Disc-rings made from Alpine rocks, in the social imagination of Neolithic communities - NMS Research Repository
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Disc-rings made from Alpine rocks, in the social imagination of Neolithic communities

Abstract

In France, disc-rings of Alpine jades and of serpentinite circulated over very long distances, as far as the Channel Islands and the coast of Brittany. The authors present a typochronological study for each rock type, along with distribution maps and a general social interpretation. Two origins are identified, of which the earliest lies in the high Alps, where regularly-shaped ring-discs were made from at least as early as 5300 BC. Then, at the beginning of the fifth millennium, irregularly-shaped disc-rings were made in Alsace, using cobbles gathered from the bed of the upper Rhine. Just as with the long Bégude-type adze-heads of Alpine jades, the circulation of the regular-shaped Alpine disc-rings was driven by social imagination, which linked them to the world of myths – as shown in the representations carved into monumental standing stones and rock surfaces during the first half of the fifth millennium. From a chronological point of view, the schist disc-rings of the Blicquy-Villeneuve-Saint-Germain culture (in common with some other disc-rings, including the large examples of west-central France) appear to conform to the ideological system that had been responsible for the production of Alpine disc-rings, although they were accorded a lesser value. In order to explain the massive production of these schist discrings over a relatively short period, of around three centuries, the authors propose that they were used as a kind of quasi-money, whose value would have been based on the integration of certain specific examples within the mythology system. Such a system of compensation payments using these schist disc-rings subsequently collapsed when the number of such rings in circulation grew too great, thereby leading to their depreciation in social value.

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