Your choice in jewelry can say a lot about you: That you follow a particular religion, graduated with an engineering degree, or you’re just a fan of the latest viral aesthetic.
Now, new research shows that jewelry was just as important for distinguishing different cultures in ancient Europe as it is for signaling your allegiance to a particular group today.
The study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, reveals the existence of nine distinct groups that were lost to time and haven’t conclusively shown up in genetic data. Through the study of ancient artifacts, researchers were able to identify previously-unknown cultures living across Europe between 34,000 and 24,000 years ago, showing the power of these artifacts in writing our complex human histories.
The research focused on people who archeologists had previously thought all belonged to a single group called the Gravettians—Ice Age hunter-gatherers who braved the bitter cold and created some of the most iconic artifacts we know about today, including voluptuous sculptures like the Venus of Willendorf.
In the study, researchers from France created and analyzed a database of more than 130 personal ornaments from Gravettian burial and housing sites across Europe. The pieces ranged from carved ivory or amber pendants, to beads made from coral or human bone, to barnacle, bear or bison bone adornments. [Continue reading…]