The material culture on which archaeological knowledge depends rarely provides clear evidence of symbolic or even ritual behaviour. The identification of touchstones (until recently regarded as whetstones in archaeological literature) among archaeological finds using the methods of electron microscopy has opened up entirely new horizons for learning about ancient societies. European collections record hundreds of thousands of these tools used for determining the value of precious metal. Touchstones, often with extraordinar dimensions, and forging tools appear sometime together in prestigious burials. They open the questions of symbolic and/or ritual use of these tools, regarded as symbols of social standing by the author. Particularly streaks of nickel on the touchstones from burials of the highest elite rise new perspectives for understanding of ritual aspects of archaic societies. However, touchstones unable us also to determine which metals and alloys were produced by ancient Europeans. The project is focused on touchstones from the Eneolithic up to the Early Middle Ages.
Touchstones of prehistory
• (Principal) Investigator:
Mgr. Martin Ježek, Ph.D.
• identification number:
prehistory - elite - precious metal - burial - ritual - symbolic