International Scientific Conference "Archeology of the Arctic"
November 19-23, 2017

An ornamented antler artefact (6200 CAL BC) from Lepaa, southern Finland – ceremonial or everyday use?

K. Mannermaa¹, E.Yu. Girya², D.V. Gerasimov³

¹ Helsinki University, Finland


² Institute for History of Material Culture RAS, St.-Petersburg


³Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography RAS, St.-Petersburg




A unique artefact of probably wild reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) antler was found in 1958 by accident on the bank of the Lepaa river, Southern Finland, during construction work. Soon after the discovery it became a part of the Finland National Museum storage (coll. NM 14500). For a long time the artefact age was presumed rather young, but in 2001 an AMS date 6434–6099 BC (7420±75, Hela-516) was obtained [Ojanen, 2002. P. 11]. This required new studies of the artefact. Preliminary results as well as detailed morphological description and full research history of the find have been recently published [Mannermaa, 2016]. In the end of 2016 macro-traces of the artefact making and use were studied in details and preliminary documenting of micro-traces on some parts of it was conducted in the National Museum of Finland due to courtesy of the curators, which authors deeply appreciate.

The outer horizontal surface (A - Fig. 1) was carefully treated and ground, than ornamented by hatched triangles. The ornament was probably made in two (or more) stages, with an intermediate stage for the surface treatment, which could possibly bring a “two-colour” effect: it seems that hatched triangles had alternately dark and reddish tinge. The ornament was probably made on soften surface by beaver mandible tools.

The inner horizontal surface (B) was treated much coarser. There is also an ornament, but only on some separated areas. It consists of hatched areas and fan-shaped patterns (the same pattern presents on the distal part of the surface A, and it is notably different from the ornament on the main part of the surface). There are plenty of traces (scratches and dints) evident of contact with rather coarse material. The bottom rib (E) has similar hard use-wear.

There are several deep and wide grooves made on top of the ornament on the both outer and inner horizontal surfaces. The upper horizontal surface (C) was carefully treated but not ground. There is a well-pronounced polishing on the bottom rib and the upper horizontal surface. The bottom rib is shiny polished, rounded in profile and flattened; such traces on the artefacts made of antlers is characteristic for contact with soft materials. Trial experiments on antler-snow contact made in 2017 gave no comparable results.

The distal part of the inner vertical surface (D) has pronounced polishing very similar to what appear during antler-skin contact. But the well-treated proximal part of this surface with well-pronounced ribs has no such wear-traces. There is no wear traces on the cavity at the proximal part of the outer vertical surface (F).

The whole surface of the artefact is covered by developed mate polishing similar to what appears of hand contact.

We have not found parallels to the described shape and/or assemblage of traces. Thus we do not have basis for interpreting the function of the artefact yet. It requires more studying and experiments. Our data allow supposing that it was actively used for doing a certain mechanical work and contacted with different materials. Also there were no wear-traces of such contacts on the ornamented surface A that can mean special care for this part of the artefact. The last circumstance as well as carefulness of the Lepaa artefact treatment and ornamenting can be evident of its certain ritual significance, but it’s everyday use is possible as well, for instance like a part of a multi-component tool.

This paperis part of the international project “Bioarkeologiset menetelmät esihistoriallisen yhteisön maailmankuvan ja ihmisen ja eläinten suhteiden tutkimisessa – pilottitutkimuksena Olenij ostrovin kivikautisen kalmiston löytöaineisto” financed by Kone Foundation.



Mannermaa K. An ornamented antler artefact (c. 6200 cal BC) from southern Finland and its northern European context // Mesolithic Miscellany. N 24:2 (Dec 2016), 2016. – PP. 19-30.

Ojanen E. Tyrvännön historia. – Hattula: Tyrväntö-seura, 2002. – 462 p.

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