An Amber Disk from the Stone Age
Amber, a golden, light material gathered from the Baltic Sea’s coasts, has been present in human life for thousands of years. Much like those in the past, modern people wear amber jewellery as well, some still believing in its magical powers.
Six thousand years ago, amber was used to make small figurines of animals: boars, deer, horses, water birds. They were closely associated with magic of the hunting and fishing tribes living in the region of Pomerania. In the subsequent millennia, amber manufacture evolved. This fact is supported by the discoveries of specialized workshops and treasures composed of amber ornaments.
From the numerous finds, the decorations that draw attention are the characteristic round ambers called disks. One of these disks is in the collection of the Archaeological Museum in Gdańsk. It was crafted out of a lump of material with the diameter of 7 cm; the diameter of the central hole is 2,7 cm and the artefact weighs 38.84 g. The surfaces were meticulously polished, and one was decorated with four rows of punctures, spreading out like rays from the middle of the disk. A majority of researchers assume that the ornament is the symbol of the Sun Cult practiced by tribes dwelling in the European temperate zone.
Ornamental amber disks were usually found in the coastal regions of Lithuania and the Masuria Lake District. The Gdańsk specimen was found on the seashore. The disks could have been worn like a diadem. It is assumed that they were worn during holidays (ceremonies), and their presence in graves points towards a ritual character of the item.
Approximately five thousand years ago, amber workshops developed around the region of Gdańsk, manufacturing to cater to the needs of the local community as well as for trade with other regions; such as the Carpathian Basin (Pannonian Basin). To work with amber, flint and stone tools were used: small hatchets, chisels and borers made out of flint and antlers, which were used to clean and cut the chosen fragments of the material. Holes were drilled with a flint bit. The last stage of production was to polish the surface and decoration. Sharp-ended, miniature fragments of flint were used to do this. The surface was polished with a piece of leather or with a bundle of the common horsetail plant.
Curator: Danuta Król
Text: Danuta Król, Olgierd Felczak
Photography: Zofia Grunt
Graphic Design: Lidia Nadolska
Translation: Paulina Markowska
The Ancient Object of the Month can be viewed in the lobby of the Naturalists’ House at Mariacka Street 25/26 in Gdańsk.