| 8 April 2007
Stonehenge amulets worn by elite
A recent find indicates clothing ornaments thought to confer supernatural power might have originally been designed by Stonehenge leaders 4,000 years ago. While working two months ago in South Lowestoft, Suffolk, British archaeologist Clare Good excavated a four-sided object made of the mineral jet. It closely matches a geometrically designed gold object found far away at a burial site called Bush Barrow near Stonehenge in Wiltshire. The match is so close that experts believe the black artifact is a skeuomorph, or a copy in a different material.
Good, who is with the Suffolk County Archaeology Service, made the discovery while investigating the remains of a probable funeral pyre dating to 1900-1700 BCE. She thinks someone placed goods, including a flint knife, pottery and the jet object, inside the pit after the body was burned.
British Archaeology Editor Mike Pitts describes the jet object as having "two parallel lines around the edge, supporting 12 pendant semi-circles inside with a double circle and dot in the center. Small floating lines of rocker decoration, some on the side facets, complete the design." "Rocker" refers to the rocking motion that the artist likely used when carving, drawing or chiseling out the design.
Like Stonehenge itself, the meaning of the design remains a mystery, but the material — though not as flashy and precious as gold — held significance for the ancients, according to Alison Sheridan, head of early prehistory in the Department of Archaeology at National Museums Scotland. "Lots of substances are likely to have been ascribed magical powers, and were used as amulets," she explained. "Jet is a classic example, as it's electrostatic, as well as being rare and beautiful, and has been used by many people around the world and over time as an amulet." She added that this particular piece was made from a "large lump of jet" so it would have been "extra-precious." It might have even been a commissioned "studio piece," perhaps copying the Stonehenge wearer's overall design.
Sheridan analyzed the jet piece and found traces of copper in 4 holes that were cut into the object. She said "it's likely that the lozenge had been fitted onto a garment by copper pins. This would suggest to me that we're thinking leather." Put together with the position in which the Bush Barrow object was found, she thinks both the jet and gold pieces probably were fitted onto leather garments at the chest.
Sheridan, who came up with the term "supernatural power dressing," said these objects, and other evidence, indicate the Stonehenge-era elite were extremely "status and fashion conscious."
While no one knows who these people were, she theorizes they probably were wealthy individuals, local leaders, or even maybe some kind of early royalty.
Source: Discovery Channel (6 April 2007)
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