A while back, a woman living in Portugal by name of Sandra Antunescontacted me saying that she had a large number of unusual polished stones on her property and sent me photos. At first I was nonplussed because I had not seen anything like them and I did not know what they were, but there was an odd consistency to some of the shapes. I was able to see that there were some standard polished stone celts and hammerstones in amongst the others, and a couple of stones with hollowed out top surfaces that might have functioned as oil lamps at one point.
Let us now return to the cave. As we go in, the first series is on the left hand side of the vestibule, close to the entrance. It is made up three items, two elongated and a third almost rectangular with rounded faces and angles.
Five other pendants are located in the area leading to the inner room, in an area covering approximately four square metres, delimited by blocks of stone. Three of these, made from wild goat incisors and decorated, are situated close to one another. But of all the pieces the most beautiful is the pendant carved into a slender deep black pebble, whose natural outline is reminiscent of several classical Palaeolithic "Venus" figures.
Very close to this pendant there is another, blackish in colour, shaped somewhat like the atrophied canine tooth of a deer, although considerably larger. The stone was probably chosen precisely because of this similarity and the symbolism of the original object.
It was in the first of the inner rooms, however, that one of the most spectacular finds from the Palaeolithic era was made: a long necklace, one and half metres long, comprising fourteen blackstone pendants, lain, perhaps intentionally, on the clay floor. The constituent parts, most of which are decorated and elongated in shape, are arranged in orderly fashion, at regular distances. The two ends are finished off with small undecorated stones with natural holes.
As well as these five groupings, at several points in both the vestibule and in the inner room, there is a series of pendants broken at the perforation holes. These pendants lie relatively close together.
On all pages containing descriptions of pendants, drawings are shown to a scale of 1:1 (life size) and photos to a scale of 1:1.5 (i.e. 50% larger than their real size), to make it easier to appreciate the details. .
The use of teeth from herbivores or carnivores to make pendants was common practise throughout the prehistoric period, when they were drilled and decorated with different motifs. However, there are few examples like this of teeth with more than one hole, although some incisors of horse and deer have been found, decorated and with double holes (some with as many as five) in different Magdalenian levels along the Cantabrian coast and in the Northern Pyrenean area, such as Ermittia (Deba, Gipuzkoa), Arenaza (Galdames, Bizkaia), Isturitz (Izturitze-Donamartiri, Nafarroa Behera), Mas d’Azil (Ariège) and Tito Bustillo (Ribadesella, Asturias).
Human representations are scarce in parietal art and art mobilier. Amongst the latter, particularly interesting are some scenes such as those found in the Bone of Torre (Oiartzun, Gipuzkoa) and the staff from La Vache (Ariège), or the few Venus depictions that have been found: the head of Entrefoces (Morcín, Asturias), the uncertain pendant or perforated staff from El Pendo (Camargo, Cantabria) and “The Venus” of Las Caldas (Oviedo, Asturias). The depiction of the woman, over which greater care has been taken than that of the man, is generally schematic and certain parts of the anatomy are underscored. Interpretations vary: they may represent figures of mother goddesses, votive fertility offerings, testimony of the importance of the role played by women in Palaeolithic society, etc.
The discovery of a series of pendants with break ages, generally around the area of the perforation hole, is interesting. We do not know how and when these breakages were caused; however, broken or destroyed items dating from throughout prehistory have often been found in a range of habitational and funerary contexts, and it has been suggested that they may have formed part of certain ritual practices. In the case of the pendants from Praileaitz I we do not know whether the breakage and the concentration of the items found is random or due to some other factor.