17.06.2021

CT scanner from AGH UST used for analysing a prehistoric tool used by humans 27,000 years ago


The examination conducted with the use of a CT scanner at AGH confirmed that the tool made from deer antlers was used by humans.

The examined object dates back to the Upper Paleolithic period and was made approximately 27 thousand years ago.

A computed tomography scanner from the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Resource Management was used to examine an object dating back to approximately 27,000 years ago. The object of this specialist computed tomography was a fragment of deer antler which had been found in Biśnik cave, one of the oldest human settlements.

The scientific examination of this extraordinary find has been conducted by PhD Justyna Orłowska and her team from the Chair of Prehistory in the Institute of Archeology at Nicolaus Copernicus Univerity in Toruń.

The subject of the analysis was an artefact made of deer antler discovered in Biśnik cave in Zawiercie area. It dates back to the Upper Paleolithic period and was made approximately 27 thousand years ago. The surface of the object still bears the traces of its creation and its use. The tool was most likely used as a kind of beater needed for working on flint material. This tool is one of the oldest finds of this kind on the territory of Poland.

The main aim of conducting specialist examination using the CT scanner was the identification of potential damage to the inner structure of the examined tool resulting from its use. Thanks to laser scanning it was possible to partially recreate the geometry of the fragment of the antler before it was used by humans. Apart from the visual examination a comparative analysis of the original and current geometry was conducted.

A researcher and engineer Grzegorz Kaczmarczyk from AGH Faculty of Civil Engineering and Resource Management says:

Tomograph laboratory gives us a chance to solve interdisciplinary problems. The tomograph itself can be used to examine and analyse practically any material, from concrete, through all types of metals and fibres, to precious artefacts from prehistoric times. Thanks to state-of-the-art technology and the latest software we are able to examine things which cannot be seen with the naked eye. We are one of very few institutions in Poland capable of examining objects with the length of one metre, and we are the only place in Poland for conducting CT scanning of objects weighing up to 500 kg and in extreme temeperatures.

PhD Justyna Orłowska from the Instutute of Archeology at Nicolaus Copernicus University says:

The examination showed the level of erosion both on the outside and inside of the object. The conducted examination proved very useful as the artefact was covered by a fairly thick layer of conservation substance which made it impossible to examine thoroughly the damage on the working part of the tool. Thanks to microtomography it was possible to see the crosssections of particular post-impact traces, which is crucial from the point of view of traseological analysis as it allows to establish full characteristics of such traces, notably their shape and depth. The next stage of our cooperation with AGH will be conducting the comparative analysis of the damage found on the artefect from Biśnik cave with the damage on beaters used during experimental working on flint.

Thanks to the analysis conducted with the use of the CT scanner by Daniel Wałach and Grzegorza Kaczmarczyk from AGH it was possible to prove that the examined fragment of the antler was indeed used by humans as a tool.

Application of computed tomography scanning plays crucial role in the examination of archeological artefacts since it is often impossible to penetrate the structure of unique and extremely valuable objects without the risk of damaging them. CT scanning allows for looking ‘inside’ historical artefacts without causing any damage – PhD Justyna Orłowska adds.

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The latest equipment from General Electric (GE V|TOME|X M300) worth 4.5 million zł has considerably expanded research capabilities of students and academic staff at the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Resource Management. The equipment offers unique spatial resolution in a wide range of scanned materials – from small biological samples to large elements made of metal, concrete or wood.