Amber discoveries of the iron age

Trade amber Iron Age

In the period of Bronze Age and early Iron Age amber articles were rare finds in the Baltic burial sites. Nevertheless from the beginning of the 2nd century these articles became more common. Intensive trade relations affected not only the prevalence of various imported products, but also made a huge impact on cultural diffusion, which was significantly influential for the Baltic culture. The first jewellery imported from Pannonia was some winged and profiled brooches. They reached the territory of the present day Lithuanian coast around 40–80 AD. Articles of mass production were brought to the Balts’ land: glass and enamel necklace, Roman coins etc. Amber trade was common not only in the provinces of the Roman Empire, but also in the Balts territories. Burial tradition including amber articles remained until the end of the Iron Age (12th – 13th century).

Amber beads

In the burial sites of the 2nd – 12/13th centuries most of the articles found are truncated biconical-shaped amber beads. They were shrilled on twine with imported coloured glass beads, brass, silver pendants, brass spirals. These articles fitted to the pins and brooches decorated women’s and men’s clothing. Women also used beads as head ornaments. Long strings of beads were placed in richly furnished graves. Amber beads are constantly found in graves which are attributed to the elite riders of the communities. During the 7th – 12th centuries amber gained the meaning as an amulet. During that period amber beads were less worn on a neck – people of both genders started wearing single amber beads in their attire. Frequently a master horse's mane was decorated with amber beads while the animal was buried with his master.

Amber pendants

Various forms of amber pendants are found in the Lithuanian sea coast's burial sites. In the late Roman period irregular and in the figure of eight amber pendants became really prevalent. Particularly impressive are the comb-shaped amber pendants from the Viking Age (7th – 9th centuries) found in the burials of Curonian men. Amber comb-shaped pendants were placed on the chest, worn on a waist, sword’s hilts and cases were decorated with them.

Amber spindles

Amber spindles from the late Roman period are considered as rare artefacts usually found in the burials of a woman. In the women burial mounds of Lamata and Curonian amber spindles were even more common, though tradition of placing amber spindles in to the burials disappeared in the 11th century. Researchers claim that such amber spindles had more symbolic meaning than practical application, although the reconstruction of ancient crafts had proven that amber flywheels are suitable for spinning.

Having some amber spindles indicated women's social status in her community. It also could be related with a birth of a baby – it is believed that some owners of amber spindles could have been midwifes.

Amber plates

Archaeological data indicates another part of the artefacts attributed to women burials, which are specific expressions of faith reflecting Curonian amber plates (7th – 9th centuries). These amber plates were not designed to be worn as a necklace – no holes were found in them. Amber plates were usually used to decorate headbands, veils, female caps and women hair.

Miniature lane winding tools, amber scoop

Amber miniature lane winding plates and amber scoop (from 7th century, found in Lazdininkai burial, Kretinga district) are unique Curonian amber articles. Amber winding tools were found in women burial site, dated between the late 7th and 9th centuries. In this period raw amber was more often used during the rituals to reflect symbolic notions.