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Elk Teeth Offer Clues to Prehistoric Clothing in Russia

Friday, January 15, 2021

Russia Burial DrawingHELSINKI, FINLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Helsinki, archaeologist Kristiina Mannermaa and her colleagues analyzed more than 4,000 elk incisors recovered from 8,200-year-old graves on an island in northwestern Russia’s Lake Onega. The teeth are thought to have decorated various items of clothing. All but two of the teeth had one or more small grooves placed at the tip of the root that are thought to have been used to attach them to garments. In those two teeth, found in the grave of the same woman, a small hole had been made in the tooth itself. The patterns of the grooves found on the teeth recovered from individual graves were generally limited, and may indicate that the ornaments were produced in a fairly short period of time, Mannermaa said. The graves of young adults held the greatest number of elk teeth, while the burials of children and the elderly held the fewest, she added. The largest ornaments were made up of the teeth of eight to 18 of the valuable animals. The graves in the study also held some beaver and bear teeth, but the abundance of elk teeth may have been tied to the group’s identity, she concluded. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. To read about burials of Scythian women warriors recently unearthed in Russia, go to "Arms and the Women."

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