5000-year old owl plaques might have been toys made by kids

The Iberian Peninsula is dotted with 1000’s of plaques engraved with footage that appear like owls.

Courting from the Copper Age, round 5500 to 4750 years in the past, the aim of those hand-sized owl plaques has remained a thriller. Archaeologists thought they may have spiritual or ritualistic significance.

However a staff of Spanish researchers has one other suggestion: what in the event that they’re really youngsters’s toys?

Publishing in Scientific Studies, the researchers level out the similarities between the plaques and fashionable youngsters’s drawings of owls, and suggest that youngsters made the slate items to make use of as dolls, toys, or amulets.

Lead creator Dr Juan J. Negro, a researcher within the Division of Evolutionary Ecology on the Spanish Nationwide Analysis Council’s Estación Biológica de Doñana, says that the simplicity of the designs made them assume that these carvings could have been achieved by youngsters.

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“The owl-looking plaques are a step behind different handcrafted objects produced in the identical time interval,” says Negro.

“Investigations by earlier researchers who replicated the engraved plaques experimentally reported that the entire course of of manufacturing a completed plaque takes about three and half hours – a moderately quick time.

Long-eared owl
Lengthy-eared owl (Asio otus). Credit score: Juan J. Negro

“Within the Copper Age there have been artisans who produced beautiful artworks product of ivory, gold or rock crystal.

“These artworks had been absolutely produced by extremely skilled people who essentially realized their craft beforehand producing less complicated and simpler gadgets utilizing domestically obtainable supplies.”

Slate, says Negro, is plentiful within the areas the place the plaques seem.

“We suggest in our paper that no less than some plaques could have been used to provoke kids within the carving of lithic supplies,” says Negro.

Child's drawing of three owls
A baby’s owl drawing.

“In any case, the Copper Age was nonetheless a time the place lithic instruments, akin to handaxes and arrowheads had been generally carved and used.”

Negro and colleagues analysed 100 plaques, ranking what number of owl traits each displayed – issues like patterned feathers, two eyes, or a beak – known as an “owliness rating”. They then repeated the method with 100 drawings of owls achieved by youngsters, aged between 4 and 13, and identified comparable options.

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Most of the owl plaques have two small holes on the prime. The researchers don’t assume that these holes supported cords to hold them – they don’t appear sensible, and there aren’t sufficient wear-marks.

Owl plaqu replica on table with two feathers in the top
A duplicate of the Valencina Slate Plaque with inserted owl feathers on the 2 drilled holes on the prime. Credit score: Juan J. Negro

As an alternative, they assume that feathers might need been put within the holes, to appear like the tufts on the heads of native owl species.

“Most archaeologists in the present day interpret the plaques as fertility idols utilized in funerary rituals and provides them a extremely symbolic which means,” says Negro.

“They don’t see that no less than a few of the plaques had been impressed on owl fashions.”

The researchers assume that it’s additionally doable they might have been each studying objects and ritualistic gadgets.

Negro thinks it’s unlikely that they’ll ever know the owl plaques’ goal for certain.

“In any case, this occurred greater than 5000 years in the past, and behavior doesn’t fossilise.”

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