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Friday, September 3, 2010

Ekain: rib made into a bird... and other findings at Ekain

So good for Yaveh and Adam and all that junk of the Hebrew/Sumerian mythology, here is what you can really do with a rib, after eating the succulent meat around:

This is the most recent noticeable finding at the cave of Ekain (Gipuzkoa, Basque Country), which is World Heritage (per UNESCO) since 2008. It is worked on a bovid's rib and dated to c. 13,900 years ago (Magdalenian period).

The bird has appeared within a thin Middle Magdalenian layer that complements the much thicker Early and Late Magdalenian ones, already known from previous digs. Altuna explains that this layer is specially relevant because in this period the relations with Aquitaine were very intense, unlike in the other Magdalenian stages.

This piece indicates an important communication, not merely technological as with the use of flint but also cultural with artworks.


Another notable finding of this year's excavation campaigns has been a large number of rock crystals in a small space (30 cm around), maybe once being part of a collar or, as the researchers suggest, being kept at a bag (for magical reasons?) What is clear in this case is that the people living at Ekain collected and brought together these natural beauties for aesthetic and maybe other related reasons.

Neolithic burial

Importantly, this campaign has also produced a Neolithic burial: a young child 6-7 years old with pottery fragments that have been dated to c. 5000 years ago. We can say we have seen the weeping at Ekain's entrance, declared Altuna on this finding. No Neolithic was known in this cave before.


Ekain, looking to the Urola valley, was first excavated in 1969 by the now quasi-mythical archaeologist J. M. Barandiaran, the father of Basque Prehistory, and current lead researcher Jesús Altuna, producing a rich record of Magdalenian period specially, including some of the most beautiful mural galleries of the Pleistocene.

The name Ekain now means only June (the month) but shares the possible root *eka- with words like ekaitz (storm), ekandu (habit, custom, to get used, to become integrated) and ekarri (to bring). Another (or an extended variant) possible root *ek- is found in words like eki (the East, the Sun), ekin (to do persistently, to insist) and ekoitz (to produce). However it's likely that the phonetic distinction between /k/ and /g/ was still non-existent, so if we'd want to be comprehensive we should also consider words like egin (to do), egi (edge, limit, truth), egun (day) or egon (to be - in/at/on somewhere).

While Ekain is closed to the public, you can visit the high fidelity neocave Ekainberri (New Ekain), possibly the most complete one of its kind.

Sources: Diario Vasco, Pileta de Prehistoria (both in Spanish).

See also: Ekain at Leherensuge.

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