Archaeologists excavating the mammoth hunting site of Breitenbach in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, have discovered what they say is the oldest ivory workshop ever found.
First excavated in the 1920’s, the Breitenbach site covers some 6,000 sq. meters and dates back to about 33,000 BCE (Upper Paleolithic).
During the 2012 season, archaeologists from the MONREPOS Archaeological Research Center and Museum for Human Behavioral Evolution led by Dr Olaf Jöris and Dr Tim Matthies have investigated 70 sq. meters of the site.
They unearthed about 3,000 finds, including flint tools, pieces of mammoth ivory split into lamellae, fragments of ivory objects of art, ivory beads and rough outs of unfinished products. These finds provide evidence of clearly distinct working areas, which the archaeologists say are standardized workshops for working with ivory of the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius).
The archaeologists say the craftspeople were early humans Homo sapiens, who found mammoth ivory lying around at this site – either as the carcasses of mammoths which had died here naturally, or the victims of expert hunters.
“Field work at Breitenbach has provided new insights into spatial activity of people at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, especially into the spatial organization of settlement sites, and thus of daily life during the Aurignacian at around 40,000-34,000 years ago,” the archaeologists say.
Artifacts found at the Breitenbach site during previous seasons have been described in the 2012 issue of the Verlag des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums.
Bibliographic information: S. Gaudzinski-Windheuser, O. Jöris, M. Sensburg, M. Street, E. Turner (eds.). 2012. Siteinternal spatial organization of hunter-gatherer societies: case studies from the European Palaeolithic and Mesolithic. Verlag des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums, Mainz.