The study of archaeological finds from Anglo-Saxon burials in England has led to interesting conclusions about the origin of the mysterious “ivory rings. For a long time, scientists could not determine from which animal these rings came – elephants, walruses or mammoths. However, new scientific methods have confirmed that these rings, were made from the tusk of the African elephant. It was also determined that the ivory had been shipped from East Africa some 6,400 kilometers away, indicating the existence of a long trade route from that region to England.
Researchers analyzed one of the rings found in graves in an ancient Anglo-Saxon cemetery. This cemetery dates to the late fifth and early sixth centuries AD and is near the village of Scramby. Analysis of the ivory collagen protein showed that the ring was made from the tusk of an African elephant of the genus Loxodonta. Radiocarbon analysis showed that the elephants lived around the fifth century AD.
This discovery points to the existence of a trade network that brought items from East Africa through post-Roman Europe to England. It may have been one of the longest trade routes known since that time. The journey began in East Africa, then crossed the Mediterranean and the Alps, and probably passed through the Rhineland region. Thus, the trade route stretched across several cultures.
The ivory rings are 10 to 15 centimeters across and have only been found in the graves of wealthy Anglo-Saxon women. Researchers previously believed that these rings served as jewelry, but they now suggest that they were tied to the waist and were pouches that functioned as pockets. These bags held a variety of small items.
The discovery of the ring shape of the bags indicates that they were intended for use by women. Rings were found only in rich graves, which may indicate the high status of these women in society.
The researchers also measured strontium isotope ratios in the ivory. These ratios indicate the geological nature of the region where the elephant grew up. The results showed that the elephant grew up in an area with geologically young volcanic rocks, probably in the Rift Valley region of East Africa.
The findings are published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. They point to the existence of a trade route that stretches thousands of miles from East Africa to England. This discovery expands our understanding of trade and connections between different cultures in antiquity.