Zigzag lines and other protective patterns in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic art

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Abstract

This article contends that Stone Age art served a protective, magical purpose. Applied ornamental patterns to some extent were inspired by natural patterns taken from teeth, fur, shells and skins of particular animals, such as vipers, turtles and fawns, which were regarded as “magically” equipped. By wearing powerful animal body parts (like tooth pendants), or applying mimetic surface designs to amber amulets and “personal objects” like bone daggers and antler axes, the hunters tried to enact the supposed magical protection of such items for the persons using them.

The Zig Zag ornaments of the Shigir Idol illustrate the importance of nonfigurative patterns in Mesolithic art, and this paper describes the abundance of zig zag patterns and snake symbolism on antler batons, clubs and bone daggers found at settlement sites and in burials belonging to the Maglemose, Kongemose and Ertebølle cultures of Southern Scandinavia.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQuaternary International
Volume573
Number of pages9
ISSN1040-6182
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2021

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