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2020-09-01 18:51:58   •   ID: 2194

Human / Animal relationship during the Pleistocene.

Figure 1
This is an intentional perforated Pleistocene Bear Canine- a classic adornment of Pleistocene Hunters.

Figure 1 and 2 show the Pendant from the ventral and dorsal side. Figure 3 gives an impression of the chaine operatoire with somewhat irregular, sub bi-conical holes, drilled from both sides.

Classic French Museum examples can be seen Here .

In Europe such items are known since the IUP/EUP from Bacho Kiro Level 11 and were found together with the remains of AMHs 45,8 to 43,6k.a. cal BP ago- see here: 2180

In Western Europe they were associated with a limited number of Châtelperronian sites - the most prominent example is the Grotte du Renne at Arcy-sur- Cure.

Here, Bear Canine Pendants had a different design- The Châtelperronian ornaments have been mostly produced by carving a groove around the root of the tooth, possibly so a string could be tied around it.

This technique can be occasionally observed during later times (for example in the Swabian Caves during the Gravettian)

In contrast, the Aurignacian Bear canine Pendants, which are mostly known from the French South-West, were usually pierced (Zilhao 2011). Like the example, shown here a lot of such pendants were found in the Castelmerle Valley, a tributary of the Vezere-see: 1386 in an early Aurignacian context.

The production of such Ornaments got more rare during the Gravettian and Magdalenian, but nevertheless remained present, especial during the Middle Magdalenian, often decorated with parallel incisions.

Figure 2
Bear pendants finally almost disappeared during the Holocene, at least in Western and Central Europe. It remains an open question if later generations had no interest in using fossilized Bear teeth or did not even noticed their animal origin.

But there are exceptions. Some items were found in a Neolithic context - for example at Concise in Switzerland. The same holds true for the Neolithic further East (an example from Georgia is shown in one of the attached external files).

By the way: While the Bear Canine pendants were relatively rare, most adornments from teeth were made from perforated Fox teeth throughout the Upper Paleolithic of Europe.

They were produced since the Aurignacian and spread in Southern Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy and Russia, but most examples are known from France (Antl-Weiser 2013). An early example (ca 41 k.a.CalBP) is known from Kostënki 17.

A complete set of a fox-tooth necklace together with a wealth of other decorated artifacts is known from the Pavlovian at Dolni Vestonice - See Here .

Until recently Prehistoric Research was predominantly interested to treat the issue of human/animal relationship from an utilitarian standpoint. Animals were objects to be hunted, exploited for their meat, bones and teeth and to be domesticated in the Neolithic.

Nevertheless an advanced “interpretive” zooarchaeologal approach remains of great interest and has directed attention to the complex roles that animals played in early societies-for example for the development of food sharing as early as during the ESA (Ran Barkai; see attached external links and here 2114

"Only recently, in tandem with the rising interest in animals in the humanities and the development of interdisciplinary animal studies research, has archaeology begun to systematically engage with animals as subjects (Hill 2016).

Although Ethnographic analogies are always at risk for circular reasoning, they can be used with care along with the archeological record for a the reconstruction of Human / Animal relationship during the Pleistocene.

Figure 3
In analogy to recent Foragers and Pastoralists, an important basic concept is the assumption, that people in the past often dealt with animals in positional, rather than categorical, terms (Hill 2016).

This concept in mind, Animals have a cultural biography, play key roles as active actors in myths and local cosmologies, kin relations, and social organization. Human / Animal relationships were perceived as relationship of mutual dependency.

Since their beginnings as hunters, herders and agriculturalists humans have experienced themselves as part of the animal world. With animals humans shared the basic constants of life, and in their different manifestations they recognized varieties of their own corporeality and existence.

Many recent Hunter-gatherers groups conceive animals as “non-human persons” or “other-than-human-persons”. Humans were able to exchange form and identity with Animals and vice-versa.

Some Ethnologists claim that, not only Humans experienced themselves as part of a common nature, but that even Nature - the landscapes; animals; watercourses-was perceived as animated.

This concept is contaminated by bearing traces of nineteenth-century European imperialism and colonialism. Hill therefore proposed to abandon the term and instead using the designation: “relational ontology” (Hill 2013). I doubt that such a renaming can save the whole concept....

Archaeological traces of intensive “human–animal bonds” were already discussed in this Blog regarding Cats and Cave Bears- see here: 2133 and here: 2088

A wealth of further informations, that were outlined only briefly here, can be found in Nerissa Russells book (see below).

Suggested Reading:

Nerissa Russell: Social Zooarchaeology: Humans and Animals in Prehistory; 2012. This book is groundbreaking for a deeper understanding of Human-Animal relationship during the Pleistocene.

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