A 48,000-year-old Bracelet

cave

In the 1970s, Soviet scientists discovered paleoarcheological remains in the cave that led to further explorations.[1] So far, 22 strata have been identified, with archeological artifacts that cover the time from Dionisij back to about 125,000-180,000 years ago.[2] The dating of the strata was accomplished by the use of thermoluminescence dating of sediments, or, in some cases, radiocarbon dating on charcoal.[2] Among the archeological artifacts are Mousterian- and Levallois-style tools attributed to Neanderthals.[5] Beside tools, researchers found decorative objects of bone, mammoth tusk, animal teeth, ostrich egg shell, fragments of a stone bracelet made of drilled, worked and polished dark green chloritolite, and pendants.[2] The average annual temperature of the cave remains at 0°C (32°F), which has contributed to the preservation of archaic DNA among the remains discovered.  ~ Wikipedia

I love all things mystical and mysterious.  The idea of ancient remains of humans that offer clues about our shared ancestry fills me with wonder and delight.  So naturally, I would want to find out all about it.  I searched through computer archives for scholarly papers on the Denisovans, I read up on Mousterian and Levallois tools, and I did a quick Google search for chloritolite.

Hmmmmm.  Something not working here.  Search engines are busted.  There is no such mineral or metamorphic rock as chloritolite.  What were supposedly scholarly articles, and a heavily annotated wikipedia, had just named a rock that did not exist anywhere in the scientific categorical listing of gemology …you’d think they would have the name correct on something as simple as a rock, but nooOOooo.  Absolutely nothing.

Methinks I need to find a geologist friend and ask about this.  Anyone out there who is a geologist and can help me with this puzzling detail?

anime girl questionmark

Maybe I spelled it wrong.

So I tried spelling it a couple of different ways.  chloristolite, chlaritolite, chloritalite…nothing comes up.  Of course, Google being Google, is far smarter than me.  It asks with that smug, know-it-all, holier-than-thou attitude (which I love by the way):   Did you mean:  Chlorastrolite.

I thought—sure.  Why not.  Nothing was coming up on any search I did for chloritolite anyhoo.  So I followed the link and this is what Wikipedia says:

Chlorastrolite occurs as amygdaloid structures and fracture fillings in basalt, and when the water and wave action has worn away the basalt, they are found as beach pebbles and granules in loose sediments. It is found in the Keweenaw Peninsula of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Isle Royale in Lake Superior. Isle Royale is a National Park, and so it is illegal to collect specimens there. It is difficult to identify an unpolished pebble of chlorastrolite. Most gem quality chlorastrolite stones are very small, and it is rare to find one that is larger than a half inch. The largest gem quality stone is in the Smithsonian and measures 1.5 by 3 inches. ~ Wikipedia

chlorastrolite

So I go to other websites and continue my armchair research.

Isle Royale Greenstones (Chlorastrolite) are so striking with their stunning chatoyancy and handsome alligator-like pattern. People think of diamonds as rare, when, in fact, they are artificially scarce due to lack of free market sales and cartel controls.  Michigan Greenstones on the other hand are a one-source gemstone.  Chlorastrolite can be translated from its Greek roots as “Green Star Stone”.  Chlorastrolite is one of the rarest gemstones on earth. Nowhere else in the world are Greenstones found other than in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula and on Isle Royale National Park, where they are illegal to harvest. ~ Snob Appeal Jewelry

And here is where I got stuck.  If the rock can only be found around the shoreline of Michigan’s great lakes, how the hell did it get inside a cave located  in the Bashelaksky Range of the Altai mountains, Siberia, Russia?  Really, you’d think the archaeologists/paleontologists would get the name of the rock correct…or at least find a bracelet with some local, easy to find stones.  Instead, they had to find a bracelet made up of one of the rarest stones in the world, one which only has a single source, and that source would happen to be on the other side of the planet.

I wonder what they’ll come up with next…that Denisovans are a mysterious race that had been imbued with an as-yet-unknown genetic infusion from another mysterious race that we have no clues about?

Oh…wait a minute…

A comparison with the genome of a Neanderthal from the same cave revealed significant local inbreeding, with local Neanderthal DNA representing 17% of the Denisovan genome, while evidence was also detected of interbreeding with an as yet unidentified ancient human lineage.  ~  Wikipedia

…and the plot thickens…

5 thoughts on “A 48,000-year-old Bracelet

  1. TaoBabe, your interests are amazing. Combining just two of your post categories (those about the I Ching and this one) leaves me unable to resist informing you of my personal obsession, embedding I Ching hexagrams in jewelry. While finding an actual 48,000 year old bracelet would be difficult, making a bracelet from stone beads that are 48,000 years old is trivial. Using two colors of beads, I take 32 of each and arrange them carefully in a circlet of sixty four. Moving around the circlet 1 bead at a time in groups of six, you get one instance of each hexagram, no more, no less. I call them joeYbeads(tm) (name is an adaptation of the zhouyi). If you are interested, let me know and I will make you a set…a fair exchange for the inspiration I’ve experienced through reading your blog. Not only can you use joeYbeads to randomly find I Ching hexagrams, brainstorming while revolving a set in one hand can generate tie-breaking images that help to unlock those mental blocks while writing or problem solving. If you are interested, just contact me at sudokodo@gmail.com 🙂

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  2. The bracelet is made from chlorite. The source of the stone lies about 200 metres from the cave, not Michigan. Google Scholar is a much more reliable source on such matters than Wikipedia as the papers listed are (usually) scholarly, peer-reviewed articles written by specialists. The mystery is who made it? Does it really date to the Denisovan occupation of the cave? Some Palaeolithic and Cognitive archaeologists are biased against the idea. Others, like me, are more open to the possibility. But the issue cannot be resolved without firm dating. As far as I know, the bracelet itself has not been dated; only the layers in which it was found. This is not the same thing as there are various ways for archaeological material to get muddled. It could be a later intrusion. Then again, it might genuinely be as old as the layers in which it was found. If it is – AND was made by a Denisovan (we don’t actually know that it was) – it would be a breakthrough find of huge importance to the study of human cognitive evolution. Hope this helps.

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