Ice Age – mammoth bone pendants 40,000 to 20,000 years BC
Lake Baikal in Siberia is frozen for six or seven months over winter. In spring millions of waterbirds and waders arrive from Europe, South Asia and Australia to breed. Migrants herald the change of seasons and bring a sudden glut of easily obtained meat and eggs that may give rise to feasts and ceremonies.
Thirteen Ice Age mammoth ivory bird pendants have been found at the open archaeology site at Mal’ta in Siberia. They are waterfowl, possibly geese and swan depicted in flight with wings and necks outstretched. Another two appear to be ducks on water and a third is wading. Some pendants are perforated at the end of the body for suspension. They have been found with beads, and carved plaques, perhaps to fasten clothing. Sizes vary, but are usually between 8.3cms and 11.9cms.
Another bird pendant, is possibly a cormorant with narrow beak, wings and legs; curving lines on the back may indicate feathers. This was excavated in Stadel Cave, South West Germany.
Birds may be regarded as spirit helpers, inbred with supernatural qualities being able to fly to the Upper World, down through water to the Lower World, and exist on land in the Middle World. At the Mal’ta site in Siberia, a number of small mammoth sculptures The excavated sculptures may have been talisman or made purely for pleasure, we can only guess.