A 42,000-year-old pendant found in Mongolia is the oldest phallic symbol ever found.
Scientists have unearthed the earliest known phallic (pendant) symbol, a pendant crafted and worn in Mongolia approximately 42,000 years ago. Published in Nature Scientific Reports, the research signifies the advent of sexual symbolism during a time when Homo sapiens possibly encountered Denisovans and Neanderthals. These interactions likely transformed self-perceptions, inspiring novel symbolic expressions.
APhallic Pendant: From Abstract to Figurative
Around 50,000 years ago, figurative art representations emerged in Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Seen as a sophisticated symbolic behavior, they’re exclusive to our lineage. The phallic symbol was found in an Upper Paleolithic stratum at the Tolbor-21 archaeological site in Mongolia, dating back about 42,000 years.
Mineralogical analyses reveal the pendant’s graphite makeup, a soft black mineral not found nearby. The University of Bordeaux explains that microscopic and roughness analyses indicate an intricate use history before its introduction at the site.
Simplistic yet Powerful Symbolism
The pendant’s phallic symbolism is straightforward, featuring a short groove symbolizing the external urethral meatus and another for the balano-preputial groove.
Abstract yet simplified depictions are common in prehistoric records. Figurations are often reduced to their most identifiable attributes. The Tolbor-21 pendant’s features, a midsection groove and a short, deep groove at one end, align with prevalent phallic symbol identifiers across regions and eras. Symbol coding relies on stylistic conventions known within the groups.
Redefining Gender Representation
The Tolbor-21 discovery predates the oldest known gender-specific anthropomorphic representation. It reveals the early utilization of sexual anatomical symbols by hunter-gatherer communities post their Central Asia dispersion.
Crafted in a time period aligning with genetic mixing events among Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, and Denisovans, the pendant is a testament to these encounters, which likely altered self-perceptions among hominids and inspired novel body adornment methods.