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The proportions of the man correspond to the pattern of stars that comprise Orion, especially its slim waist – which corresponds to its famous belt of three stars and the left “leg” of the constellation being shorter.

The “sword” on the ivory tablet also corresponds to a famous and well-know feature that can be seen in Orion.

"We can think of the badly mixed dough of a fruit cake representing the bulk of the Hypatia pebble, what we called two mixed 'matrices' in geology terms.

The glace cherries and nuts in the cake represent the mineral grains found in Hypatia 'inclusions'.

Lead author of the study, from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), was recently recognised as a "Leading international researcher" (A-rated) by the National Research Foundation.

Prof Kramers is a geochemist currently specialising in dating techniques (especially for from the UJ PPM Research Centre at the Department of Geology found exotic micro-mineral compounds in the 'Hypatia' stone that are not known to occur on Earth, elsewhere in our solar system, or in known meteorites or comets.

There are 86 notches on the tablet, a number that has two special meanings.

First, it is the number of days that must be subtracted from a year to equal the average number of days of a human gestation. It is also the number of days that one of Orion’s two prominent stars, Betelguese, is visible.

The ivory tablet is small, measuring only 38 x 14 x 4 millimetres, but from the notches carved into its edges archaeologists believe that it was made that size and is not a fragment of something bigger.

On one side of the tablet is the man-like being with his legs apart and arms raised.

of the pebble by UJ's Prof Kramers and Dr Belyanin have now provided unsettling answers that spiral away from conventional views of the material our solar system was formed from.

Mineral structure The internal structure of the Hypatia pebble is somewhat like a fruitcake that has fallen off a shelf into some flour and cracked on impact, says Prof Kramers.

And the flour dusting the cracks of the fallen cake represent the 'secondary materials' we found in the fractures in Hypatia, which are from Earth," he says.

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