7. Ertebølle Culture
9. Bronze Age
|1. Introduction||2. Geography and Climate|
|3. Weapons and Axes||4. Animal Husbandry|
|5. Arable Farming||6. Ceramics|
|7. Fishing||8. Bog Bodies|
|9. Sarup Constructions||10. Dolmens|
|11. Society||12. Pit Ceramics Culture|
|13. Single Grave Culture||14. Dolk Period|
|15. Appearance||16. Literature|
The New Stone Age or Neolithic marks the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry in Denmark. The period is known for its polished stone axes, magnificent ceramics and many of the numerous mounds, which are scattered all over the Danish landscape.
A mound from antiquity at Raklev on Refsnæs - painted by J. Th. Lundbye in 1839.
Through least 6,000 years, the ancient hunters had hunted and fished in Denmark. They had faithfully preserved their ancient customs. The women adorn themselves with tooth gems, they sprinkled red ocher over the deceased at funerals, and they liked zig-zag patterns.
The transition from hunters' stone age to the Neolithic period took place during historically very short time, perhaps only 100 to 200 years. Why it happened is still the biggest mystery in connection with our knowledge of the Stone Age.
Tooth Beads were completely replaced by amber beads, they began to bury their dead in big constructed funeral facilities and all traces of ocher disappeared gradually from the burials. And, the most epoch-making, the original forest, which had hitherto covered the whole country, was partly cleared and they began keeping cattle and cultivating the land. It was the biggest change in civilization during many thousands of years.
There is no shortage of theories about what caused that sudden change.
Amber beads and copper jewelry from a bog find at Årupgård near Horsens. The amber beads have been arranged in a three double necklace, the copper coils have been finger rings and other copper items have been sewn onto the dress - buried around 3,800 BC - Funnel Beaker Culture.
Some believe that the transition to a life as farmers rather than hunters was caused by the good times and the following population growth during the Ertebølle period, so that there no longer were prey and wild plants enough for so many people. But the finds from the late
Hunters' period suggest in no way that they lacked food. Furthermore, the early agriculture did not give very big yield and, that is not much food.
Other explains the transition with that influence from the south spread to the Danish tribes. One can say that peasant culture became fashionable. They started keeping domesticated animals instead of hunting wild animals. They started using cultivated plants instead of natures' random supply of berries, roots and fruits. Maybe it happened in connection with a new religion.
Especially previously many researchers explained the switch from hunting to farming culture with a regular arrival of a new and culturally superior people, who displaced or absorbed the original tribes; But many do not believe that anymore.
American scientists have come up with the idea that the grain not so much was used to make bread and porridge, but was primarily intended for brewing of beer. Since beer contains alcohol, which is intoxicating, one might think that it was very suitable for religious celebrations in connection with a new religion. It must have been something completely new and extremely interesting for the old hunters to feel influenced by alcohol. This new intoxicating experience may explain the suddenness, with which the old life and the old customs were rejected.
Compared to the Hunters' stone age, Neolithic was a culturally eventful period. It started with the dominant Funnel Beaker Culture, which differed greatly from the previous Ertebølle Culture. The new funeral customs, the elaborate ceramics and the very most important, namely the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry in Denmark, was a cultural tiger-leap forward.
Neolithic periods in Denmark: The Funnel Beaker culture left us dolmens, passage graves, outstanding ceramics and polished stone axes. The Pit Ceramics culture were coastal hunters, who might be descendants of the ancient hunters. The Single Grave Culture existed particularly in West Jutland and had many features in common with the Central European cord ceramic culture. The Dolk Period was the last period of the Stone Age when manufacturing of flint tools reached a marvelous climax.
The "kitchen midens" (heaps of oyster-shells) from the Ertebølle period continued to grow well into the Neolithic period, indicating that some of the old hunters continued their traditional life as hunters and gatherers without regard to the new times.
The older part of the Neolithic period, 3.800-2.800 BC, is called the Funnel Beaker Culture after the characteristic funnel-shaped and often beautifully decorated pottery vessels that we know from the period. This pottery, the polished flint axes and the visible burials in long barrows, dolmens and passage graves are the characteristics of the Funnel Beaker Culture, which was the dominant culture in the Neolithic period. The Funnel Beaker people was with a certain probability descendants of the ancient hunters.
The Single Grave Culture advanced in western Jutland. It had many similarities with the contemporary cord ceramic culture, which dominated further south in Europe. In some locations in Western Jylland, it seems to have displaced the Funnel Beaker Culture. Many believe that the Single Grave people represented a migration from the European cord ceramic culture, which some consider having been the Indo-Europeans.
Left: Typical pottery from the Funnel Beaker Culture - Found at Volling - Skive Museum.
Mid: Fragment from Pit Ceramic pottery with the typical pits found at Grammahagen in Mjällby county in Blekinge.
Right: Typical battle-ax from the Single Grave Culture.
The pit ceramic culture is so called because they decorated their pottery vessels with characteristic pits, dotted with a stick or similar. They were fishermen and coastal hunters, and some believe that they may have been descendants of the ancient hunters. But there are many differences in their weapons and tools, so nothing can be said with certainty. Pit Ceramic findings have been done along the coasts of eastern Sweden, at the great Swedish lakes, along the coasts of southern Norway and at the Danish Kattegat coasts.
The Littorina Sea (which later became the Baltic Sea) had at beginning of Neolithic
significantly broader and deeper connections with the World Ocean than present Baltic Sea has; therefore, the salt content was also higher. However the worlds sea surface level declined because of lower temperature and ice formation at the poles, and the land uplift in Scandinavia after the Ice Age continued. This caused the connections with the World Ocean through the Danish Straits to become narrower and more shallow, and this caused less saline water to stream into the Baltic Sea Basin. During the Neolithic period, the salty Littorina Sea was therefore replaced by the brackish-water Baltic Sea that we know today.
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 Neolithic period, the temperature was slightly lower than it had been in the Ertebølle period. In some periods of a few hundred years temperature sank even below today's level, but in general the weather was a litte better than it is in the present.
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 period's almost subtropical climate was in the Neolithic replaced by more moderate temperatures but was still slightly higher than today's. However, in some period of a few hundred years, the temperature sank to just below todays level. It must have been some kind of "Little Ice Age".
Pollen analysis from Abkær Mose at Vojens.
In the past Denmark was more water-rich than today, there were small lakes and bogs everywhere. They developed into the numerous peat bogs that we know so well. In the layers of peat is pollen from ancient plants that have grown around the pond over time. Pollen analysis provides a unique detailed knowledge of the historical fauna around such a pond.
Pollen is seed plants' male gametes. Each plant has pollen with a very characteristic appearance, which is easily recognized in a microscope. Pollen is built up by the substance sporopollenin, which is very difficult degraded in nature. Each finding of pollen can be dated using the carbon-14 method or similar.
Left: Pollen from oak seen under a microscope.
Right: Pollen from beech seen under a microscope.
Using pollen analysis it has found that the first traces of cultivated grain in Denmark
appeared around 4.000 BC. One can also see that at this time elm and linden decreased dramatically. Maybe it had been the dreaded Dutch elm disease or the like. It may also have been due to that foliage from these two trees were used as feed for animals, or that they simply were cut down to provide space for the animals on the high-lying ground. It can also be seen that at the start of the Neolithic pollen from ragweed, wild garlic and narrow-leaved plantain showed up, all of which today are common on land that lies idle. Around 3.500 BC pollen from grasses and white clover up showed up, indicating that cattle grazed on the land around the pond. By the way, we can also notice that the forest returned around AD 500, which was the time for the big migrations. First, around the year 1.100 AD at the beginning of the Middle Ages, the land was again cultivated.
In many ways, the beginning of the Neolithic period represents a breach of many of the old hunters' thousand-year-old traditions. But the transition from hunter-gatherer societies into a cattle breeder and agricultural community was not complete suddenly. The start of the livestock and agriculture farming was a natural continuation of the creativity that was unfolded in Ertebølle period in efforts to provide food for a growing population, which among other things was reflected in the Ertebølle periods large and advanced fishing constructions.
Grave goods in a man's grave from the Neolithic period found at Dragsholm near Kalundborg. Bow and arrow (only arrowheads preserved), a small ceramic drinking vessels (not shown), flint scrapers, a battle-axe, wrist guards on the left wrist (against the bowstring) and amber beads, which had been sewn on his garment.
It was the hunters' tradition to spread ocher on the deceased at funerals. Far into the
Neolithic period traces of ocher have been found in graves from the subsequent Funnel Beaker
Not everyone was buried in the new burial mounds. In the early Neolithic period, a man was buried in a plain grave on the small islet of Dragsholm near Kalundborg. In the grave were his bow and arrows, a small drinking vessels of baked clay, some flint blades and a battle-ax. The deceased must have been wearing his suit at the funeral, but only those pieces of amber, which had been attached to it, were preserved. He wore a wristguard of bone attached on the left wrist. He was a hunter and warrior, and perhaps also a peasant. The arrowheads were of the characteristic Erbølle transverse style that was common well into the Neolithic period. The drinking vessel may have been his personal cup, used when he participated in important beer drinking ceremonies with other men.
Left: "Boat-ax" with shaft hole from Nordisk Familjebok. They are called so because they have the shape of a boat.
Right: Battle-axes from the Single Grave Culture found at Løgumgårde in South Jutland. They are made from a fine-grained rock, which can be found only in Sweden.
Battle axes of this type, but of rather variable design, are found mainly in Western
Jutland in graves from the Single Grave Culture. But they are also, to a lesser extent, found in the rest of the country, which was dominated by the Funnel Beaker Culture, as we see it in the grave on Dragsholm.
The battle axes are mostly made of greenstone rock, available in Danish deposits from the Ice Age. Some axes are made of rocks, which are found far from Denmark. There have been found almost a hundred battle-axes, which are made of materials from Norway or Sweden. At Løgumgårde in Jutland two battle-axes made of a fine-grained Swedish rock have been unearthed.
On the Scandinavian peninsula, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Bornholm a kind of battle-axes, called "bådøkser" were made. they are called so because they resemble an inverted boat. On the underside can often be seen - On the place of the mast - a small tube to support the shaft.
Left: The god Thor with his war hammer Mjolnir - modern oil painting. The faith of the Aesirs was of course, somewhat later than the Neolithic period, but but the Neolithic battle ax looks more like a hammer.
Right: Typical Ertebølle ax for comparison. It is only 8-9 cm. long.
War axes may not have been as sharp as axes of flint or steel; it would be more descriptive to call them war hammers; we remember that the god Thor later was armed with his war hammer Mjolnir. One can imagine that they also have been symbols of dignity for local village kings that symbolized power and status.
For thousands of years the ancient hunters made their axes, so they were good enough and could be used for their purposes, which was probably to kill wounded animals, chop a little brush to the kitchen fire and the like. But the Neolithic flint smiths were some far more perfectionist types; axes should be smooth, they thought, even if they had to grind on them for days.
Moreover, Neolithic axes were much larger than the hunters'. A typical ax from Ertebølle period is about 7-8 cm. long, while a typical grinded working ax from the Neolithic period often is longer than 15 cm.
Thin-necked flint ax from late Funnel Beaker Culture fitted with a handle as we think it
had looked like.
Ax anatomy: an ax consist of an ax-head and an ax-handle. The part of the head that sits
above (behind) the handle hole is called the neck, and the part that sits in front of the hole is called the blade, which ends in the sharp edge.
There are three main types of polished axes from the Neolithic period: pointed-necked, thin-necked and thick-necked axes.
- Pointed-necked axes are the oldest. Behind a fictitious handle-hole, they decrease gradually in both thickness and width. They have oval cross-section. They were shafted by a hole in the ax-handle. Thanks to their conical shape they wedged themselves firmly in the hole during use. The shape of the pointed-necked axes was a natural continuation of the hunters' axes, only bigger and sharper.
- Thin-necked axes seem to have been dominant when the deforestation was going on. They were real working axes, suitable for logging. Behind the fictional shaft-hole the neck decreases in thickness, but they also have a small taper in width. They are shafted in a hole in the handle, in which they also wedge themselves firmly during use.
- Thick-necked axes have a rectangular or square head. They have a slightly triangular ax-blade, and thereby the whole head becomes conical. They were somewhat smaller than the thin-necked axes, and they seem more to be designed for different occasional work than the hard work on logging. They too were mounted in a hole in the handle, whereby the head wedged itself firm in use because of the conical shape. The shape was a forerunner to the later bronze axes.
Left: Pointed-necked stone ax from early Neolithic - the length is about 15 cm.
Mid: Thin-necked stone ax from deforestation period found at Vindeballe. The length is approximately 19 cm.
Right: Thick-necked stone ax from late Neolithic. The length is approximately 19 cm. Photo Steen Agersø.
Modern experiments with axes from the Neolithic period have shown that the ax head must press against the edge of the hole in the handle in the longitudinal direction, as the handle will otherwise split.
In a kitchen midden (heap of oyster shells) at Krabbesholm near Skive, that was built up through late the Ertebølle Culture into early Funnel Beaker Culture, were found bones of domestic animals such as pigs, cattle and sheep. It is not yet clear how old the domestic animal bones are, but this alone that domestic bones have been found in one of the Ertebølle culture's shell heaps must indicate that it was the hunters' descendants, who still lived there with their domestic animals in the early Neolithic Age. Thus, it is not the case here that an intruder people have invaded the country and introduced animal and arable farming.
Left: From about the middle of Neolithic pottery shows up, which can be seen as
Right: A molar from a domestic ox that has been found in an Ertebølle Culture kitchen midden at Egminde near Løgstør.
In another kitchen midden from the Ertebølle period at Egsminde near Løgstør has been found a molar from a domestic ox, indicating that domestic animals were known already in the late part of the Ertebølle period.
Stone Age pigs reminded a lot about wild boars. They could go without care in the woods, where there was plenty of food for most of the year. The animals were shorter than today's modern domestic pigs and had a big head in proportion to the body and probably also the boar's long bristles.
All domestic cattle descend from aurochs. The stone age farmers domestic cattle belong to the largest that we know about from ancient times. After the Neolithic period animal size decreased steadily, and in the Iron Age, the cows had become very small. The Roman historian Tacitus described in his book "Germania" from 98 AD the Germanic cattle as "miserable", but despite this: "The Germans feel happy over the size of their livestock, and it is their only and dearest wealth."
Sheep was the first animal that was domesticated. We know for sure that it was kept in Neolithic, but textiles or remains of textiles made from wool have never been found from the Stone Age; we do not know if they used the sheep's wool to spin yarn and weave it for clothing. Wool garments are known only from Bronze Age - over 1,500 years later.
Top Left: Stone Age pigs looked like wild boars, shown here on a photo from Lejre Forsøgscenter.
Top right: Aurochs-like bull from Lille Vildmose.
Below: Gutefår, which is a very old Scandinavian breed of sheep.
Sheep bones that have been found from the Stone Age, comes from young sheep, whose wool cannot be used for processing. It suggests that they have slaughtered the sheep before their wool could be used to spin yarn.
One can imagine that they could have used the wool to make felt, which is produced from entangled and compacted wool. It's pretty straightforward, but we have to make a discovery showing this. The earliest piece of felt in Scandinavia has been found in a tomb in Hordaland in Norway from 500 AD.
Left: A traditional Ainu shirt, which is called an "attus", is made of fibers obtained from
the Japanese elm tree.
Right: Two possible loom weights from the late Neolithic period made of unfired clay.
In some places, scientists have been lucky to find parts of textile from the Late Hunters Stone Age and early Neolithic made of plant fibers, probably nettle. On the underwater Ertebølle settlement in Tybrind Vig was found a piece of fabric made of linden- or willow-bast. In
Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Wild Swans, Princess Elisa knitted precisely nettle shirts with magical properties to her bewitched brothers; Andersen was very inspired by the popular fairy tales and stories that he heard in his childhood on the island of Funen. Nettle shirts may have been a very old tradition.
It is also possible to create textiles from tree bark. The Ainu people of northern Japan manufactured their traditional textiles from the bast of the Japanese elm tree. The bark is peeled off the felled tree, and then the innermost layer of the bark is peeled off. These fibers from the inner bark are then softened in water, dried in the sun, and thereafter they can be decomposed into fine fibers, which are twisted together into threads, which can be woven making a relatively stiff brown textile.
At Myrhøj in western Himmerland and at Limensgård on the island of Bornholm have been made a discovery from the late Neolithic period of unfired lumps of clay with holes, which can be interpreted as loom weights.
It is usually assumed that the first arable farming in Denmark was slash and burn agriculture, in which primeval forest was burned, and the cleared area was cultivated for a few years until the soil was exhausted; whereafter the primitive farmers moved to somewhere else and started over again with burning forest.
Left: Some suggest removing stumps with a large weight rod of tempered steel.
Right: Stumps on land cleared of trees - Removal of stumps and roots can be a big problem. Some contractors offer to mill them away with heavy contractor equipment. Søren Ryge in the Danish TV's garden broadcasting chose to blow away the roots of a large fruit bush with dynamite. But to imagine that the Stone Age farmers could remove roots from large trees and the underground matted roots from hawthorn, elder and hazel, etc. from a larger area only equipped with stone-ax and a digging stick of wood, that is unrealistic.
Now, it is the case that Denmark also then had a rainy Atlantic climate. The forests were
deciduous forest, which consisted of old oak, elm and linden trees mixed with hazel bushes. That kind of woods cannot burn. All forest fires that we hear about in TV are in forests dominated by resin containing conifers or of dry eucalyptus trees. Many of us have tried to burn fresh hardwood in the fireplace or in a midsummer campfire, and we have discovered that it burns only if one adds sufficient quantities of flammable liquids.
Stone axes are quite effective in cutting down trees, it has been verified in modern times. But it is not enough to fell the trees to make the land usable for farming; also the branches must be removed from the stems, the stumps must be dug up and removed, shrubs and bushes cut down and their roots removed. Possibly they could drag branches and twigs together, let them dry over the summer and then burn it all. As we well know large logs do not burn immediately, they must be chopped first. And when they had finished all this, they could begin to remove stones.
Stumps and their roots are very difficult to remove, even with modern tools. Even a steel ax may have difficulty biting into a tree root, often it bounces back like the roots were made of rubber.
Søren Ryge in Danish television's garden program chose to use dynamite to remove an old bush in his garden. Stone axes could not have been very effective in removing shrubs and bushes, not to talk about their roots.
All in all, with Neolithic tools it must have been an enormous amount of work to clear forest for farming. It is really unlikely that the Stone Age farmers "just" cleared or burned part of the forest only for using the area a few years and then started all over a new place.
Typical Greek mountains on the island of Tilos. In Greece's ancient past the mountains were covered by forests, but the Greeks felled the forest and let sheep and goats graze on the mountains. Over time, the earth eroded away, and today the mountains are bare and naked. - It shows the efficiency of sheep and goats in holding a forest stand down.
It is more likely that they used goats' and sheep's well-known efficiency to keep
forest stands down. Sheep and goats graze an area much more efficiently than cows. They
eat not only grass but also buddings, shrubs and trees.
When Socrates and Plato walked around in the streets of Athens, the Greek mountains were covered with forest. The Greeks felled the trees, and let goats and sheep graze on the green slopes. However, during centuries rain washed the soil away from the unprotected mountain slopes, and today the mountains are naked and barren, with no forest or grass.
Top: Pottery fragments from the Neolithic period with imprint of grain.
Bottom: Reconstruction of the sickle from the Neolithic period. The cutting edge is made of Microliths secured with tar, perhaps from birch bark.
One can imagine that Stone Age farmers really used the following procedure: First, they felled large trees, collected branches and twigs together into a kind of bonfire stack and
let it dry during summer. Some of the branches they used for fences and similar, and the rest they burned. Then they let the sheep and goats graze the area for many years and thus prevented the stumps and roots to shoot again. The felled tree trunks were allowed to dry on the spot and were eventually used for different purposes, for example, dugouts, house-building and the like.
After that sheep and goats had kept the woods down for many years, roots and stumps had rotted away, and then they could think of to grow grain on the land.
The Jutland teacher, Frode Kristensen, from Tørring noticed in 1894 the small imprints that grain can leave in fired earthenware. He showed that it was possible to determine which grains that had left the prints. This method has been used by archaeologists with great success to determine, which crops older agricultural cultures cultivated.
Already from the beginning of the Neolithic period, five grains were known in Denmark: einkorn, emmer, dwarf wheat, six-rowed naked barley and normal barley. None of these species are found as wild plants in Denmark, they must have been introduced along with arable farming.
Top left to right:
Einkorn - a kind of wheat.
Emmer - also a kind of wheat.
Dwarf wheat and bread wheat are a kind of spelt, which is also a kind of wheat.
Bottom left: Six-rowed naked barley.
Bottom right: Normal barley.
Einkorn is a kind of barley. It has a really bad baking ability, and when used alone it gives a putty-like dough. It is said that if you use honey/salt raising, it can be an excellent bread. Einkorn comes from the "fertile crescent" in the Middle East, where it still can be found as a wild plant.
Emmer is a kind of wheat. It is not suitable for making bread because of a very low gluten content. It is used in the manufacture of beer that gets dark, murky and very spicy. Possibly it could also be used for porridge. Wild emmer still exists in the fertile crescent of the Middle East.
Left: Traces from plowing with ard found during an excavation of a long burial mound at Snave near Dreslette in southwestern Fyn. The plow tracks can be identified as dark stripes in the lighter surface of the soil. Photo: Gyldendals og Politikkens Danmarkshistorie 1.
Right: Ard from the Ghardaia oasis in Algeria. - No ard had been preserved from the Neolithic period, but it could have looked like this one from an oasis in the Algerian desert. it is made entirely of wood.
Dwarf wheat (Triticum compactum) and bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) are kinds of spelt, which is also a kind of wheat. Spelt is suitable for porridge and bread and maybe beer. There has been found spelt in the Caucasus, dating to 6.000-5.000 BC. In Moldavia, some findings are dated to 4.000 - 3.000 BC.
Naked barley gives a good yield. Barley porridge has in thousands of years been an integral part of the Danish menu. It was called the Nordic region's rice because it can be eaten in the same way as rice, for example as fill in the soup. That the barley is naked means that it has an easy-to-remove peel, which otherwise sticks on the grain and must be removed before we can eat it. Barley is also used for barley malt, which is an indispensable part of beer brewing.
Only sparse remains of normal barley have been found from Neolithic.
Left: Several of the types of grain can still be found as wild plants in the "fertile crescent" - which was more fertile 5,000 years ago than it is in the present.
Right: Stone used for manual milling found at Tolstrupgårde - National Museum.
It seems that the dominant crop in the early Neolithic was emmer closely followed by six-rowed naked barley. Einkorn and dwarf wheat occurred, however, only in smaller quantities. But during the period einkorn seems to have gained ground, among other places in Scania.
In layers of burned remains of food on the inside of pottery, fragments have been found of many seeds from wild apples; also we often find shells from hazelnuts, so apples and nuts appear to have been an important supplement to their diet.
Left: The Skarpsalling vessel from Himmerland - National Museum.
Right: Examples of the Funnel Beaker Culture pottery.
The pottery of Neolithic represents a giant leap forward compared to the Ertebølle period's coarse vessels. They are thinner, and they are very regular round.
The most famous piece of pottery from the Neolithic period is the Skarpsalling vessel, which was found in 1891, during the clearing of stones from a passage grave on Oudrup Hede near Skarpsalling in Himmerland. Today it can be found in the National Museum.
Similar to the Ertebølle pottery the Skarpsalling vessel has no flat bottom, on which it can stand. The conical bottom seems to be designed to be wedged between stones, or maybe it should hang. It is beautifully decorated, and we recognize the old hunters' zigzag patterns.
Later in the Neolithic, the vessels got a real flat bottom so that they could be placed on an even surface.
No one knows how the Neolithic Stone Age farmers made their pottery. It had thin walls, and the vessels were near perfect round. It is often said that the vessels were built of thin sausages of clay. But it seems unlikely that they could built up such thin-walled vessels from clay sausages without any support. One can imagine that the clay-sauges were supported by a core for example of beeswax with a filler or of a combustible resin material. The core would then melt or burn away when heated for example during the burning of the pottery.
Such collar bottles are characteristic for the oldest part of the Neolithic period that is around 4.000-3.400 BC.
Especially in the Funnel Beaker Culture, ceramics were decorated with many different patterns made with the edge of sea-shells, a bone or a pointed stick. Subsequently, patterns could be
filled with a chalky mass as a contrast to the clay. Then it was dried and finally burned at temperatures between 500 and 700 degrees.
One wonders how Neolithic potters could produce the vessels so perfectly, round without using a potter's wheel, while they were quite thin-walled, around 5-10 mm. One must believe that the wet clay would collapse. One can imagine that they had attached the clay sausages on a core, which later in the process would be melted, burned or scratched out with a stick.
Advanced ceramics from the Funnel Beaker Culture.
We can guess that the cores were made of beeswax, resin-containing materials or sand with an
organic binding agent.
The use of cores would have been a logical precursor to the later advanced bronze casting, where the use of cores was a very important casting technical detail.
It is believed that the impressive pottery, which we find from the first half of the Neolithic period is intended for use in religious ceremonies, for example, in connection with funerals, and this is the reason for their perfect shape and artistic decoration. Later in the period, the ceramics got a more everyday look.
Fishing fence found at Olelyst near Halskov.
During the construction of the Storebælt bridge in 1989, archeologists found at Olelyst near Halskov Overdrev remains of an advanced fish plant from the Neolithic period about 3,300 years BC. It was a natural further development of the Ertebølle periods extensive fishing plants.
The fish fence from Olelyst was the first one, which was excavated in its entirety in Denmark. Each section consisted of long tapered hazel rods that were braided around with crossing branches. From the excavated braided section, a whole row of vertical poles could be followed 35 m. out into the bay. This was pound nets stakes, on which the braided sections, like the excavated one, had been tied up. Located transverse with an inclining angle of the current in the bay it had directed the fish towards a catching device, probably a fish trap.
Braided fish trap from Irish Neolithic.
The fishing fence seems to have been built in prefabricated sections, which could be taken on land in the autumn and reinstalled in the spring. Each section was approximately 5.5 times 1 meter; a section contained 12 vertical hazel poles and in between these were braided thin, closely packed hazel rods. Each of the vertical poles was tapered so that they easily could be put into the soft bottom.
In one end of a section, there was a single vertical pole so that the ends of the horizontal braided hazel rods here stuck out to both sides of the pole and seen in horizontal section formed a dovetail shape, a groove. In the other end, the vertical pole was doubled, and the ends of all of the horizontal braided rods were here led in between the two poles, so that this end of the mat was pretty flat, and so to speak formed a tongue.
A fishing fence manufactured in sections with tongue and groove.
This difference between the two ends made possible that the sections could be connected, so that the flat end could be inserted into the V-shaped end after the tongue-and-groove principle. This may have allowed the fish fence easily and quickly to be put out in the spring, section after section.
So many branches from hazel in such lengths and that quality may have come from systematic nursing of closely spaced hazel bushes. We can imagine how the vegetation around the bay in Neolithic had included "plantations" of nursed and cut hazel, which were used for fishing fences and housebuilding. This shows that in the Neolithic, there has been a social power, perhaps a chief or a local king, who could dispose of hundreds of persons' labor and plan far into the future.
Top: Sønderjyllands Museum excavates fishing plant at Slivsø south of Haderslev.
Bottom: Old fish fence of stones on the island of Lasqueti near Vancouver Island at North America's west coast. - Such simple fish fences have probably also existed in the Danish Neolithic. The fish fence is low enough to allow the fish to swim over it and closer to the shore by high water, but at low tide, the fence protrudes above the surface and thereby prevents them from swimming back to deep water.
At Slivsø south of Haderslev Sønderjyllands Museum has excavated a 50 m. long fish plant from the Neolithic period 3.000 BC. Similar to the plant from Halskov it was divided into prefabricated sections.
In Denmark, the remains of about thirty dugouts from the Neolithic period have been found. They are all of exactly the same design as the dugouts from the Ertebølle period. It has been a very traditional type of vessel, which must have served its purpose to the users' satisfaction in countless years.
Drawing of a traditional type of eel fence with trap, which often could be seen along the Danish beaches in the nineteenth century, for example on Røsnæs. The willow-braided panel is shown in an unusually short version, perhaps for the sake of the drawing format. The panel directed the eels to deeper water, where they were led by a funnel-shaped net into a fish trap. In this case, the construction is provided with a walkway that made it possible to empty the trap also in case of bad weather.
The ancient hunters preferred to produce dugouts of linden tree, but in the Neolithic period el and oak became more common.
The length was often close to 10 m., the width depended on the diameter of the tree-trunk, but was perhaps 0.5 to 0.8 m. The sides' thickness was worked down to 1-2 cm thickness, while the bottom was 3-5 cm thick. The bow was tapered and the transom was cut straight and closed with a bulkhead. This loose bulkhead plate was attached to the inside of the boat using dowels and sealed with resin, pitch or tar, perhaps produced by gentle heating of birch bark. The unladen weight has been about 250-350 kg.
Neolithic Denmark was far more water-rich than today. There were small lakes, marshes and shallow inlets everywhere, and the rivers were not made straight, as they are today. It has been quite convenient to sail from one fishing area to another so that a fisherman would not have to carry all his equipment on his back through impassable forests and bogs. The Neolithic fishermen and hunters also brought embers to a fire, as it can see by the fire spots in the bottom of the dugouts.
The dugout from Broksø has been found in Holmegårds Moses in South Sjælland. The boat is from the beginning of the Neolithic period, that is, approximately 3,500 BC. It is made of oak and was 3.80 m. long and 0.55 m. wide at the stern. It can be seen at the National Museum. Several more dugouts from Neolithic have been found in Åmosen on Sjælland near Kalundborg.
Left: Fragment of a dugout from the Neolithic period found at Korsør. It has 22 repair holes for sewing, which testifies the owner's care to keep the vessel in usable condition. - Kalundborg Museum. It was really the beginning of a new technique, as the later hjortspring-boat from Iron Age also was sewn together.
Right: Finding a dugout.
If the wood cracked, the damage was sewn together and sealed with pitch or clay. A fragment of a dugout found at Korsør, for example, had 22 repair holes for sewing. This indicates moreover that Neolithic people must have had quite strong cords or leash, perhaps made of bast, possibly from the outer phloem of linden trees - today one would have used steel wire for such a purpose.
However- a dugout has a stability that is comparable to a kayak's. Its ability to return to upright position after a heel is negligible. Dugouts may not have been suitable for navigation on the high seas or for the heavy work with, for example, fishing-nets, long poles or large willow-braided parts of fishing plants.
There have been found no traces of other types of boats from Neolithic, but many believe that they must have had some more stable boats for sailing on the high seas and for working with heavy equipment.
Top: Worked wooden parts like oak planks, beams and studs from early English Neolithic from Somerset Level. Note the tapered ends, the round holes, flat surfaces, tongue and grooves and nocks. Neolithic carpenters were fully capable of producing the skeleton of a skinboat.
Bottom: Willow-braided house side found at Somerset Levels in England. - Willow-braiding was a Neolithic specialty, used for many purposes.
The Roman poet Avienus quoted fragments from a Phoenician "Periplus" (sailing instruction) from the sixth century BC describing a meeting with native Britons in skin boats: "To Oestrimnides (Scilly Islands) come many enterprising people, who are engaged in trading and who navigate the monster-filled ocean far and wide in small vessels. They do not know how to build a ship of wood in the usual way. Believe it or not, they're making their boats by sewing hides together and perform their journeys on the open sea with them."
Irishmen, who are interested in history, sail in a reconstruction of an Irish curagh, a boat
built by wooden frames and wattle and coated with hides.
Also, the Roman historian Pliny the Elder has a reference to skin boats. He retold in 77 AD. information from an older historian, Timaeus, whose original work has been lost. The historian Timaeus wrote that there is an island called Mictis, located six days sailing inward from Britain, where tin has been found, and to which Britons crossed the sea in boats build of braided willows covered with sewn hides." (Pliny, Natural Histories, IV, 14, 104). It is not quite clear what he means by "inward", but perhaps he meant inward toward the continent, that is against the east.
Of course, here we are talking about reports that are significantly younger than the Neolithic period, but they nevertheless provide a clue that there may have been an original European tradition of building skin boats.
Neolithic farmers used wattle for many purposes, such as fish plants, fish traps, house sides and probably fences. Pollarded willows must have been a common sight in the Neolithic period. It must have been an obvious idea to make a boat of wattle and cover it with hides, as we know from the traditional Irish curragh. They had the technological preconditions, they had the materials and they had the need. It is reasonable to assume that they also did it?
Violence has been a common cause of death in the Neolithic period, judged by the many injuries, which we can see on the skeletal findings. Life was difficult and for some, it was also short and brutal.
In two cases the method of killing suggests that the persons in question have been sacrificed to the gods or spirits in the bog; because they have been strangled.
The head of the woman from Sigersdal Mose - The large hole in the skull is very likely
produced during modern peat-cutting.
Peat workers in Sigersdal Mose in northern Sjælland encountered in 1949 the skeleton of a young girl, lying with a rope around her neck. She partly lay down, with one foot stuck in the mud in bog bottom, while the rest of the body was embedded in peat. The geologist Svend Thorkild Andersen, who was present, imagines that she had been led out to the site with a rope around her neck, and then had been strangled and thrown into that time lake. She was 18-20 years old when she died. Close by was found another skeleton of another young girl, who presumably also have been sacrificed to the spirits of the bog - simultaneously or almost simultaneously. The other girl in Sigersdal Mose was about 16 years old. Her cause of death can not be determined. Perhaps she also has been strangled. The two girls' skulls are similar, and they may have been siblings. However, some believe that at least the oldest was not a woman, but a young man.
Because at least one of Sigersdal girls was strangled, it is assumed that they represent a sacrifice to the gods or the spirits of the bog. Close to the finding place is a stone pavement, and not far from there was made a great discovery of 13 thin-necked axes. Therefore, one can assume that this locality in Sigerdals Mose has been a traditional place of sacrifice.
At Boelkilde on the island of Als, there is also found a bog-body from the Neolithic period, who has been strangled prior to immersion in the bog. Because of the method of killing it is, in the same way, believed that it is a case of sacrifice to the gods.
The Porsmose man was hit by an arrow in the nose when he bent forward in pain over the shot in the chest. Therefore the arrowhead sits like he was hit in an angle from above.
In connection with peat cutting a skeleton of a 35-40-year-old man was found in Porsmose near Næstved; he died around 3.500 BC. When he was found in 1946, he still had two arrows in the body. A bone-arrowhead had hit him in the head like he was shot with an angle from above, and it still sticks down diagonally through his nasal cavity and the right half of his upper jaw. It must have been extremely painful, but he must have been killed by another arrow that had pierced into his chest. Maybe he curled together of pain after the first arrow that hit him in the chest and was then hit by the next arrow in the head. The man may have been surprised by his enemies, or perhaps he was executed. After the killing, the body was thrown into that time lake. The arrowhead type belongs to the Single Grave Culture.
Trepanations are known from Danish Neolithic. A trepanation is a surgery, where the skull is opened exposing the brain, in order to relieve the pressure from a bleeding, remove splinters of bone or tumors. Many trepanations were made on the left side of the head, where a battle ax would hit in melee against a right-handed opponent. There are several examples of patients, who had survived such surgery.
Top left: Skull from the first skeleton found in a bog near Sorø with a 15 mm. trepanation in center of the head slightly to the left, and a 7 mm. in the back of the head to the left. - A blow with a battle ax would typically hit the left side when the man has been battling a right-handed opponent.
Top right: Upper arm bones from the second skeleton in the bog at Soro. The left upper arm is smaller than the right and has been significantly deformed.
Below: Trepanated skull from a passage grave at Næs on the island of Falster- The bones can be seen in The National Museum.
In 1942 two skeletons were found in a bog near Sorø on Sjælland. Both their skulls have holes after trepanations. In the middle of one of the skulls is a hole with a diameter of 15 mm. In connection with the trepanation can be seen an elongated depression of the skull, which may have been caused by a blow with a battle ax. The reason for the trepanation may thus have been this breach of the skull; by cutting a hole to the brain, they relieved the blood pressure and saved the man's life. The inclined edges of the trepanation show signs of healing, indicating that the man had survived his injury. Another and less visible trepanation can be seen further back on the skull in the left side. This hole measures 7 mm. in diameter.
The other person's left arm-bones are deformed and much shorter than the right. He has been disabled, perhaps because of an injury in childhood. Both men were immersed in the bog around 3.500 BC.
Left: Skull found in a stone grave at Keldrød on Central Sjælland - He has traces after a lesion over the left eye and a not healed fracture on the skull in the left side - from 3,300 BC.
Right: Drawing of a skull found in the passage grave Jordhøj at Stege. The person, likely a man, had eyebrow ridges like the ancient hunters and many present men, but not particularly sloping forehead.
On a skull found in the passage grave Hulbjerg at Bagenkop on the island of Langeland we can see that a tooth has been drilled into the root; it has also changed color as root-treated teeth do. Moreover, it is seen that the teeth are very worn. - Langeland's Museum.
In a stone tomb at Keldrød in Central Sjælland has been found the skull of a man, who was 35-40 years, when he died around 3.300 BC. Like many Neolithic men, he bears traces of having participated in heavy fightings. Over the right eye, he has a damage after being hit by a blunt weapon, probably a battle ax, but the wound had healed, and he must have lived on some years after this blow. However, he later received a blow to the left temple, which broke through the skull. They have tried to save his life by trepanation, but the fracture is not healed, and he must have died shortly after.
In Hulbjerg passage grave on the island of Langeland, archaeologists found a skull with signs of the world's oldest known dental treatment. They had with a flint-drill drilled into and punctured a tooth with infection in the root.
It is seen that the Funnel Beaker people's skulls are very similar to modern ethnic Danes', the frequency of the typical "Cro Magnon" type seems to have somewhat reduced since the Ertebølle period, whatever that may be caused.
Studies of early central European peasant societies show that death was a frequent visitor to Neolithic settlements. Live-born could expect to achieve an average age between 20 and 35 years. Only 30-40% reached adulthood; the rest either died at birth or within the first twenty years of life. There is no reason to believe that it should not also be valid for the Danish population in the Neolithic period.
Some have estimated that the population size during this period in Denmark may have been between 100,000 and 200,000 persons.
At the village of Sarup between Faaborg and Assens was in 1967 discovered a very large construction from the early
Neolithic period. A sandy peninsula between two rivers had been fenced by an about 3 meter high and 572 m. long
palisade made of 1,800 split oak logs each 30-40 cm thick. The fenced area was 8.5 hectare, which corresponds to 7-8 football fields.
There was a screened entrance to the fenced area only 1.4 meter wide. All the way along the outside of the long palisade have been built 19 square enclosures, also built up by palisades.
In the area outside, there have been houses and a system of double ditches or elongated pits. In addition there have been other parallel rows of palisades, which might have marked access roads or marked boundaries between areas for various purposes. At the bottom of the elongated pits have been made finds of pottery fragments, intact pots, skulls of cattle, sheep or pigs, plus human skulls, parts of such and other bones.
The Sarup construction is from the beginning of the Neolithic period around 3,400 BC - just after the transition from the Ertebølle hunters to the farming community, when there were still vast forests and thus plenty of timber.
Reconstruction of Sarup I.
Professor Niels H. Andersen from Moesgård Museum writes: "The whole Sarup area was surrounded by a 3 meter high palisade made of oak trunks. There have not been made any findings within the fence, but plenty outside. Therefore, I imagine that people did not dare to go in there. Because it had been reserved for dead souls as a part of a funeral cult."
On the outside, but close to the palisade, were found a lot of pottery, burned bones - including human bones, burned stones and charcoal from fireplaces.
"The farmers from Sarup area were some of Denmark's first full-time farmers." continues Niels H. Andersen, "The Sarup construction has been enormously challenging to build and shows a substantial production surplus. It has claimed at least 170 men working full-time in three months, where the men had to be released from their other duties."
Much indicates that the deceased were temporarily buried in the elongated pits outside the palisades. Here they lay until the flesh had rotted away. Perhaps to protect the living from the threat of the spirits of the dead, when they broke away from their earthly body and sought against the Land of the Dead. The area inside the fence belonged to the souls of the dead. During a subsequently funeral feast the relatives picked up the bones from the pits and placed them in the family's newly built funerary monuments, which were dolmens near the settlement.
Reconstruction of the entrance to Sarup In seen from inside. After N. H. Andersen 1988.
150 years later, around 3250 BC a second, but smaller, facility was built at Sarup, which is called Sarup II. It had the form of a crescent, which defined an area of approximately 3.5 hectares of the southern tip of the sandy peninsula. The design included also a palisade fence, square enclosures built with palisade fences along the outside, and two parallel rows of trenches outside the fence. During this period, long barrows were built, and ceramics of very high quality was produced that were sacrificed in front of the graves.
All across Europe, 800 similar facilities have been found since the discovery of the Sarup construction. In Denmark alone, we know of 30 such facilities among others at Haderslev, Jægerspris and Skævinge in North Sjælland. A circular Sarup like facility at Goseck in central Germany from about 3.000 BC was designed so that a person standing in the center at winter solstice could see the sunrise through one opening and see the sundown through another opening.
Funnel Beaker culture's many different kinds of tombs can be seen everywhere in the Danish countryside, together with the later Bronze Age burial mounds.
The long barrow Givehøje near Silkeborg.
During the earliest Funnel Beaker Culture Stone Age farmers built long barrows. At this time, there were still widespread forests in Denmark, and there was plenty of timber. Therefore, they built long barrows of wood and presumably turf. They could be up to 90 m. long and 14 m. wide. They are usually oriented in an east-west direction. Here they have buried their dead of all ages, from infants to elderly people aged 50 to 60 years.
About a hundred of this type of burial mounds are known in Denmark.
They often seem to have been built in several stages. There can be wooden rods in rows across the hills, most likely to prevent sliding of the soil. The eastern end of the mound has been provided with a sort of facade built up of timber. Here are often found many pottery fragments, which indicates that there have been performed burial ceremonies.
Several features from these early Neolithic graves are pointing backwards towards the hunter's Stone Age. More people can have been laid in the same grave sprinkled with ocher, as had been the custom in hunter's Stone Age. Up to five people have been buried in the same grave.
Floor plan for the dolmen Porskær Stenhus drawn by AP Madsen in 1900. The burial chamber is located on the east side. It is assumed that initially there have been several burial chambers.
Later, when supplies of timber became less abundant, a shift towards building tombs of large stones (megaliths) was introduced, these graves are called dolmens.
All the thousands of dolmens, which can still be seen in the landscape, were built during a relatively short period of time, namely 3.500-3.200 BC. Actually very much in the same way as the Danish village churches, which were also built over a few hundred years in the early Middle Ages during a religious revival. And similar to the numerous bronze age burial mounds that were built during the early part of the bronze age only, that is a period of 5-600 years.
It has been estimated that during this period were built at least 25,000 dolmens. One must say that they represented a fairly wasteful consumption of manpower and good farmland; especially as one considers that the filling very likely was turf, which was peeled off the nearby fields.
Today are known only approximately 700 passage graves and approximately 4,700 dolmens. Of which well 2,500 are preserved as visible, protected prehistoric remains.
We distinguish between the round dolmens , which are surrounded by a circular ring of stones, and the slightly later long barrows, which are surrounded by an oval circle of stones.
The round dolmen, Poskær Stenhus, on Djursland. It consists of a stone chamber surrounded by a circular ring of large stones. Note that the soil which originally covered the stone chamber is completely gone.
One can not be certain about that the dolmens originally were covered with earth or turf, but it seems unlikely that the Stone Age farmers had left the dolmens uncovered on an open field so that animals could get access to the bones of the ancestors.
When the poet Grundtvig visited the dolmen in Gunderslev Skov in 1808, he became so captivated by the sight, that he threw himself down and praised the Aesir's altar. Shortly before, Grundtvig namely had completed his book "Nordic Mythology or view over the Edda Teaching", and he was convinced that he was facing one of the Norse period's visible memorials. He wrote a poem about his experience, called "Gunderslev Forest" which, among other other verses, sounds:
"To the sacred from North
leads only faint tracks
What rises yonder?
Oh, is it not the altar's mossy stones"
At that time it was thought that the dolmens were pagan sacrificial altars, but later it had been realized that they are tombs from Neolithic.
The long dolmen at Rise on the island of Ærø. Several chambers are surrounded by an oval circle of stones. The soil, which originally covered the chambers have long since disappeared - Drawing from the beginning of the twentieth century.
Since the poet's visit, the dolmen in Gunderslev Forest has had the name Grundtvig's Dysse.
Saxo Grammaticus wrote in his preface to "The Deeds of the Danes": "In the old days Denmark may have been developed and cultivated by a kind Giants, for that can be seen on the very huge stones over the grave-cellars and Passage graves".
Originally the stone chambers have been covered by a mound of turf and soil so that they were underground chambers. But over the past 5-6,000 years, rain, sun and wind have done their work, and today the stone chambers stand naked, and that is the visual characteristic of dolmens.
One can not know for sure if they were covered with soil, but it seems unlikely that the Stone Age people had allowed the dolmens to stand uncovered on open field so that animals could have access to the ancestors' sacred bones.
In front of dolmens and passage graves the Stone Age farmers sacrificed big amounts of food and drink in outstanding pottery. At a passage grave near Sarup were sacrificed not less than 350 pots, which were found in form of 26,000 pottery fragments.
These sacrifices ended rather abruptly around the time of 3.000 BC. Next, it became the habit to sacrifice tools of flint at funerary ceremonies. It could be flint axes, flint chisels or flint scrabers apparently in no particular order. But often it were tools that were completely destroyed by fire.
The first stone dolmens were quite small, and often with closed rectangular grave chambers; the burial mounds were almost circular and they are therefore called round dolmens . The mounds are enclosed by circular stone rows along the edge called edge-stones.
Blueprints of some Danish round- and long-dolmens and langhøje long barrows on Mols, at Slots Bjergby, Stenstrup, Alsberg, Sønderholm and Gunderslevholm.
During the following centuries, dolmens developed into large polygonal burial chambers with adjacent corridors through the enclosing mound. A very common type is
long-dolmen , which had an oval mound of earth. They may very well include only a single long burial-chamber but usually, there are several that might have been added regularly over time. Also, long-dolmens are enclosed by boundary stones around the edge of the mound.
Round dolmens and long dolmens were probably all originally built as tombs for some important persons. However, the chambers of long-dolmen and polygonal dolmens have almost always been re-used for new burials; earlier burials and grave goods were thus pushed to the side and often completely removed from the tomb. Thus the skeletons and grave goods found in the dolmens represent not necessarily those, who originally built them.
Around 3,100 BC the Neolithic farmers developed the dolmens into the big passage graves built of very large stones. Compared to the previous dolmens, passage graves have a much larger and more spacious burial chamber, which is accessed through a corridor. Around its outer edges, they placed a circle of big stones.
Passage graves are building-masterpieces. The design is so well thought that they have been able to stand in good condition until present. In contrast to round- and long-dolmens, the soil, which covers the burial chamber, is still in place even sun, wind and rain have affected the mound in 5.000 years.
Top: The passage grave Mårhøj on Hindsholm north of Kerteminde. Note that the burial chamber is still covered by a mound of soil, as it was by the time, it was built 5,000 years ago. It is a fine piece of engineering.
Below: In the interior of the passage grave Mårhøj, it can be seen that the spaces between the side stones are have been filled out with flat slate stones.
The structure's ability to resist the ravages of time is suppoerted by a series of ingenious details: The spaces between the vertical supporting stones have been cemented with flat slabs of sandstone. The spaces between these have been sealed with clay, a cretaceous mass or with flakes of birch bark. The spaces between the big stones making the ceiling of the chamber have been made watertight with clay and a layer of crushed flint; over this were placed another layer of clay, which in turn was covered with flat stones. The outer surface of the mound was covered with stones to make it water-repellent and give strength. The spaces between the boundary stones around the edge of the mound are also bricked with flat stone slabs, which prevented the soil of the mound from sliding out.
Left: Proposal for a construction method for passage grave.
- But perhaps not quite realistic, because the filling between the side stones may be too soft for a load of a two digits number of ton.
Right: Interior of the passage grave Mårhøj north of Kerteminde.
Passage graves are also very carefully designed in terms of strength. The side stones are leaning very slightly inward toward the chamber that they can better withstand the weight of the large stones forming the ceiling.
A very large cover stone measures perhaps 2.5 * 2.0 * 1.0 m. in length, width and thickness, which give a volume of 5.0 cubic meters. Since the density of granite typically is 2.75 tonnes each cubic meter that gives a weight of 13.8 tons.
Unlike round- and long-dolmens, passage graves were from the beginning built to be common graves. For example, in the passage grave Rævehøj near Slagelse, have been found skeletal parts from more than 100 persons. In several locations can be seen room divisions in the chamber floor, which most likely were reserved specific persons. Similarly, 29 of the approximately 700 Danish Jættestuer have small adjoining chambers that were built simultaneously with the main chamber. The large passage graves may also be divided into two separate chambers by a transverse wall each with their own entry. They are called double passage graves. An example of this is Troldestuerne on Sjællands Odde.
Left: Neolithic settlements in East Jylland - Gyldendals og Politikkens Danmarkshistorie 1.
Right: Dolmen on Mols overlooking Kalø Vig.
The dolmens were ancestral graves, which legitimized a tribe's ownership of this particular
piece of land. What could be more compelling than the fact that here rest the bones of our the ancestors, here we have always lived, and therefore this land belongs to us, as it always had!
Archaeologists have made thorough examinations of the area between Horsens Fjord and Aarhus for settlements, graves and Sarup like constructions.
Like the old hunters, the Neolithic farmers seemed to have had a fondness for living overlooking the sea. As one can see, tombs and settlements were all located near the sea, rivers or big lakes. The country's interior seems to have been more or less uninhabited. The dolmens are almost all situated on hills overlooking the sea. On average, the distance from a dolmen to open water is about one and a half kilometer. Even very meticulous search has not been able to reveal graves or settlements in the empty interior areas.
From Horsens to Aarhus has been found seven Sarup like constructions, also known as gathering places. It seems that to every Sarup construction are linked 2-4 main settlements and a greater number of temporary fishing and hunting settlements. One can imagine that the settlements, which shared a common Sarup construction had a common identity; they were a tribe with a special name, and the may have understood themselves as descendants of a famous ancestor. The tribe's territory was defined by natural boundaries, such as rivers, streams, marshes, fjords or ridges.
Top: Reconstruction of one of the houses from Limensgård under construction.
Below: Cross section of house from Limensgård.
At Limensgård on the southern part of the island of Bornholm have been excavated remains of houses from different parts of the Neolithic period. Best preserved were the remains of 14 longhouses from 2.350-1.700 BC. The biggest one had a length of 44 m. and width of 8 m, which gives a floor plan of more than 350 m2. The house was oriented east/west with living area in the west end and probably barn in the east end.
The roof was supported by a series of strong posts along the middle of the house, in some of the houses were also a line of roof-bearing posts on both sides about a meter from the walls in each side. The walls consisted of wattle with clay. It is assumed that the height of long side walls has been quite low, perhaps less than one meter. There have probably the been a fireplace and a door, but they could not be found. It is assumed that the roof has been clad with straw.
Denmark's first wheel from Kideris Mose at Herning from about 2,700 BC. This type of wheel is called disc wheels, unlike wheels with spokes. It was made of a few joined planks, in which
the hub was a part of the disc. There have been found a total of three wheels from the Neolithic period in the neighborhood of Herning The diameters are between 73 and 78 cm. The discs are thickest in the middle that is 6 to 9 cm. around the hub hole, towards the periphery, they are 4-6 cm. thick. The outside edge, which makes contact with the ground, is 2-3 cm. wide.
The first wheels in Denmark's history were found in 1933 and 1940 in Kideris Mose and Bjerregårde Mose near Herning. They are from about 2,700 BC. They belong to the type of so-called disc wheel, which means that they are basically pieces of flat wood, which are made round. They may be joined together by several planks since such a large piece of wood would easily split. Only later in history the modern wheel that is built up of hub, spokes and rim, was invented. A precondition for the usefulness of a wheeled cart is that it has sufficient smooth and flat areas to operate in, free of trees and large stones, and this did not exist until the Neolithic period.
In Slesvig-Holsten have been found traces of wagon wheels under an excavated burial mound from about 3,500 BC. In the Netherlands has been found at least 9 wheels from Neolithic.
A 150 m long road from 2.800 BC was found in Ellemosen at the foot of the hills Tibirke Bakker in northern Sjælland in 1940. Some poles were hammered down in the soft ground in two parallel rows. They were relatively thin and made of hazel. They had probably supported a structure of woven mats laid out on the bog's surface.
Stone heap graves under excavation.
Some scientists see the spread of the wheel and vehicle to northern Europe in connection with the spread of the cord ceramic cultures (the Single Grave Culture in West Jutland). A historian named Marstrander believes that it is reasonable to assume that use of wagons belonged to the cultural elements that the Single Grave People brought with them when they immigrated into Jutland. Although a large immigration of Single Grave people has been questioned in recent years, the carriage and wheel have been a part of the cultural influence, which was the result of the appearance of the Single Grave Culture.
In western Jylland have been found the so-called stone heap graves, located in long rows, most likely along that time roads. At Torsted south of Holsterbro, have been excavated 91 Stone heap graves, which lay in a 1.2 km. long row. At Vrou south of Skive have been excavated a row that was almost two kilometers long. However, human bones had never been found under the stone heaps, so one can not be sure that they really are graves. In some cases have been found some ox bones. Claus Deluran has suggested that the stone heaps are symbolic oxcarts. One can imagine that the Stone Age farmers have been fascinated by the new vehicles with wheels in the same way, as we today are fascinated by automobiles. They may have thought that when one day they had to go to heaven, it must be in such a new fancy oxcart.
The Pit Ceramics were contemporaries with the dominant Funnel Beaker people. Later came the Single Grave Culture and the dagger period.
The Pit Ceramic Culture is named after the special decoration of their pottery. The pots were dotted with a wooden stick or the like, maybe for the purpose to avoid that the pots cracked during burning. Like the old hunters' pots, they had a pointed bottom, so they could be wedged between some stones near the fire.
Left: Finding places for the Pit Ceramics Culture in Denmark.
Right: Pit Ceramics arrowheads or spearheads with tanged arrowhead design - Maybe it is a kind of spearheads, they seem to be quite heavy for arrowheads.
The culture is known from the Swedish east coast, the area around the large Swedish lakes, the south coast of Norway and the Danish Kattegat coast.
The Pit Ceramics lived the same time as the dominant Funnel Beaker people in a relatively short period between 3,100 and 2,900 BC.
They were highly specialized coastal hunters and lived mainly from sea hunting and fishing. In Denmark collection of shellfish seemed to have played a significant role. A big amount of shells from blue mussels, cockles, oysters and various snails have been found in their settlements. Analysis of bone material from settlements in Sweden shows that fishing and seal hunting played an important role. They kept some livestock, especially pigs.
They used specialized spearheads of flint, fish hooks and harpoons of bone and antler with barbs.
Left: Pottery fragments with the characteristic pits.
Right: Pit Ceramic tanged arrowhead.
Curiously enough, they used tanged arrowheads, which was not seen in Denmark since the Bromme
hunters hunted reindeer during the Allerød warm period at the end of the Weichsel ice age.
As the Ertebølle hunters, they adorned themselves with tooth gems - from seals.
Some Swedish researchers believe that pit ceramics were people who had started farming but gave it up. Others believe that pit ceramics were descendants of the Ertebølle coastal hunters, who had continued their traditional lifestyle of hunting and fishing. Still others suggest that they were an entirely new and previously unknown people.
Single Grave Burial mounds in the landscape at Almind south of Viborg.
Single Grave Culture's burial mounds can be seen particularly in the Jylland heathland, where they can form long rows of mounds. The culture emerged in western Jylland around 2,800 BC. Measurements of Greenland ice core drillings from the inland ice shows that at this time a significant cooling occurred with temperatures below modern level. It seemed to have been the beginning of a kind of "Little Ice Age", which lasted for the next approximately 300 years.
The Single Grave People's arrival in west Jylland was previously dated to have taken place about 2,000 BC, which was believed to have been simultaneously with the Aryans invasion of India. Therefore the Single Grave people was assumed to be the Indo-Europeans, Aryans or the ancient Teutons.
Left: Ceramics from the Single Grave Culture with the typical cord-decoration, which also is
known from contemporary Europe - Herning Museum.
Right: Grave Gifts from a Single Grave tomb found at Lærkeholt north of Bryndum - note the arrowheads of the transverse type, which were also used by both the Ertebølle and Funnel Beaker Cultures. Note also the "the battle-ax" that more descriptive could be called a battle hammer as it is in no way sharp.
Many believe that the Single Grave people represents a migration from the contemporary European Cord Ceramic Culture because their ceramics were also decorated by means of a cord. In particularly previously the European Cord Ceramic Culture was considered to be the original Indo-Europeans.
The Single Grave People settled in west Jylland, which until then only had been subject to limited interest from the Funnel Beaker People. Apparently, the sandy soil had remained almost deserted until the new immigrants arrived.
The Single Grave Culture is also called the Battle-Axe Culture. During this period the battle ax, which we may rightfully call battle hammer, continued to be a very important weapon and status symbol for men. Just as it had been for men of the Funnel Beaker Culture.
The spread of respectively Funnel Beaker Culture and the Single Grave Culture - Drawing by Claus Deluran in "Danmarkshistorie for Folket" 2. del. The left picture shows the distribution of dolmens and passage graves, and the right picture shows the area inhabited by the Single Grave People.
About 1880 amateur archaeologists found at Itzehoe in Holstein some small, low mounds with a
new type of tombs. That time head of the Archaeological Museum in Kiel, Johanna
Mestorft, gave some lectures about them. She sent a letter to the National Museum's director in Copenhagen, Sophus Müller, and encouraged him to look for the new type of tombs north of
Kongeåen (that time border between Denmark and Germany).
In the following years Captain A. P. Madsen examined several hundred of this kind of burial mounds in Jylland. The new tombs were quite different from the already known dolmens and passage graves. They could be found throughout Western Jylland up to Lemvig. They were named Single Graves.
Such a mound typically consists of several individual graves. At the bottom is an "under-grave" dug into the ground and covered by a small mound on which a following "bottom-grave" was placed and sealed with yet another small mound, over this can often be found another "over-grave".
In 1898, Sophus Müller could present the results of the studies to date. He was in no doubt about the interpretation. Single graves originated from an advanced part of the Neolithic period. They were completely different from anything archaeologists have ever known about burial mounds. The passage graves and individual graves may represent two different tribes of people. "Single graves are traces of new, from the south coming tribes", he said. Then the ball was given up to one of the classical discussion topics of Danish Stone Age research, namely if the Single Grave culture in west Denmark represents an immigration or whether it was merely a development of Funnel Beaker Culture.
The women's movement's perception of the Single Grave Culture was that they were some cruel invaders that suppressed the peaceful matriarchal original culture - Drawing by Claus Deluran in "Danmarkshistorie for Folket" 2. del. The text goes: "Ha! it was just what you needed weakling" and the women replies: "Does this means that you are not doing the dishes today?"
The authoress Thit Jensen, who was a sister of the famous author Johannes V. Jensen, picked up the ball and described how the cold and fierce patriarchal Indo-Europeans arrived in Denmark from the south and destroyed the original Danish Stone Age farmers natural and harmonious matriarchal community. Her vision was extensively used by the 70's women's movement.
It should be emphasized that Thit Jensen's novel about the matriarchy on the island of Fur is complete fiction. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, to suggest that the Funnel Beaker Culture community was led by women. Neither it can in any way be detected what language the immigrants spoke.
In the early twentieth century, it was believed that the Single Grave People arrived in Jylland around the year 2.000 BC. It was thought that it was about the same time as the Aryans' invasion of India. Therefore the Single Grave People was perceived as the Aryans, Indo-Europeans or original Germani. Only at the end of the century scientists got a more accurate carbon-14 dating, which dated the Single Grave Culture to 2.800-2.400 BC.
In the Single Grave Culture, it was custom to bury the dead lying on his side with knees pulled up. Men were put on the right side, facing south, while women lay on the left side also facing south. Over the tombs were built a small mound. In male graves, we will typically find an ax of flint or rock, which have been placed in front of the dead man's face, and amber jewelry from large lumps of amber. Contrary in female graves we will find amber beads, which the dead has used as a necklace. Such a woman's grave with no fewer than 720 amber beads was found at Klelund between Kolding and Esbjerg. So, even the Stone Age farmers around Klelund lived far from the sea, they have had access to amber in large quantities. As we know, amber beads were also very important for the Funnel Beaker Culture.
Left: Typical grave goods from the Single Grave culture. They are not very different from the
Funnel Beaker culture's weapons and jewelry. Both cultures used amber beads, battle axes and ground flint axes. The two large lumps of amber, however, are characteristic of the male graves from the Single Grave Culture. Note also the distinctive cord-decoration on the clay vessel.
Right: The grave finding from Klelund was unusually rich. The picture shows only some of the 720 amber beads.
Because of Western Jylland's decalcified soil, no organic traces are left behind of the
deceased, but occasionally archaeologists by careful brushing succeed in finding
discolorations, shadows of the dead, at the bottom of the tombs - otherwise all skeletons parts have disappeared in Western Jylland's sandy soil. But from the grave goods, it can be established whether it is a male or female grave.
The burial at Klelund was a rare double grave with both a man and a woman. In addition to amber beads, the woman had gotten a beautifully ornamented clay vessels with her in the grave. The man had two axes, one of them was a beautifully crafted battle ax in polished rock.
Excavations around Herning have shown that some of the earliest Single Grave graves have been made on top of settlement layers from the Funnel Beaker Culture. Which indicates that the Single Grave People in some places directly had replaced the Funnel Beaker people.
In general, one can conclude that the Single Grave Culture succeeds the Funnel Beaker culture in time. The new tomb forms and grave goods in the central, western and southern Jylland are most likely not caused by immigration with a merciless and bloody ethnic cleansing of the old Funnel Beaker people as a natural consequence, but by a kind of expansion into areas that previously had been lying desolate and sparsely populated. It can be shown that the Single Grave Culture is related to the simultaneous European cord ceramic culture that decorated their clay pots using cords.
Left: Finds of flint daggers in Denmark.
Right: The Hindsgavl dagger has a blade with a thickness of less than 1 cm. It is our finest example of flint smiths' excellent technique in the Dolk period (Dolk means dagger). It was found about 1867 on the island of Fænø in Lille Bælt. The island belonged to the estate Hindsgavl, from that comes the name of the dagger.
The end of Neolithic is called the Dolk period and extends from 2,300 to 1,700 BC, it got its name because of the incredibly beautiful, flat cut flint knives, which are found in abundance in particular in Denmark. In no other European country have been found so many and so stunning flint daggers. The Danish flint smiths have certainly been good and probably professional.
In the chalky layers of the underground of Skovbakken in Hasseris near Aalborg has been found remains of a comprehensive flint-mine. There can be no doubt that such flint mines also existed elsewhere in the country. From these mining areas, the flint was distributed as semi-finished or nearly finished weapons and tools throughout the country. To become useful weapons they had only required a final processing that was made locally, which explains that the weapons had such a uniform design all over.
Left: Flint sickle from the Dolk period - found at Kalleshave west of Flensborg by Laurits Thomsen Pedersen - Foto: Steen Agersø.
Right: Flat arrowhead from the Dolk period found at Espe near Ringe on the island of Fyn.
But the spread of the Danish flint extended far wider. It reached north to the Scandinavian Peninsula
and came to Poland, northern Germany, Holland and East of England. Contact with the outside world was in these years considerable, and it was through these contacts that the first metal came to the country, and thus began a new era in the history of Denmark.
The dividing line between the east Danish Funnel Beaker culture and the west Jutland Single Grave Culture continued through the Dolk period and disappeared only in the beginning of the Bronze Age.
In East Denmark, people had stopped building new passage graves, but they continued for a long time to put the dead in the ancient tombs.
During the Dolk period, however, there were built some grave constructions of a new type, called flat stone chests in the Funnel Beaker region. They were constructed as an elongated space defined by and covered with large flat stones. The chest was covered with a mound of earth but had no actual access like the passage graves had. Therefore, at new burials, they had to dig into the mound and lift a cover stone. It seems that at such occasions they had reorganized bones from previous burials. The ancestors' skulls, however, have been treated with a special respect.
Left: Excavated flat stone chest before the cover stones were removed - From Vibjerg near Ølsted in North Sjælland
Right: Same flat stone chest after the cover-stones had been removed. As seen it contained several funerals.
Many believe that the collective burials in east Denmark represent a collectivist system in which the extended family jointly had inherited the land from their ancestors. Thereby became religion, morality, agriculture, hunting and trade all activities that may have taken place in community within the extended family framework. So shortly told, they believe that the Funnel Beaker culture was a kind of communist society, where collectives, that are extended families, were basic units, quite unlike our modern individualistic society.
In the Single Grave area in western Jylland, the dead were contrary buried as single persons and the same debaters think so to see a much greater respect for the individual.
In previous decades, archaeologists and historians took it for granted that agriculture was introduced in Denmark by a new immigrant people, and they have been wondering where the old hunters disappeared.
Had they been mercilessly wiped out by culturally and technologically superior immigrants? Had they been reduced to an insignificant minority by a measles epidemic or other infectious diseases, as happened to the North American Indians by the meeting with the Europeans. Were the few in number hunters displaced and forced to live a poor and rough life in small fishing villages along the coast? Have they been driven to the rugged mountain areas on the Scandinavian Peninsula? Or were new the Neolithic farmers really mainly descendants of the ancient hunters?
Reconstruction of a girl from Neolithic - By the end of Neolithic, the Stone Age farmers probably reminded a lot about modern types - except that they have not been so tall.
But the old hunters were with great certainty not such primitive types, which readily allowed themselves to be driven away. They were hunters, armed to the teeth with powerful bows, and they had thousands of years of experience in killing.
We can not compare the situation with the modern Europeans' encounter with the natives of other continents. Potential immigrants have not been superior armed as nineteenth-century Europeans were. They could not have arrived in such quantity as the Europeans arrived in America, as they did not have large ships or other means of long distance traveling. Possible immigrants must have arrived in small scattered groups after traveling through Europe's trackless mountains, virgin forests and marshes, tired and desperate.
But maybe the hunters' problem was that they were not very many, they lived scattered and were probably split into various rivaling tribes. It may not have been possible completely to resist immigration.
During Neolithic, the average height for men grew from 165 to 176 cm. and for women from 152 to 162 cm. In the extensive bone material is also evident that during the Neolithic period, both men and women became more slender built. The characteristic "Cro Magnon" traits are less frequent on the skulls from the Neolithic than in material from the Ertebølle period - I think of sloping forehead, strong eyebrow arches, powerful jaws, etc.
The initial average height of 165 cm. for men and 152 cm. for women corresponds very well to the Ertebølle hunter's height and thus support the theory that the Funnel Beaker people, at least initially, were descendants of the ancient hunters.
Some believe that the increased average height was caused by an improved diet after the Neolithic introduction of agriculture. But short stature of a population is frequently caused by lack of proteins, and one can not say that the Ertebølle hunters did not get enough proteins; they ate in general only proteins. They had, without doubt, reached their maximum height.
Reconstruction of a Neolithic man, who lived in Belgium. Shaving with stone chips must have been a bit of a bloody affair, so we must believe that men have been bearded. Since all their descendants in this part of the world have had white skin, we must believe that they did too. But on their eye color and whether they were light or dark-haired, we can say nothing. The arrowheds are tanged arrowheads, which were used by the hunters of the Pit Ceramic Culture. Drawing from Pinterest.
All this must have been genetic changes, which necessarily must have been based on some form of immigration during the Neolithic period.
The first short skull in Denmark was found in a passage grave on Sjælland near the village of Borreby. As we remember, passage graves belong to the later part of Neolithic.
In these politically correct times, we love to imagine a harmonious and peaceful coexistence among different races and cultures. But if such a paradise condition ever had existed, it was, without doubt, a purely temporary exception. In the real world, the strong overcame the weak, killed the men and produced their own children on the women. Which would have been a natural and original form of racial mixing.
It can not be excluded that it have been the indigenous hunters, who won most confrontations with immigrants, killed the men and conquered the newcomer groups' reproductive women. Maybe these new women appeared to the hunters as more graceful, easy to laugh and more attractive than their own more masculine types.
We recall that there have been some mistakes in the gender determination of skeletons from the Hunter Stone Age. One can determine a skeleton's gender by measuring the size of the limb bones, molars, etc., assuming that women are more slender built and have smaller molars than corresponding men. But initially, some of hunters' female skeletons were erroneously assessed as men. The ancient hunters' own women seemed to have been some pretty rough and manly types.
Such sexual preference would have left its genetic traces in the population, such that at the end of Neolithic that time Danes much resembled modern types, perhaps not so tall.
The Funnel Beaker culture was the dominant and leading culture through the entire Neolithic. There have undoubtedly been many migrations and invasions, which the hunters' descendants have rejected. The Pit Ceramics only managed to exist a few hundred years. Only the Single Grave people represented a permanent immigration to the until then uninhabited Jutland Heath.
The Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, together with the US President Obama and his wife. Lars Løkke is a skilled and serious politician. Like the ancient hunters,
he is not very tall.
The genes of the original hunters are still among us. As a type one of the old hunters would certainly fit well into the types of the modern Danish people; no one would find him very strange. Many modern ethnic Danes have features in common with the hunters, such as sloping forehead, eyebrow arches or prominent jaw. A slightly broad and not very tall type is also quite common in Denmark. But the frequency of these ancient "Cro Magnon" features is definitely less in the modern population than it was in Hunters' Stone Age and most part of Neolithic.
One can consider, from where these immigrants to Neolithic Denmark should have come.
It is thus in the central parts of the world's continents that they gradually are becoming more dry and desert-like because of falling temperature and thus diminishing monsoon rains. A few thousand years ago there were lakes and rivers in the Sahara in locations where nobody can survive today. Rock art shows pictures of deer and humans. Also the interior of the Eurasian continent was more green and water-rich for some thousand years ago than it is today. Landscapes in Asia and southeast Europe that in the present are dry steppe or desert, have often previously been scattered forest with streams and rivers.
This gradual drying out of the central parts of the continents may have forced the peoples, who lived there, to travel to the continent's outskirts, and thereby was created a pressure on the indigenous tribes that lived in the primeval forests of Europe along the coasts at the Eurasian continent.
Mårhøj Jættestue The Megalithic Portal
Kranium med boring i tand 1001 Stories of Denmark
Danske Fortidsminder Danmarks Kulturarvs Forening - Med link til alle danske fortidsminder med mange foto
Danmarks Historie til år 200 f.Kr. af Jørgen Jensen - Gyldendal og Politikkens