Etchings of fighting CAMELS are the earliest ever drawings of the animal in Asia 


Etchings of fighting camels found on 13,000-year-old mammoth tusks in Siberia are the earliest known drawings of the animal ever found in Asia, researchers claim.

A team from the Khakassian Research Institute for Language, Literature, and History in Russia examined the tusk found in the lower Tom river in western Siberia.

The 5ft long tusk also included an etching of an anthropomorphic image that could show a human wearing a camel disguise, according to study author Yury Esin.

This may have been a way to show how hunters dressed as a camel in order to get closer to the beasts and kill or capture them, the team explained.  

Among the etchings were depictions of camels locked in a fight that may represent the start of a mating season and a vital stage in the cycle of the human community. 

Etchings of fighting camels found on 13,000-year-old mammoth tusks in Siberia are the earliest known drawings of the animal ever found in Asia, researchers claim

The tusk is about 5ft long and was first discovered in 1988 but left to crumble by researchers who didn't understand its significance until this study

The tusk is about 5ft long and was first discovered in 1988 but left to crumble by researchers who didn’t understand its significance until this study

The camels shown on the tusk are consistent with images of camels painted in caves from around the same time – the oldest known painting was from the Kapova cave in the Ural mountains dating to about 19,000 years.

The difference to those is that this shows camels ‘fighting’ neck to neck and one pair have arrows and wounds suggesting they were hunted by humans.

‘The comparative analysis of the stylistic features of the camel figures shows that they correspond to the age of the tusk itself, making them, at present, the oldest camel images in Asia,’ the authors wrote.

‘The discovery of the engravings in this region is consistent with the theory of mobile population groups moving to western Siberia in the Late Upper Paleolithic. 

Etchings could be designed to show just how important camel fights and hunting were to the culture of the community that created the artworks.

Etchings could be designed to show just how important camel fights and hunting were to the culture of the community that created the artworks.

Etchings could be designed to show just how important camel fights and hunting were to the culture of the community that created the artworks.

Among the etchings were depictions of camels locked in fight that may represent the start of a mating season and a vital stage in the cycle of the human community

Among the etchings were depictions of camels locked in fight that may represent the start of a mating season and a vital stage in the cycle of the human community

This hunting may have been seasonal and the fights likely happened at the start of the mating season, according to Esin.

He speculated that the fights may have marked a vital point in the annual cycle for the human community living around the camels.

Not many camel bones have been found in the Tom river – the ones that have been uncovered date to between 30,000 and 55,000 years ago, Esin said.

There are some that date to the time of the tusk, about 13,000 years ago, but they were found much further down – hundreds of miles away from the river.

According to Esin this means the community were likely nomadic.

The ‘human disguised as a camel’ was likely an example of a way for hunters to ‘sneak up’ on the beasts and make it easier to kill them.

This tusk was first discovered in 1988 during a construction project but had remained unstudied until Esin and colleagues started their investigation.

He said very little is known about the ancient humans living in this area of Siberia but there is evidence they hunted mammoths – and now that they hunted camels.  

It wasn’t an easy task for Esin and colleagues as by the time they started studying the tusk it had already started to break and crack due to ‘inappropriate storage’.

The actual engravings themselves are also different to others discovered.

‘The engravings on the tusk from the Tom River have special features, which make them difficult to document,’ said Esin.

The 5ft long tusk also included an etching of an anthropomorphic image that could show a human wearing a camel disguise, according to study author Yury Esin

The 5ft long tusk also included an etching of an anthropomorphic image that could show a human wearing a camel disguise, according to study author Yury Esin 

‘They have very thin and shallow lines, making them barely visible and tedious to trace and the engravings are on the surface of a round, long, curved and heavy object,’ he explained.

This means that the tusk has to be rotated to recognise what has been drawn – but its poor condition made this difficult as it was already crumbling in parts. 

They took a series of images, including close up macro photographs of the engravings to identify ways they may have been created.

‘The engravings were created with a very sharp cutting tool, which, depending on the amount of pressure applied, could produce a line about 0.1–0.15 mm thin, or even less,’ said Esin.

On the surface of the tusk they found four images of two-humped camels depicted in the same style and using similar techniques and tools.

‘All camels are depicted with only two legs. The lower ends of the foot contours, in most cases, are not connected,’ they said.

'The engravings were created with a very sharp cutting tool, which, depending on the amount of pressure applied, could produce a line about 0.1–0.15 mm thin, or even less,' said Esin

‘The engravings were created with a very sharp cutting tool, which, depending on the amount of pressure applied, could produce a line about 0.1–0.15 mm thin, or even less,’ said Esin

‘The camels have patches of thick fur sticking out from the upper parts of their forelegs, bellies, under their necks, at the base of the humps (between the front hump and the neck, the back hump and the croup) and on their foreheads.’

‘All in all, the figures of the animals are quite realistic and demonstrate a good knowledge of the subject.’

They said they could also detect signs of arrows and wounds on the camel bodies including parallel lines close to the front of each other that could show bleeding. 

‘Similar images of camels facing each other are quite common in the art of different cultures of the Bronze Age, Early Iron Age and Medieval period in southern Siberia and Central Asia,’ said Esin.

'The camels have patches of thick fur sticking out from the upper parts of their forelegs, bellies, under their necks, at the base of the humps (between the front hump and the neck, the back hump and the croup) and on their foreheads'

‘The camels have patches of thick fur sticking out from the upper parts of their forelegs, bellies, under their necks, at the base of the humps (between the front hump and the neck, the back hump and the croup) and on their foreheads’

This suggests that this composition conveys a memorable and important natural characteristic of camel behaviour – including two male rivers fighting.

‘The resemblance of some stylistic features and content seen in the images on the Tom River tusk and in Upper Paleolithic European art is highly significant,’ he said.

‘This suggests that the reason for the similarities are not only epochal features of human culture, but also that some traditions were inherited through space and time.’

He said the Tom River tusk itself demonstrates that engraving different materials was an important part of cultural tradition in the Upper Paleolithic. 

‘In this case, stylistic techniques could be consolidated and passed down through generations, as a particular part of labor skills,’ Esin explained.

The findings were published in the journal Archaeological Research in Asia. 

CAVE ART: WORKS DATING BACK AS FAR AS 40,000 YEARS HAVE BEEN DISCOVERED

The most famous cave art can be found in Spain and France, but it exists throughout the world.

The famed Upper Palaeolithic cave art of Europe dates back to around 21,000 years ago. 

In recent years scholars have recorded cave art found in Indonesia that is believed to be about 40,000 years old – predating the most popular European cave art.

 

The new report’s author, Shigeru Miyagawa, explained in the analysis the pervasiveness of cave drawings.

He said: ‘Cave art is everywhere. Every major continent inhabited by homo sapiens has cave art.

‘You find it in Europe, in the Middle East, in Asia, everywhere – just like the human language.’

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