“Rings of Friendship” of the Stone Age

(ORDO NEWS) — According to recent research, Stone Age hunter-gatherers in northeastern Europe were skillfully crafting friendship rings out of shale about 6,000 years ago.

They were mass-produced by many craftsmen in what appears to have been some kind of mass production process.

Some of these friendly rings were then deliberately broken into fragments, many of which were later turned into pendants.

All this suggests that these communities were part of a regional trading network, which is confirmed by the results of the latest study.

A study examines so-called friendship ring jewelry found at several major Stone Age sites in Finland. In fact, they were rarely used or found in intact rings.

The broken fragments likely served as tokens symbolizing the social relationships associated with the gift-giving system in these hunter-gatherer communities, according to a press release from the University of Helsinki.

The study was carried out by a team of scientists from the University of Helsinki and the University of Turku, who matched broken fragments of friendship ring jewelry, analyzed their geochemical composition, and examined traces of use and manufacture to come to their conclusions.

Rings of Friendship of the Stone Age 2
Two large, intact Stone Age friendship rings discovered in a Finnish hunter-gatherer burial from the early 4th millennium BC. e., along with five flint points

Mass production of Friendship Rings points to trading network

Friendship rings and other Stone Age ornaments have been found in large central sites or clusters of sites throughout Finland, which were usually adjacent to burial grounds. This means that these were special places where hunter-gatherers returned from time to time.

Chemical analysis showed that the jewelry itself was most likely made in the Onega Lake region in Russia, or at least the source of the slate was found there.

This means that the items or slate were transported hundreds of kilometers to Finland through an extensive network of exchange or trade. Perhaps they symbolized the connections established in this network.

“By comparing the concentration of elements in the studied objects with the results published on the basis of international data sets, we were able to demonstrate that some of the jewelry or the stone material used in them was brought to Finland through an extensive exchange network, mainly from the Lake Onega region,” said Associate Professor Elisabeth Holmqvist-Sipilä in a press release from the University of Helsinki.

Rings of Friendship of the Stone Age 3
Stone Age friendship rings have been found in places marked in red in Finland, but the stone and rings were brought much further east to the Lake Onega region in Russia, suggesting that these hunter-gatherer societies had a fairly large commercial network

Accidentally broken or intentionally crushed?

Archaeological remains are rarely found one hundred percent intact, and that ring ornaments were found in fragments is thought to be the natural result of being buried for so long.

University of Helsinki postdoctoral fellow Marja Ahola argues, however, that some of the fragments were found on purpose, not by accident. They were then used for exchange, ritual activities and social relationships.

Comparing the fragments, analyzing their geochemical composition and examining traces of use and manufacture, the researchers found that the jewelry was not only worn, but also deliberately broken.

Pieces of the same piece of jewelry were found in two different places, suggesting that they were worn by two different people. The fact that one of the fragments was processed more delicately than the other adds weight to this assumption.

“These fragments of the same object may indicate the handprints and preferences of two people. Perhaps they wore jewelry as a symbol of the established connection,” Ahola said in a press release from the University of Helsinki.

Ornaments also served, possibly, to establish a link between the living and the dead, as indicated by another set of two matching fragments, one of which was found at the site of the settlement, and the other in a nearby burial.

“What we see here may be one of the ways to maintain a connection between the living and the dead. It is also the first clear material connection between a certain place of residence and a burial place. In other words, the people who lived here most likely buried their dead in a close a place for them,” Ahola said.

The researchers used X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis of about 50 slate ring jewelery in the collection of the Finnish Heritage Agency.

X-ray fluorescence analysis can be used to determine the concentration of elements and raw materials of inorganic archaeological materials with a very high degree of accuracy. It is a completely non-invasive surface analysis, which makes it very suitable for the study of archaeological sites.

In addition to establishing the origin of artifacts from Lake Onega, the technique also demonstrated “variations in the chemical composition of objects that correlate with their design.

These factors indicate that the jewelry was produced in the Lake Onega region in several batches, most likely in different places and by several manufacturers “concludes Holmqvist-Sipilä.


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