5,000-Year-Old Stone Age Rings Appear to Be Friendship Bracelets

Best friends from the Stone Age may have gifted fragments of ornamental slate rings, just like modern-day friendship bracelets. It is believed they were used as a symbol of friendship because new research suggests that such rings could have been fragmented on purpose just to be given as a social bond token.

The Stone Age Bracelets Were Found In Finland and Are 5,000 Years Old

Stone Age ornamental slate rings
5,000-Year-Old Stone Age Rings Appear to Be Friendship Bracelets

The 5,000-year-old fragmented bracelets were found in Finland and are currently the focus of a major study. They date back to the fourth millennium BC, and all indications show that they were produced and exchanged by hunter-gatherers from the Stone Age that were members of communities in North-Eastern Europe. They were made of slate or tuffs, which are rather brittle materials that are easy to break. Because of this, it was previously assumed that the rings were fragmented as a result of natural wear and tear. But now, the new study shows something different.

The Stone Age Friendship Rings Were Designed to Be Broken for Pendants

Stone Age ornamental slate rings as they were found in the ground
5,000-Year-Old Stone Age Rings Appear to Be Friendship Bracelets

According to the hypothesis, the rings were not intended to be intact but were, instead, designed to be broken up and processed as individual pendants that symbolize social relationships between communities and individuals. Some one-third of the rings originated from Lake Onega in Russia, which is hundreds of kilometers from the place of their discovery in Finland. It appears they have been transported across Europe through a widespread exchange network. According to experts, it is possible that some of the fragments even represented social relationships established within the network itself.

A Closer Look at the Evidence

To determine their purpose, scientists meticulously pieced the fragments back together and analyzed their geochemical composition. They searched for signs of use and proof that the rings were deliberately broken and worn as personal ornaments. This was strongly suggested by evidence of tool use at the end of each fragment and finishing details that included fastening holes. Apparently, on several occasions, fragments of the same ring were discovered in two separate locations with different finishes. This showed scientists that they were worn by two different people who could have been friends separated by distance.

More stone age ornamental slate rings and other artifacts
5,000-Year-Old Stone Age Rings Appear to Be Friendship Bracelets

The lead author of the study, Dr. Marja Ahola, stated that the discovery of fragments of the same object may show the preferences and handprints of two individuals who wore the ornaments as a symbol of an established connection. It could have been that the rigs celebrated more than just connections between individuals. They were mostly found in large, central settlement sites where social gatherings are thought to have taken place. According to the authors, one explanation could be that the fragments could have been tokens given to attendees at the sites of such gatherings, which would explain their prevalence in these areas. Another explanation could be that the stone age rings could have been used to establish a connection between the living and the dead.