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Stratum plus. 2022. No1

M. G. Zhilin (Moscow, Russian Federation)

Antler Staff Heads in the Shape of Fantastic Beasts in the Mesolithic of the Volga-Oka Interfl uves Area

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Pages: 69-82 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.55086/sp2216982

Three antler staff heads in the shape of fantastic beasts are known in the Mesolithic of Eastern Europe. A sharp nose resembling a point of a pick-axe, an effective weapon known in the Mesolithic of the Volga-Oka interfluve, is their main feature. The article presents a description and new interpretation of these objects as heads of ritual weapons combining a real weapon (pick-axe) with superficial forces personified in the images of fantastic beasts. These artefacts find no direct analogies. Pick-axe heads are known in the late Mesolithic of Western Scandinavia where they are interpreted as ritual weapons connected with superficial forces. An antler staff head from the Shigir peat bog in the Tans-Urals is shaped as a fantastic beast with bare teeth. Its nose is flat and not pointed. Shaman’s staffs which are considered the most ancient shaman’s attributes can be used as ethnographic parallels to the described artefacts. Staffs endowed with superficial force were used during shaman’s travels between different worlds. The described staff heads in the shape of fantastic beasts are likely to have belonged to outstanding shamans or chiefs-shamans who used them in similar rituals.

Keywords: Volga-Oka interfluves area, Urals, Mesolithic, antler staff heads, fantastic beasts, pick-axe, shaman’s staff

Information about author:

Mikhail Zhilin
(Moscow, Russian Federation). Doctor of Historical Sciences. Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Dmitry Ulyanov St., 19, Moscow, 117292, Russian Federation
E-mail: [email protected]




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