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18 July 2012
World's oldest purse studded with dog teeth?

The world's oldest purse may have been found in Germany. Excavators at a site near Leipzig uncovered more than a hundred dog teeth arranged close together in a grave dated to between 2,500 and 2,200 BCE. According to archaeologist Susanne Friederich, the teeth were likely decorations for the outer flap of a handbag.
     The dog teeth were found during excavations of the 100 hectare Profen site, which is slated to become an open-pit coal mine in 2015. So far the project has uncovered evidence of Stone and Bronze Age settlements, including more than 300 graves, hundreds of stone tools, spear points, ceramic vessels, bone buttons, and an amber necklace.
     Canine teeth are actually fairly common in Stone Age northern and central European burials, Friederich said. In fact, the numbers of teeth in graves around the region suggest dogs were as much livestock as pets.
     In other area Stone Age burials, dog and wolf teeth, as well as mussel shells, have been uncovered in patterns that suggest that corpses were covered with studded blankets, Friederich said. More commonly, though, dog teeth are found in hair ornaments and in necklaces, for both women and men.
     "It seems to have been very fashionable at the time," said Harald Staueble, senior archaeologist at Germany's Saxon State Archaeology Office. "Not everyone was buried with such nice things - just the really special graves."

Edited from National Geographic (27 June 2012)

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