Archaeologists have discovered a 9,000-year-old 'wand' near an ancient burial site in southern Syria, with two human faces engraved on it.
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The item, made of cow bone, is thought to date from the late 9th millennium BC. Archaeologists excavated it from Tell Qarassa, an Early Neolithic site. This is among the few archaeological sites not damaged in the fighting in Syria, which on Saturday marked its third anniversary.
The wand was found near a burial site, where 30 headless skeletons were discovered previously. Archaeologists say the findings shed light on the rituals of people who lived in the Neolithic period. Other findings at the site indicate that its inhabitants in the Neolithic period were some of the world's first farmers.
"The find is very unusual. It's unique," study co-author Frank Braemer, an archaeologist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France told Livescience.
"Earlier traditions of figurative art had avoided the detailed and naturalistic representation of the human face. Fundamental changes occurred during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic with the famous plastered skulls of Jericho and other sites," International Business Times cited the archaeologists as saying. "Statues, masks and smaller carvings also appeared," they said in the findings, which were published in March in the journal Antiquity.
The cow-bone wand, found by archaeologists during digs at Tell Qarassa in 2007 and 2009, was possibly used in a burial ritual, archaeologists believe."This small bone object from a funerary layer can be related to monumental statuary of the same period in the southern Levant and south-east Anatolia that probably depicted powerful supernatural beings," the experts said.
"It may also betoken a new way of perceiving human identity and of facing the inevitability of death. By representing the deceased in visual form, the living and the dead were brought closer together."
With the fighting in Syria ongoing since 2011, there have been illegal excavations at UNESCO World Heritage sites in the country, including the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria, Bosra, Crac des Chevaliers, Palmyra, Damascus and Aleppo.