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A piece of hematite found in Denisova cave was used as a crayon for art work in the cave.

Ancient Colored ‘Pencil’ Up To 50,000-Years-Old Found in Siberia

Cave-dwellers used hematite crayon for art work in Altai Mountains, say archeologists investigating a latest find in Siberia.

The pre-historic artists were not Homo sapiens but Denisovans - a long-extinct branch of ancient man - or possibly Neanderthals, another vanished sub-species, believe scientists. 

The crayon was used to make reddish brown marks. 

It was found in a layer of the world famous Denisova Cave this summer. 

The crayon was used to make reddish brown marks. (SBRAS Institute of Archeology and Ethnography)

The crayon was used to make reddish brown marks. (SBRAS Institute of Archeology and Ethnography)

This layer dates to between 45,000 and 50,000 years ago and was occupied mainly by the long-gone Denisovans whose closest modern-day descendants live thousands of miles away as the native peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea. 

However, the cave also had Neanderthal dwellers and it is known that there was cross breeding between the two branches of human. 

Researchers work inside the Denisova Cave

Researchers work inside the Denisova Cave. (Vera Salnitskaya / The Siberian Times)

View from outside the Denisova Cave.

View from outside the Denisova Cave. (Vera Salnitskaya/The Siberian Times)

The disclosure of the ancient crayon - the first of its kind found among the treasures of Denisova - comes after the discovery of a ‘tiara’ made of woolly mammoth ivory dating to the same period. 

Other finds include ivory and talc (soapstone) beads and a marble pebble with traces of ocher. The collection of ivory jewelry is believed to be the world oldest.

Ivory and talc (soapstone) beads and a marble pebble with traces of ocher.

Ivory and talc (soapstone) beads and a marble pebble with traces of ocher. (SBRAS Institute of Archeology and Ethnography)

The crayon (or colored pencil) discovery was announced by Professor Mikhail Shunkov, head of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. 

 ‘This summer we made a unique find for Denisova Cave,’ he said. ‘We call it a 'pencil', it has a natural pigment - hematite, which prehistoric artists, used for different art, while living in the cave. The piece of hematite was processed.’

We cannot say how exactly it was used, but we believe it was for some artistic purpose.

‘We previously found similar 'pencils' at Karabom Paleolithic site, some 120 kilometers from Denisova Cave. So far we do not know other similar finds, but we hope there will be more.’

The crayon was used to make reddish brown marks.

The crayon was used to make reddish brown marks. (SBRAS Institute of Archeology and Ethnography)

The 'pencil' was found in southern gallery of Denisova Cave, the excavations of which were resumed this year.

Older such drawing implements have been found in Africa but this would seem to be one of the oldest discovered in Eurasia. 

Denisovans appear to have been advanced for the period in which they lived. 

While this branch of ancient man became extinct thousands of years ago, their DNA lives on - but nowhere near Siberia

The native peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea have five per cent Denisovan DNA, say scientists, indicating a huge migration in prehistoric times .

The Denisovans were first identified a decade ago when a tiny finger bone fragment of so-called 'X woman' was discovered in this cave in Altai,  a young female who lived around 41,000 years ago.

She was found to be neither Homo sapiens nor Neanderthal.

Another sensational discovery from the Denisova Cave that was made this summer season, the woolly mammoth ivory tiara.

Another sensational discovery from the Denisova Cave that was made this summer season, the woolly mammoth ivory tiara. (The Siberian Times)

Earlier this year details were revealed in Nature journal of the discovery of a fragment of bone belonging to an inter-species love child called Denny who lived some 90,000 years ago.

She was the product of a sexual liaison between a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father, according to DNA findings.

Top image: A piece of hematite found in Denisova cave was used as a crayon for art work in the cave. Source: SBRAS Institute of Archeology and Ethnography

The article ‘ Ancient colored ‘pencil’ up to 50,000 years old found in Siberia ’ originally appeared on The Siberian Times and has been republished with permission.

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