Archaeologists have found thousands of owl-shaped tablets in tombs located on the Iberian Peninsula. They can be up to 5.5 thousand years old. According to a group of scientists from Spain’s Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), they may have been created by ancient children. However, some experts have some doubts.
The research was carried out by a team of experts led by Juan Negro, an evolutionary biologist from Seville, affiliated to the Doñana Biological Station at the Spanish Higher Research Council (EBD-CSIC). They were published on December 1 in the journal Scientific Reports.
According to a group of archaeologists, the 4,750-5,500-year-old owl-like tablets may be the work of children. They are palm-sized, decorated with geometric patterns and made of slate. They were found in tombs located in Cerro de la Cabeza in the Spanish municipality of Valencina de la Concepción.
Cards made by children
A team of experts compared the plates with the features of local owl species found in Spain and Portugal and made replicas of them to see how easy it would be to engrave them. It turned out that the children could easily carve the loot with pointed tools made of flint, quartz or copper.
They can be “an archaeological trace of games and educational activities conducted by young people” – the team says.
Created thousands of years ago – according to researchers – most likely by children, the tablets are similar in style to the drawings of modern youth.
The team does not exclude the possibility that the tablets could later be used in rituals as funeral offerings. Experts say that young people may have been paying tribute to their elders by leaving them such items they had made.
Similar to modern owls
Regardless of how the tablets were made and what they were used for, they are remarkably similar to two species of owls common in Spain and Portugal – the Eurasian Owl (Athena noctua) and long-eared owl (Asia otus).
‘These slate tablets, so characteristic of the Copper Age in Iberia, may have been part of the process of learning how to handle stone objects,’ said Víctor Díaz Núñez de Arenas of the Complutense University of Madrid.
Not all archaeologists agree with the thesis of the scientists of the Negro team. They argue that the evidence presented by the Spanish archaeologists is not strong or scientific, and that shale is hardly a fun children’s creation because it seems to be commonly made, in a standard way.
“If they were made by children, as the largest demographic of these communities, these types of tiles should be much more widespread.” In fact, owl-like tiles make up only about four percent of all tiles, Katina Lillios, an anthropological archaeologist at the US University of Iowa, told New Scientist.
What no one disputes is how owls have long been associated with human culture. As Negro and his colleagues write, these majestic birds have been depicted “from the dawn of art” in the Paleolithic period, on coins and pottery, in mosaics and cave art, from Spain and France to Australia and Africa. “This may be related to frequent encounters with real owls, creatures of the night with distinct anthropomorphic features,” they add. In addition to Negro, the authors of the publication included: Guillermo Blanco, Eduardo Rodríguez-Rodríguez and Víctor M. Díaz Núñez de Arenas.
ScienceAlert, New Scientist, EBD-CSIC, tvnmeteo.pl
Main photo source: Isabel Maria Villanueva