An ornamented bâton percé, or pierced rod, unearthed at the archaeological site of Go??biewo in Poland, may provide evidence of interregional contact in the European Mesolithic, according to a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE.
The artifact from Go??biewo was carved from antler of unknown origin approximately 8,800 years ago.
“The Go??biewo bâton percé (also referred to as a lochstab, kommandostab, bâton de commandement, a mattock or a shaft) is 30.5 cm long with an oval cross-section and a diameter of approximately 1.8–2.0 cm at the base, 2.1–2.4 cm in the middle part and up to 2.9 cm near the perforation,” said Nicolaus Copernicus University researcher Grzegorz Osipowicz and co-authors.
“The ornaments on its backside were made in a horizontal arrangement along the axis of the product by cutting or carving. They cover an area from the drilled perforation to the point located approximately 3 cm above the base of the bâton percé.”
“Originally, the ornaments covered 10 asymmetric triangles with oblique striations similar in shape and size, situated in a horizontal line, the so-called triangles on a line, filled with oblique shading. The second lowest triangle was partially removed (by whittling). All triangles are filled by 4 to 6 incisions (mostly 5) that are parallel to the shortest side.”
To determine the geographic region from which the antler used to produce the Go??biewo bâton percé originates, Dr. Osipowicz and colleagues conducted DNA and isotope analyses of the artifact.
“The source material was identified as antler from the reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), a species which dispersion analysis revealed to have a range limited to northern Scandinavia and north-western Russia during the early Holocene,” the researcher said.
“This may suggest that the artifact was transported from North Karelia to Central Poland.”
“The reasons why this artifact was transported are subject to speculation, but our results are possible evidence for the flow of goods between hunter-gatherer groups at a large distance,” they added.
“The route taken for transporting the Rangifer tarandus antler from nearby North Karelia to Central Poland, and the motive for transporting it, remain impossible to determine conclusively,” Dr. Osipowicz said.
“However, the obtained results are the first direct evidence for the flow of goods between hunter-gatherer groups in the early Holocene at such a great distance.”
G. Osipowicz et al. 2017. Origin of the ornamented bâton percé from the Go??biewo site 47 as a trigger of discussion on long-distance exchange among Early Mesolithic communities of Central Poland and Northern Europe. PLoS ONE 12 (10): e0184560; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0184560