a corner of the cave.

He also believes that, because it was found near a shoulder blade bone of a deer and near a skull of a bear, these objects might have been used for rituals. Some people from the team see a woman with head and chest, while others see three mountains in a row. That is what makes this carving unique.

Other more in-depth analysis shows that this work of art might have been very special because the method it was made through is rare and thoughtful. For example, there is a high possibility that they melted the bone to draw the lines. At that time it would have been easier to crave in wood than stone or bone.

The place where the carved bone was found, is called nowadays “Unicorn Cave” and represents a big tourist attraction in Germany.

Mary J. Payne
Mary has over 10 years of experience as a journalist. She loves to travel and write about her experiences, but she also covers topics such as education, career advice and finances.