Beneath the Surface of the World: High-Quality Quartzes, Crystal Cavities, and Neolithization in Circumpolar Europe

Teemu Mökkönen, Kerkko Nordqvist and Vesa-Pekka Herva


Quartz was an important and widely used lithic material in the prehistory of circumpolar Eurasia. While ethnographic and other data indicate that quartz has been invested with special qualities and meanings in various cultures around the world, archaeological studies in circumpolar Europe have tended to discuss quartz use in exclusively practical and technological terms. This article takes a “nontechnological” approach to quartz finds from the boreal zone of northeastern Europe. We identify spatiotemporal variations in quartz use and explore how quartzes were perceived and signified in the cultural and cosmological context of Stone Age eastern Fennoscandia, concentrating particularly on what we call “high-quality quartzes.” More specifically, we analyze and interpret patterns of quartz use in relation to the Neolithization of northern Eurasia. We discuss our findings against the animistic-shamanistic cosmologies of circumpolar communities and especially in regard to the emerging Neolithic worldview in the north.

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