The strange artifact of the Ice Age

It is a fragmented ivory artifact. It was found in an Ice Age excavation in southwestern Germany. Its use was discussed for a long time. What is the strange Ice Age artifact?

Throughout the last century, similar objects were discovered throughout the continent. They are carved into a point and pierced with holes. They thought of wands and scepters, or symbols of occult power, ritual and magical instruments.

The archaeologist at the University of Tübingen (Germany), Nicholas Conard, believes he knows its use. He thinks they were used for weaving. In 2015, 13 pieces of crafted mammoth ivory were found in the Hohle Fels cave. It is a 40,000-year-old occupation site.

Versions of this tool have been found in many sites.
Versions of this tool have been found in many sites.

Verifying the method

The ivory pieces fit together perfectly to form an object measuring 20.4 centimeters in length. There are four holes wide enough to insert a pencil. Plant fibers were found sifted from the surrounding soil. That is why it is believed that the strange artifact from the Ice Age was used to make ropes.

They decided to reproduce one of these tools to test it. The staff would not be practical or necessary for making finer ropes and threads. But with the holes as a guide, thicker ropes composed of two to four strands could be effectively twisted.

The researchers tested various materials. Four or five participants helped by holding the replica tool and handing out the strands. It was possible to weave 5 meters of quality, robust and flexible reed rope in just 10 minutes.

The strange Ice Age artifact had an unknown function.
The strange Ice Age artifact had an unknown function.

Other uses

As with any replication, the experiment is not definitive. It is not known if it was the exact use they gave it. Similar objects can also have subtly different uses. For example, to hold shafts while securing projectile points. Or maybe to straighten pieces of wood.

A microscopic analysis was made of the striations of the Hohle Fels Lochstab. Also from the plant fibers of the site. The enigma of how high-quality ropes were made thousands of years ago could have a solution. This research was published in Science Advances.

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