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Connections with Europe

Where can we find other beads and pendants like the ones at Star Carr? Professor Nicky Milner explains.
The pendants, beads, amber and artwork that we have talked about this week are not unique to the site of Star Carr and by looking at similar artefacts at other sites can tell us more about connections across Britain and beyond. For instance, the shale beads which we have found at Star Carr have been found at a number of other Early Mesolithic sites in Britain and they are most numerous at a site called Nab Head in Wales which appears to have been a major manufacturing centre. In fact a total of 692 shales beads were found there.
These pieces of shale appear to have been collected from the nearby beaches and they have been perforated in much the same way as the Star Carr examples. On the other hand, amber is much less prevalent in British sites, and more common in Denmark, Sweden and northern Germany where a total of 73 decorated amber pendants have been found. Most of these have been found washed up on beaches and only 7 have been found on sites. These beautiful pendants have been perforated, presumably for stringing as a form of necklace. They are also often polished and decorated by boring, carving and incising. The markings include lines, barbed lines, chevrons, net patterns, chequer patterns, lozenges, and triangles and is known as geometric art.
This kind of artwork is present on other Early Mesolithic materials, for example on pieces of antler and bone across north-west Europe. We have very little evidence in Britain apart from a few pieces on bone, antler and pebbles, and some incised cave art in Somerset. The Star Carr pendant and pieces of amber show clear connections to other parts of Europe suggesting some communication across a vast area. As noted in week 1, during this period, Britain was connected to the rest of Europe by a land bridge and so it would have been possible for people to walk from Star Carr to Denmark at that time. These similarities in objects show us that there must have been links between people over vast areas.
We think that people moved around the landscape, but like more recent hunter-gatherers they also probably had territories. However, that does not stop people from meeting up with other groups for celebrations, exchanging ideas, swapping artefacts and knowledge. It is fascinating to think that the artwork was perhaps a form of written communication, and that this may have been understood across northern Europe.

There are intriguing similarities with other parts of Europe in terms of the beads and decorations on the pendant.

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Exploring Stone Age Archaeology: The Mysteries of Star Carr

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