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Ancient jewelry reveals Europe’s hidden cultures

A recent study conducted by a team of anthropologists at Université Bordeaux has shed light on the rich cultural diversity that existed in Europe during the Gravettian period. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, reveal fascinating insights into the personal adornments worn by people inhabiting the region between 24,000 and 34,000 years ago. Reuven Yeshurun, from the University of Haifa, has provided additional commentary on the team's work in a complementary piece featured in the same journal issue.

The Gravettian period, situated within the Paleolithic era, witnessed the flourishing of a distinct culture across Europe. During this time, communities relied on hunting and gathering, fashioning clothing from animal skins and adorning themselves with various materials sourced from the natural . These adornments ranged from animal teeth and bones to ivory, rocks, shells, amber, and wood, each carefully selected and fashioned for personal expression.

The researchers embarked on a quest to discern potential cultural distinctions among Gravettian populations by scrutinizing the characteristics of their adornments. Their exhaustive analysis involved the examination of hundreds of ornamental artifacts, meticulously searching for discernible patterns and regional variations.

Their findings unveiled compelling evidence of nuanced differences between groups residing in disparate geographical areas. For instance, individuals inhabiting Eastern Europe exhibited a predilection for ivory and teeth, favoring the purity of white objects. Conversely, communities situated west of the Alps showcased a penchant for more vibrant hues, manifesting in their preference for colorful stones and shells. These pronounced disparities, the researchers contend, provided compelling grounds for delineating nine distinct cultural groups within the Gravettian landscape.

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