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The Bronze Age rattle discovered at the Acemhöyük excavation site in Turkey.

Echoes of Ancient Children: 4,200-Year-Old Rattle Discovered in Turkey

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An early Bronze Age toy equivalent to the modern rattle has been discovered at the Acemhöyük excavation site in Yeşilova, Aksaray. It is a unique artifact which sheds some light on children and daily life in ancient times.

The rattle is one of the oldest examples of an apparent children's toy. But this discovery is also interesting because of the artifact’s similarity to modern rattles. According to Daily Sabah , the toy is sealed but has tiny ornaments and small pebble stones inside. They still produce a noise when the rattle is shaken.

The toy is shaped like a ball and it used to have a handle which may have helped the child or an adult to shake it. It is made of terra-cotta and was discovered in a layer dated back to 2200 BC. According to Prof. Dr. Aliye Öztan , the excavation leader at the Acemhöyük site in central Turkey, the researchers ''want to examine layers of the early Bronze Age together with the older layers, because this site has a city wall dating back to the early Bronze Age''.

He believes that the toy is one of the most interesting artifacts discovered at the site during the last excavation season. However, archaeologists also unearthed a seventh layer, a piece of necklace made of bones, cups, and metal needles.

Toys have always been an important part of daily life in human settlements. In December 2015, Ancient Origins informed readers about a burial discovered on the northwest shore of Lake Itkul in the Minusinsk basin of Russia. The archaeologists said that the burial dates back 4,500 years and mysterious tiny figurines were discovered in the grave of an infant. The figurines may have been used as rattling toys or charms to ward off evil spirits.

Infant discovered in 4,500-year-old burial mound with eight intricately carved figurines. The infant also wears headgear made from 11 copper plaques sewn together.

Infant discovered in 4,500-year-old burial mound with eight intricately carved figurines. The infant also wears headgear made from 11 copper plaques sewn together. Credit: Image courtesy Yury Esin.

Eight miniature horned figurines representing human-like characters and heads of elk, boar, birds and an unknown carnivore were discovered on the infant’s chest. The figurines were carved from deer antlers and painted with red ochre. Some of them, according to Andrey Polyakov and Yury Esin, have internal cavities and could produce sounds like modern rattles. It is thought that the figurines would have been attached to a cradle. Another idea for their function is that they were toys prepared to protect the infant from evil powers - which is fairly typical in cultures of this period.

Ancient Roman bronze rattle that was used for religious rites against demons.

Ancient Roman bronze rattle that was used for religious rites against demons. ( Tallis Keeton/CC BY 2.0 )

Ancient rattles have also been found in Central Europe. As April Holloway from Ancient Origins reported in November 2013:

Archaeologists have discove red hundreds of pit tombs in the Polish village of Łęgowo near Wągrowiec, some of which contain tiny urns containing the cremated remains of babies dat ing back two-and-a-half millennia. […] During the excavations, one pit was uncovered which contained as many as 40 urns. Sometimes ashes were offered as gifts to the gods, and the pits often contained clay gifts.  In one grave, archaeologists found a tiny urn next to an early baby's rattle in the shape of a pillow made from clay and filled with small balls, in another they found a spoon with a handle shaped like a bird, while a third contained a decorated bowl with a small bird-like figure inside.”

It is also interesting to consider that a rattle may not have always been used as a toy. Could these artifacts have been used for ritual practices or as offerings to appease (or scare off) gods or spirits that had taken away the infants found alongside them as well? Perhaps they were meant to protect others from sharing their fate?

Late Classic Maya rattle from Campeche or Yucatán, Mexico (650 – 800 AD).

Late Classic Maya rattle from Campeche or Yucatán, Mexico (650 – 800 AD). ( A. Davey/CC BY NC ND 2.0 )

Top Image: The Bronze Age rattle discovered at the Acemhöyük excavation site in Turkey. Source: GTU Gazeturka.com

By Natalia Klimczak

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