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4. Reindeer Hunters
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5. Denmark's History - Maglemose Culture

Introduction - Prey and hunting Techniques - How did the Maglemose hunters look like? - Sailing in the Maglemose period - The Culture of the Maglemose Hunters - Links og litteratur


The Maglemose Culture is named after a series of settlements at Maglemose on Western Sjælland. They were found in 1900 and shortly thereafter excavated by the archaeologist George Sarauw. Since then many discoveries of this type have been made in Denmark, northern Germany and southern Sweden. Findings, which can be attributed to the Maglemose hunters, have been dated to 8,900-6,400 B.C. (that is 10,800-8,400 before present).
Timeline for 
end of the Pleistocene and Holocene
The temperature on the surface of the Greenland ice sheet through the end of Pleistocene and Holocene until now - according to ice core analyzes.
The time is given in years before present, which means that the year zero is about year 2,000 AD.

The period is characterized by major climatic changes; during the period the landscape changed from open sub-arctic birch forest to close, almost subtropical deciduous forest.

The Maglemose tribes were advanced hunters, who had thousands generations of experience in hunting and fishing methods and animal behavior.

The settlements, which have been found, usually seem to be only temporary settlements, perhaps used during hunting trips in the summer. It is believed that their permanent settlements were located at the erstwhile coastline, which today is often located under deep water.
The development of the Baltic Sea
When the kilometers-thick Scandinavian ice sheet began to melt the freshwater lake, the Baltic Ice Lake, was formed. It was a cold sea with drifting icebergs. The lake's surface level was higher than the World Sea. Some believe that the ice lake emptied as a major flood disaster around the year 9,600 BC, but most believe that it happened gradually.

The landscape of present-day Denmark was dominated by icy steppes and regular tundra roamed by a small numbers of reindeer hunters.

After it had got connection with the World Sea it became a brackish sea, as it is nowadays, called the Yoldia sea. This sea is named after the mussel Yoldia arctica. The Yoldia sea was linked to World Sea through a strait that was located where the Swedish lakes and the Gøta river runs today.

The Maglemose hunters could benefit from an increasingly warmer climate. At beginning of their period the tundra became overgrown by an open and light birch forest mixed with aspen, willow, mountain ash and pine.

As Scandinavia was freed from the weight of the huge masses of ice, the land lifted, and the uplift cut off the forthcoming Baltic Sea's connection with The World Sea, and once again it became a freshwater lake called the Ancylus Lake, named after the freshwater snail, Ancylus fluviatilis. Ancylus Lake had perhaps drain through middle Sweeden at the Great Lakes.

As the ever milder climate, where summer average temperature rose to 18-20 degrees and winter temperature barely fall below freezing, also the composition of the forest trees changed; pine pushed back birch and hazel; elm, oak, ash, alder, fir and linden immigrated.

At the end of The Maglemose hunters' period, around 7,200 BC, the climate in Denmark had been changed to the so-called Atlantic climate. It was a mild and humid maritime climate with summer temperatures 2-3 degrees higher than today. The sea surface level in The World Seas rose, which caused the salty seawater after some time again to enter the Ancylus Lake, and the waters again became salty. The new sea is called Littorina after the seawater snail Littorina littorea. It lasted several hundred years before the salt content reached its maximum.

Plants like mistletoe and the subtropical water chestnut and animals like Dalmatian pelican and pond turtle became widespread in Denmark. Lind, elm, fir and oak became the most common trees in the dense forests, which slowly closed the interior into an impenetrable primeval forest.

Prey and hunting Techniques

Sub-Arctic birch-
pine forest microliths
Left: Sub-Arctic birch-pine forest.
Right top: These small flint pieces - called "microliths" - is very characteristic for the Maglemose period.
Right below: Some were used for arrowheads. Below is the microliths applied to the arrowshaft by means of birch bark resin. Near the tip of the shaft a groove was cut for the microliths. Birch bark resin can be extracted by gently heating of birch bark.

It must have been such that each game type had its season. Early in the winter big game was hunted, which was then easy to track because of the bare trees and thanks to their tracks in the possible snow. It is known that The Maglemose hunters killed aurochs, elk, red deer, roe deer and wild boar.

A Maglemose 
fishing hook
One of The Maglemose hunters fish hooks, made of antler or bone.

Winter may also have been the season for hunting of animals with fur like lynx, fox, ferret, badger, marten and wild cat.

Moreover, it was easy to get hold of some of the many seals in late winter, when they went on land to give birth to their young ones.

Spring may have been a difficult time, but then they could collect eggs and go for bird hunting. The Maglemose hunters were in general very versatile in their choice of prey. The trapped cranes, lapwings, mergansers, grebes, coots and herons. It has been shown that, when everything else failed, they did not refrain from eating hedgehogs.

The preferred hunting weapon was bow and arrow.

The Tørning 
This harpoon of bone from The Maglemose period has been found near Tørning Mølle. It is on display in Gottorp Slot in Slesvig - From: Maglemose bopladser omkring Hammerlev.

All excavations of settlements from Hunter Stone Age always produce large quantities of fish bones, which shows that fish have played a very big role. They gathered oysters and other seafood, but not nearly to the same extent, as it was done in the later Ertebølle culture.

Autumn is the season for gathering roots, nuts and berries. In many huts, which has been excavated, the floor and the area in front of the hut have been covered with shells of hazelnuts. In some cases they appear to have been eating acorns from oak trees, which we call pignuts, they are very bitter, so it must have been in case of emergency.

In 1944 two almost intact bows were found in Holmegård Mose på Sjælland. They are considered to be among the world's oldest - perhaps the oldest bows. They are estimated to be from about. 6,000 - 7,000 BC.
Bow from Holmegård Mose
One of the bows found in Holmegård Mose. The bows can be seen in the National Museum.

They are made of shade grown, that is slowly grown, knot-free elm with a diameter between 6 and 10 cm. The bow makers have avoided to use the heartwood. The shortest of bows measures approx. 154 cm. and the longest somewhere between 160 and 170 cm. The long bow may originally have been close to 180 cm. long. Some details indicate that they on the outside have had reinforcement of sinews to give them greater elasticity. They have had a very considerable tension; that you see from the animal bones that have been found in the settlements; they often show injuries from arrowheads, which have penetrated deep into the bones.
Microliths inserted in arrows Maglemose harpoon heads
Left: Four microliths inserted in arrow found in Agerøds Mose and Rønne Mose in Scania. Foto Arne Sjöström.
Top: The arrow and microliths original position on the finding place.
Below: The parts joined together - A fifth microlith was found in a position which indicated that it was one of the cases where a microlith was used as arrowhead.
The arrow is about 10 cm. long and with a diameter of less than 1 cm. It is made from a one-year hazel branch.
Right: Two Maglemose harpoon heads found in Åmosen på Sjælland - the head to the left is found at Brokøb and is from 6,800 BC, the head to the right is found at Bodal and is from 9,200 BC.

It is estimated that the bow's draw weight have been about 25 kg.

The bows have handles on the center, and they are made thinner on the outer quarter of each end. They do not seem to have had notches in the tips to tie the string into; may be they originally have been equipped with glued ends of bovine or bone with notches.
Two Maglemose arrows found in Lilla Loshults Mose in Scania Antler ax
Left: Two almost complete arrows from the Maglemose period found in Lilla Loshults Mose in Scania. Number 1-2 and 4 from left show the tip ends, while Number 3 shows a trailing end with slot for the bowstring. The first three are photographs, and number 4 is a principal drawing.
Right: Antler ax - A shaft has been fitted with in the hole and a flint splitting made up the edge below. The ax could for example be used to kill wounded animal.

The Maglemose hunters' arrows were made in two parts. That is, one part with the arrowhead and about 10 cm. shaft, and the the other part was the rest of the arrow shaft, probably with guiding feathers. The advantage was that when an arrow was shot into an animal, the longer part with guiding feathers would fall off and could be collected and reused, in case the animal escaped with the shorter part included the arrowhead. The major work by making an arrow must have been to straighten the arrow shaft and fit the guiding feathers.

Very often arrows did not have an actual flint arrowhead, but microliths were attached in a groove at the tip. We can imagine that such an arrow would make a large entry hole, so that the animal would bleed to death faster.

In Lilla Loshults Mose in Scania two intact arrows from Maglemose period were found in 1951. The arrowheads were still attached to the shafts with tar or resin. Microlith were attached to the tips, and more microliths served as a kind of barbs.

Spear with microliths
Spear with flint-edge - fitted with microliths.

Maglemose hunters did not hesitate to attack even the largest animals.

The aurochs lived in Europe's forests through hundreds of thousands of years. It was bigger than our domestic cattle and with longer legs. A full-grown bull was between 165-185 cm tall, while the cows were somewhat smaller - between 140 and 150 cm. The horns were long, thick and forward curved.

In Denmark there are two complete aurochs skeletons, both found in Odsherred of Sjælland.
The Aurochs from Vig The Aurochs from 
Prejlerup during excavation
Left: The complete skeleton of The Aurochs from Vig, can be seen in the National Museum.
Right: The Aurochs from Prejlerup during excavation. It can be seen i Odsherred Museum.

The first skeleton, called the Vig-aurochs, was found in 1904 during peat cutting. It is now on display in the National Museum, where it had been dated it to be from around 7,500 BC. In its skeleton two of Maglemose hunters' arrowheads are firmly buried.

Around one arrowhead the bone has grown, so that did not cause the death of the ox, it must have lived for several years after the hunters' first attack. But the second arrow must have hit it shortly before its death. Some round holes in its shoulder blades have been interpreted as traces of a spears that has pierced the aurochs.

The hunters emerged from their hiding and shot several arrows into the side of the ox with their powerful bows; it escaped, they followed it and attacked with spears, it fled again, and perhaps it ran out on the ice of a small lake - and fall through.
The elk from Tåderup Different types of Maglemose arrows
Left: The elk from Tåderup on the island of Falster.
Right: Maglemose arrows. Note that the two in the top and the three in the bottom are composed of two parts: a part with the actual tip and microliths glued in grooves near the tip and another part that is the shaft. The third from the top is designed for small fur animals and possibly birds, then the fur will not be damaged. The fourth is the front piece with groove for microliths..

And there the skeleton lay buried for thousands of years, until it was discovered in 1904 by smallholder Jens Peter Jensen, as he was cutting peat in a small bog, outside his homestead at Jyderup. He produced most of the skeleton, and also found three small flint arrowheads.

In Prejlerup, a few kilometers from Vig-aurochs finding place, another aurochs skeleton was found in 1983. It was a huge bull with a height of 190 cm, maybe 18-20 years old. It is now on display in Odsherred Museum, and it has been dated to be from about. 6,400 BC Thus, both aurochs belong to the Maglemosekulturens period

Microlith with  remains of birch bark tar Arrowhead shot into a
red deer skeleton
Left: Microlith with remains of birch bark tar found in the Southern Alps.
Right: Arrowhead inserted in a red deer skeleton - It gives a good impression of the force with which the old hunters' arrows were shot into the animals. However, to be fair it must be mentioned that this is a transverse-arrowhead, which was shot off from an Ertebølle hunter's bow. - From Maglelyng on Sjælland.

Also the Prejlerup ox bears traces of the hunters' attack. At least nine arrows made of pine have been buried in its body, when it escaped the hunters, two in right and seven in left abdomen. The arrows were fitted with flint tips and attached microliths and therefore produced large bleeding wound. With the blood gushing out of wounds the ox fled over a cliff into a small lake. About 25 meters from the shore it overturned to its left side, died and sank to the bottom.

8,700 years ago a wounded and exhausted moose sank to the bottom of a lake at Tåderup on the island of Falster. There it lay for thousands of years, until it was found by peat cutting in 1922. Among the bones was found an arrowhead of bone, which a stone age hunter must have shot into the animal.

How did the Maglemose hunters look like?

Only a few finds of skeletons from the Maglemose period are known. The most famous is the Koelbjerg-woman from Vissenbjerg on the island of Fyn. By Holmegård near Næstved parts of two skeletons have been found in a bog. In a bog at Bislev near Nibe part of a skull has been found . It is said that also skeletal remains from the Maglemose time have been found in Køge Bugt. At Hammerlev in Jutland a proper burial from the Maglemose period has been excavated, but the deceased had been burned.
Koelbjerg kvindens kranie Koelbjerg kvindens kranie Linda Hamliton som Sarah Connor i Terminator
Left: The Koelbjerg woman's skull is possibly on display in a museum of Odense.
Mid: The Koelbjerg woman's skull in profile.
Right: Linda Hamliton as Sarah Connor in Terminator - The Koelbjerg woman can have looked like her, with gently sloping forehead, high nasal bridge, prominent jaw and eyebrow arches. Also Linda Hamliton is not very high, 168 cm.

Maglemose people belonged to Homo sapiens sapiens, as we modern humans do, but they are said to have been barely as tall and more powerfully built with strong bones. They had long skulls with big eyebrow arches, powerful chewing muscles and protruding jaws with large teeth. This description must however, largely be based on Maglemose skeletal findings outside present Danish territory; because, as mentioned above, only few skeletons or skeletal parts have been found in this country.

The earliest skeleton of a human being in Denmark was found by Svend Andersen in 1941 during peat cutting in a small bog at Koelbjerg near Vissenbjerg on Fyn, not far from the motorway.

She was a woman of about 25 years age. She lived 10,000 years ago, that is, at the beginning of the Maglemose period. She was about. 155 cm. tall, with slender and finely shaped limbs, and thus a bit of an exception, as we shall see. The skeleton shows no trace violence, maybe she had fallen through the ice in the small lake and drowned. The body floated around on the surface for some time, after that it sunk to the bottom.

The Maglemose skull from Bislev at Nibe
The skull from Bislev at Nibe - He had pronounced brow ridges and a mark after a powerful blow to the head.

Not far from Vissenbjerg many traces of Maglemose settlements have been found, perhaps she came from one of them.

The Archaeologists Brøste and Fischer-Møller described her skull a few years after she was found: She had a narrow face, she had a long skull with gently sloping forehead, somewhat prominent brow ridges and nose bridge, slightly protruding jaw with powerful jaws and jaw muscles. Here teeth are very worn. They concluded: "The result of the study is that the Koelbjerg skeleton represents a type closely related to the reindeer hunters from the Madeleine period's Cro-Magnon race, who have left their mark on Denmark's ancient population".

In a bog near Bislev near Nibe is found part of a skull of a Maglemose man. He had prominent brow ridges, and it looks like he's got a heavy blow to his head.

Sailing in the Maglemose period

Paddle oar from the Maglemose period found at Ulkestrup in Åmose of Sjælland
Paddle oar made by of hazel wood from Maglemose period found at Ulkestrup in the Åmose of Sjælland - it is about. 120 cm. long. It can be seen in the National Museum.

Dug outs were carved from an entire tree trunk with flint axes, and they are a good evidence of the skills of the stone age craftsmen. They are known up to 12 m long, with a width of approx. 60 cm. and with sides which are only a few centimeters thick.
A reconstruction of a dugout Dugout from Pesse in The Netherlands
Left: Two men set nets from a reconstruction of a dugout.
Right: A dugout from the Maglemose period from Pesse in Holland - Drenthe Museum, Assen.

There have been found no dugouts from the Maglemose period in Denmark, but at Pesse in Holland, which also belonged to that time Maglemose culture, a dugout has been found almost 3 meters long and 44 cm. wide. It is made of pine. It has been dated to the period 8,040-7,510 BC.

The Culture of the Maglemose Hunters

Aurochs bone with 
carved human figures from the Maglemose period found at Ryemarksgård on Sjælland Horse in gallop
Left: Aurochs bone with carved human figures from the Maglemose period found at Ryemarksgård on Sjælland. There are five figures, three viewed in profile and two viewed from the front, besides a kind of symbol, which consists of three parallel zigzag lines, is shown. The bone can be seen in the National Museum.

Right: A horse in gallop - One can imagine that the parallel zig-zag lines to the right is a symbol of a God's characteristic shaped feet (see explanation below). Note that a ungulates lower ankle joint also can be directed towards the rear and thereby contribute that the animal's hindpart is forming a zig-zag profile, which perhaps was inspiration for the three parallel zig-zag lines on the aurochs bone. One can also imagine that the three lines represent a thunder god. The problem is wide open for quessing; could it be three gods with buck feets, like the Norse trio Odin, Vile and Ve?

In a bog near Ryemarksgård on Sjælland a bone from an aurochs with incised human-like figures was found. It was not made to be a tool, and it was only carefully polished on that part of the bone on which five figures and three parallel zig-zag lines are scratched. They have triangular heads, legs are just lines and their bodies are shaded. Only one of the persons have arms. Three of the figures are seen from the side, and two are apparently seen from the front. The two figures, which are seen front, have a vertical line through the center of their body, which seperates the shadings, as joints in a suit. To the right three parallel zig-zag lines have been scratched with strong lines like it was something important.

Most authors believe that the figures show the Maglemose hunters themselves, taken directly from everyday life; some suggest that the figures depict pregnant women making the bone a kind of fertility amulet.
Maglemose antler 
ax with human figure Profile of humanoid figure from the Madeleine culture on a small stone The Lion Man from 
Hohlenstein-Stadel cave in the Swabian Alps from 30,000 years ago Creature, half ox and
half man found in a Cro Magnon cave in the Dordogne in France
From left to right:
1) Antler ax from Maglemose period with carved human figure found in Lille Åmose på Sjælland - We notice his somewhat special "bucks feet"; His head is not round, it looks more like he has a kind of snout, besides the head is very small and has no details just like the well known Cro Magnon Venus figurines.
2) Profile of humanoid figure on a small stone from the Madeleine culture. it looks like the Maglemose figure. It appears as a kind of person that has a snout instead of a face, while his snouted face is turned backward. He also has a kind of bucks feet. It is reported to have been found in la Madeleine cave in the south of France.
3) The Lion Man from Hohlenstein-Stadel from 30,000 years ago. It is made of mammoth tooth with flint tools. The figure is almost 30 cm. high. It was originally found in scattered pieces, but were gathered by Professor Joachim Hahn in 1969. The Lion Man has rather short legs, as the hunters probably had. Note also the slanted stripes of the lion's upper arm, they resemble the stripes on the man from Lille Åmose and on the figures on the aurochs bone. Moreover, his feet are a little bucks-like, if not the tips of his feet have been lost during time.
4) This drawing of a creature, half bull and half man, is said to has been found in a Cro Magnon cave in the Dordogne in France.

The ancient Greek vases and Roman mosaics were not decorated with motifs taken out of daily life. They were adorned with images of gods, heroes, kings and emperors. Depicting ordinary people's daily lives is a kind of social realism, which we have known only the last hundred years. It is not likely that the Maglemose hunters would depict ordinary tribal members or pregnant women taken out of everyday life.

How can one imagine that a hunter people's gods should look like? They must have been half animal-, half human-like; maybe they could transform themselves from animal to human figure and back again.

Their Cro Magnon ancestors depicted such half humanoid- half animal-like creatures in the caves in south of France, such as the so-called "shaman" in the Trois Freres cave and the image of a half-man half ox in a cave in the Dordogne in France, both with horns. Hunters must often have met mysterious and disturbing animals on their daily hunt in the endless forests.
The God Pan - Roman mosaic The shaman - Cro Magnon image of Trois Freres cave
Left: The horned god Pan with buck feet sneaks up on a sleeping nymph - Roman mosaic.
Right: The shaman - a Cro Magnon painting in the Trois Freres cave in France. - Many believe that it should imagine a shaman, a kind of priest; but when did you see that the priests have been depicted on vases and murals? It is more likely that the painting imagines the god itself.

It seems very reasonable that the gods of a hunting people are able to appear disguised as animals or as half man half animal.

In the later history of the Viking period, there are many examples of gods disguising themselves as animals; especially Odin and Loki often disguised themselves as animals. Freja had a falcon disguise that she could even lend to others. The jotun Tjasse occured in the guise of an eagle. In Egil's Saga it is reported that Egil's grandfather, Kveldulf (In old Danish "kveld" means evening, so his name was evening-wolf) had earned its name because he towards the evening "became sleepy and uneasy with people". There were many, who believed, that his soul at night, when sleep came to him, transferred itself into the body of a wolf. In the last stand of Rolf Krake's hird the hero Bjarke fought shaped as a bear.
The last stand of Rolf Krake's household troops Athena's birth 
from the forehead of Zeus shown on Athenian vase
Left: In the last stand of Rolf Krake's household troops Bjarke fought shaped like a bear.
Right: A vase from Athens from about 600 BC showing Athena's birth. Zeus is sitting on his throne with a bunch of thunderbolts in his right hand. They are not zigzag shaped, yet a kind of projectiles, which he can sling toward Earth.

In the Cro Magnon people's caves in the Dordogne is a drawing of a creature - half ox and half human. He brings our thoughts to the Greco Roman god Pan, the horned god with bucks legs, who is hanging around in the forest playing on his flute that sounds like the wind in the trees.

The god Pan is hanging around in the forest together with other volatile creatures, including the nymphs. Pan has almost always had a strong erotic importance; He is known in mythology to have seduced several women, both humans and gods.

But when the horned god with the bucks feet has had his time on Earth for so many years, ever since the Cro Magnon people lived in the caves of south of France, then one might not be surprised that he has been reduced to a symbol may be the three powerful zigzag lines to the right of the five individuals on the aurochs bone from Ryemarksgård. One can imagine that the three zigzag lines symbolize his distinctive goat legs, where the lower part of the hoof can point backwards.

However, gods and people usually have two hind legs and not three, which is not quite satisfactory for the theory.

One can also imagine that the lines symbolize a god of thunder; children always draw lightning as a zigzag line, to see a bolt of lightning struck down is a very dramatic experience - for all times and all places. The Greek god Zeus is always portrayed with a bunch of thunderbolts in his hand, they are not zig-zag shaped, but they are still a kind of objects, projectiles, which he could sling down to Earth.

Maglemose grave 
at Hammerlev
Red ocher was used in the Maglemose burial at Hammerlev - Photo Sønderjyllands Museum.

By Hammerlev Sønderjyllands Museum has found a grave from the Maglemose period, which is something quite rare. The body has been cremated and the ash, skeletal remains and grave goods have been strewn with red burned ocher, bunched together in a skin and dug into the earth. Apart from the human skeleton remains the grave contained a small but very finely worked flint ax, a bone needle, some flint flakes and some burned bones of a wildcat.

Use of red ocher in funerals has very deep roots in human history. Both Neanderthals and Cro Magnon used to sprinkle red ocher over the body, so it was found in the Neanderthal grave at Shanidar in Iraq and in almost every Cro Magnon burial.

Tooth Beads from a tomb at Övra Vannborga on Øland - 9,000 years before present
Tandperler fra en grav ved Övra Vannborga på Øland - 9.000 før nutid.

The Swedish archaeologist Magnus Reuterdahl from Kalmar Museum found eighteen tooth pearls from various deer species in a tomb at Övra Vannborga on Øland. They were from late Maglemose period, 9,000 years before present. They had most likely been sewn onto the dress. They are all pierced at the root. One wonder how they did this without vice and drill. Tooth is indeed a very hard material.

Tooth Beads also have a great tradition in early European history. Cro Magnon used them, the reindeer hunters used tooth pearls sewn on the suit or as necklace. In the Kongemose burials ved Nivå i northern Sjælland some of the deceased also received tooth beads as grave goods. In the Ertebølle culture tooth pearls also were used.

It has been suggested that the population density during the early Maglemose period was one person each 20-50 km2. That is to say somewhere between 1,600 and 4,000 throughout what is now Denmark, Scania and Schleswig-Holstein.

It is very close to some estimates for the reindeer hunter period. But the temperature was higher Maglemose period, so it is reasonable to assume that the biomass, and thus the catch, was also greater. There have been many findings of lusters and fish hooks and big quantities of fish bones have been found in the settlements' waste heaps; so it is reasonable to assume that the Maglemose hunters ate both meat and fish.

Perhaps one can assume that there has been a population of between 5,000 and 10,000 individuals in the early part of the Maglemose period. Towards the end of the period the temperature rose, and therefore we can believe that the population size also rose and approached the estimate for the Kongemose period of 10,000 to 20,000 individuals.
Østersøens udviklingshistorie Wikipedia.
Okkergraven fra Hammerlev Sønderjyllands Museum.
Maglemosekultur Odense By's Museer.
Maglemosekultur Wikipedia.
Jægerstenalderen Nationalmuseet.
Pan (god) Wikipedia.

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