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Archaeo News 

1 January 2005
Toys that make a noise go back to the Bronze Age

Parents who are irritated tomorrow by noisy toys may console themselves: children have been making a racket since the Bronze Age. Archaeologists believe they have identified one of the earliest toys after re-examining pieces of bone found in excavations all over Europe. The toggle-shaped bones, some up to 4,000 years old, had mystified scientists for years until they were compared recently to a simple toy found in remote parts of Britain until the start of the 20th century.
     The Scottish Urban Archaeological Trust discovered that the ancient bones were identical to a toy known in Shetland and Orkney as a "snorie bane", or snoring bone. The perforated bones would be threaded with cord or animal sinew and spun. Catherine Smith, 47, a bone expert, said identical bones had been found at digs in the northern isles, and in Germany, Spain and throughout Scandinavia. She added: "Traditional toys like the snorie bane would only have survived in the most isolated places. We know that children used to queue to get the bones whenever a pig was killed in Orkney and Shetland even after the turn of the 20th century.
     Mrs Smith has successfully reconstructed the toy using an ancient bone from a dig in Perth and boring methods that might have been employed by children thousands of years ago. "Identical bones have even been found at medieval and Viking sites in northern Europe. but nobody ever really knew what they were for," she said. "It's very rare to find evidence of toys. One of the biggest problems is that they are harder to identify than tools, which have an immediately obvious purpose. But we are now convinced that Bronze Age children would have collected the bones when pigs were killed and turned them into toys noisy enough to annoy their parents."
     Prof Alexander Fenton, of the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, said that the "buzz-bone" might have been developed originally by prehistoric man as a way to scare birds or wild animals before evolving into a toy.

Source: News.Telegraph (24 December 2004)

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