#Russia; #Archaeology; #BurialGround; #ElkToothOrnaments; #UnivOfHelsinki; #Research
Russia/Canadian-Media: A remote burial ground on the island of Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov in Lake Onega in the Republic of Karelia, Russia was discovered roughly 8,200 years ago by the archaeologists where men, women and children of varying ages were buried in outfits decorated with elk tooth ornaments.
A total of 90 elk teeth were placed next to the hips and thighs of the body in grave 127, possibly attached to a garment resembling an apron. There were elk teeth pendants also on the waist. Red ochre had been sprinkled on top of the deceased. Credit: Tom Bjorklund
While wearing a shark tooth on a necklace might be common today, our ancestors were wearing jewelry fashioned out of elk teeth
Curious to find out who the people buried in outfits decorated with elk tooth ornaments were, and what the pendants meant to them, a study headed by archaeologist Kristiina Mannermaa, University of Helsinki analyzed the manufacturing technique of a total of more than 4,000 tooth ornaments or the way in which the teeth had been processed for attachment or suspension.
The results were surprising, as practically all of the teeth had been processed identically by making one or more small grooves at the tip of the root, which made tying the pendants easier. In fact, Kristiina Mannermaa calls the people found in the burial site the people of grooved elk tooth pendants.
"Interestingly, the grooves were not always made on the broadest side of the tooth, which would be the easiest option. In many graves, the grooves are on the thin side of the tooth where the unstable position of the tooth makes them harder to do. The artisan may have resorted to this method in order to tie them in a specific position," researcher Riitta Rainio from the University of Helsinki noted.
"Even though there are pendants made of beaver and bear teeth in the graves, the share of elk teeth in them is overwhelming," Mannermaa says.
The highest number of elk teeth were found in the graves of young adult women and men, the lowest in those of children and elderly people. In other words, elk tooth ornaments were in one way or another linked to age, possibly specific to the peak reproductive years.
Elk, being the most important animal in the ideology and beliefs of the prehistorical hunter-gatherers of the Eurasian forest zone, and their limited availability made elk teeth a valuable material to ancient hunters. Elks were not brought down very often, and not all members of the community contributed to hunting.
In addition to Mannermaa, and Riitta Rainio from the University of Helsinki, this study was also contributed by Evgeniy Yurievich Girya and Dmitriy Gerasimov from Peter the Great's Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography.
According to the study published in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, young men and women were the most common owners of the elk teeth.
The researchers believe this may have been an attempt from the young people to signify fertility among potential mates.