News: World’s Oldest Needle Found in Siberian Cave

Although this news isn’t current (the needle was discovered last summer), it will still be of interest to anyone who didn’t read about the discovery at the time.

The 7 centimetre (2 3/4 inch) needle was made and used by our long extinct Denisovan ancestors, a recently-discovered hominin species or subspecies.

Scientists found the sewing implement – complete with a hole for thread – during the annual summer archaeological dig at a cave in the Altai Mountains widely believed to hold the secrets of human origins. It appears to be still usable after 50,000 years.

Professor Mikhail Shunkov, head of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, said: ‘It is the most unique find of this season, which can even be called sensational. It is a needle made of bone. As of today it is the most ancient needle in the word. It is about 50,000 years old.’

The needle is seen as providing proof that the long-gone Denisovans – named after the cave – were more sophisticated than previously believed. It predates by some 10,000 years an intricate modern-looking piece of polished jewellery made of chlorite by the Denisovans.

To read about the discovery in full, visit the website of the Siberian Times.

Textile Tidbits: South to the Great Steppe – The Travels of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson in Eastern Kazakhstan, 1847–52

Nick Fielding - Atkinson book - Sultan Souk and family

For today’s Textile Tidbit, I wanted to share with you some news about OATG member Nick Fielding’s new book. South to the Great Steppe, about the English explorers Thomas and Lucy Atkinson was, in part at least, inspired by his interest in Central Asian textiles. He says:

“It was while trying to work out the various population movements in Central Asia that I first came across the Atkinsons. That led me to Thomas’ book Oriental and Western Siberia, which contains many interesting descriptions of Steppe nomads and their clothing. Thomas was also a very accomplished artist and his watercolours show their costumes to great effect. I realised that the Atkinsons had been almost forgotten and decided to find out more about them. That eventually led to the publication of the book, as well as taking me on many fascinating journeys to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Siberia.”

Nick says he has now started on a second book on the Atkinsons, this one covering all their travels, including in Eastern Siberia. In total the intrepid couple travelled more than 40,000 miles, much of it on horseback, during almost seven years of travel. Lucy also gave birth to their son in what is now eastern Kazakhstan. This summer Nick will take a group of ten of the Atkinson descendants to this region to visit the place where their ancestor was born and to see other sites associated with the couple.

South to the Great Steppe: The Travels of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson in Eastern Kazakhstan, 1847–52 was published by FIRST, London, in 2015 (ISBN-13: 978-0954640996). Link to the book on Amazon here. The picture above is an engraving of one of Thomas Atkinson’s paintings from his book.

Exhibition: Esthétiques de l’amour – Sibérie extrême-orientale

Musee du quai Branly - Esthetiques de l'amour

Exhibition dates: 3 November 2015 – 17 January 2016

If any readers are planning a last-minute January getaway to Paris, this exhibition looks as if it would be well worth a visit.

Among the spectacular items in the Asian collections of the Musée du quai Branly, the ancient objects collected in the far east of Siberia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are of particular interest, representing the interaction between the world of men, untamed nature and the world of the spirits. Protective robes made from fish skin with ritual accessories decorated with symbolic volutes and spirals, and everyday objects combining refined yet natural materials and decoration: eclectic and little known objects from the Amur river basin blend aesthetic elegance and ethnographic interest. These, today, are among the treasures of the Musée du quai Branly’s collection.

The exhibition presents the decorative art of the peoples of the Amur river basin, an art that embodies meaning and reveals the specific ontological construction of these peoples in their relationship with the visible and invisible world. The peoples presented – Nivkh, Nanai, the Ainu, Orotch and Hezhe (a Chinese minority) – founded their ways of life prior to the mid-twentieth century on the river Amur, which was their source of life and prosperity. The Nivkh, Nanai and the Ainu are linked by the shared practice of the bear ritual; all of these populations are linked by the same ethnolinguistic matrix and the same practices of hunting and fishing for salmonids. The ancient Chinese sources describe the inhabitants of this region of the Amur river as ‘barbarians with fish skin’ …

To find out more, visit the website of the Musée du quai Branly, Paris.