Ice-Age Ivory ‘Tiara’ Made From A Woolly Mammoth Tusk Discovered In Siberia’s Denisova Cave

The ancient accessory dates back 50,000 years and was found in the famous Denisova Cave.

Denisova Cave in the Altai mountains, Siberia, Russia.
Olinchuk / Shutterstock

The ancient accessory dates back 50,000 years and was found in the famous Denisova Cave.

In a spectacular discovery, an Ice-Age hair accessory was unearthed in the world-famous Denisova Cave. The object — a curved ivory fragment broken off of a larger ornament — seems to be a tiara of sorts and was, by all accounts, designed to be worn by men.

The paleolithic tiara is roughly between 45,000 and 50,000-years-old and was fashioned out of a woolly mammoth tusk. Experts believe that its purpose was purely practical, as this Ice-Age diadem was most likely worn to keep the hair out of the eyes.

Given the object’s size, Alexander Fedorchenko of the Novosibirsk Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Russia inferred that the tiara was made to fit the larger head of a male rather than adorn the forehead of a female.

“The fragment we discovered is quite big, and judging by how thick the (strip) is, and by its large diameter, the headband was made for a big-headed man.”

“A cord would have been threaded through holes in either end of the piece and then tied around the wearer’s head in order to keep his hair out of his eyes,” explains Archaeology magazine.

Scientists stumbled upon the remarkable object during the summer, while investigating the southern gallery of Denisova Cave. Located high in Siberia’s Altai mountains, this is the same cave where, in 2010, archaeologists uncovered the remains of an extinct hominin species subsequently known as the Denisovans.

It seems that the Denisovans may have left other things behind as well. According to the Siberian Times, the newfound relic is thought to have been made by the Denisovans. Although these ancient hominins were not the only early humans to dwell in that cave — which was also inhabited by Neanderthals and Homo sapiens — previous discoveries showed that the Denisovans had mastered the craft 50,000 years ago.

The Russian media outlet notes that the Denisovans were quite skilled in this respect and used ivory to create elegant ivory needles, discovered in another part of the cave during a previous expedition. A beautiful, sophisticated stone bracelet — the oldest one in the world — was also recovered from the ancient site.

While other paleolithic tiaras have been unearthed before, this 50,000-year-old ivory diadem appears to be the oldest ever discovered in the entire world.

“There were mammoth ivory tiaras, including some decorated, found on Palaeolithic sites in the extreme North and in the east of Siberia,” Fedorchenko said in a statement. “But these tiaras were created much later, from 20,000 to 28,000 years ago.”

“Finding one of the most ancient tiaras is very rare not just for the Denisova cave, but for the world. Ancient people used mammoth ivory to make beads, bracelets and pendants, as well as needles and arrow heads.”

Despite the clear marks of “wear and tear” found on the ancient tiara — which most likely prompted its owner to discard it in the cave, only to be found thousands of years later by his distant descendants — the object retains a coarse but undeniable beauty and is of great value to anthropology.

Earlier this year, a small fragment of another mammoth ivory tiara was found in the same cave. This tinier piece came from the frontal part of the diadem, which was decorate with symbols.

In August, a paper published in the journal Nature announced another major discovery made in the Denisova Cave. That particular find was of a very different nature and consisted of a small fragment of bone belonging to the first-known ancient-human hybrid — a hominin named Denny, born to a Denisovan father and Neanderthal mother.

One month later, four other hominin bones were dug up from the ancient cave, as the Inquisitr reported at the time.