Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gebel Ramlah footnote

While preparing the Beaker genetics page, I thought I'd share this which will fits into a larger context of the North African cultures in coming posts.

Kobusiewicz, Kabacinski and Wendorf (2009)

Above is a amulet or a "magical knife, as referenced.  Obviously it is non-functional, whatever it is.

I am not suggesting a direct relationship with this particular culture, but I do find the similarity in size, decoration and material (a hippo tusk) interesting.

"bow-like ornamented" modified from Fig. 20 (Ruzickova,2009)

And this image borrowed from Ruzickova shows a boar's tusk pendant, in many ways typical of Central European Beakers.  This particular one being nocked on both ends, whereas others are single or none. 

Stuart Piggott believed the boar's tusks are like mini-bows that the wearer wore around his neck.  It could be that it was nothing more than attractive pendant or simply a trophy.  However, I wonder if these mini-bows had another significance?

In Western European mythology the various parts of animals have certain magical qualities.  For example, we all know that a rabbit's foot is 'lucky', hence, "The Lucky Rabbit's Foot".

The Boar's Tusk, to Celts and Scandinavians, had protective qualities and was often used as a charm or amulet to protect a warrior.  It's possible that a bow-shaped amulet was used to protect the archer's arms, which based on osteological survey's, were under extreme stress.  A great many left arm, shoulder and chest injuries are found in men from the LN to the LBA.  This may hold true for Hippopotamus tusks as well.


  1. Reminds me of the "lunulas", for example this one from Portugal. Not sure why you call it "knife" (no edge and no handle: no knife) but I would like to learn more about those medieval bow decorations you talk about (first time I hear of them admittedly).

  2. Nice, I haven't seen too many photos of these, only drawings. This one you showed form Portugal is perforated at the top. They appear to be found in graves in the arc down position, but they do remind me of the lunulae as well.

    Yeah, I don't know why they call the Gebel Ramlah ornament a 'magic knife'. Like you said, doesn't really seem to have any functional purpose. They may not have many examples to compare it with.

    Let me dig for some examples of bow cording. I called it banding but meant cording.