Scientists found the sewing implement – complete with a hole for thread – during the annual summer archeological dig at an Altai Mountains cave widely believed to hold the secrets of man’s origins. It appears to be still useable after 50,000 years. It was made of the bone of a large and so far unidentified bird.
Professor Mikhail Shunkov, head of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, said: ‘It is the most unique find of this season, which can even be called sensational.It appears to be still useable after 50,000 years.
As of today it is the most ancient needle in the word. It is about 50,000 years old.’ The needle is seen as providing proof that the long-gone Denisovans – named after the cave – were more sophisticated than previously believed.
It predates by some 10,000 years an intricate modern-looking piece of polished jewellery made of chlorite by the Denisovans.
The cave lies in the Altai Mountains around 160 kilometres (100 miles) south of the city of Barnaul. Prof Shunkov said: ‘We can confidently say that Altai was one of the cultural centres…where the modern human was formed.’
Scientist Svante Paabo, from the Max Planck Institute, in Leipzig, Germany, has said: ‘The one place where we are sure all three human forms have lived at one time or another is here in Denisova Cave.’
The Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography is part of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.