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4,000 year old children's rattle beautifully crafted as bear cub's head: and it still rattles!

By Tamara Zubchuk
21 October 2016

Find-of-the-year by Novosibirsk archeologists is a toy that entertained prehistoric babies.

'This is a clay rattle with a visible well-made handle - handy for a child to hold it.' Picture: Lyudmila Mylnikova / Institute of Archaeology and Etnography SB RAS

The remarkable discovery of one of the oldest toys in the world came from excavations at a Bronze Age settlement in modern-day Novosibrirsk region. 

Inside it - and it remains sealed - are little stones 'that make a jingling sound', said Professor Vyacheslav Molodin, deputy head of Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography.

He told The Siberian Times: 'This is a clay rattle with a visible well-made handle - handy for a child to hold it. It was constructed by clay firing, it is hollow inside. There are little stones inside. We don't know what kind of stones these are, but we will be doing an X-ray to find out. The rattle is still working.'

Map


Map


Rattle


Rattle

'Inside one of the housings at Vengerovo-2 archeological complex, we found the rattle shaped as a bear head, dating to the end of the third millennium BC which is the beginning of the Bronze Age.' Pictures: The Siberian Times, Lyudmila Mylnikova / Institute of Archaeology and Etnography SB RAS

The exciting find at the Vengerovo-2 archeological complex dates to the third millennium BC, making it between 3,800 and 4,000 years old. Might it even include the sculptor's signature? 

'The ornament, we think, has a stamp, where with an artist has made a drawing on not completely dried clay, most likely with bone.'

At the site, in the Vengerovo district of Novosibirsk region, archeologists this summer unearthed more than 50 burials, and around 100 ritual pits, with two housing sites, where ancient people lived.

Rattle


Rattle

There are little stones inside. We don't know what kind of stones these are, but we will be doing an X-ray to find out. The rattle is still working.' Picture: Lyudmila Mylnikova / Institute of Archaeology and Etnography SB RAS. Drawing: Elena Shumakova

'Inside one of the housings at Vengerovo-2 archeological complex, we found the rattle shaped as a bear head, dating to the end of the third millennium BC which is the beginning of the Bronze Age. The rattle was made from clay, inside the rattle there are balls that make a jingling sound.'

Another find was a little bronze figurine looking like an incense stand. Dr Molodin says the figurine was shaped like a bird, most likely a crow. 

The excavations were led by Academician Molodin and Dr Lyudmila Mylknikova, of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography.

Another find was a little bronze figurine looking like an incense stand. Picture: NGS.ru

Bronze figurine

Comments (12)

just to hold this thing after all this time. Who touched it last, so long ago. just amazing. thank you for the story.
robert neptune, ariz, usa
26/10/2016 20:59
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I believe this would be too big and slippery for an infant to hold. I would think it more likely for an adult to hold for music or to entertain a child
vicki s, USA
26/10/2016 07:28
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@Marina, are those your hands in the pictures?
Amjroid, Silicon Valley, CA
25/10/2016 12:26
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If I had to guess the "stones" inside are clay beads, not actual rocks.
Otherwise, there's a good chance that it wouldn't have survived being fired.
Kelly , West Virginia
25/10/2016 02:55
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The site Vengerovo-2 is dated by C14 as XX-XVIII centuries BC (Middle Bronze Age in Siberia)
Marina Nesterova, Novosibirsk, Russia
24/10/2016 13:16
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Please clarify date in your article: "...the Vengerovo-2 archeological complex dates to the third millennium BC, making it between 4,001 and 5,000 years old or before present, and not... 3,800 and 4,000 years old. Note: third millennium BC = between 2,001 years BC and 3,000 year BC.
Mark F. Friend, Irving, Texas, USA
24/10/2016 09:38
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What great photographs of the head…the lady whose hand it rests in is a hard worker by the blisters on her hand…it makes no difference what purpose it served, we just need to see it so we may speculate to its usage.....Thank you so much....
Ozzie Finley, West Virginia
23/10/2016 17:54
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Yeah, most items in daily life have no ritual significance. How many items in your home, right now, are "ritual"? Likely very few. Probably the same for early man. They were certainly interested in religion, but there is nothing out there that makes me think that everything we pull out of the ground must have been for religious purposes. That's just sort of common sense...
Dea, BoCoMo USA
22/10/2016 23:12
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Bobby, the handle's been broken off. We're seeing the two ends that adhere to the head, not the loop. The loop might be too big for a baby, might be too small for an adult, might've served as a teething ring. We can never know for sure how it was used, but maybe somebody can figure out how to discover if there's baby slobber on it or something.
Peni, San Antonio, TX, USA
22/10/2016 22:37
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Morwenna, we archaeologists try not to use the R idea (ritual) these days; most Bronze age poeple were just trying to survive. I blame Francis Prior.
Hamish, UK
22/10/2016 20:33
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The handle on that object looks to small for even a child to handle?
BOBBY, U.S.
22/10/2016 20:04
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Given the widespread establishment of bear cults, plus the location of the find and the nature of the other finds like an incense burner, I would doubt this is a baby's rattle.
In my opinion it is more likely to be a shaman's rattle
Morwenna, United Kingdom
22/10/2016 14:43
17
3
1

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