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6. Kongemose Culture

8. New Stone Age

Denmark's History

7. Ertebølle Culture

1. Introduction 2. Geography and Climate
3. Hunting 4. Sailing
5. Appearance 6. Culture
7. Literature

1. Introduction

The Ertebølle period is named after the famous kitchen midden at the village of Ertebølle at Limfjorden south of Løgstør.

Kitchen middens can be several meters thick and extend for more than hundred meters along that time coastline.

Ertebølle kitchen midden during excavation in 1895 Typical transverse arrowhead from Ertebølle period

Top: Kitchen-midden at Ertebølle during the excavation in 1895. The archaeologist George Sarauw is sitting to the right behind.
Bottom: Intact arrow with the characteristic transverse arrowhead from Ertebølle period found in Tværmose near Ringkøbing.

The kitchen middens testify that in the Ertebølle period from approximately 5,400 f.Kr to 3,900 f.Kr (7,400-5,900 years before present) the old hunters' settlements were mostly located at the coast, preferably at small quiet inlets. The kitchen middens consist mainly of shells from mussels, especially oysters. Among the shells are other waste from the Ertebølle period's household, such as animal bones, remains of tools and remains of bonfires. It is estimated that the kitchen middens have been built up from layer upon layer of waste through 500 to 600 years.

The Ertebølle huntsmen used characteristic transverse arrowheads, with a cross-egg instead of a point. The intention was probably to produce a large wound, that would quickly knock the animal out and cause it to bleed to death.

Timeline for 
end of the Pleistocene and Holocene

About 15,000 years ago - 13,000 BC - the ice sheet, that covered almost all of Scandinavia, slowly began to melt away. The reindeer walked to the north followed by the reindeer hunters. It is decided that the Ice Age in Denmark finally ended about 9,700 years ago. The green line represents the temperature on the surface of the ice. Dryas is the Latin name for the Arctic plant mountain avens, which is very hardy and the first to grow up after the ice has melted.
The temperature rose, and Denmark became completely covered by an primeval forest in which the Maglemose people hunted and fished. They were followed by the hunters of the Kongemose Culture, which with great certainty were the descendants of the Maglemose people. The following Ertebølle culture hunted and fished mostly along the coasts. Only in the Peasant Stone Age the people began to keep animals and cultivate the soil. About 500 BC the Bronze Age was replaced by the Iron Age's three periods. The Viking Age began with the attack on the monastery St. Cuthbert on the island of Lindisfarne in England in 793 AD and ended with the killing of Canute the Holy in 1086 AD in Odense. The Middle Ages ended in 1536 with the Civil War, the Count Feud, and the Lutheran Reformation.
During the Ertebølle period, Holocene optimum continued, where the temperature in Denmark was close to three degrees higher then than today.
In 60% of Denmark's history, the main occupations have been hunting and fishing. In 75% of the time has been a kind of Stone Age.

The Ertebølle people was in all probability the descendants of early Stone Age hunters. Maglemose, Kongemose and Ertebølle periods are only historical names of different but similar tools traditions that succeeded one after another during the Hunters' Stone Age. There is nothing to suggest migration or invasion.

2. Geography and Climate

A mild and rainy Atlantic climate ruled in the Ertebølle period. Mean temperature was close to three degrees higher than today's Denmark; The time belongs to the Holocene optimum, that is, the period with the highest temperature in this interglacial, which is called the Holocene.

Denmark in the 
Ertebølle period Temperate 
original forest

Top: In the Ertebølle period the temperature was up to three degrees higher than today, and sea surface level was correspondingly higher, that is about 3 m. higher than today. After the kilometer-thick icesshelf melted away, the land slowly nomalized. The area south-west of the seesaw-line is sinking and the area north-east of the line is rising. This process is still ongoing. This is the situation in hunters stoneage.
Bottom: Original forests in a temperate rainy climate.

The country's interior had grown together forming an impassable primeval forests and it was apparently less inhabited. The ancient huntsmen hunted and gathered animals, birds, fish and shellfish associated with the beach and the coast.

Since the early Stone Age, the land north-east of the so-called tilt-line from Falster to Nissum Bredning has lifted about 12 m., And the land south-west of tilt line has lowered about 13 m. Sea surface level has also dropped about 3 m. since the Stone Age, as more water has become bound as ice at the poles because of the lower temperature. The net effect is that for example in Vendsyssel the Ertebølle coastline is today located 15 m. above the current coastline, and at southern Jutland's North Sea Coast the Ertebølle coastline is located close to 10 m. under today's coastline.

3. Hunting, Weapons and Tools

Oyster shells kitchen midden

Oyster shells kitchen midden.

The Ertebølle hunters most visible remnants are the huge shell heaps that are called kitchen middens, which primarily consist of shells of oysters, picked up from that time colossal oyster beds in the many shallow fjords and straits. They are mostly found in the north of the eastern coast of Jutland, at Limfjorden, in Stavns Fjord, on the island of Samsø, at the northern coast of Fyn, at Isefjorden, at Roskilde Fjord and Øresund. Some of them are very large; the kitchen midden of Ertebølle is about 140 m. long, 20 m. wide and 1.9 m. thick, while a kitchen midden at Bjørnholm south of Løgstør is about 325 m. long, 10-15 m. wide and 1.2 m. thick. There's been found more than two hundred of these shell heaps in Denmark alone.

Many believe that there are also kitchen middens in the country's south-western part, but they are today located under many meters of water, and therefore they have not been found.

We can easily imagine that the Ertebølle hunters have had an easy and uncomplicated life. Lying on the beach in the wonderful summer weather having a nap in the shade of a tree; When you became hungry, you just walked out into one of the huge oyster beds and picked up a basket full oysters that are healthy and nutritious food.

But, it seems that life has not been that easy. It has been a hunter's daily struggle to find food for his family; The Ertebølle hunters shot at everything that moved. They ate everything that had four legs, two wings, fins or shells.

Alexander Ravenna with Ertebølle bow and arrow Bear Jaw found 
between oyster shells

Top: Alexander Ravenna with a reconstruction of Ertebølle bow and arrow - Note the typical Ertebølle transverse arrowhead.
Bottom: Bear jaw between oyster shells in kitchen midden from Ertebølle period. Photo: K. Kristiansen.

Remains of red deer, aurochs, deer, wild boar, wild cat, lynx, fox, otter, wolf, pine marten, polecat, beaver, bear, swan, mallards, mergansers, sea eagle, porpoises and seals have all been found in the kitchen middens. They fished eels, garfish, cod, pike, roach and perch.

A research project on Ertebølle period's biotope utilization under Statens Humanistiske Forskningsråd led by Inge Bødker Enghoff has caused many interesting findings.

In the settlement Yderhede, near Skagen well-preserved fish bones have been found. Most are from flatfish, but more specifically there have also been found bones of sharks, porbeagle and smooth dogfish, all of which live in deep water.

Pelican Anchovies Killer whales

Top left: In the Ertebølle period Pelicans lived in Denmark.
Top right: Anchovy is a small streamlined fish that resembles the herring. Today it is found only along the coast of southern Europe and Africa.
Below: Killer whales, which swim in deep water. In the settlement in Lystrup Enge killer whale teeth from at least three individuals were found. One wonders how the Ertebølle hunters could catch them using only dugouts with little stability.

In the settlement Østenkær, also at Skagen has been found a large number of bones from gray seals, ringed and harp seals. Remains of Dalmatian Pelican, which is currently living in south-east Europe and southern Russia, have also been found; its presence in Vendsyssel in the Ertebølle period indicates a warmer climate than today.

Three spiked 

In the settlement at Krabbesholm a lot of bones from spiked sticklebacks were found - It is assumed that they were taken because of their oil content; it is known that stickleback was fished for the same reason between the sixteenth and nineteenth century.

In a settlement at Krabbesholm near Skive bones from more than forty different species of mammals, birds and fish were found. Bones of fur animals constituted a very significant part, including squirrel and ferret. A bone of a water bat was found. In addition to the bones of eel, there were found considerable amounts of bones from spiked sticklebacks, which appeared to have been a very important catch, and there were bones from anchovies, which no longer are living in the cold Scandinavian waters in larger quantities.

In the settlement at Egsminde near Løgstør a bone from a wild horse was found. Wild horse was otherwise thought to have been extinct in Denmark a long time before the Ertebølle period, because of the widespread forest vegetation.

The Ertebølle hunters' main weapon were bow and arrow.

Ertebølle bows

Top: The bow from Vedbæk boldbaner.
Mid: The bow from Ringkloster.
Below: The bow from Tybrind Vig.
From "ULL - Ribe Vikinge Langbue Laug"

The typical transverse Ertebølle arrowhead must have been designed to produce a large wound on the prey and thus a substantial loss of blood so that the hunters avoid the situation that they hit the animal, yet it runs away with the arrows and lay down to die elsewhere.

It seems obvious that such a dum-dum bullet of arrowheads required a very powerful bow; or that the hunter had to come very close to the prey to release the arrow.

They also had another type of arrow with a blunt "tip", perhaps intended for birds and small fur animals in order not to destroy the fur.

Testing of reconstruction of a bow from the hunter stone age Ertebølle arrowhead types

Top: A History interested is testing a reconstruction of a bow from Hunter Stone Age.
Below: Ertebølle arrowhead types.

At Vedbæk boldbaner have been found an elm-wood bow from Ertebølle time, estimated originally to have been 194 cm. long; that is longer than the height of a man.

At Ringkloster near Skanderborg has been found an almost complete bow, which measures about 154 cm. The bow does not have notches for fastening of the string, and there are no visible signs of this. The bow shows no significant changes in cross-sectional area towards the tips. The handle is very thin, and experts believe that some of the material over the years has disappeared. (from Danish Stone Age bows and arrows and their reconstruction)

Skull from trapped pine marten

Skull from trapped pine marten from Ringkloster.

Underwater archaeologists have in Tybrind Vig at Lille Bælt between Assens and Middelfart retrieved a bow from the Ertebølle period with a special shape. The entire bow is cut from a young elm tree, about 3 cm. in diameter without bark in the middle. The bow measures 167 cm. and this was for that time the height of a man. The construction is ingenious in its simplicity. The bow maker has left 5 cm. untouched in the middle and from there he has cut away a more or less flat section out to the section in which the arc's legs begin. From there, the cross-section - still with a flat section - has gradually been reduced out to the tips. The two tips are differently designed. The purpose we can only guess, but the different ending could indicate that the string was permanently attached to one end and detachable in the other.

It has been proposed that the old hunters could have used poison on arrowheads derived from mistletoe that was common in that time forests. In an underwater Ertebølle settlement in Gamborg Fjord at Rosnæs Skov near Assens have been found pottery fragments with distinct leaf residues in several layers of mistletoe. The parasitic plant contains viscotoxin, which is toxic taken under the skin, but harmless taken oral, experts write. A decoction of the plant taken by mouth is said to lower blood pressure and strengthen the heart. Today mistletoe is almost extinct in Denmark.

Ertebølle flint 

Ertebølle flint splits.

At Ringkloster near Skanderborg has been found a skull of a pine marten. Crush marks on both sides of the back of the head suggest that it has been caught in a trap. Cut mark on the front of the frontal bone shows the initial cut at skinning.

The pine marten has probably been pelted with a flint split. Such flint splits are very sharp, and they have probably been used for numerous purposes; for example scraping skins, piercing of leather in connection with sewing, processing bones and antlers to various tools, carving wood for the manufacture of bows and arrows and other things in similar materials.

It looks like the intense hunting in the Ertebølle period was hard on the wildlife. Prey as aurochs, elk, brown bear, polecat, badger and lynx became extinct, at least on Sjælland during the late Hunter Stone Age. The tribes became increasingly dependent on the food, they could find at and in the sea.

Analyses of bones of humans and dogs from hunter's stone age have shown that most of that time people, from Maglemose to Ertebølle hunters, all ate food, which substantially came from the sea. The Ertebølle culture was a genuine coastal culture that had developed stone age fishing and beach hunting to near perfection.

Ertebølle fish trap of braided willow twigs found the at Slivsø south of Haderslev Fish trap of braided dogwood twigs from Bergschenhoek Netherlands Ertebølle fish trap of braided willow twigs

Left: Ertebølle fish fence of braided willow twigs found at Slivsø south of Haderslev - excavated by Haderslev Museum.
Top right: One of three fish traps made of braided red dogwood twigs found at Bergschenhoek in the Netherlands.
Bottom right: Ertebølle fish trap of braided willow twigs found during excavations in Central Railway Station in Copenhagen.

In many parts of the country have been found remains of fish fences, which means fences of hazel poles with in-between-braided willow twigs, which were intended to make the fish swim in the desired direction or prevent them from escaping to the sea.

Some fish fences may have functioned in the way that at high tide it was possible for the fish to swim over them and into shallower water near the shore. At low tide, however, the fences protuded above sea surface level and thus prevented the fish from swimming back to deep water. At low tide, one could then wade out and collect the trapped fish in a basket.

Other fish fences could have functioned as today's pound nets, which leads fish to follow the net until they end up in a fish trap.

Fish fence at Fossil Bluff on Tasmania Fish trap of 
stones from Labrador

Top: Fish fence of stones at Fossil Bluff in Tasmania at low tide - At high tide, the fence is washed over by the sea, and the fish can freely swim into shallow water. However, at low tide, they can not return to the sea as the fish fence now protrudes above sea surface level. Photo Lisbeth Pedersen
Bottom: Fish trap of stones set up by the Mi'kmaq Indians in Labrador. It is designed for catching salmon and eel. The principle is quite straightforward. The Ertebølle hunters had many ways to catch game and fish, maybe they also had this one, although no findings show it.

At the southern end of the island of Nekselø north of Kalundborg extends a record-long fish fence from Ertebølle period 200 m. from the beach and into Store Bælt to about 2.5 m. modern water depth.

Remains of a fish fence on the seabed Hans Dal with pole
from the fish fence

Left: Diver and spare time archaeologist Svend Amlund inspects the remains of an overturned mat at Nekselø, woven from long, straight hazel poles - Photo A. Fischer.
Right: Hans Dal, the head of Marine Archaeology Group, with a pole from the fish fence at Nekselø- Foto A. Fischer.

In addition, the fence can be traced on land further up to the Ertebølle period's coastline. The longest poles are between 4 and 5 meters. They have been so close that an eel could not wriggle through the gaps. The thinnest poles are between 3 and 4 cm. in diameter, and the thickest are 14 cm. in diameter. In some places, one finds today the construction as a confusing mess of piles and poles, which are mostly almost horizontal. In other locations, you can see long rows of vertical poles sticking up from the seabed.

Luster found on the seabed at Skjoldnæs on Ærø

Reconstruction of luster found on the seabed at Skjoldnæs on Ærø. The shaft is made of hazel and the side branches are made of hawthorn. It is believed that it was mostly used for spearing eels. It is not clear if it is from the Kongemose or Ertebølle period. Most likely that type of lusters has been used throughout hunters stone age.

Some have been wondering how the ancient hunters could get so many almost straight hazel-poles; it is believed that they must have had some kind of hazel plantation. It would take 10-11 years to breed the four-meter-long, straight growing hazel-poles, that were used in thousands in the construction of the fish fence.

It is also hard to imagine that the stone age people have hammered poles of such length and thickness into the sea-bed exclusively working on boats made of hollowed tree trunks, which is the only type of vessel that until now is known from the time. Dugouts have a stability that is comparable to a kayak's, and it seems impossible to be able to stand upright in such a boat and work with erecting hundreds of five-meter-long poles and hammer them into the seabed.

Fish Hook made of bone Labrador Indians' lyster

Left: Fish Hook made of bone from the settlement in Tybrind Vig near Assens.
Right: Labrador Indians used a very similar luster as Ertebølle hunters did. It seems to be a pretty obvious solution.

The fish fence at Nekselø was an organizational and engineering achievement, which shows that in hunters stone age must have existed a social power, which was able to plan far into the future and utilize hundreds of peoples labor.

On the former fjord bottom, Lystrup Enge at Moesgård near Aarhus have been found remains of a fish fence, which was made of rows of pointed hazel poles, scorched in the fire and hammered into the bottom of the fjord, with about half a meter intervals. Branches with twigs and leaves were woven in between the poles to effectively prevent the fish from escaping. At the end of the fence may have been placed a fish trap, woven from willow twigs, into which the fish were led. Around the fish fence were several other hazel poles, which probably are the remains of other similar fish fences.

At the Mulbjerg settlement in Åmosen in western Sjælland remains of fish fences also have been found.

At Bregninge Å's estuary delta innermost in Saltbæk Vig near Kalundborg have been found fish fences, which are considered the best preserved of its kind in Denmark.

Weights to hold down fishing nets Textiles from
Ertebølle period

Top: Weights like these may have been used to hold a fishing net against the bottom.
Bottom: Textiles from Ertebølle period found in Tybrind Vig near Assens - made of lime bast.

At Kalø Vig near Aarhus have been found remains of fish fences. In old fjord bottom at Slivsø south of Haderslev has been found remains of a 50 meters long fish fence of wattle.

In connection with the underwater excavation of the settlement in Tybrind Vig some soft materials were found that had been extraordinarily well preserved underwater, namely bits of woven fabrics of lime bast. Although there are no findings of actual fishing nets, this finding indicates that it was technologically possible for Ertebølle hunters to produce nets.

Ertebølle ceramics Vod fishing in a small river

Left: Peak bounded pottery vessels from Ertebølle period.
Right: Vod fishing in a small river - Net is held against the bottom by weights and kept at the surface by the floaters.

At Tybrind Vig a wooden float with a line of holes was found, resembling a same time float found at Antrea/Kamennogorsk near Lake Ladoga, which was unearthed together with stone weights and residues of plant fiber network, indicating that the Tybrind Vig float served the the same purpose.

When the Aesirs discovered Loki's treachery in connection with Balder's death, they pursued him. But he fled to Franangerfossen and turned into a salmon. However, the wise Aesir, Kvaser, realized that the salmon was in fact Loki. Led by Thor the Aesirs pulled vod through the waterfall, but the salmon jumped over; Thor grip hold of it, but it was smooth, so he first got a firm grip at the tail fin. Snorre says: "It is therefore, the salmon is so narrow at the tail".

At least 10 fish hooks were retrieved from Tybrind Vig, they were made from ribs of red deer.

Reconstruction of settlement at Skateholm

Artistic reconstruction of the settlement at Skateholm. The artist has imagined that the main building was thatched with straw, which is probably not far off. In the background, he also shows a hut covered with skins.

The first Danish examples of ceramics are from Ertebølle period. From the settlement in Tybring Vig was thus retrieved a conical clay pot. It was a rather irregular pot with thick sides, which was built up of sausages of clay put on top of each other. On pottery fragments from some vessels from Tybrind Vig were remnants of food that were burnt or boiled over. The crust had imprints of grass and contained dandruff and bones from small cod. Perhaps the cod had been wrapped in grass and laid down in the water-filled vessel, possibly together with herbs and berries from the forest. Most likely the Ertebølle women most likely wedged the pointed bottom of the vessel firmly between stones at the edge of a bonfire, thereby utilizing the radiant heat.

Lejre Forsøgscenter's reconstruction of the Lollikhuse cottage

Lejre Forsøgscenter's reconstruction of the Lollikhuse cottage - covered with deerskin.

Some Indian tribes in South America produce their pottery in the way that they first take a handful of clay, which they form as a small bowl. Then they roll clay sausages, which they put on the edge of the bowl for a start and then build the vessel wall up as an endless spiral of clay sausages. The outer surfaces are smoothed with a wet stick. It is then dried and at last, burned in a bonfire. Most likely the Ertebølle women also did so. In this way, the vessels become rather thick-walled.

Experiments with a reconstructed vessel have shown that, since it is porous, it soaks up a lot of liquid, and you have to periodically add water during boiling.

We have no certain knowledge about how the ancient hunters' cottages were constructed. Some suggest that they had walls of wattle plastered with clay, and the roof was thatched, others imagine that the cottages consisted of a wooden frame, which was covered with bark, others again believe that the wooden framework must have been covered by buckskin.

Reconstruction of cottage from Skateholm

Reconstruction of cottage from Skateholm, where straw has been used.

In Nivaa remains of an Ertebølle cottage has been excavated. The cottage floor covered an area of 2.4 times 3.2 meters. Here there were traces of fire, a cooking area, sleeping places and a flint chopping place. The objects lay completely systematic inside the cottage, so it was easy to define areas of different functions from concentrations of flint, deposits of animal bones, fish bones and large amounts of charcoal.

Cottage construction consisted of a 40-50 cm. deep rectangular hole surrounded by piles and poles hammered into the ground. Discovery of lumps of clay in and around the cottage pointed in direction of clay plastered walls.

In the Skateholm settlement has been found traces, which are interpreted as cottages made by branches, of which the largest cottage is 11 times 6 m.

At Lollikhuse in the northern Sjælland have also been found traces of a cottage from Ertebølle period. During the excavation, it became visible, where the posts had been, and where the fireplace had been. In Lejre Forsøgscenter archaeologists have built a cottage, where the posts are in exactly the same position. Lejre Forsøgscenter has covered a wooden frame with bark from poplar and elm and skins of deer and red deer.

Ertebølle Stone Age Center Reconstruction of 
Ertebølle cottage

Left: Reconstructed settlement in Ertebølle Stone Age Centre at Limfjorden. - Here is used wattle - though not clay plastered - and a thatched roof.
Right: Reconstruction of an Ertebølle cottage - here has been used a combination of straw and skins.

But the Ertebølle hunters had developed wattle-making to a very high level, as you can see it in the extensive fish plants. It would have been easy for them to create walls of wattle and plaster them with clay.

Deer and buffalo hides are probably excellent for tents and roof covering in a relatively dry climate, for example on the North American prairie; But in the Ertebølle period in Denmark, a rainy Atlantic climate was ruling. Skins as cottage clothing would not last a long time. Furthermore, a skin or bark cover is very thin and poses no insulation in the winter. Although it was warmer in the Ertebølle time than in the present, yet it was not a tropical climate, and there must have been need of cottages, where the inhabitants could keep warm at night and in winter.

oil lamps from Tybrind Vig

Ertebølle oil lamps from Tybrind Vig".

In Ertebølle period, Denmark was much more water-rich than it is today. There were many more small lakes, bogs and streams than in today's landscape. But then it must also have been easy to find water reed for thatching of cottages. This solution must have been straight-forward. A thatched roof would have been resistant in the rainy climate and on the same time insulating against both heat and cold.

In the settlements, many bowls of clay like those from the settlement of Tybrind Vig near Assens have been found. It is oil lamps. They often have traces of fire at the end, where the wick has burned.

From that, it can be concluded that they also had indoor activities.

4. Sailing in the Ertebølle period

There have been found remains of about 300 dugouts in Denmark, 50 of which are from the stone age. From the Ertebølle culture alone more than 20 dugouts are known, most made of hollowed lime trees, a wood that is easy to process, and which does not crack easily.

Dugout from Verup in Store Åmose

The bow of the dugout from Verup in Store Åmose.

The tree may have a straight trunk of about 10 m. having a diameter of 70-100 cm. The sides of the boat were cut down to a thickness of only 1-2 cm, while the bottom was 3-5 cm thick. The bow was placed in the upper part of the trunk where it is narrowest, while the trunk's root end became stern. The bow was tapered, while the stern was cut straight and closed with a bulkhead, attached with some gudgeons in typical holes. In that way, you got a light and pliable vessel weighing 250-350 kg, which could carry up to 6-8 people at a time, at least theoretically. If the wood later on split or cracked, the boat was sealed with resin or clay.

Flint axes were quite a powerful tool in the right hands. Experiments have shown that from the felling of the tree to a seaworthy dugout can be launched are spent about 200 man-hours, although an experienced stone age man may have spent a little less.

Dugout from Årby Dugout from Årby

Left: In the dugout from Årby traces from fire were found in both fore and aft end. The aft fire trace was an approximately 77 cm long and 24 cm wide clearly heat affected area. On top of this was a thin coating of blue clay, followed by a dark sand layer with charcoal and pebbles. The fore fire trace was 50 cm long and about 30 cm wide.
Right: The stern of the dugout from Aarby - note the holes for attaching of the bulkhead.

In most dugouts have been found a fireplace, which means an area of the bottom, which has been damaged by fire. The wood may have been sought protected by clay or gravel. Only in the dugout from Aarby near Kalunborg, there were fireplaces in both the fore and aft.

It is common to conclude that the fire traces probably comes from the fact that the old hunters used the boat to flare for eel.

But with an original trunk diameter of 70 to 100 cm, a dugout have had an inside depth of no more than 40 to 55 cm, and an inner width of 65 to 96 cm at the railing. This means that if the eels should have had a chance to see the fire from a bonfire built in the bottom of the boat, so should the flames extend perhaps more than one meter above the bottom. Such a large bonfire would in a very short time have damaged the boat's bottom and sides completely, and therefore it is not likely that the boat in this way has been used to flare for eel.

Sailing in 
reconstructed dugout Painting of North American Indians flaring for eels and salmon

Left: Sailing in a reconstructed dugout. Sailing in dugouts must have taken place in much the same way as in a kayak. You sit down and always keep the balance. This dugout seems to have a very thick stabilizing bottom.
Right: Nightly spear-fishing by torches. Oil painting by Paul Kane imaging Menominee Indians, who flare for salmon and eel on the Fox River - Royal Ontario Museum. - The fire must be up to a certain height so the fish can see it. Canoes are wider and have a better shape under water, and are thus more stable than dugouts. Therefore, they can afford the high rack and at the same time stand up in the boat.

It is more likely that the boat has been used to transport weapons and equipment during hunting trips. They probably also had brought embers for a fire, which has produced the fire traces in almost all dugouts of the Ertebølle period.

Dugouts have undoubtedly been very useful for navigation on rivers, lakes and inland waters. But for navigation on the open sea, they have been too unstable. They would have had a pronounced tendency to roll over when they were hit by waves.

Stability because of the shape of the vessel under water

Stability due to the vessel's shape under water - Modern merchant ships have their stability because of the width and the shape of the hull. - In contrast to sail ships, which have their stability because of a keel filled with lead or similar and thus a low center of gravity.

An ordinary modern merchant ship, or for that matter a great canoe or a dinghy, has its stability due to the width and shape of the hull under water. The center of gravity of the ship and its cargo is almost always located over the center of buoyancy for the displaced water volume. When the ship is exposed to a heel, for example, by a wave or movement on board, then the center of gravity will move toward the heeling side, but the buoyancy center of the displaced fluid volume will move even further towards the heeling side. The gravitational force and buoyant force will then be equal but act at different distances from the ship's centerline, creating a righting stabilizing moment. The stability increases with the breadth of third power.

A dugout is always round underwater

The shape of a dugout under water is always the same: namely round; and therefore it can not have any stability due to hull shape below surface. Nor does it have any particular stability, due to a heavy keel.

A dugout will inherently be completely round under water, and when it is exposed to a heel the ship's shape under water will remain same as before, namely completely round, like a tree trunk really is. It will not experience any righting moment due to the shape of the hull below water. A dugout's stability can only come from a low center of gravity, that is, if it has a good thick bottom which pulls the overall center of gravity down, the cargo is stowed as low as possible, and passengers are sitting on the bottom.

In general, you must think that a dugout had a completely negligible stability and all time needed corrective movements of persons on board. Sailing with a dugout had not been unlike riding a bike or sailing a kayak; you should probably all time keep a balance.

In the kitchen middens of the Ertebølle period archaeologists have found remains from many species of fish and whales, which can only be caught on high sea. They have found many bones from herring and mackerel, not to speak of dogfish, porpoises and killer whales. It seems unlikely that the old hunters every day for thousands of years had risked their lives by sailing out on deep water with a dugout to catch these species. They must also have had more safe and stable vessels.

A reconstructed 
Irish curragh

History Interested from Bedford are sailing in a reconstructed Irish skin boat - a curragh

The island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea was inhabited as early as in the Ertebølle period. There was more 90 km. over open ocean from Sweden to Gotland. This shows that the Stone Age hunters already by then must have had boats that were able to sail relatively safely on the open seas.

It's easy to write that a dugout at 10 meters could carry up to 8 persons simply because there seems to be room for them. But the more people board, the higher the center of gravity would be, and the more unpredictable they movements of the people on board would be. To sail from Sweeden to Gotland in a dugout with many people on board would most likely not have been possible.

Ertebølle paddle oar from Ølby Lyng

Ertebølle paddle oar from Ølby Lyng. It is rather short. We could easily imagine that it would have been convenient to use in a dugout.

Alternately it could have been done if they had used skin boats of a similar kind as the Irish curragh. They consisted of a wooden frame with sides of braided willow twigs, coated with tarred skins.

There have been found no traces of such a thing, but the Ertebølle hunters had all the technological preconditions that are needed to make them. They used braided willow twigs for many purposes, such as fish traps and fish fences. There have also been found indications that the cabin walls were built of willow twigs, padded with clay. As hunters, they used also skins for many purposes. It must have been an obvious choice to make a skin boat, and it would explain how they could catch fish and whales in deep water, and how they could populate Gotland.

Ertebølle paddle oar from Tybrind Vig

Decorated Ertebølle paddle oar from Tybrind Vig.

The first people on the Faroe Islands were Irish monks, who lived there from maybe 625 AD. They were later displaced by the Vikings. The old Irish geographer Dicuil wrote the book "The Mensura Orbis Terrae", which was known by the Carolingian court in the year 825 AD., He described islands in the ocean that were previously inhabited by hermits, however now displaced by the Vikings. He supplied a description from monks, who had lived in "Thule" until the year 765 A.D. They had experienced the frozen sea in the north. They told of Thule, "there was no darkness to prevent us from doing what we ourselves would." Their Description of the sun's path as well as the temperature fits perfectly with Iceland.

The interesting thing for us is that the Irish did not invent the Viking ship, the had only Irish skin boats, curraghs, at their disposal. Therefore, we can conclude that it was possible to sail on the open sea in skin boats.

There have been excavated several oars from the Hunters' Stone Age. Except for one paddle oar from Ølby Lyng, they all seem to be very long - too long for dugouts. Unfortunately, I do not know their exact lengths.

There were also other opportunities to build more stable vessels with that time technology. Already in the Kongemose time, the Korsør man was buried in a kind of chest made of bark. It looks like they had debarked a whole tree trunk for that purpose.

Oar from Hjarnø Sund

Archaeologists from the Horsens Museum and Museum Moesgård have dug out an oar from an underwater settlement in Hjarnø Sund at Horsens Fjord.

It is also known that the ancient hunters frequently used bark flakes as floor and perhaps roof cover in temporary huts. Together with their skills in braiding willow twigs, it would have been straightforward to build a bark canoe like the North American Indian's vessels. However, there have found no traces of such vessels.

5. How did the Ertebølle Hunters look like?

Evidence suggests that the old hunters descended from the first reindeer hunters, who immigrated at the end of the last glacial; who in turn can be traced to the Madeleine culture in the south of France and Spain during the last Ice Age, also called Cro Magnon culture. For numerous generations, during perhaps more than eight thousand years, they lived and hunted in present Denmark and the rest of South Scandinavia.

The Ertebølle girl from Tybrind Vig

The Ertebølle girl from Tybrind Vig - note her sloping forehead and strong jaws.

During the last half of the twentieth century, a series of groundbreaking discoveries of burial sites from Hunter Stone Age have been done, which have created a base for an assessment of how they looked like. At Vedbæk, 22 people were buried, children as well as adults. At Strøby Egede, eight skeletons were found in a common grave, which may have been an entire family. In the settlement Skateholm in the southern Skåne more, than 90 graves have been investigated. Important findings have also been made at Dyrholmen near Randers, Tybrind Vig near Assens, Melby and Nivaa in northern Sjælland and at Dragsholm near Kalundborg and in several other locations.

On the majority of the skeletons from the Ertebølle settlement Skateholm in Skåne and Bøgebakken at Vedbæk has been found a characteristic indentation of the pelvis hip joints, which suggests a strong genetic uniformity, due to common descent.

Bopladsfund fra jæger stenalder i Danmark.

Findings of settlements from hunter stone age in Denmark.

They were not very tall, often, but not always, strongly built with solid bones. Measurements have shown that the average height for men was 166 cm and for women 154 cm.

In all probability, they may have looked like many of today's Danes, though with a larger frequency of what the archaeologists Broste and Fischer-Møller a half century ago called "the Madeleine period's Cro-Magnon race, which has made its mark on Denmark's old population", when they investigated the Koelbjerg woman. That means long skull with sloping forehead, prominent eyebrow-ridges and nasal bridge, slightly protruding and powerful jaws with strong jaw muscles.

The oldest among the buried in Vedbæk became barely 50 years old. In the settlement Skateholm, eight people were found who became more than 60 years old. The average life expectancy was quite low, about 35 years.

During sex determination of the skeletons found in the settlements, the problem occurred that many skeletons were erroneously determined. Based on robustness, bone sizes, tooth sizes and the like many skeletons and skeletal parts were determined to be from men; However, they later turned out to be from women. The Stone Age hunters' women must have been some pretty robust and masculine types.

Skeletal remains tell us nothing about whether they had light or dark skin, or whether they had blue or brown eyes. One might think that a people, who have survived for thousands of generations through Ice Age and dark winters, must have been pretty fair skinned, otherwise they could have found it difficult to absorb enough vitamin D. Some scientists think that they have found DNA traces from the hunters supposed Cro Magnon ancestors, which indicate that they were fair skinned and had blue eyes. But DNA research can be used in many ways, and is difficult to verify; Moreover: all modern Arctic peoples have brown eyes and dark hair, and they get their vitamin D anyway.

Kim Larsen Mick Jagger Strauss-Kahn Bernard-Lovell Linda Hamliton Leif Davidsen

From left to right: A rare picture of the popular Danish singer Kim Larsen without a cap - He could have been an Ertebølle hunter with a gently sloping forehead, eyebrow ridges and big strong jaws.
His hunting mate could have been Mick Jagger, who also has strong jaws, sloping forehead and eyebrow ridges.
Strauss-Kahn, former IMF manager, has pronounced sloping forehead but lacks the singers' strong jaws.
Bernard Lovell is a famous Dutch astrophysicist who also has a distinct sloping forehead.
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator - She is also not very tall, 168 cm.
The Danish journalist and author Leif Davidsen - A very intelligent and kind person.

Some may object that the above description, namely short and powerful types with strong jaws and eyebrows, more reminiscents of Neanderhals, than it reminiscents of Cro Magnon. One can have the association that the Neanderthals and Cro Magnons used the Weichsel glaciation's maximum and end (a period of 10-20 thousand years) to become completely mixed up with each other, and at the end of the Ice Age appeared as the Madeleine culture with Cro Magnon cultural traits and a physical appearance, reminiscent on both Cro Magnons and the Neanderthals.

Reconstruction of 
a Neanderthal man Reconstruction of 
a Neanderthal man

Two different reconstructions of Neanderthal men.

It is not completely unlikely; Formicola and Giannecchini examined Cro Magnons body height; they made a sharp distinction between early and later Cro Magnon individuals, and concluded that early Cro Magnon men in average were 176.2 cm and women 162.9 cm tall, while later Cro Magnon men and women averaged only respectively 165.6 cm and 153.5 cm. Such a progressing less body height can be an indication of a progressing mix with Neanderthals, who were not quite as tall as the original Cro Magnons.

In this case, we are educated by genetic scientists, who tell us that Neanderthals are completely extinct, and there is nothing in modern human genes, which can be associated with them. And so we must leave the matter until further.

6. The Culture of the Ertebølle Hunters

How is it that we feel such peace of mind when we sit in shade at the beach with a beer in hand listening to the waves washing against the shore?

All famous resorts are located close to a beach. Many holidaymakers do not swim very much in the sea, but they appreciate taking long walks along the beach. We are happy to pay a substantial extra price to have breakfast or dinner on a veranda overlooking the blinking sea. Merely to get up in the morning and see the sea from the window gives us a deep satisfaction.

Maglemose settlements on islands near Gothenburg Typical location
of a Maglemose settlement on an island near Gothenburg

Left: On some small islands near Gothenburg remains of Maglemose settlements have been found. They are all located in lee on the south side of the islands, near a small bay or similar with shallow water and good landing place for small boats.
Right: Typical location for a Maglemose settlement on an island near Gothenburg - En sunny place in lee on the southside of the island at a little bay with shallow water.
From "Særtryk af Carin Bunte (ed) 2005 Arkeologi och Naturvetenskap".

Homes with a view of water, it may be the ocean, a lake or a river, have always been very attractive and therefore more expensive than others.

The settlements of the Ertebølle hunters' were always located on the coast or next to a stream or a lake, and there are signs that the huts' entrance always turned towards the water, so that the first thing they saw, when they stepped out of the hut in the morning, was the blinking water and what moved there.

Baby swimming under water The Tybrind Vig 
settlement with the original coastline

Left: Baby swimming under water.
Right: The original coastline around the Ertebølle settlement in Tybrind Vig - The settlement is quite traditionally located on a south-facing coastline at a shallow cove.

Some have suggested that man has evolved as a naked ape, who lived at the beach. Because it is an advantage for an animal that constantly is wading out into the water to retrieve oysters and other goodies, not to have fur; however, of course, only in an appropriate hot climate.

Humans are created to eat a certain amount of food from the sea, if we do not get fish oil, omega 3 and the like in sufficient quantities, we can get deficiency diseases.

We feel attracted by water in a way that only few other primates do. We love going to the beach, splashing and swimming. Other animals, for example gorillas do not do this kind of things- they are terrified of water.

Fish bones from
an excavation of the Ertebølle settlement at Dragsholm Killer whale teeth
found in a settlement at Lystrup Enge

Left: Fish bones from excavation of the Ertebølle settlement at Dragsholm.
Right: Killer whale teeth found in a settlement at Lystrup Enge.

Analyzes of bones from dogs and the hunters themselves have shown that most of that time people, from Maglemose to the Ertebølle hunters, ate food which substantially came from the sea. It is estimated that three-quarters of their food came from the ocean. The Ertebølle culture was a genuine coastal culture, or we may call it a beach-culture. They lived so to say with their feet in the water, so one should think that they were happy.

But there was a snake in paradise, an increasingly intense battle for the limited beaches and hunting areas seems to have been the cause of widespread violence; many skeletons show signs that the persons had suffered an unnatural death. Several are killed by arrow-shots.

A woman from the settlement at Gøngehusvej at Vedbæk had received a blow from a club in the back of her head, but for several years survived the injury, as the skull bone has healed. In the settlement Skateholm in southern Skåne there has also been found the skeleton of a woman, who has suffered a blow to the head.

A woman with an injury in the back of the head Reconstructed 
Ertebølle settlement, south facing with views over the shallow fjord

Left: An injury on the back of the head shows that a woman from the settlement on Gøngehusvej in Vedbæk was hit with a club. She must have survived the blow, and lived some years after, as the wound has healed. However, such an injury may have caused brain damage and may have lead to impaired hearing or vision. Note the red ocher around her - Danish National Museum.
Right: Reconstructed Ertebølle settlement, south facing with views over the shallow fjord.

In the Ertebølle settlement at Vedbæk one of the buried men was found with a bone-arrowhead in the throat. Two other adults had fractured their spine, but they had survived their injuries and lived several years after. In a skull from Tybrind Vig can be seen several severe injuries that partially had penetrated the skull bone. In the contemporary settlement Skateholm in Skåne, archaeologists also found a hunter killed by weapon; An arrow shot had hit him in the abdomen and probably pierced the bladder and intestines. It must have been a painful death.

Child Skulls with 
scratch tracks after scalping

In the settlement Dyrholmen on Djursland, child-skulls have been found with scratch tracks after flint knives, which show that the children have been scalped.

A man buried in grave 13 on Skateholm I had an injury on one of his thigh-bones, perhaps from an encounter with a wild boar. But he was killed by an arrow with a transverse arrowhead, which still sat in the bone above the right hip.

In Bäckaskog and Stora Biers in Skåne buried men from the Ertebølle period have also been found with bone arrowheads seated in their chests.

Life was dangerous the Ertebølle period. In the Dyrholmen settlement south of Randers, several marrow-split human bones have been found among other things - which indicates cannibalism. In addition, there have been found children skulls that have scratch traces indicating scalping. A vertebra from a human was cut in a manner, which indicated that he or she had been decapitated.

Also in the settlement at Møllegabet on Ærø have been found indications of cannibalism. Human bones had been cleaved to access the marrow.

Stone Age dental
technique Boys grave from 

Left: One may wonder how they managed to make holes in tooth beads, tooth is indeed a very hard material. Perhaps they did it in this way.
Right: Boy's grave from Nederst. - Note the ochre, which has been strewn over the body.

At Djursland Museum's excavation of the settlement and kitchen midden near Nederst at the now dried out Kolindsund on Djursland, were found eight graves from the Ertebølle period, namely six graves with humans and two with dogs..

A grave containing a boy about five-years-old was particularly good preserved. He had got a beautiful, 17 cm. long flint knife with him, and on his chest lay a tooth pearl necklace with 6 pierced teeth of wild boar and a one aurochs tooth. Between his legs lay another tooth pearl jewelry.

In general, only men were buried with flint tools. Most tooth beads are found in women's graves, but some men were also buried with tooth gems. However, it was so that womens' tooth beads mostly are made of deer-teeth, while men mostly got tooth beads from wild boar in the grave.

Grave no. 14 in  Skateholm I Common grave no. 19 on Bøgebakken in Vedbæk

Left: Grav no. 14 in Skateholm I. A young woman and an older man lies close to each other. The woman was killed by a blow to the left side of the head. Photo: Lars Larsson.
Right: Common grave no. 19 in Bøgebakken at Vedbæk - A man 30-35 years old, a woman 35-40 years, between them a young child. The man has been killed by an arrow in the throat, and the woman has a flint knife near the throat - National Museum.

The only case, where a woman has been given a flint tool in the grave, is common grave number 19 in Bøgebakken at Vedbæk. This tomb contained the skeletons of three persons: a man, a woman and a child.

Grave 22 in Skateholm II

In grave 22 in Skateholm II a 30-40-year-old woman has been buried in great splendor sitting on red deer-antlers. She also has a hip jewelry of tooth beads and a necklace of slate plate. Red deer-antlers may have been the ultimate symbol of status, happiness and fertility. Photo Lars Larsson.

The man has clearly been killed by an arrow in the throat. The bone arrowhead sat still jammed in the spine when he was laid to rest. He was between 25 and 30 years old when he died. At the funeral, he had been sprinkled with plenty of ochcre.

The woman was between 35 and 40-years-old, when she died. She was buried with more than fifty tooth beads on the chest, of which 47 were without holes, while six were pierced. Most were teeth from deer, but there were also a few teeth of wild boar, aurochs and human. On the chest lay also a foot from a pine marten, and at her neck lay a flint knife.

Brinch Petersen suggested in 1979 the following scenario: The elderly woman lost her first husband, and his younger brother or another family member had to take his place. But when he too was killed, there now was no one in the family to take over the woman and child. Therefore, the woman was killed with the flint knife that lay on her neck, so that she and the child could follow the man in death.

Tomb 14 in Skateholm I illustrates the circumstances even stronger. Here an elderly man was buried with a young woman, who is placed partially on top of him. The position of the woman seems to signal affection for the man. He lies flat on his back with his head turned away from the woman, who is on the side, facing him. The woman has got a mortal blow behind the left ear. It is quite clear that she followed her husband in death.

Tomb 6 in 
Skateholm I - pregnant woman with many tooth beads

Tomb 6 in Skateholm I. A pregnant woman buried in sitting position with many tooth beads and a large amount of ochre at the hips. Photo Lars Larsson.

When one can follow someone in death, it must involve some religious notions that the deceased will get some sort of life in another world.

In Skatholm II archaeologists found remains of a house in the burial area, which seems to have been used for ritual purposes. The construction emerged as a rectangular dark color of soil, 3.9 times 3.8 meters., defined by a highly ocher-colored belt, which was 30 cm. wide and 10 cm. deep in cross section. The house is believed to have consisted of a light wooden frame covered with fur, which was continued right down to the ground (like a tent). The skins were regularly colored with ochre, which was then washed down of rain and thus came the ochre colored belts around the house. The house had thus emerged as with golden roof - like Valhalla, which was roofed with golden shields.

All were not equal in an Ertebølle settlement. Some were buried with pomp and splendor, others were just tossed into a pit.

In Skateholm II in grave 22 a woman of 35-40 years was buried in great splendor sitting on red deer-antlers with a hip jewelry with many tooth gems of red deer teeth. She also wore a necklace of slate plate. red deer antlers must have been the ultimate symbol of status, happiness and fertility, as horns and antlers still were in historic times.

In grave 8 in Skateholm II a seated woman was buried with hip jewelry, which contained more than hundred tooth gems from at least 30 different red deer. She must have been a very important person in the tribe.

Picture stone found at Horsens Fjord depicting a man with a large phallus and fish in 
hands The dancing man from Bodal Small 3 cm. tall figure of the later viking fertility god Freyr from Rällinge, Lunda socken, Södermanland from about 1.000 e.Kr.

Left: Picture stone found at Horsens Fjord depicting a man with a large phallus and fish in hands. - It is believed to be from the Ertebølle period. It is reasonable to assume he is some sort of fertility god. - Note moreover that the figure is shaded in the same way as the images we know from Maglemose period, for example, the figure here is also shaded in the face. It is very likely that the image on the newly discovered stone is from the same time since near the finding place is a submerged settlement exactly from the Ertebølle period.
Mid: The dancing man from Bodal is the human figure, which most closely resembles the person in the newly found picture stones from Horsens Fjord. It is carved in an antler ax from the Ertebølle culture, which has been found in Bodal Mose on Western Sjælland.
Right: Small 3 cm. tall figure of the later Viking fertility god Freyr from Rällinge, Lunda socken, Södermanland from about 1.000 e.Kr. Freyr belongs to the group of Norse gods called the Vanirs.

In Tomb 6 in Skateholm a 35-40 year-old woman was buried in sitting position with the remains of a child in the abdomen. She had hip jewelry tooth gems from about 30 red deer, there were also 30 tooth gems from wild boar and one from elk. Her hips were covered with ochre. It can be seen that women had children also at a rather late age.

The woman from Bøgebakken who survived a blow to the back of the head got a beak from a grebe in the grave. She lay with a flint knife on the chest and had a foot of a pine marten with her. A young man was buried together with some vertebrates from a dolphin and the head of a marten. Other deceased has got parts of red deer, roe deer, seal, wild boar and otter with them in their graves. A young child was laid to rest on a swan's wing. We think a few thousand years back. In The Maglemose grave at Hammerlev in southern Jylland also the remains of bones from a wildcat were found.

An old woman 
buried in fetal position Skeleton of 
a woman with a child from Bøgebakken

Top: An old woman buried in fetal position - One can imagine that she had died in this position, alone facing the wall of the hut. Then she simply without further ceremonies has been carried out to the grave and buried in the same position. Photo: Lars Larsson.

Bottom: Skeleton of a woman with a child from the settlement on Bøgebakken in Vedbæk. The woman was about 18 years old, when she died. The child was laid to rest on a spread out swan's wing. A flint knife at the hip indicates that it was a boy. The red soil around the mother's head and hips and around the dead child may be due ocher-colored clothing. Attached to these were many tooth beads, which are seen as an irregular lump on the left of the woman's head. Other tooth beads can be glimpsed in the ground around her hips - Gammel Holtegård Museum north of Copenhagen. Photo Gyros.

The North American Indians had totem animals. They imagined that each human was attached to a particular kind of animal, to which they were related in the spirit, and which at the same time gave protection. They attributed certain properties to each kind of animal. The Ertebølle people were also hunters. It should be straight-forward for a hunter people to mirror themselves in nature's other living creatures. It is easy to imagine that all these parts of the various animals, found in the graves, represented the deceased persons' totem- or luck-animals.

Horned Grebe Jens Grand's seal 
with red deer antlers and eight-pointed star

Left: Great Crested Grebe swims with her young ones on her back.
Right: Jens Grand's seal with red deer antlers and eight-pointed star. According to the Danish historian Palle Lauring, all Danish noble families had heraldic animals, which were symbols of magical significance, whose origins are lost back in remote antiquity.

Grebes often swim with their young on their backs to protect them from water rats, perhaps the woman with the horned grebe-beak in the grave was a very caring mother or at least tried to live up to her horned grebe's nature. The woman with a foot of a pine marten in the grave was perhaps quick and agile as a marten. The man who was buried with vertebrates from a dolphin could have been a skilled swimmer, and the Maglemose man from Hammerlev could have been - well, a wildcat.

It is a common feature of all the southern Scandinavian settlements of Ertebølle time that the graves are located very close to the settlements. The burial site was actually a part of the settlement. The ancient hunters had a very close relationship to their deceased ancestors. In some of the tombs, skeletons lack head or other major bones, as for example the thigh bone or forearm-bone. One can find scattered human bones in the settlements. One can imagine that the dead's skulls and other bones were used by the livings in ceremonies, which should preserve the deceased's hunting luck or other good qualities for their descendants.

A so-called manipulated grave in the Skateholm settlement

Grave number 28 in Skatehom I is a so-called manipulated grave, as several major bones missing. They may be taken up by the survivors for ceremonial purposes. Here left forearm, left hip bone and left thigh bone are missing. Some believe they can have been dug up by animals.

Both on Bøgebakken and Skateholm are very few cases, where a grave has been disturbed by a subsequent grave. It shows that through long periods the hunters had complete control of who was buried where.

A characteristic feature of the graves in Skateholm and Bøgebakken is that most graves contain quantities of ochre. The presence of ochre above and below the body has been interpreted as a result of that the dead were wearing special suits, which were colored with ochre. The dead man's body may have been stained with ochre, or it may have been ceremonially sprinkled over the body. Often the areas around the head, hips and legs are colored in red. Small children are often completely covered with ochre, which can be explained by that they were packed into ochre-colored skins. Women have much ochre around the hips. For the men, the distribution is more general, but there is a tendency that the area around the head is often colored.

Dogs Burial in the 
settlement at Nederst Decorated hammer 
of red deer antler, which lay as grave goods in the dog grave in Skateholm

Top: Dog Burial in the settlement at Nederst.
Bottom: Decorated hammer of red deer antler, which was given as a grave gift to the very special dog in the settlement of Skateholm.

Ochre in connection with buried persons has a long tradition in European history. In many Cro Magnon burials ochre was found; Also the Neanderthal grave at Shanidar in Iraq contained ochre.

The dog, hunter's friend, got a solemn funeral. In Skateholm were found 10 buried dogs. The 8 was lying on a particular area for dogs, while 2 of the dogs were buried among humans.

One of the dogs was buried with great pomp. It was strewn with ochre from snout to tail, and it had a red deer antler, three flint knives and a decorated red-deer antler hammer in its grave. It must have been a very special dog. It is the only dog in Skateholm, which clearly has been buried with the same types of grave goods as humans.

The dog breed seems to have resembled today's Greenland dogs.

The Ertebølle hunters have undoubtedly had a close relationship with their dogs, which had followed them through thick and thin in the hunt, just as we today in the West have a close and warm relationship with our dogs and horses.

Decorated antler 
from Holmegaard Mose Salmon and red deer on reindeer antler from Lortet cave in south France

Top: Decorated antlers from an Ertebølle settlement in Holmegaard Mose on Sjælland - notice the typical zig-zag patterns.
Bottom: Salmon and red deer pictured on reindeer antler from Lortet cave in South of France, made by Cro Magnon during the later part of the Weichsel glaciation.

Through more than six thousand years, yes maybe eight thousand years, they had hunted and fished in the forests and along the coasts of Denmark

The ancient hunters seem to have been a conservative people, who adhered to their ancient customs. For thousands of years, they adorned their dead with ochre, a custom that can be traced back to the Cro Magnon and Neanderthal tribes, who lived during the Weichsel Glaciation. The humanoid figures that they carved into animal bones, maintained the same shaded style for thousands of years. From the Maglemose to Ertebølle culture they preserved their preference for zigzag patterns.

Artistically, however, it seems to have gone back for them since they left the caves in south Europe. One must recognize that their artistic style was somewhat different from the amazing Cro Magnon paintings in the caves of southern France.

7. Literature

Danske stenalder buer og pile og deres rekonstruktion
ULL - Ribe Vikinge Langbue Laug om klubben og hvordan man laver buer, pile og andet udstyr
Stenalderjægere begravede de døde ved døren Kristeligt Dagblad.
Til start

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