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14.12.2020

Animal figurines of amber

Many of the artistic masterpieces of the Mesolithic period have been found in Denmark. Among them are five bears, a bird and a moose made of amber. The figures are elegant and natural in form. The people who made them must have known well what a real bear looks like. Like many other Stone Age amber finds, the animal figures were found in swamps or on beaches. Therefore, amber can be difficult to date. In some cases, Stone Age people decorated their objects with exquisite ornaments or geometric designs. Decorated amber objects can be dated by association with other objects known from the Mesolithic era, most commonly bones.

One of the amber bears was found on the west coast of Fannö, and another on the Lild Strand in northern Jutland. But how did these little Mesolithic masterpieces end up on the beach and then accidentally found?

In the Stone Age, the shoreline was different than it is today. Since then, the shoreline has been affected by later changes in sea level, as well as the rise of the land after the last ice age. This land uplift continues today. To the north of the line on the map, the land has risen upward, and to the south of the line, the coast was flooded because of the subsequent rise in sea level. Therefore, some of the Stone Age settlements south of the "slope line" are now under water or on the edge of the beach. Thus, objects can be washed into the sea and then found on the beach.

The little amber animals are beautiful and decorative, but what could they be used for? You can see faint grooves on the necks of the amber bears, which probably resulted from the friction of the string. Thus, they could be worn as pendants or amulets. The bear has always played an important role for hunters living in the northern hemisphere. Perhaps it was because of its human qualities. In many hunting societies it is believed that there is a special kinship between humans and different kinds of animals. Such a kinship may have existed between Stone Age hunters and the bear. It can be assumed that the figurine of a bird and a moose served the same function as an amulet.

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