June 20 () –
An international team of scientists has discovered the oldest phallic representation, a pendant made and worn in Mongolia 42,000 years ago.
This research is published in Nature Scientific Reports and shows the rise of sexual representations in a region and at a time when Homo sapiens likely encountered Denisovans and Neanderthals. These contacts have surely changed the perception that men had of themselves and that has materialized through symbolic innovations.
Figurative representations in art first appear about 50,000 years ago in Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Considered an advanced form of symbolic behavior, they only occur in our lineage.
The ornament interpreted as a phallic representation was discovered in an Upper Paleolithic archaeological stratum dated about 42,000 years ago, in the Tolbor-21 archaeological site in Mongolia.
Mineralogical analyzes indicate that the pendant was made of graphite, a soft black mineral, which was not present in the immediate surroundings of the site. Microscopic and roughness analyzes indicate that the pendant has a complex functional history and was introduced while in use at the site, he explains. it’s a statement the University of Bordeaux, which participated in the research.
Modifications of the pendant to represent a phallus are fairly straightforward. The most striking features are a short groove representing the external urethral meatus and another groove for the balano-preputial groove.
Simplified representations bordering on abstraction are common in prehistoric records, and model figurations are often reduced to their most salient and recognizable attributes. The features seen on the Tolbor-21 pendant, a groove in the midsection of the object and a short, deep groove at one end, are among the most prominent features used to identify phallic representations in various regional and chronological contexts. The encoding process of this symbol it is based on stylistic conventions known and understood within the groups.
The discovery of Tolbor-21 predates the oldest known anthropomorphic representation of gender. Attest that hunter-gatherer communities used anatomical sexual attributes as symbols very soon after their dispersal in Central Asia. The pendant was made during a time period that matches age estimates of genetic mixing events between Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, and Denisovans, and in a region where such encounters are plausible.
These encounters probably changed the perception that these different hominids had of themselves and gave rise, at least in Homo sapiens, to to new ways of adorning bodies.