Collagen Analysis Detects Human Bone in Paleolithic Ornaments

Russia Femur PendantsHELSINKI, FINLAND—Live Science reports that Kristiina Mannermaa of the University of Helsinki and her colleagues examined tooth and bone artifacts recovered in the 1930s from Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov, an 8,200-year-old cemetery located on an island in northwestern Russia’s Lake Onega. Testing of the collagen in the bone of 37 of the objects revealed that at least 12 of them had been made with human remains, and at least two of them had been made from the same human femur. Mannermaa said that these ornaments appear to have been carved quickly with notched ends where a cord could be fastened. They were also similar in size and shape to ornaments made from bear, elk, and beaver teeth, which are thought to have been sewn onto the hems of cloaks or coats as noisemakers or rattles. The human bone ornaments may have been crafted as replacements for lost animal teeth, she added. “It gives an impression that when a human or animal died, they didn’t see so much difference in the body and the parts,” Mannermaa said. The human bone ornaments came from three graves, two that each contained the remains of an adult man and one that held the remains of an adult man and a child. Mannermaa and her team are now comparing the human bone ornaments with those made of animal bone to see if they were created in a similar way. The researchers may also to try to extract DNA from the ornaments, and the people buried with them, to see if they were related. To read about bone relics from Bronze Age Britain, including a human femur fashioned into a musical instrument, go to “Bronze Age Keepsakes.”


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