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Functional Ladles or Ceremonial Cutlery? A Cultural Biography of Prehistoric Wooden Spoons from Finland

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Five wooden spoons dated to the Sub-Neolithic and Bronze Age are known from Finland. Four of them have an animal head carved onto their handles. The decoration has usually been seen as a sign of the spoons' totemistic and ceremonial use. Three of the spoons are stray finds, one comes from a possible cult site and one from a dwelling site. Two spoons are made of Siberian pine, which makes them objects of trade exchange; the westernmost natural occurrence of the raw material was in the Ural Mountains. Previous interpretations of the spoons have inconsistencies and rigid categorizations, which are reconsidered here from the perspective of cultural biographies of things. The functional aspects, ceremonial use and find contexts of the spoons are re-examined along with their connections to totemism, shamanism and ancient trade.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2002

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