Among the Upper Paleolithic artifacts found in Le Placard cave in southwestern France, scientists discovered unlocked bone rings shaped like the Greek letter omega. Since that time another 10 such rings and one billet, 21 thousand years old, have been found. For a long time, scientists could not understand the purpose for which Stone Age people carved these figures. But a recent study conducted at the University of Kansas solved the mystery of these bone rings.
According to archaeologists, the rings were made by people belonging to the Madeleine or even earlier Badeguli culture. Scientists originally speculated that the figures might have served as clasps on clothing or as jewelry. But the shape and size of the rings did not fit this version. The wear on them also contradicted this hypothesis.
Justin Garnett, of the University of Kansas and one of the authors of the study, suggested that the rings acted as loops for the spearmaker. The spear-thrower, or atlatl, is a special device for throwing darts. The implement was in the form of a shaft with a handle with finger loops on one side and a hook or spur on the other side that pushes the dart when swung. The device allows the dart to be thrown with high speed and accuracy.
Earlier, archaeologists found atlatl bone spurs at some Paleolithic sites. These findings indicate that hunters often used such weapons 20,000 years ago. As the researchers report, it is much easier to make an atlatl and darts than a bow, which would allow efficient hunting of large game.
In a new study, the scientists conducted an experiment – they made the same rings out of cattle bones and deer antlers, and attached them to spear-throwers. As it turned out, the rings were really ideal for this purpose. Tongues on their ends allowed securely fix the rings on a shaft. Moreover, scientists note that they appeared to have the same wear and tear as on rings more than 20 thousand years old.
Thus, the mystery of bone rings of the Stone Age is finally solved. They were used as loops for spear throwers, which were widespread in the Paleolithic era. This discovery helps to better understand the life and technology of ancient people, as well as their hunting methods.