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5,000-Year-Old Fingerprints Analyzed

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

ORKNEY, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that archaeologists have analyzed fingerprints found on a piece of pottery uncovered at the Ness of Brodgar, a Neolithic ceremonial site on the island of Orkney. Kent Fowler of the University of Manitoba said that the researchers measured the density and breadth of the fingerprint ridges, accounting for the shrinkage produced when clay is dried and fired. They then determined that the prints were left behind by two young men, who tend to have broader ridges. One of the potters is thought to have been between the ages of 13 and 20, and the other between 15 and 22. “Although the prints exhibit identical average ages, there is little overlap in the ridge values between the two measured prints,” Fowler said. “This suggests one print was made by an adolescent male and the other by an adult male.” It is not known if the boy helped to shape the vessel, or if he was involved in the firing process, perhaps overseen by an older potter. For more on the Ness of Brodgar, go to "Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart."

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