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23 January 2020
Unique Stone Age Ring made from deer antler discovered in Denmark

A prehistoric ring made of deer antler was discovered at a Neolithic site in Denmark that has been hidden for millennia, having been swallowed by the sea thousands of years ago. The find was discovered at an archaeological site in Lolland, Denmark's fourth-largest island, amid several other objects forged from organic material like wood and bone - including a T-shaped antler ax. The ring is broken but "otherwise perfectly preserved," say researchers.
     The object is 2.4 centimeters (0.95") in diameter, making it large enough to fit a man's finger. It is finely polished and contains only 'microscopic' scratches, while the inside still displays traces of the original carving. Its relatively pristine condition suggests it was barely worn or had been broken in the manufacturing process, researchers say.
     The study's authors were not able to date the object directly and instead based the age of the ring on objects located nearby. However, tests on artifacts found near the ring suggest it was made 5,500 to 6,300 years ago, during the Early Neolithic period (3900-1700 BCE). Further testing identified the material - the bone of an elk (Alces alces) or red deer (Cervus elapse) - and suggested it came from the antler of the red deer, the more local of the two species. Elk vanished from the area in response to rising sea levels and that would suggest the ring (or the antler it was made from) had been imported.
     The proliferation of rings made of bone and other osseous material (like antler) began in the Anatolian Neolithic in what is now the Middle East. It expanded, gaining popularity in southern and central Europe. However, according to the study's authors, the ring discovered at Syltholm is only the second that has been found and can be traced to the Early Neolithic in Denmark. It is not known why this type of jewelry is so uncommon in Denmark. One suggestion is that it is a matter of preservation and objects of this kind have not survived.
     The first ring was discovered at a site near Jutland in central Denmark and is "considerably smaller," suggesting it belonged to a woman or child. A second thing differentiating it from the one found at Syltholm is its material. Testing suggests it was made of wild boar tusk. The researchers put forward the idea that there may have been two separate ring manufacturing processes - one that involved antlers or bones and was favored in the east and one that involved tusks and favored in the west.

Edited from Newsweek (21 January 2020)

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