Problems of Archaeology, Ethnography, Anthropology of
Siberia and Neighboring Territories

ISSN 2658-6193 (Online)

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2019 Volume XXV

DOI: 10.17746/2658-6193.2019.25.103-108

УДК 903.08 + 7.031

Paleolithic Sculpture from Denisova Cave

Derevianko A.P., Shunkov M.V., Fedorchenko A.Yu., Kozlikin M.B.

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In 2019, a unique zoomorphic sculpture made of mammoth ivory was discovered in the Pleistocene deposits of layer 11 in the South Chamber of Denisova cave. The analysis of morphology, technology and iconography has made it possible to interpret the figurine as sculptural animal representation - a feline from the Pantherinae subfamily. It has been established that the technology for producing the zoomorphic sculpture included several stages: search and transportation of raw materials, cleaning the tusk from the cement layer, soaking, carving the blank, giving the initial shape to the figurine by planing, final grinding and polishing, and making ornamental decoration. Trace analysis of the sculpture has revealed general undifferentiated non-utilitarian wear associated with functioning of the artifact in the cultural context of the Paleolithic inhabitants of the cave. This type of wear often occurs on non-utilitarian objects when they are carried in human hands, contact with other objects or are transported. The main features of the figurative canon of the sculpture find no parallels among the three-dimensional images of mammoths, bisons, horses, and birds known in the Upper Paleolithic of Eurasia. It bears the greatest resemblance to the sculptures of Pleistocene lions from Vogelherd cave in Southwestern Germany, as well as cave images and engraved artifacts from the Franco-Cantabrian region. The microscopic analysis has revealed traces of red pigment on the sculpture, located mainly on the right side and abdomen of the figurine. The presence of traces of mineral pigment on the sculpture was most likely caused by deliberate application of paint during the manufacturing or in the process of performing ritual actions.


Russian Altai, Denisova cave, experimental trace analysis, technological analysis, Initial Upper Paleolithic, tusk processing technology, sculpture

Chief Editor
Academician A.P. Derevyanko

Deputy Chief Editor
Academician V.I. Molodin

17, Аkademika Lavrentieva prosp., Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

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