About symbols, motifs and decorations used in the jewellery


Bullseye (dot circle) and the sun

In Egyptian hieroglyphs the circle dot was a sign for sun. In Finland bullseye decoration was used at least in jewelry, brooches and bone objects in Iron Age, and it was a common symbol elsewhere too in the prehistory.

The meaning of it in Finland is unknown but it may have represented the sun in Finland, too. The sun became very important for the society when the agriculture was adopted at the end of the Stone Age (2000-1500 BCE). Also, the change from inhumation burials to cremations can indicate the importance of the sun. The burial cairns were built on high hills, near the sun.

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Bone comb with circle dot decoration dated to 600 CE from Lauchheim, Germany. By Wolfgang Sauber. Wikimedia Commons.
Rock paintings in Finland

In Finland, rock paintings were made to vertical rock walls by the water and waterways. The images were painted with red ochre, that was also placed in the graves during Stone Age, so it probably had some mythological purpose. Rock paintings were made about 5000-1500 BCE in Finland. These paintings were probably made as a part of some shamanistic ritual by hunter/gatherer people in Stone Age.

According to the shamanistic interpretation animal figures of the Finnish rock paintings like birds, fish, elks and snakes relate to shamanism and picture the spiritual guides of the shamans. The shaman was able to transform him/herself into an animal and travel to the afterlife in the form of this animal.The most common motifs were humans, boats, moose and geometric patterns.

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Kolmiköytisienvuori rock painting panel. By Lauri Kokkonen. Wikimedia Commons.
Solar wheel

A four or eight-spoked wheel. The solar wheel is an ancient, global symbol for the sun. It was used particularly in Europe during the Neolithic period and Bronze Age. These crosses or wheels have been depicted for example in the Scandinavian rock art. Solar wheel symbols and also chariots were placed in the graves during the Bronze age. The symbol meant also a wheel of the chariot of the Scandinavian sun goddess Sunna or Sól who drove her chariot across the sky every day. Also in Celtic mythology, this symbol represented the sun.

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Trundholm sun chariot. By Nationalmuseet, Wikimedia Commons.
Spiral

Spiral is a common symbol since the Stone Age. In Celtic symbolism, spiral represented birth, growth and expanding knowledge. Spiral symbolises also womb, fertility and continual change. It was very popular decoration motif in the Bronze Age jewellery and other objects. The beautiful and famous golden sun disc of the sun chariot found in Trundholm, Denmark, is full of gorgeous spiral decoration. So, the spiral can also represent the sun, like in the context of the sun chariot or stone carvings of the neolithic passage tombs in Ireland.

Triple spiral, triskele, triskelion

Triple spiral, triskele or triskelion are symbols with three extensions. The oldest ones of these have been found in Malta (4400-3600BCE), Newgrange passage tomb (built 3200 BCE), Mycenean vessels and Lycian coins (the 4th century BCE). In Greece, the extensions of the symbol could also be in a form of legs.
The meaning of the symbol in its oldest forms is unknown, but for example, at Newgrange, it could have a connection with the sun, passage of time and birth.
Later, for the Celts, the number three was important, and they believed that life moved in eternal cycles. In Celtic symbolism, the triple spiral can be related to the sun, afterlife and rebirth.

The symbol can also be associated with trinities like maiden, mother, crone; mother, father, child; Father, Son, Holy Spirit; past, present, future etc.

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Newgrange entrance stone with spiral decoration.

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