The adventures of Neanderthal ropes continue. Five years ago, the famous monument of Krapin (Croatia), opened at the end of the 19th century, was in the spotlight due to the discovery of eight claws of the white-tailed eagle. Never before have so many claws been found at once on the Middle Paleolithic monument, moreover, with traces of tools on them. At the base of the claws, archaeologists discerned characteristic parallel marks, as well as polished sections. Researchers have suggested that once the claws apparently hung on a cord and adorned someone's primal neck. The frayed areas are the result of the friction of the claws against each other. Given the dating, 130 thousand years, the find claimed the title of the oldest jewelry in the world. Since identical claws were found in the set, the necklace was clearly collected from the remains of several birds. White-tailed eagle is a difficult prey, so the thing was probably status. The find is unique, because even on the monuments of later eras - the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic - it was not possible to find eight claws of a bird of prey in one place at once.
There are no holes in the claws, so it is logical to assume that they were simply tied up with some kind of rope or leather strap. This was also indicated by the smoothed edges of the marks on the surface of the finds. Perhaps smoothness was formed as a result of friction against the lace. Of course, 130 thousand years is a colossal period, but maybe some more traces from the lace have been preserved? Archaeologists examined one of the claws (find .). 1) and found at the bottom of one of the marks something that looked like a tiny fragment of fiber. Due to the peculiarities of cave deposits in which the claw had been lying for thousands of years, its surface was covered with a thin silicate film. So, the alleged fiber was under this film and, apparently, thanks to it, it was preserved. On the same claw were the remains of some kind of pigment, possibly manganese or iron oxides - microscopic, almost indistinguishable spots, but modern methods make it possible to study even such barely noticeable traces. Scientists used a scanning electron microscope, and when this turned out to be not enough - infrared spectrometry.
What turned out? First, the fiber is clearly not of plant origin. Collagen was discovered in it - the basis of the connective tissue of some animal. The pigment turned out to be ocher, with a mixture of red and yellow ocher. This in itself is more than curious, because no traces of ocher have been found in Krapin so far, and, given the composition of the deposits of the monument, the pigment hardly got here in a natural way. The researchers also drew attention to the “patches” of dark color at the tip of the claw - judging by the composition, this is charcoal mixed with white clay.
So, we have collagen fiber, two types of ocher and charcoal in addition. The presence of a silicate film suggests that all this did not stick to the claw yesterday - probably even before the claw was thrown out by an ancient person.
The fiber, of course, can be remnants of the eagle's flesh, but unlikely, given that the claw was clearly cut off from the leg and thoroughly cleaned. Most likely, collagen was left from a cord of tendon or skin, although the authors even consider the option of “feather added to the necklace for additional decoration”. We just wrote about traces of plant ropes on the Neanderthal monument of Abri do Maras. Now - Neanderthal animal rope.
Ocher of two types may have been used to paint the body and hit a necklace with human skin. Coal mixed with clay could also be used as a dye, although it is possible that it is just soot from a fire.
So, the image of a Neanderthal dancing 130 thousand years ago at the primeval campfire - with a necklace of claws on the neck and painted in three colors, like a football fan. Probably with feathers in her hair. Thanks to microarchaeology (I'm not sure that there is such a term, but in fact it is), scientists bring back to life things from which there is practically nothing left but a fiber one tenth of a millimeter long. And how many such micro-traces are hidden from the eyes of scientists ... simply because they were not looked for? How many discoveries do we have?