A study by the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) makes a new technological assessment of a northern jeanette bone displaying an intricate semi-cylindrical ornamentation.
A study conducted by UPV/EHU presents a new assessment of an ornate forearm of a northern bird found in 1966 during an exploration of the Torrey Cave archaeological site in Gipuzkoa. The new technological and stylistic analysis provides greater resolution to the inscriptions on one of the few remains with semi-cylindrical decoration in the Iberian Peninsula displaying a complex mixture of motifs; It also reveals some previously undiscovered things.
The article, “Reappraisal of the Portable Art of Northern Iberia: An Ornate Magdalenian Bone Tube from Tauri,” has just been published in Journal of Paleolithic Archeology. The lead author is Asier Erostarbe-Tome, Ph.D. Student in the Department of Geography, Prehistory and Archeology at UPV/EHU. A study presents a new assessment of the ornate forelimbs of a northern gannet (Morus bassanus) found in 1966 during an exploration of the archaeological site of Torrey Cave in Gipuzkoa.
In contrast to what has been achieved so far in the bone industry in which model studies have prevailed, technological studies allow for the reconfiguration of the operational chain, that is, from the time when the fishermen obtained the raw material, its transformation, to its repair or disposal. In this way, meaning is formed from the series of materials studied in order to have a better understanding of the technical complex that marks the end of the Upper Paleolithic, thus opening up new avenues of research in this field.
“In the case of the Torre tube, given the exceptional nature of the piece, I thought it important to define it by re-evaluating the object from a technological point of view, since it is currently one of the most complete specimens from the entire Iberian Peninsula,” says Asier Erustarpe. Objects of this kind, i.e. pipes, appear chiefly from the Solutrean period onwards in the Iberian Peninsula, though most belong to the Magdalenian, just like the Torre pipe.
This piece is one of the few pieces of movable art with semi-cylindrical decoration that features a complex array of motifs. It is profusely decorated with pictorial representations (deer, horse, ibex, chamois, aurochs and anthropomorphs) and signs (simple lines, parallel lines, zigzags, etc.) arranged in two bands directed in the opposite direction. Moreover, when compared with the animals that were consumed by human groups at the time, it can be seen that not only preferred game animals (such as deer or mountain goats) were engraved on the pipe, but also animals that were consumed less frequently (horse, aurochs or chamois). .
With the availability of new technology, our study made it possible to achieve greater accuracy in the engravings, as well as to discover some engravings that had not yet been discovered. The drawings follow a similar pattern in all cases. The outlines of the figures and the marks were first traced, and a stone tool was used several times to make the grooves Deep.Decorations consisting of short lines and/or incisions were made later, and it is sometimes noted that the bone was turned to make them.The artist possesses great cognitive ability, an aesthetic appreciation of visual regularity and approximation of motor functions.
“Moreover, by analyzing the engravings, we noticed similarities in the process, especially for the engraved fauna, with other Magdalen sites on the Cantabrian coast and in the Pyrenees, confirming an exchange of artistic and iconographic behaviour,” says the researcher.
The function of these objects remains a matter of debate, as various functions have been ascribed to them: nebulizers, whistles, containers for needles, beads in the making, containers for ocher, ritual objects, etc. Since there are only a few specimens in the world, it is very difficult to ascribe a single function and may act as multifunctional organisms.
“In our study of the tube, we discovered no evidence of its purpose, and archaeological analyzes have not been able to move forward in that direction. So, the true function of the torii tube for the hunter-gatherers who inhabited the cave remains a mystery.”
Asier Erostarbe-Tome et al, A Reappraisal of the Portable Art of Northern Iberia: A Decorated Magdular Bone Tube from Torre (Basque Country, Spain), Journal of Paleolithic Archeology (2023). DOI: 10.1007/s41982-023-00143-1
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