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Why have Stone Age people spent hours after hour carving in the suns, fields and spiders web on small stones?

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Whole sunstones are rare - many of the stones seem to have been shattered on purpose.

A wealth of stones has emerged at an archaeological excavation in southern Bornholm, Denmark. The little stones are equipped with motifs that Stone Age people have cut in about 5000 years ago.

Most of the total 300 stones and fragments have been baptized "sunstones" because they are chopped round and on the surface are characterized by circles like "rays." But also square stones with something similar to fields are found, and a handful of something similar to spider spin. Particularly the latter two represent a whole new group of findings.

Are they used as temple money? Amulets? To mark the transition from an old grave tradition to a new one? Something completely different?

- It's the "million dollar question". The sun motifs are also seen elsewhere, but the square rocks with motifs from agriculture are very strange. It is impossible to know exactly what they were used to, says Lars Larsson, as Professor Emeritus at the Swedish Lund University, who knows the excavation.

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Three examples of ground stones - the stone in the middle was found in 2014 and was the first to make the scientists aware that it is about solstones. The stone is interpreted as a fenced yard.

Good luck amulets?
Vasagård, where the stones are found, is a large space located about two kilometers southwest of Aakirkeby on Bornholm. The site is divided into two of a river valley and appears to have been used as a place for a variety of ritual actions in the Stone Age.

The sunstones, the cobblestones and the spiders are probably included in the ritual acts. This is due to the fact that several of the stones seem to have been burned or crushed on purpose and because so many of them have been found.

Some of the rocks even seem to have acted as lucky coins.

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Two of the worn rocks that may have acted as the happiness of the Stone Age people. To the left a farmstone, to the right a solstice.

"Several of the sunsets and a single farmstone are very worn, so it seems that someone has taken care of it for years, just like Unkel Skrues happiness riding," explains Finn Ole Sonne Nielsen, who is chief pharmacist at Bornholms Museum, which works with the National Museum, Aarhus University and University of Copenhagen about the excavations.

Vasagård: An "incredible" construction project
Vasagård area was probably a transitory stone age community, says Nielsen.

In the stone age, Vasagård has been surrounded by "palisade rakes" - a kind of poles that have been in multiple layers and with several entrances. Within the enclosure there have been, for example, small round solstices that have probably also been used in rituals.

Over and over again, the building works have been renewed - not repaired - and tons of trees have been built to maintain the giant monument. An "absolutely amazing" construction project, says the chief farologist.

"There have been so many trees that it's hard to believe. When you use so much resources on something, it must be in religion, Nielsen says.

Can represent transition between life and death
The first sunbeds already appeared in 1995, at another cult spot, Rispebjerg, about eight kilometers east of Vasagård. But it is at Vasagård most are found.

"We have known the sunstones for a while, but the meadowstones are something new - only yesterday we found four pieces - and the spider web variation is also something we have not seen before. They give us a very unique insight into life in the stone age, says Nielsen.

The question is what the stones tell. To say that they have been used ritually, do not say so much, says Lars Larsson from Lund University.

"But there must be some sense that they appear to have been deposited at the same time and are burned and broken. Perhaps they represent a kind of transition between life and death, says the professor.

The dead were a natural part of life

Fire was very important for the Stone Age people, such as burned axes and animal nodules. The fire did not represent destruction, but transformation, explains Larsson.

- A transformation to another world, perhaps a way to move objects there. We do not know how that connection worked, but it has something to do with gods or ancestors.

The Stone Age people probably had a different relation to death and to their ancestors than we have today, and the dead were considered a natural part of life, says Larsson.

The researchers interpret the spiders as a symbol of the death row, while the other stones have appeared in connection with so-called "system diggers".

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The archaeologists have found ten cobweb stones.

Stone age people partied with their ancestors
The system graves are a special type of grave that was used in great style at Vasagård for 500-600 years, until suddenly they are no longer used. They are replaced by palisades and pillars that the researchers interpret as a kind of solstice. It is around this transition that the stones are found in concentrated amounts in the graves. Perhaps as a symbol of change in the way they treated the dead, Finn Ole Sonne Nielsen wondered.

"I understand that the older type of plant does not work anymore, so they manifest that an era has ended by letting the sun go down over it. One makes "invisible" the older monument by covering it, he says.

Some researchers believe that the function of system graves was a kind of retention of selected members of society. The bones were perhaps dug up and placed in skeleton chambers, called stone castles, and used for ritual purposes.

- They honored the ancestors and made them visible. They might be picked up at rituals or parties, says Nielsen, who imagines that they later burn the dead.

"But we still can not prove it," he adds.

Gives understanding of worship

The solstice and the cobblestones are closely linked and must have been entered into the same ritual, the researchers believe. In a scientific article from 2016, one of the archaeologists attached to the project, Flemming Kaul from the National Museum, explains why the square stones imagine fields.

On several of them it is the image of a plant with a screen on. It interprets Flemming Kaul as an enlargement of the grain on the field. But it is still hard to say what the meaning of this was.

He even believes that the rocks can be part of a form of magical rituals about crop or solstice.

"I imagine that at certain times of the year you have had some magical rituals where the sunsets crossed the rocks that imagine fields. The new stones shed a completely different understanding of the worship of the Stone Age, says Kaul.

- We do not know
Or maybe it's not about closing the grave or helping the crop on its way, but about marking an astronomical event like a solar eclipse, assistant professor Rune Iversen, who works at the University of Copenhagen, is also involved in the excavations.

- It can also be a form of countdown, who knows? One of the most exciting of the latest findings is that we have had a variation in the patterns, says Iversen.

Some of the stones have undoubtedly hinged together and form part of a larger, adorned slate plate. Then the disc is broken and the pieces cut round or square, and the deposition in the system graves has thus been a secondary function, Iversen explains.

- But what has the original function been? What do they represent? What are they expressing? Is there a temple fee, there are entrance tickets to the sun temples at Vasagård, is there something we can not even imagine? We do not know.

Spider can symbolize the death row
The archaeologists at Vasagård have also found about 10 stones with motifs that look like spiders. Chief archaeologist Finn Ole Sonne Nielsen has a suggestion for the meaning, inspired by a fresco in France.

- This painting is heaven depicted as a spider web. There's a 4000 years of time difference, which of course is a lot, but it's the only parallel I've found, he says.

The Stone Age people have been aware that spiders catch live live animals in the web and kill them, and they have seen the sun's morning rays shine through water drops on the spider's spine. A kind of solar collector.

"I think it's a picture of another world. A symbol of a death realm, says Nielsen.
Source in Norwegian
Via Google translate.

I've fixed the worst errors in the automatic translation.