The find in Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany is a carefully carved and beautifully preserved piece of mammoth ivory 20.4 cm in length with four holes between seven and nine mm in diametre.

Each of the holes is lined with deep, and precisely cut spiral incisions, the researchers said.

The new find demonstrates that these elaborate carvings are technological features of rope-making equipment rather than just decoration, said the study published in the journal Archaologische Ausgrabungen Baden-Wurttemberg.

Professor Nicholas Conard from University from Tubingen and his team discovered the tool and experimental research and testing was done by Veerle Rots and her team from University of Liege in Belgium.

"This tool answers the question of how rope was made in the Paleolithic, a question that has puzzled scientists for decades," Rots said.

Similar finds in the past have usually been interpreted as shaft-straighteners, decorated artworks or even musical instruments.

Thanks to the exceptional preservation of the find and rigorous testing by the team in Liege, the researchers have demonstrated that the tool was used for making rope out of plant fibres available near Hohle Fels.

The discovery underlines the importance of fibre technology and the importance of rope and string for mobile hunters and gatherers trying to cope with challenges of life in the Ice Age, the study said.

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