Archaeologists have discovered thousands of tablets in the shape of an owl in tombs located on the Iberian Peninsula. Its age can reach 5.5 thousand years. According to a group of scientists from Spain’s Supreme Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), they may have been created by ancient children. However, some experts have some doubts.
The research was carried out by a team of experts led by Juan Negro, an evolutionary biologist from Seville, affiliated with the Doñana Biological Station of the Spanish Higher Research Council (EBD-CSIC). They were published December 1 in the journal Scientific Reports.
According to a group of archaeologists, the 4,750-5,500-year-old owl-like tablets may be the work of children. They are palm-sized, decorated with geometric patterns, and made of slate. It was found in tombs located in Cerro de la Cabeza in the Spanish municipality of Valencina de la Concepción.
Cards made by children
A team of experts compared the paintings to the features of a local owl species found in Spain and Portugal and made replicas of them to see how easy it would be to engrave them. It turns out that kids can easily carve loot with pointed tools made of flint, quartz, or copper.
They can be “an artifact of the games and educational activities of young people” – the team says.
Created thousands of years ago – according to researchers – most likely by children, the tablets are similar in style to the drawings of modern youth.
The team does not rule out the possibility that the tablets could be used later in rituals as funeral offerings. Experts say that young people may have been paying tribute to their elders by leaving behind such things as they made.
Similar to modern owls
Regardless of how the tablets are made and what they are used for, they are remarkably similar to two species of owls common in Spain and Portugal – the Eurasian owl (athena noctua) and the long-eared owl (Asia Otus).
“These slate slabs, very characteristic of Chalcolithic Iberia, were probably part of a process of learning how to work with stone objects,” said Victor Diaz Núñez de Arenas of the Complutense University of Madrid.
Not all archaeologists agree with the thesis of the Negro team scientists. They argue that the evidence presented by Spanish archaeologists is not solid or scientific, and that shale is not a fun children’s creation because it appears to be commonly made, in a standard way.
“If they are made by children, as the largest demographic of these communities, then these types of tiles should be more prevalent.” The owl-like tiles actually make up only about four percent of all the tiles, Katina Lilius, an anthropologist at the University of Iowa, told New Scientist.
What no one disputes is how long owls have been associated with human culture. As Negro and his colleagues write, these majestic birds have been depicted “from the dawn of art” in the Paleolithic period, on coins and pottery, in mosaics and cave art, from Spain and France to Australia and Africa. They add, “This may be related to frequent encounters with true owls, creatures of the night with distinct anthropomorphic characteristics.” In addition to Negro, the publication’s authors included: Guillermo Blanco, Eduardo Rodríguez-Rodríguez, and Víctor M. Díaz Núñez de Arenas.
ScienceAlert, New Scientist, EBD-CSIC, tvnmeteo.pl
Main image source: Isabel Maria Villanueva
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