Scientists reveal finding on Stone Age piercings

Researchers Uncover Insights into Stone Age Body Piercing Practices

In Turkey, archaeologists have made an exciting find that links ancient facial piercings directly to the individuals who once wore them. This discovery sheds light on the personal adornment practices of Neolithic or late Stone Age people across southwest Asia, dating back as much as 12,000 years. Previously, no direct connection had been made between such objects and the specific body parts they adorned.

The site of Boncuklu Tarla in southeastern Turkey has been particularly revealing. Here, researchers found burial sites with piercing ornaments placed near the deceased’s ears and mouths. The analysis, dating back about 11,000 years, showed dental wear patterns consistent with the use of a labret, a type of ornament typically worn below the lower lip. This marks the first time researchers have been able to directly link facial piercings to the body parts they adorned in Neolithic southwestern Asia, as reported in the journal Antiquity.

Interestingly, these ornaments were found only with adult remains, suggesting that piercings may have signified coming-of-age rituals within these ancient communities. Anthropological archaeologist Dusan Boric, not involved in the study, highlighted the significance of this find in understanding Neolithic coming-of-age rituals.

Boncuklu Tarla, occupied by hunter-gatherers from around 10,300 BC to 7100 BC, has yielded an astonishing number of decorative artifacts since its first excavation in 2012. Dr. Emma L. Baysal, a coauthor of the study, emphasized the site’s remarkable collection of beads, necklaces, bracelets, and other ornaments, including those for ear and lip piercings. Labrets, still worn in some cultures today, were identified in various shapes and sizes among the artifacts.

The study identified 85 ornaments as piercing adornments, made from materials like flint, limestone, copper, and obsidian. These were classified into seven types based on their shape, with some still found in their original positions near or on the skulls, suggesting their use in life.

The absence of such ornaments near children’s remains implies that facial piercings were reserved for adults, possibly reflecting social status or roles within society. This practice offers a unique insight into how prehistoric peoples presented themselves and their social identities.

Baysal and Dusan both note the importance of body decoration in expressing personhood and social belonging, a practice that connects us with these ancient peoples. The enduring human desire to express identity through personal adornment highlights a shared aspect of humanity across millennia.

This groundbreaking research not only provides a glimpse into the lives of Neolithic people but also underscores the significance of personal adornment in social and cultural contexts, both past and present.