© Tomasz PlonkaA close-up of etchings found on a 11,000-year-old elk antler. Scientists believe the figure is a woman with spread legs.
A Stone Age-era artifact carved with multiple zigzags and what is likely a woman with spread legs suggests that fertility rituals may have been important to early Europeans, according to new research.
The object, which will be documented in the March issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science,
is made out of a large elk antler and has been radiocarbon dated to about 10,900 years ago.
"The ornament is composed of groups of zigzag lines and a human representation, probably a woman with spread legs with a short zigzag nearby," lead author Tomasz Płonka told Discovery News. "The woman may be nude, but the geometrical style of representation does not allow us to answer (this question)."
Płonka, a University of Wroclaw archaeologist, and his colleagues analyzed the object, unearthed by a farmer at Swidwin, Poland.
At first the scientists believed the geometrical figure carved onto the antler could have been either the mentioned woman, or a nude man raising his arms. Measurements to determine the ratio of the stick figure limbs, in addition to comparisons with other early human representations, lead the researchers to support the woman interpretation.
Zigzags are very popular motifs on artifacts from many cultures throughout the world, with many possible meanings, but Płonka said, "I think our zigzag lines are connected with water and life symbolism."