18 July 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Archaeologists unearthed the earliest known evidence of body perforation in skeletons dating back 11,000 years at the Boncuklu Tarla in Türkiye

Archaeologists have unearthed the earliest known evidence of body perforation in skeletons dating back 11,000 years at the Boncuklu Tarla excavation site in southeastern Türkiye.

Furthermore, analysis reveals that only adults had body piercings, indicating that the prehistoric custom might have been a ritual associated with coming-of-age ritual.

The findings, which date back to around 11,000 BC, shed new light on early sedentary communities’ body modification practices and call into question existing narratives about their origins in South-west Asia.

A team from Ankara University unearthed more than 100 ornaments buried in the graves of 11 thousand-year-old individuals during excavations carried out in Boncuklu Tarla between 2012 and 2017.

The ornaments were discovered in situ next to the ears and chins of the skeletal remains, and are mostly made from limestone, obsidian, chlorite, copper, or river pebbles. The variety of the ornaments suggests that they were designed for use in both ear and lower lip piercings known as labrets.

A team from Ankara University has unearthed more than 100 ornaments that were buried in the graves of 11,000-year-old individuals at the Boncuklu Tarla archaeological site in Türkiye.
A team from Ankara University has unearthed more than 100 ornaments that were buried in the graves of 11,000-year-old individuals at the Boncuklu Tarla archaeological site in Türkiye.

This is corroborated by a skeletal analysis of the remains, which shows wear patterns on the lower incisors that match examples of labret wear in various cultures both historically and currently.

Further examination revealed that both males and females had piercings, but they were only worn by adults. None of the child burials at the site contained any evidence of these ornaments.

This suggests that piercings were not only aesthetic but also had social significance, the researchers said, adding that they are likely to have acted as a rite of passage, signifying a person reaching maturity.

Emma Louise Baysal,  Associate Professor of Prehistory at Ankara University, a leading expert on Neolithic personal ornamentation, emphasizes the significance of these findings: The discovery of labrets and ear ornaments in situ at Boncuklu Tarla provides the earliest contextual evidence for the use of body augmentation requiring perforation of bodily tissue in South-west Asia. This challenges existing narratives that place initial engagement with body perforation practices around the middle of the seventh millennium BC.

Of the ornaments found, 85 are complete.
Of the ornaments found, 85 are complete.

These discoveries provide the first indication as to the purpose for which the earliest piercings were made and worn.

Labrets and ear ornaments were widely used in parts of southwest Asia during the early Neolithic period. Although some examples have been found in western Anatolia and the Aegean, there is no evidence for their use in the neolithic regions of central Anatolia.

The research team at Boncuklu Tarla, led by Dr Emma Louise Baysal, believes that this discovery will help clarify the terminology surrounding these artifacts and pave the way for a re-evaluation of existing South-West Asian Neolithic data.

These discoveries provide the first indication as to the purpose for which the earliest piercings were made and worn.
These discoveries provide the first indication as to the purpose for which the earliest piercings were made and worn.

Dr. Baysal said: ‘It shows that traditions that are still very much part of our lives today were already developed at the important transitional time when people first started to settle in permanent villages in western Asia more than 10,000 years ago.’

‘They had very complex ornamentation practices involving beads, bracelets, and pendants, including a very highly developed symbolic world which was all expressed through the medium of the human body,’ Dr Baysal added.

Researchers hope to learn more about the choices made regarding raw materials and the connections between general ornamentation activities and traditions of corporal ornamentation as they continue their excavations at Boncuklu Tarla.

The findings were published in the journal Antiquity.

https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2024.28

Cover Image: Illustration of the hypothetical use of labrets and ear ornaments found at Boncuklu Tarla. Credit: Ergül Kodaş, Emma L Baysal et al. / Antiquity

Related Articles

A 1,600-year-old church has been discovered in Turkey’s ancient city of Priene

19 October 2021

19 October 2021

A 1,600-year-old historical church was unearthed during the excavations in the Ancient City of Priene, located in the western province...

Beautiful’ Water-Nymph Marble Statue Found in Amastris ancient city

8 September 2023

8 September 2023

Excavations in the ancient city of Amastris, located in the Black Sea province of Bartın’s Amasra district, have unearthed a...

Rare gold gifts 2300 years old discovered in the famous Phoenician city of Carthage

17 August 2023

17 August 2023

Archaeologists excavating the sanctuary of Tophet, Carthage uncovered a collection of offerings, Tunisia’s Ministry of Cultural Affairs announced in a...

Neanderthals too may have Developed a System of Numerical Notation

2 June 2021

2 June 2021

People developed numbers tens of thousands of years ago, according to archeological findings. Scholars are now investigating the first comprehensive...

The excavations in Selinunte, Italy, which has the largest Agora in the Ancient World, “The results have gone well beyond expectations”

29 July 2022

29 July 2022

In the Selinunte, one of the most important archaeological sites of the Greek period in Italy, the outlines of the...

Lost 14th Century Church Discovered under a Tennis Court in Hungary

14 May 2024

14 May 2024

During an archaeological excavation in Visegrád, a fortified medieval castle on a hill overlooking the Danube in northern Hungary, the...

Morocco team announces 1.3 million years major Stone Age find

29 July 2021

29 July 2021

A multinational team of archaeologists announced the discovery of North Africa’s oldest Stone Age hand-ax manufacturing site, going back 1.3...

Archaeologists Find Ornate Roman Domūs in Nimes

25 February 2021

25 February 2021

Archaeologists conducting archaeological excavations in the French city of Nimes have discovered the remains of two high-status Roman domus (houses)....

Christians Supplied Medieval Pagans with Horses for Sacrifice for Funeral Rituals

20 May 2024

20 May 2024

In the late medieval period, pagans in the Baltic region of northern Europe imported horses from neighboring Christian nations for...

Famous Egyptologist Zahi Hawass Wants to See Hieroglyphs as an İntegral Part of The Curriculum

23 February 2021

23 February 2021

The Egyptian council of ministers is discussing the introduction of archaeological and tourist materials in the education curriculum to help...

The Sedgeford Anglo-Saxon malting complex may be the largest ever discovered in the UK

23 July 2023

23 July 2023

As archaeological excavations resume on a hill in Sedgeford, near Hunstanton, a seaside town in Norfolk, England, now more evidence...

It may have been designed in Nevali Çori before Göbeklitepe was built

10 October 2021

10 October 2021

Göbeklitepe, Nevali Çori, Karahantepe, and Taştepeler, which will make us rethink what we know about human history, change the information...

Circular-shaped Iron Age Gallic Village discovered in Côtes d’Armor, France

2 April 2024

2 April 2024

A major archaeological discovery has just been made at Cap d’Erquy, in the Côtes d’Armor region, France. The ruins of...

Roman camp of 10,000 people discovered in northern Portugal

2 July 2021

2 July 2021

A camp used by 10,000 Roman soldiers sent to conquer northwestern Iberia has been discovered in the Portuguese city of...

Last Assyrian Capital “Ninive”

7 February 2021

7 February 2021

Ninive is an ancient Assyrian city located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in northern Iraq, near today’s...