Maybe this is what it means to have a “Yabba-dabba-do time.”
Stone Age ancestors danced for hours in a sort of psychedelic trance, researchers have found, citing evidence from necklaces and clothing made using elk teeth 8,000 years ago.
The teeth were sewn into clothes or suspended in a way that they made loud rattling noises when the wearers moved, according to auditory archaeologist Riitta Rainio from the University of Helsinki.
“Wearing such rattlers while dancing makes it easier to immerse yourself in the soundscape, eventually letting the sound and rhythm take control of your movements,” Rainio said, according to a report published by the school. “It is as if the dancer is led in the dance by someone.”
Rainio knows this first-hand. She tested her theory by dancing for six straight hours while wearing elk tooth ornaments like those found in graves in the Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov burial site in western Russia.
A total of 177 graves of women, men and children have been found at the site, with more than half containing elk tooth ornaments — some with over 300 individual teeth.
By dancing for hours, Rainio and artist Juha Valkeapää were able to test what kind of wear marks formed in the teeth as they banged against each other.
These marks were then compared to the findings made in the Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov graves by Evgeny Girya, an archaeologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences. There was a clear resemblance between the chips, cuts and smoothed surfaces of the teeth used by Rainio and those found in the Stone Age graves.
The marks in the Stone Age teeth were deeper and more extensive, which Girya said showed they were the result of similar activity. “As the Stone Age teeth were worn for years or even decades, it’s no surprise that their marks are so distinctive,” he said.
“Elk tooth rattlers are fascinating,” said Associate Professor of Archaeology Kristiina Mannermaa from the University of Helsinki. “You can close your eyes, listen to the sound of the rattlers and drift on the soundwaves to a lakeside campfire in the world of Stone Age hunter-gatherers.”