UNITING SEA II Stone age societies in the baltic sea region

UNITING SEA II Stone age societies in the baltic sea region
ISBN 978-91-506-2128-0
Stone age societies in the baltic sea region
Larsson & Papmehl-Dufay (eds)
The second Uniting Sea workshop was held in
Stockholm, Sweden in late October 2006. The event
gathered participants from eight countries around the
Baltic Sea, and 19 papers were presented covering a
range of topics and geographic areas connected to the
main theme of the workshop, i.e. Stone Age societies in
the Baltic Sea region. This volume presents 12 of the
papers presented at the workshop. The title ”Uniting
Sea” refers not only to the communicative importance
of the sea during the Stone Age, but also to the need
today of contacts and continued discussion across
nation-borders to bridge the gap between research
traditions in different countries. Hopefully the present
publication can contribute to further discussions and
contacts in this respect, across the Uniting Sea.
Åsa M. Larsson & Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
© 2010 The editors and the individual authors. Edited by Åsa M. Larsson &
Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay. English revised by Elisabet Green. Layout by Ludvig
ISBN 978-91-506-2128-0
Printed at ADT Digitaltryck, Borgholm.
Published by Uppsala University, OPIA 51. Editing and printing was made
possible thanks to a generous grant from the Berit Wallenberg Foundation.
Cover image: View of the Baltic Sea, as seen from Seby Läge on southeast
Öland, Sweden. Photo by Josefine Ahlgren.
Stone age societies in the baltic sea region
Åsa M. Larsson & Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
”Uniting Sea. Stone Age Societies in the Baltic Sea Region” was the name of a project
initiated by two MA students at Uppsala University, Sweden some ten years ago
(Samuelsson & Ytterberg 2003a). Niklas Ytterberg and Christopher Samuelsson
were running an investigation at the Pitted Ware site of Hemmor on Gotland
at the time, and while scrutinising their findings they felt an increasing need
for an international discussion on topics related to the Neolithic, culture and
contacts in the Baltic Sea region. The aim with the Uniting Sea project therefore
was to create a forum in which various problems related to Baltic Stone Age
archaeological research could be continually discussed. In January 2002 this
resulted in the first international workshop on the theme being held, at the
Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, Sweden.
The first Uniting Sea workshop gathered 44 participants from five countries,
and resulted in a volume covering 15 of the 20 papers presented (Samuelsson &
Ytterberg 2003b).
An initial ambition was that the Uniting Sea workshop would become an annual
gathering of Stone Age researchers from countries around the Baltic Sea. For
various reasons this was not realised. However, thanks to a few hardworking
PhD-students, as well as financial support from the Berit Wallenberg
Foundation, four years later the tradition was continued. Åsa M. Larsson and
Kim von Hackwitz organised the Second Uniting Sea workshop, which was
held at the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm
University, Sweden on October 20-22th 2006. This time the workshop gathered
38 participants from eight countries, and 19 papers were presented covering a
wide range of topics related to Stone Age research around the Baltic Sea. This
volume presents 12 of the papers, and covers a range of topics and geographic
areas of relevance to the main theme of the workshop. As was the case with
the workshop itself, the publication has been made possible thanks to generous
financial support from the Berit Wallenberg Foundation, to whom we hereby
extend our sincere gratitude. It is our hope and firm belief that the Uniting Sea
workshops and the resulting publications provide important contributions to
Stone Age research throughout the Baltic Sea area, and we hope that in this case
the sequal is not the final.
Åsa M. Larsson & Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
Samuelsson, C. & Ytterberg, N. 2003a. Preface. In: Samuelsson, C. & Ytterberg, N. (eds) 2002a.
Uniting Sea. Stone Age societies in the Baltic Sea region. OPIA 33. pp 9-10. Uppsala.
Samuelsson, C. & Ytterberg, N. (eds) 2003b. Uniting Sea. Stone Age societies in the Baltic Sea region.
OPIA 33. Uppsala.
The Uniting Sea workshop II in Stockholm, Sweden
October 20-22th 2006
List of participants
Mattias Ahlbeck, Arkeologikonsult AB
Helena Andersson, University of Stockholm
Jan Apel, Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis
Torbjörn Brorsson, Kontoret för Keramiska Studier
Gunlög Graner, National Heritage Board UV Bergslagen
Sara Gummesson, University of Stockholm
Partik Gustafsson, County museum of Sörmland
Kim von Hackwitz, University of Stockholm
Michael Hargeskog, University of Stockholm
Jenny Holm, National Heritage Board UV Bergslagen
Åsa M. Larsson, University of Uppsala
Cecilia Lidström-Holmberg, University of Uppsala
Jonathan Lindström, Stockholm
Petra Molnar, University of Stockholm
Liv Nilsson Stutz, University of Lund
Mikael Nordin, County museum of Sörmland
Carina Olson, University of Stockholm
Karin Olsson, University of Stockholm
Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay, University of Stockholm
Henrik Runesson, National Heritage Board UV Mitt
Niklas Stenbäck, Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis
Eva Stensköld, Museum of National Antiquities
Jan Storå, University of Stockholm
Bozena Werbart, University of Lund
Roger Wikell, Arkeologikonsult AB
Mikael A. Manninen, University of Helsinki
Milton Núñez, Milton, University of Oulu
Petro Pesonen, National Board of Antiquities
Miika Tallavaara, University of Helsinki
Agnieszka Matuszewska, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan
Lukasz Pospieszny, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan
Marcin Was, Gdańsk University
Egita Ziediņa, National History museum of Latvia
Mari Lõhmus, University of Tartu
Torben Sarauw, University of Aarhus
Almut Schülke, National Museum of Denmark
Charlotte Damm, University of Tromsø
Great Britain
Peter Jordan, University of Sheffield
Charlotte Damm
Ethnicity and Collective Idetntities...........................................................11-30
Niklas Stenbäck
The Stone Age in Uppland, Eastern Central Sweden.............................33-55
Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
Those who Dig will Find Out...................................................................57-78
Mikael Nordin & Patrik Gustafsson
Unto a Good Land.................................................................................81-106
Mattias Pettersson & Roger Wikell
Uniting Boats.......................................................................................109-125
Liv Nilsson Stutz
A Baltic Way of Death?.......................................................................127-144
Łukasz Pospieszny
The Neolithic Landscapes of the Polish Lowlands.............................147-170
Almut Schülke
Social Space in Northwest Zealand....................................................173-192
Kim von Hackwitz
What Makes a Place?.........................................................................195-210
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
More than Meets the Eye....................................................................213-247
Agnieszka Matuszewska
The Lower Odra Enclave of the Corded Ware Culture.......................249-271
Marcin Szydlowski
The Valley of the Central Obra River..................................................273-283
Charlotte Damm
Department of archaeology, University of Tromsø
NO-9037 Tromsø, Norway.
[email protected]
Ethnicity and Collective Identities
In the Fennoscandian Stone Age
In order to move beyond traditional interpretations of delimited material groups
as social entities such as ethnic groups, a framework based on collective identities is presented. A hierarchy of segmented collective identities illustrates the
complexity of the relation between identity, material culture and geographical
distribution. It is further argued that collective identities may be primordial, but
also situational. For a collective identity to be archaeologically visible it must be
mobilised. To increase archaeological recognition of such mobilised identities a
diachronic perspective is advised.
Keywords: ethnicity, collective identity, primary identities, segmentary identity, ethnic
Charlotte Damm
Since the mid-1980’s interpretations explicitly involving ethnic groups and ethnic
processes have become common in Scandinavian archaeology. Limiting myself
to examples from Stone Age research, I have argued that the different cultural
groups in the middle Neolithic in Southern Scandinavia may be interpreted as
processes of ethnic differentiation (Damm 1991). A recent Ph.D.-thesis from
Bergen (Bergsvik 2006, see also Bergsvik 2003, 2004) distinguish at least 6 different ethnic groups in the early Neolithic of western Norway; the border between
the early TRB-societies and the adjacent hunter-gatherer groups in Central Sweden is perceived as ethnic, with roots dating back to the late mesolithic networks
(Hallgren 2000, Knutsson et al. 2003); there is a continuing debate as to the
interpretation of the different material found in the central Swedish archipelago
and the mainland respectively (Carlsson et al. 2003, Gill 2003a, Lindgren 2003,
Åkerlund 2000) and as many as nine chapters in the proceedings from the 6th
Nordic TAG in Oslo in 2001 were dedicated to ethnicity in Stone Age Scandinavia (Bergstøl 2003). And this is by no means an exhaustive list.
This increased interest in social organisation in the stone age is very positive.
It is, however, somewhat worrying that there is little explicit debate as to what
constitutes an ethnic group, how it is related to material culture, and how we
may discern it in archaeological data. The correlation between bounded cultural
entities and ethnicity is employed too readily with resulting critique (e.g. Wallerström 2006, Werbart 2002). One of the problems is that we too often start out
looking for possible ethnic groups, rather than work from the bottom up: what
patterns and distributions are we able to discern in the data, and what kinds of
interaction and identities may they be related to?
Ethnicity as collective identity
But what is an ethnic group? In the following I will consider ethnic identity as
a collective identity (cf. Jones 1997, Rowlands 1994) rather than what may be
termed a subjective and personal self-identity (Sørensen 1997:94), although it
should be emphasized that no exclusive distinction between the two is possible
(Moore 1994:36). Never-the-less ethnicity is very clearly a group identity. In anthropology and sociology it is emphasized that ethnic groups are descent and
culture communities (Fenton 2003). Ethnicity is a social identity based on real
or fictive kinship, and where real or perceived cultural differences are important
(Hylland Eriksen 2002:12-13). Ethnicity consequently cuts across gender, age
and social status, but not necessarily across class, religion and nationality, although such cases also exist.
Ethicity and Collective Identities
Fredrik Barth’s work was of major importance in overcoming the essentialist
view of ethnicity, starting with his well-known introduction in ‘Ethnic Groups
and Boundaries’ (1969). One of the most important insights here was that ethnicity is a process that requires interaction between groups, rather than something
that exists when groups are isolated from each other. In stead of viewing ethnic
groups as cultural units, he saw them as an organisational type. Ethnicity could
be viewed as a process that helped organise (often economic) relations between
adjacent groups. His focus was on the organisation, rather than primarily on
the cultural traits that may (or may not) distinguish different groups. He was
very explicit in pointing out that there is no simple relationship between ethnic
groups and cultural traits.
Barth’s work has retained its influence in archaeology, and it is still quoted positively in most Scandinavian works on ethnicity. That Barth has had a major
impact in Norwegian archaeology is not surprising. He was mentor and inspiration for many archaeological studies in Norway during the 1970’s (initially in
Bergen where Barth was professor in social anthropology), including some of
the first to address prehistoric Sámi identity (Kleppe 1977, Odner 1983, other
works include Håland 1977). His wider influence in Scandinavia can no doubt
also be attributed to the fact that his ideas were used in Ian Hodder’s studies of
social interaction in Kenya (1979, 1982). Finally, Barth’s initial work, in contrast
to recent literature, deals almost exclusively with pre-state societies, which may
appeal to archaeologists.
Barth’s approach has of course met criticism, predominantly for being too instrumentalist and too open for individual choice in ethnic affiliation (the latter
should perhaps more correctly be aimed at some archaeological implementations of Barth’s approach). Siân Jones (1997) tries to remedy this, by emphasizing that although ethnicity is embedded in social construction, it is also historically situated and based on existing and relevant cultural practices. Inspired
by Bourdieu, Jones argument is based on the notion of habitus, which shape
and are shaped by practice (2000:450): “Shared habitual dispositions provide the
basis for the recognition of commonalities of sentiments and interest, and the
basis for the perception and communication of cultural affinities and differences which ethnicity entails” (Jones 2000:451). In other words, in the encounter
with others, one becomes aware of, or recognises existing common practices
within the group. The practices are transferred from doxic knowledge to a reflexive mode (see also Johannesen 2004 for a summary of Jones’ perspective). In
Giddens (1984) terminology, awareness and reflection on these practices, causes
transference from a level of practical consciousness to discursive consciousness.
Charlotte Damm
Following this perspective ethnicity is not totally arbitrary and negotiable, but
arises from situated practices. This is the view presented by Bjørnar Olsen and
Lars Ivar Hansen in their analysis of the emergence of Sámi ethnicity in the last
millennium BC (Hansen & Olsen 2004: 36ff) and, I believe, by Fredrik Hallgren
in his analysis of the northern border for early TRB agriculture (Hallgren 2000).
Primordialism, subjectivity and material culture
Barth notes the importance of self-ascription, arguing that an ethnic ascription
‘classifies a person in terms of his basic, most general identity, presumptively determined by his origin and background’ (Barth 1969:13). In archaeology (and in
several other disciplines) the essentialist perspective has been termed primordial
(e.g. Jones 1997). As Fenton demonstrates (2003: 76ff) the term should more
correctly be reserved to describe the strength of the social attachments that may
be involved in ethnicity or indeed in other collective identities. Primordial attachments are experienced in relation to those groups or identities that in a given
historical circumstance are of primary importance. This often means kin, but,
following Geertz, may also be the religious community, language or ethnicity
(Fenton 2003: 81, 89). This seems to correlate with Barth’s basic, most general
identity (see also Werbart 2002:10). In other words, ethnicity may be primordial
in that it can be, and often is, an identity that is primary to the individual.
In recent critiques of studies dealing with prehistoric ethnicity, Thomas Wallerström argues that ethnicity is a subjective experience (Wallerström 2006: 16, 59).
And because archaeology has no way of knowing what people felt thousands
of years ago and what they experienced, interpretations pertaining to prehistoric ethnicity are likely to be projections of the present rather than a past reality
(Wallerström 2005:133, 2006:60). From the above it is clear that ethnicity, if
primordial, may indeed be deeply felt. Wallerström, however, appears predominantly to base his argument on the concepts of perceived descent and perceived
cultural affinities, suggesting that they would therefore not be visible in archaeological data.
As Wallerström points out, the crucial issue to archaeology is whether or not
there is any relationship between ethnicity as a perceived collective identity and
material culture. With references to anthropology Wallerström argues that there
is no such relationship (2005:134, 2006: 64). I fully agree that in much Scandinavian archaeology the essentialist perspective still seems to be a tacit premise. We
must move beyond viewing every material boundary as delimiting ethnic groups.
But does this mean that archaeology is unable to study social groups, collective
identities and ethnicity?
Ethicity and Collective Identities
From Barth onwards anthropology has emphasised repeatedly that there is no
simple correlation between ethnic group and culture. However, that the relationship is not straightforward, does not necessarily mean that it is non-existent:
“Ethnicity, that is the relation between two groups that each consider themselves
to be of common descent, consists, in short, of making cultural differences (real
or fictive) relevant “ (Thomas Hylland Eriksen in Wallerström 2005:134, 2006:64,
my translation and emphasis). Cultural differences are relevant in ethnic interaction. Jones in her practice theory approach suggests that ethnic categories exist
“through the systematic communication of cultural difference with relation to
the cultural practices of particular ‘ethnic others’” (Jones 2000: 451).
Most contemporary archaeological theory agrees that material culture is intimately connected with human existence (e.g. Olsen 2003), human agency (e.g. Barrett 2000) and consequently with social interaction (Strum & Latour 2000). It
is often argued that social relations are produced, changed or stabilised through
material culture. There is no contradiction between ethnicity as a primordial and
deeply felt identity and ethnicity as social interaction with material implications.
In the process of making ethnicity relevant, groups are likely to objectify cultural
difference (Jones 2000: 453). Material culture often assist and increase internalisation of social structure (Damm 1998a, 1998b), therefore we should expect
pronounced cultural differences where the ethnic differences are stressed. But,
as has rightly been emphasized, sometimes ethnic groups do not seem to be
discernable through cultural differences (e.g. Hylland Eriksen 2002: 12). How
are we to understand these cases?
Primary identities
Richard Jenkins argues that ethnicity is a ubiquitous social phenomenon – something that is present always and everywhere (Jenkins 1997: 75). While this may
be so (if we accept a very broad definition of ethnicity), ethnic identities are not
always primary. We may perhaps all have a collective identity that could be described as ethnic. But, even as subjects and individuals we are multi-dimensional
(Haraway 1991: 193), and our identities therefore situational: an individual can
not simultaneously be wholly woman, Danish, archaeologist, left-wing, atheist,
middle class. Some of our identities will be more relevant in certain situations.
And some identities will be primary to us. When ethnic identity is not primordial, it may be characterised as circumstantial or situational (Fenton 2003: 84). To
me personally, ethnicity is not a primary identity. But, when travelling in certain
areas of northern Fennoscandia, I am very much aware that I am not Sámi. In
that situation my identity as non-Sámi is very relevant to me, and on certain occasions to people I meet (Sámi and non-Sámi alike).
Charlotte Damm
It is sometimes claimed that since ethnicity is a recent concept, it is irrelevant
when studying past societies (see Gill 2003b: 68, Wallerström 2006: 80). The
term has only become academically conspicuous after 1975 (Fenton 2003:96)
and earlier referred more generally to heathendom, foreign, minorities (ibid:
13pp). If, however, we define ethnicity very broadly as a collective identity based
on descent and cultural difference (real or fictive), then I think we have to accept
that ethnicity has existed in the past as well. But based on the distinction between primordial and situational ethnic identities, ethnic groups may have been
more or less relevant also in different time periods, in different geographical
regions and in different situations.
Segmentary identities
It may be argued that social identities are segmentary in character (Hylland Eriksen 2002: 76). Jenkins (1997: 40-41) commenting on the segmentary and hierarchical dimension of ethnicity, exemplifies this with the Welsh identity; I propose
a Danish variety as perceived from the inside (fig. 1). Each of these collective
identities may be relevant in different contexts, i.e. they are situational (and some
Horsens - Vejle
Eastern Jutland – Western Jutland
Jutland – Copenhagen
Denmark – Sweden
Scandinavia – Central Europe
Europe – USA
The West – the Rest
Figur 1. Segmentary identity: a possible hierarchy of Danish collective identities. Note
that although the hierarchy is presented as consisting of simple dichotomies, in most
cases the identity is related to several other parallel identities (Eastern Jutland in relation to Southern, Western and Northern Jutland perhaps).
Ethicity and Collective Identities
may be primordial to some individuals). In most discussions of such hierarchies,
that I have participated in over the years, the issue has been to identify the level
of ethnicity. If we in stead simply accept them all as collective identities, we may
ask in what circumstances they are activated or mobilised, and to what extent
they are related to common descent, cultural differences and material distinction.
If we next look at possible Sámi collective identities (fig. 2), I here choose a segmented hierarchy of identities as perceived from the outside, fully aware that the
internal view might add levels and find other categories more relevant (further
discussion of this below). The Sámi identity may be distinguished from the
Norwegian through language, formal clothes and customs among other things
– but these elements are not necessarily a daily experience, nor do for instance
all Sámi speak the language. There are today 10 Sámi language groups, some
of which are not immediately mutually understandable. Within each language
group, there is regional variation expressed through distinct dress designs (e.g.
Kàràšjohka and Guovdageaidnu). Within these there are different economies or
occupations, with a marked differentiation between settled families and reindeer
Norwegian – Sámi
Lulesámi – Northern Sámi
Kàràšjohka – Guovdageaidnu
Settled Sámi (dálon) - Reinherding Sámi
Gaup-family – Buljo-family
District 25 – District 23D
Figur 2. A possible hierarchy of Sámi collective identities. The hierarchy is presented
as consisting of simple dichotomies, but each level consists of several parallel identities (e.g. ten rather than two different dialects).
Charlotte Damm
herders. The organisation of the herding is often based on large families, where
different family groups may have separate herding districts. While on the one
hand this may be presented as a well organised hierarchy, there are obviously
identities that cross these: reindeer herders constitute an important collective
across dialects groups. In addition most Sámi are also part of other collectives,
and indeed share some of the Norwegian (or Swedish, Finnish and Russian)
Historian Bjørg Evjen describes how an identity of being Lulesámi has developed from first being associated with a geographical area to recently being an important identity even within the larger Sámi group (Evjen 2004). An informant
from Tysfjord, Nordland in the 1950’s took a job in Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino, Finnmark in order to experience living in a larger Sámi community. While
she had no doubt that she was Sámi, she realized that she was different from
the Sámi further north. Only later was she able to express this in terms of being
Lulesámi rather than Northern Sámi (op.cit.: 41).
Summing up, we are all embedded in hierarchies of collective identities associated with perceived descent and cultural similarity. Some of these identities may
be primordial, while others are better described as predominantly situational.
Each of these identities may be associated with certain material aspects, but conflating language, culture and ethnicity into one single identity is clearly a mistake.
Each segment may be associated with different cultural and material elements,
resulting in different distributions of these. If we add to this other types of
identities (e.g. gender, age, occupation, religion, rank) and other types of social
and economic interaction, a very complex and multilayered pattern of cultural
and material similarities and differences emerges. (And this is before we address
problems such as variation within possible material correlates of identities, diachronic aspects encountered n archaeological data etc).
We must expect different socio-economic aspects and therefore different identities to be primary in various societies. Archaeologically we do see that in some
regions in certain periods there is major emphasis on gender, in others on rank,
and in others again on specific cultural aspects. The extent to which a specific
identity is visible through cultural elements is related to the complexity and multitude of identities and other socio-economic interaction in the social group in
question and to the historical situational context: was that identity repeatedly
Ethicity and Collective Identities
Ethnic mobilisation
Since many collective identities are situational and relational they are activated in specific circumstances. In what circumstances does one of the segmentary identities become the basis for a social movement, for what we may call
ethnic mobilisation (Fenton 2003: 85)? We have already argued that ethnicity
(as one of many collective identities) is a consciousness of difference vis-à-vis
others (Jones 1997:94). Even when aware of such differences, either over- or
under-communication of ethnicity may take place (Hylland Eriksen 2002:22).
Under-communication may take place in certain multi-ethnic settings in order
to downplay differentiation (ibid). Similarly, in contexts of overt stigmatisation
under-communication may be employed to avoid difficulties and conflicts. In
these cases there is no mobilisation of the collective identity, rather the opposite. This does not mean that the identity is non-existent, or that it can not be
primordial. The identity here is under such pressure that efforts are taken not
to display it. The consequences of such pressure and under-communication
may be the eventual disappearance of this collective identity, as it is difficult
or impossible to maintain it through active performances of the cultural differences (be these language, costumes, rituals, singing, houses etc.). The identity
will, however, remain latent for some generations (due to, among other things,
collective memory (Connerton 1989)), and the possibility of a revival therefore
persists, even when there is no overt representation of it.
A collective identity may be mobilised in many different circumstances. When
under pressure or even threat, one response may be to enforce an identity and
collectivity in order to counter this. Other motivations may be of a more organisational kind, as suggested by Barth. The extent to which ethnicity is involved
in the overall socio-economic organisation of society varies greatly. Fenton distinguishes between totalizing ethnicities, provisional ethnicities and nil or tacit
ethnicities (Fenton 2003:115). A totalizing ethnicity is found where particular
collective identities pervade all or almost all spheres of life (livelihood, neighbourhood, education, personal status, security, health etc.) (ibid).
So ethnicity as well as other collective identities requires consciousness of that
identity in relation to other collective groups. This consciousness may arise
either when coming into contact with formerly little known groups (through
emigration, immigration, colonisation, exchange or other forms of mobility)
or be caused by more local or regional reorganisation or conflicts that bring
such identities into action. In other words, ethnicity may be mobilised in certain
historical circumstances. Returning to Evjen’s study of Lulesàmi (Evjen 2004),
Charlotte Damm
her informant in the 1950’s perceived herself as Sámi in contrast to Norwegian,
but increasingly she now perceives herself as Lulesámi. Both of these collective
identities have some cultural correlates. They are both situational (which does
not exclude the possibility of them being primordial), and they are historically
contingent. The Lulesámi identity was latent, but has gradually transferred to
being discursive.
Self-ascription and external denomination
Richard Jenkins (1997) argues that too many analyses of ethnic processes tend
to focus on internal group identification and self-conscious collectivity. While
self-ascription is required in most definitions for an ethnic group, such selfperceptions may well be closely related to external categorisation. This is partly
due to the situational character of many collective identities. Most Norwegians
are not able to distinguish between the different Sámi collective identities. They
amalgamate several collective identities and denominate them ‘Sámi’ (see also
Johannesen 2004:167). Consequently in many contexts a Lulesámi may describe herself as simply Sámi. This contributes towards maintaining that collective
identity, even if her primordial identity may at present be Lulesámi.
The Basarwa (an external denomination) in Botswana consist of all Khoi-san
speaking groups despite their diversity in language, economy and history (Wilmsen 2002: 829). While an individual may not consider this a primordial identity,
it has never-the-less been a most relevant external categorisation for more than
100 years. In 1996 representatives from the many Khoisan-groups in Southern
Africa agreed to the tern ‘San’ as an overall designation to be used in international politics. The historical circumstances and the interaction with many external
groups have made it relevant even to the internal categorisation to agree to a
mutual collective identity at a different level in their hierarchy of segmentary
identities. Similarly a Central Kalahari identity is emerging (op.cit.:837) in response to recent years conflict over land in that region.
These examples demonstrate that very often the external view will play a role
in how the ‘us’ is constructed. The focus on upholding traditional lifestyles in
hunter-gather groups is for example partly a result of a categorisation being imposed on many recent hunting groups by their economically and politically more
powerful agricultural neighbours. Howell (1994) describes how the Ainu gave up
the agricultural practices of their ancestors, partly because of the great demand
for fish and pelts amongst the Japanese (the internal response), but also how
the Japanese overlords made great efforts to prevent the Ainu from adopting
Japanese customs and language (external pressure).
Ethicity and Collective Identities
Ethnic groups in the Fennoscandian Stone Age
If we look at much of what has been written on ethnic identity in Stone Age
Scandinavia there is a tendency to discern geographical boundaries based on
material differentiation – be it between quartz and flint as in Mesolithic eastern
central Sweden, between bipolar and cylindrical reduction as in Early Neolithic
western Norway or between different types of pottery. With reference to Barth
and others it is then argued that these material differences are conscious choices
employed in a process of ethnic categorisation and dichotomisation, to distinguish ‘us’ from ‘them’.
While this may well be so, in many cases I miss an argumentation for the motivation for differentiation. If ethnicity and other collective identities are produced,
maintained and changed through interaction, then we need to present carefully
argued evaluations of the processes that may have lead to ethnic mobilisation
and differentiation. This is not an easy task for Stone Age archaeology, or indeed
any archaeology. In many cases a diachronic perspective may prove useful to our
attempts to recognise mobilisation of specific collective identities (see also Jones
We also appear to be rather too quick to employ binary oppositions, resulting in
a clear cut dichotomization in ‘us’ and ‘them’. As argued above, a historical situation is likely to be much more complex. In many cases collectives will interact
with several other collectives on different levels, and identities will be activated
relative to the specific circumstances.
Where identification of ethnic groups is presented, it often concentrates on
self-ascription and the need to enforce group solidarity. This is seen for instance
when we argue that hunter-gatherers develop a strong sense of internal cohesion and belonging when interaction with agriculturalists increases. The focus
is very much on the internal group response, on the creation of an ‘us’ in the
encounter with the others. We seem to have forgotten that the other side of the
process, the external categorisation by other groups, may be just as important.
Ethnicity is not just about a noble refusal to adopt for example agriculture and
husbandry, but may also be about exclusion and stigmatisation – not being allowed to acquire and keep domesticated animals, while at the same time being
ridiculed for an old fashioned and primitive lifestyle.
In the concrete archaeological studies there is little discussion of diversity, negotiation of cultural contents and of open boundaries. If collective identities,
Charlotte Damm
including ethnicity, can emerge (partly through developing consciousness of
latent cultural distinctions), they are also open to negotiation and attempts at
And, as has been acknowledged in archaeology since New Archaeology’s critique of traditional culture history, there is no simple relationship between archaeological cultures and ethnic groups. The demonstration of geographical
borders between different kinds of raw materials, technologies or artefacts does
not in it self imply the existence of an ethnic boundary. These results are, however, an important basis for further discussion of which social and cultural
practices produced such patterns. Such discussions must take into consideration
the complex patterns of hierarchies of collective identities and other types of
identities and interaction if we are to move beyond the essentialist perspectives.
Northern Fennoscandia
As a very preliminary exercise in discussing collective identities, let us look at
the diachronic development in Northern Fennoscandia. The region must have
been settled from several directions. Some travelled up along the Atlantic coast,
possibly continuing along the northern coast of the Kola Peninsula. Others, at
a somewhat later point in time crossed the mountain range and travelled into
Swedish Norrland, while others again came from the east and southeast. We
don’t know how different these groups of people were – we see that they used
different raw materials, different types of projectiles, that some lived predominantly on marine resources while other exploited terrestrial ones. As far as we
can tell from the rather sparse archaeological data there was little contact at least
between groups on the Atlantic coast and those in the areas around the Gulf of
Bothia before about 6000 BC (Damm 2006). There appears to have been rather
more opportunity for interaction in the 6th millennium BC with some evidence
of encounters in form of handle cores (a northern Swedish technology) found
near Inari, Alta and in northern Troms (ibid), and an increase in cherts originating at the Atlantic coast in northern Finland (Manninen 2009). These early
encounters could have provided the basis for an emerging awareness of cultural differences (different habitual practices, be they language, clothing, hunting
equipment, ornaments etc.). This may have resulted in a new level of collective
identity for each of these groups.
After 5000 BC, however, visible traces of interaction across Fennoscandia escalate. Early northern Comb Ware (Säräsniemi I) and Comb Ware are spread
over the eastern part of the region (Skandfer 2005, 2010; Torvinen 2000). Rock
Ethicity and Collective Identities
art is found at the White Sea, Onega, Nämforsen and Alta and similarities in the
motives may suggest connections of some sort. Slate and slightly later red slate
becomes an important raw material, coarse bifacial projectiles common at the
Atlantic coast are occasionally found in other cultural contexts. Flint originating
in Russia is found as far north and west as Finnmark and Norrland, as is Baltic
amber (Nunez 2004, Ramstad 2006). Bothnian picks originating in Tornedalen
are widely distributed, and the odd pieces of Karelian copper in found quite far
west (Halen 1994, Huggert 1996) and all across northern Fennoscandia semisubterranean houses of various kinds are being build. Ochre is a much more
common material all over as well, used on comb ware, in graves and in some
house structures.
So we definitely have a situation where people from a variety of regional groups
interact with each other, as evidenced in the distribution of a wide variety of
material culture. How may this have affected the collective identities?
Let us go back to northern Fennoscandia in the 5th millennium BC. The societies were at this point all still hunter-fishers. In the course of the 5th millennium
semi-sedentariness appears to increase. The semi-subterranean houses would
seem to indicate that local bands returned to the same locations probably for
several decades and that they presumably stayed for some length of time at
these locations (if not necessarily at all locations in the course of their seasonal
movements). Contrary to the previous millennium there are fewer documented
settlements sites in the interior along the waterways connected to the Atlantic.
As a preliminary hypothesis I interpret this as a change in settlement patterns
from one of band mobility in the 6th mill BC towards a greater emphasis on logistic mobility and task-groups in the 5th mill. BC. Small groups of very mobile
seasonal hunters would perhaps leave fewer traces behind, explaining the loss of
archaeological visibility. (Damm 2006)
Groups exploiting the resources of the Atlantic coast, the interior forests (at
the time of the maximum extent of the Pine forest), and the Gulf of Bothnia
respectively would of course have had access to somewhat different items. But
reindeer, elk and various fur animals would be accessible to a greater or lesser
extent to all, seal would be available both at the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf
of Bothnia respectively (albeit of different species). So there does not seem to
be any strong basis for major economic specialisations. I would therefore argue
that there does not appear to have been any of the classical Barthian reasons
for needing ethnicity to organise neither resources nor control over land (we
Charlotte Damm
still deal with very sparsely populated areas). Neither do any of the remaining
cultural elements seem to suggest that the new collective identities would have
been primary identities, or that they were enforced to any great extent.
If, as I believe, the societies in northern Fennoscandia had become more sedentary by this time, with task groups playing an increasing organising role, then
it is perhaps unlikely that entire bands travelled from, say, the Atlantic coast
to the Gulf of Bothnia. And we are certainly not dealing with daily or weekly
encounters. I think we must envisage regional bands, as demonstrated by Åsa
Lundberg’s analysis (1997) of the Swedish skärvsteinsvaller into winter locations. On the Atlantic coast such regional territories (or land tenures) most likely
covered one fjord with adjacent inland, not unlike the later Sámi siidas (Schanche 1994). So we would have interaction between local bands within the regional band, interaction between various regional bands, and occasionally perhaps
direct interaction with more distant bands. (see Whallon 2006, Zvelebil 2006).
(I prefer the term local and regional band to terms based on linguistic variation (e.g. Newell et al. 1990: family, band, dialect tribe and language family), to
avoid what I believe is speculative interpretation). All of these entities would
correspond to collective identities in the hierarchy (fig. 3), perhaps cross-cut by
clan’s, kinship, possible specialisations a.o. On the Atlantic coast, it is likely that
interaction would have been more frequent with neighbouring bands along the
coast, less frequent with slightly more distant bands along the coast and similarly
infrequent, but perhaps institutionalised long distance interaction across land.
This would have caused a very complex pattern of overlapping distributions
of various types of material culture in the archaeological record. Some of the
data would be associated with various collective identities, some by interaction
cross-cutting these.
So far we know little about precisely what these interactions consisted of, who
was involved and where and how it was conducted. These, I believe are important issues to address. We have too often accepted contact and interaction
as explanatory without considering in detail the substance and the consequences. It is very plausible that gift exchange, marriage alliances etc were involved.
In addition there would of course have been exchange of stories, gossip, and
other sorts of information. Such interregional contacts may well have had important influence on the social organisation and ranking within each regional
band (Helms 1992).
Ethicity and Collective Identities
Local band
Regional band
Atlantic coast group
Northern Fennoscandian group
Figur 3. Possible hierarchy of collective identities in northern Fennoscandia in the 5th
millennium BC.
As I see northern Fennoscandia in the 5th millennia there were many regional
bands or socio-economic territories, and consequently also a good deal of cultural diversity. The variations in material culture may help us to delimitate socioeconomic groups or my regional bands. Interactions would have taken place
on various levels, between many different individuals, groups and geographical
regions. Some of the collective identities are likely to have been primordial. However, there is little in the available data that demonstrates pronounced dichotomisation at any level. I am therefore inclined to see a lack of mobilisation of any
collective identity, suggesting instead that most such identities were situational
rather than primary.
Over the course of the next couple of millennia (4000-2000 BC) interaction
across northern Fennoscandia probably increases, allowing many similar types
of for instance red slate artefacts to have a very wide distribution. There does
seem to be many signs of increasing similarities across the area. At present I see
this more as reflecting a more stabilized, perhaps more institutionalized form of
interaction, rather than an active process of internal group identification, in other words I fail to see this as a mobilisation of a collective northern Fennoscandian identity. It is of course also questionable if most of these northern regional
groups were aware of the extent of similarity. In their situational encounters
with neighbouring groups, they would have noticed quite a few differences at a
lower hierarchical level. This does not, however, exclude the possibility of ethnic
differentiation in southern Norrland where the northern hunters interacted with
Charlotte Damm
In conclusion I would argue that it is possible to study collective identities in
prehistory and that we may be able to discern some cases of ethnic mobilisation. This should, however, be done with caution, considering the complexity of
collective identities and interaction. It is perhaps best approached through diachronic studies, and requires explicit arguments as to the basis for this process.
I am grateful to colleagues and students at the department in Tromsø for critical
and constructive comments. They helped me develop and rethink my perspective on how to deal with prehistoric ethnicity.
Ethicity and Collective Identities
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Ethicity and Collective Identities
Niklas Stenbäck
Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis, Villavägen 6G
SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden.
[email protected]
The Stone Age in Uppland, Eastern Central
Archaeological Excavations Along the E4 Highway North of
This paper is a presentation of the archaeological E4-project in Uppland,
eastern central Sweden. During the years of 2002 to 2006, a large number of
archaeological excavations were carried out along the course of the new E4
highway north of Uppsala. Sixteen of these were major excavations of late
Mesolithic and Neolithic sites. The paper also includes a summary of some of the
most important results from the investigations, as well as a presentation of the
thematic publication Stenåldern i Uppland. Uppdragsarkeologi och eftertanke
(Eng. The Stone Age in Uppland. Contract archaeology and reflections) with
papers on the findings.
Keywords: Mesolithic, Neolithic, Uppland, Contract archaeology, E4-project.
Niklas Stenbäck
The archaeological investigations carried out along the course of the new E4
highway (opened in October 2007) between the towns of Uppsala and Gävle
in the central and northern parts of Uppland constitute the largest single
archaeological project executed in Sweden. Along almost 80 kilometres of
planned road, sixteen major archaeological excavations of Late Mesolithic and
Neolithic sites were undertaken during the years of 2003, 2004 and 2006. The
excavations have shed light on a region where Stone Age history, in particular
its Mesolithic history, has been relatively unknown. The aim of this paper is to
briefly present some of these investigations and their results.
Today, contract archaeology in Sweden is highly competitive, meaning that
major archaeological investigations are subject to rules of public procurement.
Archaeological institutions and enterprises, such as the excavating departments
of the National Heritage Board (UV), the county museums as well as private
companies, can present bids with investigation plans that state scientific goals,
methods and costs. Projects are processed by the various county administration
boards, who decide the manner in which ancient remains can be removed, as
well as which institution will be commissioned to do the investigation. The
process consists of three steps: assessment, site evaluation and excavation.
An assessment identifies an ancient monument, whereas a site evaluation is
preformed to delimit, characterise and date it. An excavation removes it. Often,
only this last step is subject to public procurement.
Up until the late 1990s, little was known about remains from the Late Mesolithic
(5500-3900 BC) and Neolithic (3900-1700 BC) periods in northern Uppland.
At that time, comprehensive surveys in Uppland and in Gävleborg County
(north of Uppland) resulted in an increased knowledge of the distribution and
extent of Stone Age settlement in the region. As a result of these surveys, a
supplemental assessment was conducted in 2002 along the planned motorway.
The Stone Age in Uppland
Figure 1. Location map for excavated Mesolithic and Neolithic sites in the E4-project
(Map by K. Martinelle / SAU).
Niklas Stenbäck
Figure 2. Aerial photograph showing the Högmossen site with present and new
direction of the E4 highway, and also the river of Dalälven in background (Photo
Hawkeye flygfoto).
The Stone Age in Uppland
Stone Age remains were found on a large number of sites (Björck & Guinard
2003). Land upheaval has caused these sites to be situated between c. 35 to 65
m a. s. l. today. During the Stone Age, however, they were located by the coast
and situated in an archipelago environment. Finds from the Early Mesolithic are
missing, since the entire area during this time was situated below the sea.
During 2002 and 2003, site evaluations were carried out on 14 Stone Age sites,
leading to excavations. These, along with that of the Ryssgärdet settlement,
evaluated as early as in 1995, were carried out in 2003 and 2004. In addition, the
site evaluation and excavation at Fembäcke, also part of the E4-project, were
carried out in 2005 and 2006. These 16 Stone Age sites have been investigated
by Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis (SAU) and The National Heritage Board
(UV GAL, Uppsala). Roughly speaking, SAU investigated the older sites and
UV GAL the younger sites. Worth mentioning is an additional investigated site,
Postboda skjutbana, investigated by students from Uppsala University in 2004.
Upplandsmuseet, another participant in the E4-project, did not excavate any
Stone Age remains.
The reports from the full-scale excavations were, with a few exceptions, completed
by December 2006 (figure 3). Furthermore, the Uppsala County Administrative
Board commissioned four thematic publications with papers on the findings (a
Stone Age volume, a book on burial and ritual, another on houses and farmsteads,
and a volume of regional studies), to be published during 2007 in conjunction
with the E4-project. Volume 1, Stenåldern i Uppland. Uppdragsarkeologi och
eftertanke (The Stone Age in Uppland. Contract archaeology and Reflections)
was released in October 2007 (see below).
Niklas Stenbäck
The excavated sites
Dating, cal.
c. 62
c. 5000-4500
Late Meso
Guinard & Vogel
Stormossen 5
c. 62
c. 4800-4500
Late Meso
Guinard & Vogel
Stormossen 4
c. 60
c. 4700-4400
Late Meso
Guinard & Vogel
Stormossen 1
c. 60
c. 4700-4000
Late Meso
Guinard & Vogel
c. 55
c. 4200 BC
Late Meso
Guinard & Vogel
Postboda 3
c. 52
c. 4000 BC
Late Meso
Darmark & Sundström 2005
c. 45
c. 4000, 2800,
2200 BC
Lindberg 2006
c. 48
c. 3600-3300
Sundström & Darmark 2005
c. 46
c. 3600-3300
Björck & HjärthnerHoldar 2007
PB skjutbanan
c. 46
c. 3500-3100
Sundström et al.
Postboda 2
c. 45
c. 3500-3000
Sundström et al.
Postboda 1
c. 43
c. 3100-3000
Sundström et al.
c. 44
c. 3400 BC
Björck & Larsson
c. 42
c. 3000 BC
Björck & Lindberg
c. 36
c. 2800-2600
Nilsson 2006
c. 37,5
c. 2400-2300
Ytterberg 2006
c. 33
c. 1900 BC
Hjärthner-Holdar et
al. 2007
Figure 3. Table with a compilation of the excavated sites in the E4-project.
The Stone Age in Uppland
Figure 4. Map with a number of excavated Mesolithic sites in eastern central Sweden
and within the E4-project (Stormossen, Postboda 3). The new E4 highway is marked
as a line. The palaeogeographical map shows sea-land configuration during the end
of the Mesolithic in eastern central Sweden (5100 uncalibrated BP) © Geological
Survey of Sweden (SGU). (Map by K. Martinelle / SAU)
Niklas Stenbäck
Figure 5. Map with a number of excavated Neolithic sites in eastern central Sweden
and within the E4-project (Högmossen, Postboda 1& 2, Brännpussen). The new
E4 highway is marked out as a line. The palaeogeographical map shows sea-land
configuration during Middle Neolithic B in eastern central Sweden (4000 uncalibrated
BP) © Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU). (Map by K. Martinelle / SAU)
The Stone Age in Uppland
Thematic publication – volume 1: The Stone Age in
Uppland. Contract archaeology and Reflections
The volume (Stenbäck 2007) is comprised of 18 papers, introduction and
research overview not included. It is divided into five thematic parts: Theoretical
viewpoints, Nature, Stone, Pottery and Discussions on spatial structures. The
majority of the papers are purely archaeological, but some address the period
and region from different academic disciplines, such as geology, botanical history
and osteology. The papers are mostly written by researchers either at Societas
Archaeologica Upsaliensis (SAU) or the National Heritage Board (UV GAL);
however, co-authors from other departments are also involved.
The papers in parts I and V largely cover theoretical and methodological
standpoints from various perspectives. Several papers can be said to be
discursive, while others are more polemic in character. Parts II, III and IV
cover various materials with a more traditional scientific focus on prehistory.
Summarised results of these parts are briefly given in the conclusive section of
this paper. The emphasis in the presentation below is therefore placed on Part
I – Theoretical viewpoints, and to some degree on Part V – Discussions on
spatial structures.
Part I. Theoretical viewpoints
There is variation in terms of theoretical perspectives among all writers of the
two institutions SAU and The National Heritage Board (UV GAL), but despite
this, there is in my opinion a clear distinction in terms of theoretical viewpoints
and traditions between papers from the two institutions. These traditions can be
explained by the fact that several SAU-associates have a research background
at the Department of Archaeology at Uppsala University and in the processual
stone technology research environment around Professor Kjel Knutsson. One
example of this is the Kust till Kust (Coast to Coast) research programme (see
Knutsson 2004). The excavating departments of The National Heritage Board
(UV), being a state institution with links to a national administration, have a
different background and research culture (cf Ersgård 2006).
Niklas Stenbäck
In Part I, this difference in viewpoints is represented in Apel’s and Darmark’s
paper (SAU) and in Björck’s and Larsson’s paper (UV GAL).
Jan Apel’s and Kim Darmark’s paper on the phylogeny of pressure flaked
points (Apel & Darmark 2007) consists of three sections; one is theoretical, one
methodological and one empirical. The theoretical section is an introduction to
recent culture evolutionary theory development within the field of archaeology,
also known as Darwinian archaeology. In brief, this theory can be described as
an attempt to explain cultural change by way of both “biological” evolutionary
processes, such as random variation and cultural drift, and also by specifically
human “cultural” evolutionary processes in the form of aimed variation and
distorted transference. The authors suggest that this theoretical starting point
combines the materialistic, or instrumental, viewpoint of processual archaeology,
involving explanatory models of functional adaptation and external adjustment,
with the essentialist viewpoint of culture-historical archaeology, involving
traditions and gradual change in material culture based on different explanations
of actions in terms of human social behaviour. They use the terms generative
materialism and repetitive essentialism to describe the two principles of change
for, in this case, stone technology units.
The authors combine this theoretical point of departure with the method of
classifying artefacts by applying technological action sequences know as châine
opératoire. They do this to avoid the problems of using metric types, often
utilised by the processual school of thought, and formal types, often used by
culture-historians. By tracing the technological history, or phylogeny, of artefacts,
from their genesis and throughout their continued evolutionary process, Apel
& Darmark maintain that both form and function can be explained. This is
exemplified by a study of the Late Stone Age and Early Bronze Age pressure
flaked points found in conjunction with the E4-investigations. According
to the authors, two different craft traditions met in northern Uppland at this
The Stone Age in Uppland
time, a northern tradition where points were manufactured from local raw
materials, using a combination of knapping and pressure techniques, and a
southern tradition, where points were manufactured from imported flint, using
pressure techniques. Their view is that both traditions have a common ancestry,
originating in the Near Orient, but reaching Uppland by way of two different
routes, a northern/eastern route via the Black Sea region and Russia, and a
southern/western route via the coast of North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula
and Western Europe. By widening the study to the entire Northern Hemisphere,
they suggest that this stone technology craft tradition may have originated in the
Palaeolithic Solutréen tradition in Western Europe.
In Niclas Björck’s and Fredrik Larsson’s paper “Problemizing the basis for
interpretation of Neolithic society in eastern Central Sweden” (Björck &
Larsson 2007), the main hypothesis can briefly be described as follows: During
the Early Neolithic – Middle Neolithic period, the people of Uppland lived
primarily as hunter-gatherers in year-round settlements on what was then the
coast, without practising agriculture. The authors argue against the idea that
the agricultural Funnel Beaker Culture was represented in Uppland during the
Early Neolithic, and in general, they believe that the notion of neolithization in
eastern central Sweden during this period is vastly exaggerated. They suggest
that there has been, in archaeological research history, a political will to connect
this region culturally with Southern Scandinavia, downplaying similarities with
materials from the North and East. Björck and Larsson reject the use of the
concept of culture, and argue that the Neolithic cultures have been hampered
by so many prejudices and preconceived notions that the culture concept has
become useless as an analytical tool. They maintain that the artefacts have been
attributed essential meanings that do not exist, and therefore suggest working
with contexts instead. Despite this, their work can be seen as belonging to the
culture-historical tradition, since they choose to use a taxonomy created by
archaeologists interested in culture-history (formal typologies).
Niklas Stenbäck
Parts II, III and IV. Nature, Stone and Pottery
Part II encompasses three papers on shore displacement in Uppland during the
Stone Age (Risberg et al. 2007), Stone Age vegetation in Uppland (Karlsson 2007)
and the Neolithic animal bone material in eastern Central Sweden (Bäckström
2007). Part III consists of seven papers, mainly dealing with the Mesolithic and
quartz (Vogel 2007), quartz and quartz tools (Falkenström & Lindberg 2007,
Lindberg 2007), handle cores and transverse arrowheads (Guinard & Groop
2007), pecked axes (Groop & Guinard 2007), grinding stones (Eriksson 2007)
and blades in the neolithization process (Knutsson 2007). Part IV is made up
of two papers dealing with the Neolithic pottery of the region (Brorsson et al.
2007, Ytterberg 2007).
Figure 6. Quartz artefacts from Högmossen
(Photo Kjel Knutsson / Uppsala University).
Figure 7. Selection of core remains
and microblade fragments from the
Stormossen settlements in Uppland
(Photo Marcus Andersson / SAU).
The Stone Age in Uppland
Figure 8. Double-sided grinding stone
with circularly worn surface and raised
centre from Stormossen 4 (Photo:
Markus Andersson; Drawing: Mattias
Pettersson / SAU).
Niklas Stenbäck
Figure 9. Neolithic pottery from the sites along the E4 highway. Drawings: G.
Graner (Bålmyren), A-M Pitkänen-Darmark (Postboda 1 & 2, Postboda skjutbanan),
C. Samuelsson (Brännpussen, Djurstugan, Glädjen, Snåret) Scale 1:2. Digital
reconstruction: M. Ytterberg (Högmossen). Not to scale.
The Stone Age in Uppland
Niklas Stenbäck
Part V. Discussions on spatial structures
Two different methods were utilised during the investigation of Stone Age sites
during the E4-project. These methods can be described succinctly as sampling
and uncovering versus surface covering grid system excavation. Sampling was
used by SAU while grid systems were used by UV GAL. Collaborators from the
latter institution argue that sampling is most suitable for site evaluations, while
grid systems are preferable for full scale excavation. Their view is that a good
contextual understanding is unachievable when a find material is sampled (Biwall
et al. 2007). The sampling method practised by SAU is presented in a number of
field reports (e.g. Darmark & Sundström 2005, Sundström & Darmark 2005).
The method is based on theories on systematic analysis during the fieldwork
stage, in order to achieve a representational find material. The method was partly
developed in conjunction with the archaeological investigations at Fågelbacken
in Västmanland (Apel et al. 1995).
The pros and cons of both methods have been discussed in various forums in
recent years, among these at the Bo-05 conference in Uppsala. Central topics
for the debate has been the possibility of identifying and critically evaluate
the occurrences of features and constructions on Stone Age settlements, as
perceived when using the different methods (e.g. Darmark & Sundström 2005,
Björck 2007). The discourse can be summarised by the following questions:
How do we arrive at a representational find material?
Is surface covering grid system excavation really preferable for identifying
Are some remains that have been interpreted as traces of huts actually traces
of uprooted trees or other natural phenomena?
In their paper the SAU researchers Kim Darmark and Lars Sundström (Darmark
& Sundström 2007) argue that the possibility to identify hut and house remains
is not dependent on one or the other method, whereas the UV GAL researchers
The Stone Age in Uppland
Fredrik Larsson and Karl-Fredrik Lindberg (Larsson & Lindberg 2007) maintain
that there is good course for interpreting several remains as traces of huts. In
another paper, Larsson (2007) even discusses waste management around these
Late Mesolithic and Neolithic Uppland – An Outline of
Results from the E4-project
This is a summary of some of the most important results from the E4
Late Mesolithic
The existence of small settlements with brief seasonal habitation and
isolated occurrences in the outer archipelago of the time has been proved.
Small and medium sized settlements with various functions, for instance axe
manufacturing and quartz preparation, were identified.
Substantial use-wear analysis has identified a great many types of quartz
This result above is partly based on an analysis of whether reduction
methods of quartz cores – platform technique and bipolar technique – can
be the result of different phases of the manufacturing process; the first
preparation utilising platform technique and then substituting it for bipolar
technique when the cores became too small.
However, the so-called complexity debate, i.e. the idea that there was a change
in Mesolithic society in eastern central Sweden around 4500 BC, resulting in
a decreasing amount of quartz cores prepared with bipolar technique and
an increased amount of cores prepared with platform technique, could not
be verified in the investigated area. In addition, there does not seem to have
been any introduction of transverse arrowheads during the Late Mesolithic.
Manufacturing of microblades in the minerals ash tuff, jasper and tuffite in
northern Uppland, Dalarna and southern Norrland, indicates a common
social territory or network during the Late Mesolithic.
Niklas Stenbäck
Only five pollen diagrams from Uppland go as far back as the Late Mesolithic.
Different waterside plants as well as pine and birch occur regularly in
samples from the archipelago environment of that time. In cases where
determination of species was possible, the preserved bone material was
dominated by burnt seal bones.
A chronological series of artefacts and settlements has been established in
the area, ranging from the archipelago environment of the Early Neolithic
to the mainland environment of the Late Neolithic.
Settlements of varying sizes, functions and habitation periods have been
identified; from larger settlements with vast diverse material, indicative
of longer periods of use and seasonal or year-round habitation, to small
settlements with brief periods of use and with more specialised functions.
Some researchers take the view that there were no year-round settlements
in the area during the Early and Middle Neolithic periods, only seasonal
settlements, which can be understood as integral parts of a season-based
use of the landscape, including inland settlements (Sundström & Darmark
2005, Hallgren & Sundström 2007). Others believe there were year-round
settlements in the archipelago at the time, and that there are examples of
this within the E4-projects (Björck et al. 2005, Björck & Larsson 2007).
Neolithic bone material vastly outnumbers Mesolithic bone material.
However, burnt bone continues to dominate. In bones that could be
determined as to species, seal and fish dominate, but fowl and terrestrial
animals also occur. In the Early and Middle Neolithic materials, bones
from domesticated animals are absent. The E4-project has presented
opportunities for spatial and contextual studies and produced an increased
knowledge about seasonal assessment.
Neolithic vegetation history in the investigated area is to a large degree the
result of the process of land formation, i.e. the gradual change from outer
archipelago via central and inner archipelago to mainland environment. Faint
traces of human activity, mainly clearance, are visible in pollen diagrams
The Stone Age in Uppland
from the Middle Neolithic, but it is not until the late Neolithic, and on the
mainland, that definite traces of cultivated plants begin to be found in the
In the culture-historical research tradition, the Early Neolithic ceramics in
eastern central Sweden is classified as Funnel Beaker pottery, also known as
Vrå pottery (Florin 1958). In the recent academic discourse, some researchers
have maintained that Funnel Beaker Culture is represented in the northern parts
of Uppland (see Hallgren & Sundström 2007), while others claim this is not
the case (see Björck & Larsson 2007). Among the E4 investigations, there was
only one settlement with a small pottery material dating from the first half of
the Early Neolithic (TN I), which cannot with certainty be classified as Funnel
Beaker pottery. From the second half of the Early Neolithic, there are several
settlements with pottery that in form and decoration is similar to the transitional
style between Funnel Beaker and Pitted Ware known as Fagervik I (Bagge 1951).
The ware, however, is more reminiscent of Pitted Ware than Funnel Beaker
pottery. The Middle Neolithic pottery in the investigated area corresponds
well with the Pitted Ware sequence Fagervik II-IV. From the onset of the Late
Neolithic, artefacts occur of a mixed style of Pitted Ware and Battle Axe pottery,
usually termed “the third group”. Lipid analysis of the pottery has shown a
great degree of variation in vessel use within and between the sites. Thin-section
analysis shows that, in all likelihood, the ceramic vessels were manufactured
within the region, in several cases in close proximity of the settlement.
Quartz materials are not as prevalent on the Neolithic settlements as they
are on the Mesolithic settlements, which may be due to pre-preparation of
quartz cores taking place somewhere else in the landscape, making the cores
ready for use by the time they arrived at the Neolithic sites. Pecked axes
are again found on coastal sites from the Middle Neolithic A period; they
occur on coastal sites during the Late Mesolithic, but not during the Early
Neolithic when they are found on certain inland sites. The occurrence of
isolated Early Neolithic flint blades and some Late Neolithic pressure flaked
Niklas Stenbäck
points has shown the need for widening the studies, both in time and space,
i.e. not getting hampered by perspectives too local and regional in outlook.
On some of the investigated Neolithic sites, remains interpreted as huts
have been found (see above for discussion).
Naturally, the results mentioned above are just a small selection of the results I
deem to be the most important at this time. Future development will show what
impact the E4-project has had for Stone Age research.
I would like to thank Kim Darmark, Michel Guinard, Lars Sundström & Pierre
Vogel (Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis) for valuable comments on the
manuscript, and Robin Olsson (Upplandsmuseet) for his help with the English
The Stone Age in Uppland
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Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
Linnaeus University, School of cultural sciences
SE-391 82 Kalmar, Sweden
[email protected]
Those Who Dig will Find Out
Reflections on Archaeological Knowledge and Public Outreach
In this paper, the critical role of the archaeological excavation as a source of
scientific knowledge is emphasised. The point of departure is the Neolithic on
the island of Öland in the Baltic Sea. Examples from three recently performed
small-scale excavations on the island are presented, in an attempt to illustrate
that not only large-scale excavations in typical locations have a large scientific
potential. In connection to this discussion, the concepts of deductive and inductive excavation strategies are presented. Furthermore, the importance of public
outreach in connection to excavations is stressed, and it is argued that in order to
reach a broader audience, we need to think outside the box and dare tread new
paths in terms of communication media as well as in terms of the message we
deliver. At one of the excavations exemplified, some effort was put into public
outreach, and among other things participant public archaeology was conducted. This was very successful, and it is argued that most excavations situated
close to settled areas have the potential of presenting to the public an exciting
glimpse of archaeology as an important and valuable enterprise.
Keywords: Archaeological excavation, Öland, Neolithic, public outreach
Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
During the last ten or so years, I have spent much of my time thinking and
writing about the Stone Age period of the island of Öland in the Baltic Sea.
In the year 2006, this resulted in my PhD-thesis being publicly defended and
published (Papmehl-Dufay 2006), in fact only a week ahead of the second Uniting Sea meeting in Stockholm, from which the present publication emanates.
My presentation at the US II conference therefore quite naturally came to deal
with the work of my thesis, which was a thorough study of the ceramic craft of
the middle Neolithic Pitted Ware culture on the island of Öland in the Baltic
Sea. Having published this work in one monograph and several papers since
(Papmehl-Dufay 2006, 2007, 2010c), I have decided to change the content of
my paper for this publication. During the last three years I have been professionally involved in contract archaeology on the island of Öland, and I was soon
overwhelmed by the large scientific potential of even the smallest excavation. In
a region where large-scale exploitations are few and most excavations are limited
to small areas and low budgets, during a period of c. 1 ½ year at least six excavations produced material that to my mind have contributed in a profound way
to our increased knowledge of the Stone Age on the island of Öland (PapmehlDufay 2008a, 2008b, 2008c, 2009a, 2009b, 2010a, 2010b, 2010c; Alexandersson
& Papmehl-Dufay 2009). Most of these excavations were covered in one way or
the other by local media, and the degree of interest shown by people in general
regarding the excavations ad the archaeological results was typically high. This
inspired me to write this paper, in which the Neolithic of the island of Öland
serves as departure in a discussion on the role of excavations and public outreach in archaeology as an academic discipline.
To most people, archaeology is the search for and investigation of material traces of past human societies and their inhabitants. As such, the archaeological
excavation remains the ultimate symbol of this enterprise, and it is a fact that
anywhere excavations are carried out close to settled areas, people will continuously pop by to ask questions and get a glimpse of living and working archaeologists and possibly even some newly discovered archaeological artefacts (Angelin
Holmén 2001; Nordell 2006). But what is the main attraction? An often-made
mistake is probably the assumption by archaeologists that what people are most
eager about to learn is the absolute truth about the past. This is not to say that
knowledge is unimportant to non-archaeologists. However, what makes archaeology as an enterprise so exiting and intriguing is the way towards to this knowledge, the journey itself, the exploration of ancient remains (see Svanberg &
Hauptman Wahlgren 2007). In common thought (fig 1), the concept of “archaeological excavation” is associated with excitement, the unknown and treasure,
Those Who Dig will Find Out
Figure 1. The archaeologist at
work, as it appears in the minds
of most people. Illustration by
the author.
and popular culture on the theme commonly enjoys an enormous response. No
wonder why people stop by to get a glimpse of what is going on! It is only within
the branch of archaeology itself, I think, that the role of excavations as a source
for archaeological knowledge has been seriously questioned (e.g. Andersson
2005). At many universities in Sweden, a separation can be noted between nondigging, “thinking” archaeologists on the one hand and digging “non-thinkers”
on the other, the former clearly enjoying a higher academic status than the latter.
Outside the universities, however, this partition is problematic, since practically
all excavations are carried out within the field of contract archaeology, where
the demands for scientifically well-founded and research-oriented strategies are
being more and more articulated (Paulsson & Svensson 2005; Johansson & Liliequist 2007). In this paper, I will argue that archaeological excavation, not least
within contract archaeology, is absolutely crucial to archaeology as an academic
discipline, and that the excavated archaeological source material can be utilised
to a greater extent by researchers at the university departments than what is currently the case. I will also argue that public outreach in connection to excavations
is central to the survival of the discipline, and that we must start to realise just
what an enormous potential for public outreach the archaeological excavation
has as a phenomenon. Practically without exception, all excavations can be seen
as arenas for public communication, and since most excavations are in one way
or another publicly funded we had better present a positive image of what we
are doing. In the following, some examples from my own experience in this matter will be drawn upon. A brief outline of previous research on the Neolithic
of Öland is followed by a presentation of three small excavations carried out by
Kalmar county museum during the last couple of years, leading to a discussion
on the issues of excavation and public outreach.
Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
The island of Öland is situated between the island of Gotland and the Swedish
mainland (fig 2). With an area of 1342 km2, it is the fourth largest island in the
Baltic Sea. It has an elongated shape and stretches from SSW to NNE, with a
maximal length of c. 140 km and a maximal width of c. 20 km. The distance
from the mainland nowadays ranges between 3 and 14 km, and given the slow
land uplift and local topography, Öland would have been visible from the mainland during Neolithic times as well (Svensson 2001). The bedrock on Öland
consists of Ordovician limestone, with Cambrian slate and sandstone on the
western slopes. The most marked topographic feature is the “western escarpment” (Sw. västra landborgen), a cuesta ridge running along the western part of
the island with its steep side to the west and its gentle slope to the east. The most
elevated part of the western escarpment rises about 58 m above the present sea
level, constituting the highest point on the island.
With some 14 000 recorded ancient sites and monuments and massive numbers
of stray finds of prehistoric artefacts, Öland is the second most archaeologically
productive region in Sweden, exceeded only by Gotland (Häggström 2003: 15).
The most eye-catching among the prehistoric remains on Öland are the Iron
Age ring forts and the innumerable Iron Age cemeteries spread all over the
island. Some of the best-preserved Iron Age villages in Europe are to be found
at Rosendal and Skäftekärr in the northernmost part of the island (Fallgren
2006), and besides these, the island is also famous for its large number of finds
of Roman imports.
Öland has attracted archaeologists for a long time, but most studies have dealt
with Iron Age and Medieval times, while practically no studies have concentrated on the Bronze Age and only very few have targeted Stone Age remains
(Papmehl-Dufay 2006: 69ff). An interesting chronological development can be
seen throughout the 20th century, where the amount of research in a very clear
way reflects certain individual events and research initiatives. The number of
archaeological studies dealing with Öland was altogether very small prior to the
1920s. During the first post-war decades, studies concerning the Middle Ages
and historical times predominated, but from the 1960s onwards, Iron Age studies increased enormously. The upswing during the 1960s can probably at least
in part be explained by the large-scale excavations first at Skedemosse (19591964) and then at Eketorp (1964-1971), the former a sacrificial bog from the
pre-Roman and Roman Iron Age and the latter an Iron Age ring fort dating
from c. AD 1 to AD 1300. Both of these were large excavation-based research
projects that to a significant extent triggered further research on the time pe60
Those Who Dig will Find Out
Figure 2. The island of Öland is
situated between the island of
Gotland and the Swedish mainland.
riod considered. The National Heritage Board, in close collaboration with the
National Labour Market Board, established an archaeological excavation office
(Riksantikvarieämbetets Ölandskontor, RÖK) in Borgholm on Öland in 1969,
and this institution was very active during the 1970s and early 1980s, conducting
numerous rescue excavations and smaller research excavations, until the office
was disbanded in 1984. In 1983, a large-scale project was launched with the
purpose of bringing together and publishing all archaeological data on Iron Age
burials on the island. The project “The Iron Age cemeteries of Öland” (Sw.
Ölands järnåldersgravfält) was tightly connected to the RÖK both personally
and archaeologically (Hagberg 1991). Headed by RÖK-directors Ulf-Erik Hagberg and Monica Rasch and involving a number of previously RÖK-employees,
numerous excavations carried out by RÖK in the 1970s and early 1980s were
included in the publications. The project resulted in four extensive volumes, and
was finished in 2001 (Beskow-Sjöberg 1987; Hagberg et al. 1991; Hagberg et al.
1996; Rasch 2001).
Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
Stone Age studies were few on Öland throughout the 20th century, which in
no way reflects a lack of suitable material but rather reflects the powerful dominance of Iron Age studies as reviewed above. Furthermore, a general lack
of archaeological research altogether can be noted in large parts of south-east
Sweden, where the geographical distance from large universities and the lack of
large development projects in recent decades have been decisive (Häggström
2003; see, however, Magnusson 2001).
A gap to be filled
The lack of modern Stone Age research as reviewed above was one of the main
reasons for me to take on Öland as the area of study for my PhD in the year
2000, and also for the research programme “Us and Them” running from 20032006 and of which my PhD was a part (Larsson et al. 2005). It was clear from
the start that the potential for especially Neolithic studies on Öland is enormous, not least when considering the favourable conditions for preservation
of skeletal material due to the calcareous soils. In addition to this, the insular
geographic setting was seen as an interesting subject to explore, in particular its
influence on various cultural expressions (Papmehl-Dufay 2003). Despite this,
up to the mid-1990s, very little research existed on the Stone Age of the island.
In 1995, skeletal material from the Mysinge passage tomb was included in a
study of stable isotopes and trace elements (Lidén 1995), and in 1996-1997 an
extensive field-walking survey project (Sw. “Ölandsprojektet”) was carried out
revealing a very large number of previously unknown sites of varying character
and date spread all over the island (Alexandersson et al. 1996).
The Stone Age remains on the island of Öland have been presented in detail
elsewhere (Papmehl-Dufay 2006). Suffice to say here that, at the onset of the Us
and Them project in 2003, an extensive and varied but poorly investigated set of
Neolithic remains existed including four megalithic tombs (of which only one
excavated) in the parish of Resmo (Arne 1909), a Pitted Ware site with several
burials at Köpingsvik (e.g. Schulze 1978) and a late Neolithic stone cist cemetery
at Torsborg (Petersson 1956). In addition to these a very large number of sites
had been identified through the field-walking surveys, but none were excavated
to any great extent. At the turn of the 21st century the three above-mentioned
sites thus constituted the main part of the archaeologically excavated Neolithic
sites on Öland. Within the Us and Them project this was seen as somewhat of
an obstacle, and in order to complement the sparsely available excavated material, two small-scale excavations were performed within the project, at the passage
tomb in Mysinge and at the Pitted Ware site at Ottenby Royal Manor respectively
(Alexandersson 2005; Papmehl-Dufay 2005). Furthermore, great effort was put
Those Who Dig will Find Out
into various scientific analyses of previously excavated material, in particular
skeletal material and ceramic assemblages (Eriksson et al. 2008; Papmehl-Dufay
2006). In this way, new data was obtained from old assemblages through renewed “excavation” in the laboratory.
The laboratory analyses performed within the Us and Them project were highly
successful, in that a large body of data became available for new interpretations
regarding the Neolithic period of the island. It was shown that the shift to an
agriculturally based diet took place at the onset of the late Neolithic rather than
at the shift from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic (Kanstrup 2004; Eriksson et al.
2008), and the passage tomb at Mysinge was shown to have been in use for a
period of more than 2000 years (Eriksson et al. 2008). The analysis of ceramic
assemblages from Pitted Ware sites revealed a highly elaborate and varied craft,
far from the simple and primitive image presented by common textbooks on the
subject (Papmehl-Dufay 2006). The laboratory work of the Us and Them project also triggered further studies on bone chemistry and biomolecular archaeology, some of which are still in progress. In 2008 a large study of stable isotopes
and ancient DNA in which skeletal material from Öland played an important
role was published (Linderholm 2008), and currently a study of strontium isotopes is carried out at Stockholm university (Fornander et al. manuscript).
From this it can be stated that the last 10 or so years have seen a renewed interest in research on the Neolithic of Öland, and especially laboratory analyses
have been highly successful and productive. The number of excavated sites was
still very few at the concluding of the Us and Them project in 2006, however,
and especially settlement patterns and technology therefore remained to a large
extent hidden.
Even the smallest excavation…
The last couple of years have seen an increase in construction activities on
Öland and especially around the city of Kalmar on the neighbouring Swedish
mainland. A growing number of large companies are establishing themselves
in the Kalmar region, and in certain areas on Öland a marked increase in the
building of new houses can be noted. These activities are clearly reflected in the
number of excavations performed, although most of these are small-scale ones
and often stay at the level of trial excavation and site evaluation. Still, even the
smallest excavation occasionally gives surprisingly important results, and thus
from the many small-scale excavations carried out on Öland during the last c.
2 years at least six have contributed to a significant extent to our knowledge on
the Stone Age of the island. Below, I will summarize three of these, all of which
I was in charge of myself.
Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
Kolstad, parish of Köping
The first case I will draw upon was an archaeological trial excavation in late
October 2007 at Kolstad, in the parish of Köping on the mid-western part of
the island (Papmehl-Dufay 2008a). The area to be investigated covered some
100 000 m2 of ploughed fields, and hosted two previously recorded sites with
finds of knapped flint and a few stone axes of late Neolithic types. The trial
excavation aimed at determining the presence and state of preservation of any
prehistoric remains below the plough soil, and was conducted by means of the
digging of test trenches with a mechanical excavator.
A total of 71 trenches were placed at spaces of 25-50 m covering the entire area,
including the two topographically elevated recorded sites as well as the shallow
area in between. Sunken features were found below the plough soil at both sites,
although severely damaged by agricultural activities. The area outside the two sites was characterised by a lower topography, and along the southern and eastern
edge of the site Raä 410 an ancient stream could be seen as a distinct shade in
the surface of the ploughed field (fig. 3). Two trenches were placed 50 m apart
within the extent of the ancient stream, and below the plough soil in both trenches a black layer of high organic content emerged representing the successive
overgrowth of the stream. In one trench, this layer was dug through, and at a
depth of c. 0.8 m from the surface a brownish layer appeared, containing large
amounts of extremely well preserved and in some cases clearly worked wood.
The wood-bearing layer was dug through, reaching a depth of almost 2 m below
the surface and containing large amounts of wood through the whole sequence
(fig. 4). At the bottom of the trench a circular wooden vessel c. 0.6 m in diameter
was found, unfortunately almost completely destroyed by the digging machine.
Two samples, from a wooden plank and the wooden vessel, were submitted to
14C-dating, and the results clearly showed that the wooden artefacts are of late
Neolithic date at around 2100-1900 cal BC, i.e. broadly contemporary with the
two sites.
At first it was assumed that the wood-bearing layer was contextually connected
to the ancient stream, and thus that the geographical limits of the two were
identical. This would mean that we had located a late Neolithic wetland site, at
least 50 x 10 m in size and around 1.5 m in depth, containing large amounts of
extremely well preserved organic material and situated right next to a contemporary but severely damaged settlement site. In order to further investigate the
nature of the find, a brief test-drill survey was conducted in January 2008, and it
was soon realised that the wood-bearing layer was of a much more local character than was assumed at first. At the present, the most probable interpretation is
Those Who Dig will Find Out
that the deep-dug trench accidentally was placed right into a late Neolithic well
or some similar feature, and that the wooden vessel encountered at the bottom
of the trench is connected to the function of this feature. It is still not known
whether more similar features occur in the vicinity, although this seems likely.
Hopefully further excavations at this site will be made possible some time in the
Figure 3. Photo of the site Raä 410, with the ancient stream indicated (black arrow)
(Papmehl-Dufay 2008a).
Figure 4. Neolithic wood from
the well at Kolstad (PapmehlDufay 2008a).
Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
Björnhovda, parish of Torslunda
The second case concerns an archaeological site evaluation and a following excavation performed in August and November 2008, just west of the village Björnhovda, in the parish of Torslunda on west Öland. The area to be investigated
measured some 30 000 m2, and hosted two previously recorded Stone Age sites
with finds of knapped flint. The trial excavation in August aimed at delimiting
the occurrence of prehistoric settlement remains below the plough soil, and it
was soon realised that buildings and agricultural activities in historical times had
almost completely destroyed the two Stone Age sites. In the shallow area right
in the middle between the two sites, however, one of the test trenches revealed
a burial containing a thick-butted stone axe and a hammer axe of late Neolithic
type placed close together (fig. 5). No skeletal remains were preserved, but based
on the shape and size of the dugout feature and the placing of the axes in the
north-eastern end, a possible interpretation would be that the burial had contained a body in crouched position with head placed in the north-east (fig. 6).
Figure 5. The two axes found in burial 1 at Björnhovda, in situ (Papmehl-Dufay 2009a).
Those Who Dig will Find Out
In November 2008 a c. 3000 m2 large area around the burial was stripped in
order to further investigate the context of the burial. Apart from a few flakes of
porphyry and one hearth, the only features found were another four potential
burials situated in a cluster close to the southeast of the first burial. None of the
features contained any clear grave goods or skeletal remains, but the size of the
features (c. 1.6-3.0 x 0.9-1.2 m) and their position clearly suggest that we have located a cemetery, at least partly from the late Neolithic (Papmehl-Dufay 2009a).
The find has important implications for our understanding of burial practice
on the island during the late Neolithic. With the Björnhocda find, the number
of sites with possible late Neolithic burials recorded on the island so far is 12
(Papmehl-Dufay manuscript). The variation is considerable, including classical
stone cists as well as earth burials, burials in a passage tomb and a cremation.
Figure 6. Plan drawing of burial
1 at Björnhovda. The hatched
lines indicate trenches from the
site evaluation. After PapmehlDufay 2009a.
Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
Runsbäck, parish of Torsunda
The third case is an excavation in 2008 of two settlement sites at Runsbäck, parish of Torslunda, just 2 kilometres to the southwest of the Björnhovda burial
on west Öland. The settlement sites at Runsbäck are located only c. 200 m apart,
and were identified through an archaeological trial excavation in 2007. The final
excavation was undertaken in July and October 2008, during a total of c. 6 weeks
with a workforce of 2-4 archaeologists. At the onset of the excavation in July,
the sites were known to host rich traces of settlement remains from large parts
of the Neolithic, seemingly with an emphasis on the periods middle Neolithic B
and the late Neolithic.
The excavation has generated a large assemblage of Stone Age finds covering a
period of nearly 6000 years (Alexandersson & Papmehl-Dufay 2009; PapmehlDufay 2010b). The true extent of this chronological scope was not realised until
at a rather late stage in the process. While the excavation in July mostly confirmed the initial impression with an emphasis on settlement remains dating from
the MN B and the LN at both sites (c. 2800-1800 BC), the continued excavation
in October managed to get a more nuanced view involving a greater time span
and a certain difference between the two sites. At both sites Mesolithic as well
as Neolithic settlement remains could be identified, and among the Neolithic
remains several distinctive phases were present. At the eastern site, the excavation in October revealed a much more articulated presence of early Neolithic
remains of TRB character than was realised in July. Within a limited area c. 20 x
20 m an extreme wealth of finds and sunken features was recorded, and as work
progressed it was realised that the area contained the traces of a two-aisled long
house, at least c. 12 m long and about 5 m wide (fig. 7). The house is oriented
approximately in east-west direction, and the eastern end has been destroyed by
modern activities. The remaining traces consist of three large post-holes representing roof-bearing uprights and a number of smaller post-holes interpreted as
part of the wall construction. Typologically the house at Runsbäck is in good
accordance with early Neolithic houses of so-called Mossby type, which have
been identified in southern and central Sweden during the last couple of decades
(Larsson 1992; Artursson et al. 2003). Few houses of this type have been found
in southeast Sweden, and none previously on the island of Öland.
The area around the house at Runsbäck is very rich in finds clearly reflecting
several periods of occupation, all of which should not be connected to the use
of the house. Two microliths and one handle core represent activities on the site
during the Mesolithic, and only c. 20 m to the west a late Neolithic flint dagger
was found during the excavation in July. The main part of the finds around the
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house is of typical early Neolithic TRB character, however, and includes decorated TRB pottery, transverse flint arrowheads, fragments of thin-butted flint axes
and a saddle shaped quern stone (fig. 8). The latter is of special interest, since
it is a type commonly found on EN TRB sites in eastern central Sweden and in
Demark (Lidström Holmberg 2004). Stylistically the bulk of the pottery around
the house can be dated to the second half of the early Neolithic at c. 3600-3300
BC, which is in good accordance with results from 14C-dates of hazelnut shells
from the site, as well as the date of Mossby-houses in general.
Figure 7. Plan drawing of the
Runsbäck house (Alexandersson
& Papmehl-Dufay 2009).
Figure 8. TRB pottery from the area
around the house at Runsbäck
(Alexandersson & Papmehl-Dufay
Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
Archaeological excavations and public outreach
Traditionally, communication of archaeological knowledge to the public has
been conducted mainly in museum exhibitions and textbooks. The stereotype
image of the archaeological expert telling people what life was like in the past is
a strong one, but also one that has been severely criticised in recent years. It has
been argued that archaeologists’ communication with non-archaeologists is characterised by a static, one-way communication, lacking the important dialogue
and leading only to an increase in the gap between the expert and the layman and
in effect a mental separation of people from their cultural heritage (Karlsson &
Nilsson 2001). Others have rightly argued that, at least in a field situation, communication between an archaeologist and a group of people is far from static,
and almost by definition dialogical in character (Nordell 2006: 28ff). On practically every excavation I have participated in or conducted, curious and interested
people have passed by asking questions about what we are doing and what we
have found. Once the dialogue is running, the range of questions and critical reflections is more or less unlimited. Communication in this sort of interaction is
thus completely dialogical, which makes it fruitful as a platform for engagement
and getting people emotionally involved in the archaeological enterprise and
their cultural heritage. As stated in the introduction, what engages people the
most is not the archaeological knowledge per se but the intriguing methods that
we use to reach it, i.e. the excavation and the successive analytical work (which in
effect could be seen as a continued excavation indoors). It is clear to me that the
potential for public mediation and outreach at an archaeological excavation is
more or less constantly high, and mainly dependent not on the scientific quality
of the archaeological site but rather on physical access and weather conditions.
In some cases it seems that it is not the archaeological site or artefact that is the
main attraction but the archaeologist, in which case any excavation will do. In
my view, public outreach in the broader sense is of immense importance and a
much-needed chance to provide a positive image of archaeology as an enterprise
of importance to society at large. This is also very much in line with the proclaimed direction for contract archaeology in the 21st century, as officially stated
during the last couple of years (Paulsson & Svensson 2005).
The three excavations briefly presented above were all of a very limited scale,
compared to the enormous projects in connection to new railroads and motorways that occasionally make it out to the public (see Stenbäck this volume). The
excavation at Kolstad only lasted a few days, and the excavation at Björnhovda
was mainly undertaken in late November when weather conditions were far
from ideal. The Runsbäck excavation however lasted several weeks, and was
partly undertaken during summer when tourists as well as locals on holiday were
Those Who Dig will Find Out
present nearby. It was decided early on that some effort was to be put into public
outreach in connection with the ongoing excavations. In July, the local schools
were on holiday and thus could not be invited, and instead we invited local kindergartens with groups of smaller children to come for a special tour of the excavation. We also announced in the local newspaper that families were welcome
to visit the excavation at a given date and time, and that everyone was welcome
on a guided tour the same evening. For the kindergarten and family tours, an
archaeologist specialised in pedagogy was hired, and together with myself spent
a day receiving more than a hundred children and parents eager to learn about
archaeology, the Stone Age and our recent discoveries. Apart from trying replicas of Stone Age clothing and holding real archaeological artefacts form the
museum collections in their hands, all attending children (and, as it turned out,
their parents too) got a chance to try some real excavation. For this purpose
I had spared the remaining half of a large Neolithic refuse pit excavated and
documented the day before. This proved to be a huge success, and children as
well as parents could hardly stop searching for tiny flints and potsherds in the
dark sandy soil. Another c. 100 persons attended the guided tour in the evening,
and thus in the end more than 200 people attended the relatively small effort on
public outreach at Runsbäck. Furthermore, during the excavation in October, a
local school contacted us and was given a special one-hour guided tour after the
excavation was finished. The opportunity to physically enter the first Stone Age
house to have been excavated on Öland was hugely appreciated, and the visit
resulted in an illustrated full-page review written by the children themselves in a
local newspaper a few weeks later (see Alexandersson & Papmehl-Dufay 2009:
31). Altogether, it was clear that the archaeological excavation as a phenomenon
was something highly attractive and exciting to both children and grown-ups.
A few years later, most people attending the activities that day at Runsbäck will
probably not remember from what period the finds were or how we interpreted the site. But they will never forget the experience of actually digging up an
ancient potsherd or flint scraper, or the feeling of holding a 5000 year-old flint
axe in their hand.
The activities arranged at Runsbäck could be described as participant public
archaeology, or just public archaeology (Svanberg & Hauptman Wahlgren 2007).
The focus here is on the dialogical communication and participation, and to
get people involved in the exploration of doing archaeology. “Archaeologist”
is an often-heard answer to the question “what did you dream of becoming
when you were a child?”. It is the exploration of the unknown past that inspires
people, and not the image of the authority on Neolithic potsherds. This fact is
something that we could benefit from in situations of archaeological public out71
Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
reach. From my experience, the concept of participant public archaeology is a
given hit at any time: even if the rain is pouring down, at the end of the day you
will have to force people to stop exploring the ways of the past through doing
archaeology. However, there are a lot of other ways that public outreach can be
conducted, besides the traditional exhibitions and textbooks.
Excavations: expect the unexpected
Despite the increased interest during the last decade in research on the Stone
Age of Öland, up till recently very few sites had been excavated to any greater
extent in modern times. Still the number of excavated sites is very low, and the
three excavations presented above do not change the overall picture that more
sites need to be investigated. However, they do show that small-scale excavations can generate knowledge of large scientific potential, and also that it can
be fruitful to excavate not only in “typical” localities. The finding of the burial
and possible cemetery at Björnhovda is a healthy reminder of the importance
of what could be termed deductive excavation. This refers to the practice of
using the excavation to try and falsify established hypotheses, instead of verifying them. If the common archaeological sense is that all late Neolithic burials
were located on elevated sandy ridges, the best way to test this is to search for
burials in all possible locations other than sandy ridges. The inductive alternative
would be to concentrate your search for burials in the locations that fit best
with the preconceived image. This might result in further burials being found,
but certainly not in any mind-blowing and revolutionary findings altering the
established scientific knowledge in any profound way. Still, my highly subjective
impression is that this is by far the most common strategy in archaeological
surveys and trial excavations throughout large parts of Sweden. The excavations
at Kolstad and Björnhovda both yielded important results that could not have
been predicted based on what was known archaeologically beforehand. In both
cases the subject to be investigated was Stone Age settlement sites, and in both
cases these were situated in topographically elevated localities on sandy ancient
beach ridges. In these parts of Sweden, such localities are often regarded as favourable sites in terms of prehistoric settlement activities, and thus surveys typically tend to favour similar localities in their search for sites, possibly resulting in
an overrepresentation of sites located in topographically elevated positions on
sandy ancient beach ridges. Furthermore, in some cases during trial excavation
and site evaluation, such localities are also favoured since they are deemed to
have the largest archaeological potential. With the terminology proposed above
this strategy is based on inductive excavation. This will inevitably result in areas
of “lower archaeological potential” seldom being investigated, and the sites that
are excavated are those situated in “typical” localities. I find this situation a bit
Those Who Dig will Find Out
disturbing, and the excavations at Kolstad and Björnhovda clearly shows the potential of a deductive excavation strategy including not only the “typical” localities but also more non-typical ones in site evaluation and trial excavation. Late
Neolithic earth graves are generally believed to be located along eskers or some
other elevated position in relation to the nearby surrounding area (e.g. Björnhem
& Säfvestad 1989: 128). Is this because they are actually most common in such
localities, or is it because we only look there?
Following the three examples presented above, it can easily be argued that even
the smallest excavation can be of large importance in the process of generating
archaeological knowledge. Of course the overwhelming majority of excavations
will not reveal the missing link in terms of finds or features, but it is my firm
belief that every now and again we will come across things that in one way or
another has the potential of altering our image of the past and contributing with
new archaeological knowledge.
Public outreach: think outside of the box
As technology develops, so does the opportunity for archaeology of reaching
people in new ways. During the last 10 or so years, archaeological public outreach has seen an enormous methodological development, from the traditional
exhibition/textbook/lecture model to an immense variety of means of getting
people involved and interested in archaeology. At Kalmar county museum, Cultural Heritage Pedagogy has been an established concept for several decades,
and the development of new methods for teaching and experiencing the cultural
heritage is continuing (Angelin Holmén 2001; Westergren 2006). Here, focus is
on experiencing the cultural heritage on site in the landscape, and through the
aid of acting and imagination. This is a fruitful way to make the experience of
archaeological sites appealing, and offers a platform for discussion and learning
useful in teaching as well as in cultural heritage tourism.
The Internet offers a completely new arena for public outreach in archaeology;
one that I think has only begun to be explored by archaeologists. In Sweden,
archaeology blogs have seen an increase in popularity during the last couple of
years, and in connection to large excavations it is now commonplace to set up
a blog where the results of the excavation can be presented continuously. This
is a useful and most welcome addition to guided tours and printed information
at the site of excavation, and has the potential of reaching a much larger crowd
than activities limited to a geographical location (i.e. the site of excavation).
Another advantage with the blog as a medium for public outreach is the opportunity for dialogue in combination with the possibility of relating the discussion
Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay
to images and maps etc; through the comment application, readers can discuss
with the writers and thus a dialogue similar to that on site can develop. Another
digital forum that has not been as widely applied in archaeology yet, but which
has great potential for this field, is film-clips presented on Youtube.com. With
relatively simple and inexpensive tools, it is today possible to produce short films
and at no cost at all to present them on the Internet for anyone with a computer to watch. For this to work efficiently, we should use our creativity and think
outside of the box. A film clip showing everyday work at an excavation may be
appealing to some, but it most probably will not reach people not already into
archaeology. However, if we focus on the exploration and present the archaeological excavation as an adventure, or if we use the knowledge that we have
reached to write emotional and reflexive stories and present them as film clips,
I think that Youtube.com has great potential in reaching a new audience. Surely
there are other new tools to explore in this field, and I think that it is necessary
for us to dare to tread new paths in order to fully utilise and develop the potential of archaeological public outreach.
Those Who Dig will Find Out
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Those Who Dig will Find Out
Mikael Nordin & Patrik Gustafsson
Sörmlands museum, Box 314
SE-611 26 Nyköping, Sweden.
[email protected], [email protected]
Unto a Good Land
Early Mesolithic Colonization of Eastern Central Sweden
Only a handful of sites from the earliest “pioneer” phase of the early Mesolithic
period (roughly 9 000 BP) have been excavated in eastern central Sweden. However, interesting finds of micro blades and micro blade cores, as well as circular
scrapers of flint and quartz, a barbed point and a characteristic pickaxe, have
been found on some of these sites and as stray finds. This brings out the question, where did the first pioneers come from? The excavated early Mesolithic
sites in eastern central Sweden are discussed and compared to early Mesolithic
groups in southern and western Sweden, as well as the Baltic region and Finland. Recently discovered sites in Kolmården and other places in the county of
Södermanland and neighbouring areas are also discussed as well as shore displacement, which is vital for understanding the early Mesolithic landscape.
Keywords: Eastern Central Sweden, Early Mesolithic, Shore Displacement, Flint, Quartz,
Pioneer phase, Settlement phase.
Mikael Nordin & Patrik Gustafsson
This article takes its starting point in an earlier published paper, which touches
upon three presumed early Mesolithic sites in the Kolmården area, in the county
of Södermanland, eastern central Sweden (Gustafsson & Nordin 2006). Among
these three sites, two attracted special interest – Lövgölen I and Linddalen. At
Lövgölen I, flakes and other objects of flint from southern Scandinavia and
from the western parts of Sweden were found in a test pit. At Linddalen, the
remains of a possible hut/house construction from the Stone Age were found.
The sites have been preliminarily shoreline-dated to just before and after 9000
BP. In the following, all radiocarbon dates are presented as uncalibrated radiocarbon years before present (BP).
During the work on the former paper, some questions were raised. A few of
these problems will be discussed further in this paper. These questions mainly
concern the sites in a larger archaeological and geographical context. Our interest is mainly directed towards who the first pioneers were in a wider sense,
where they came from and why. These are questions that have also been discussed by others, especially regarding the late Palaeolithic and early Mesolithic
Norway (e.g. Fuglestvedt 2003; 2005; Grydeland 2003).
Earlier suggestions claim that the first people who entered the archipelago in
eastern central Sweden could have come from the east, probably Finland. This
statement is mainly based on the fact that knapped quartz is the dominating
raw material in both eastern central Sweden and Finland (Gustafsson 1998: 29;
Åkerlund 2001: 5). Flint does not become the dominating raw material until you
leave eastern central Sweden and venture further west and south (e.g. Larsson
2003: xxvi). Others claim that the origin must be sought in the west and/or the
south (Wikell 2002: 10f).
Locally available raw materials are not a good source of information, if the
object is to understand the relationship between different cultural spheres, or
indeed, if you want to understand the origin of people. One could question
whether one piece of raw material is enough to discern origin (cf. Gustafsson
2004: 81f). However, occurrences of exotic raw materials can be an important
clue for understanding how the contact surfaces between different regions appeared in prehistory. By studying and compiling different archaeological sources
combined with palaeogeography, instead of focusing on the lack of certain raw
materials, there is a chance to get an increased understanding of what unites and
separates different regions. In this paper, the term culture is much used, as we
Unto a Good Land
keep referring to the traditional and constructed archaeological culture groups.
We use this term, and other related terms (e.g. techno complex), in their traditional archaeological meanings.
Figure 1. Map of the studied area and the different cultural groups mentioned in the
text. Background map of Northern Europe by Revolus (Wikimedia Commons).
The first people to arrive in eastern central Sweden after the ice had disappeared
around 9900 BP (Risberg 2003: xlvi) brought a lifestyle, with tools adapted for
other raw materials than those that were locally available. Such conditions may
be expected to be valid for all pioneers reaching new hunting grounds for the
first time (Boaz 1999: 134). These pioneers could have arrived from the south or
the west, at foot or by boat/sledge, to the mainland of eastern central Sweden,
or by boat/sledge from the east. At the time, the northern parts of Scandinavia
Mikael Nordin & Patrik Gustafsson
were still covered in ice. In the west, the Hensbacka/Fosna (Ahrensburg) culture
in Norway and western Sweden has left numerous traces and later on, so did the
Sandarna culture, while the Maglemose culture dominated southern Scandinavia
and the northern parts of Germany. To the east, there were the Kunda, Botuvo
and Veretye cultures (fig 1). These groups all had different toolkits and to a
certain extent also used different raw materials. Accordingly, by studying which
objects and raw materials the first pioneers brought to eastern central Sweden,
it should be possible to find out when, and most importantly, from where the
first pioneers came.
Pioneer time and settlement phase
Ingrid Fuglestvedt uses the terms pioneer time and settlement phase in her thesis Phenomenology of the Pioneer Settlement (Pionerbosetningens fenomenologi) about the late Palaeolithic and early Mesolithic in Norway (Fuglestvedt
2005). The pioneer time is distinguished by making a first claim for land, in
small mobile groups of three to five people (Fuglestvedt 2005: 136). This phase
starts with something that can be called awareness of a land on the other side
(our translation). The settlement phase is characterized by an increasing number of sites and that the new land is used for settlement during the whole year
(Fuglestvedt 2005: 136). Fuglestvedt dates the pioneer phase to 10200/100009500 BP and the settlement phase to 9500-8500 BP. Fuglestvedt’s hypothesis
will serve as a work-model for how the colonization of eastern central Sweden
could have taken place. There is a reasonable assumption that the claiming of
eastern central Sweden has a course of events that in many ways resembles the
development in Norway, based on the similar outer conditions between the different areas.
The chronological frame for this paper is the time between 9900 BP, when the
land in the Kolmården area first emerged from the sea (Risberg 2003: xlvi),
and 8400 BP. Slightly altered, this chronological model is borrowed from Fuglestvedt. The model should be dynamic and the chronological connection, presented above, should only be used as a working hypothesis. Future investigations
will hopefully be able to correct the model, as new source material comes to
light. What should be looked for are sites that correspond to the definition of
either the pioneer phase or the settlement phase.
Sites that belong to the pioneer time can be expected to be small and seasonably
used, with artefacts that mainly consist of exotic raw materials and to some degree are produced with “exotic” technologies. Sites that belong to the settlement
phase can be expected to be both large and small, and also be part of a resource
Unto a Good Land
utilizing system. The toolkit should be more adapted to local raw materials, even
though some more “old-fashioned” objects and technologies could still be in
use. Contacts with other groups in other areas could still be expected to be intense, such as contacts that for instance make it possible to gain non-local raw
materials etc (e.g. Grydeland 2003).
This understanding of the colonization process can be complemented with the
explanation offered by Milton Nuñez of how human groups spread into Finland
(Nuñez 1987: 6f). In the article he describes how parts of groups (clans, bands)
are separated from their main groups when a new land successively emerges.
Part of the group will continue to use their habitual territories, while others will
use the new areas of resources. That way, humans from one cultural sphere will
spread to new areas and the same pattern will successively repeat itself when
this group has established itself and “grown into” its new territory. These near
“relatives” will have contact with each other by marriage and trade and will thus
continue to belong to the same cultural sphere. As time goes by and distances increase, the cultural expressions will change. Social boundaries however,
would not have been insurmountable, and it could have been possible to change
groups and territories several times during a lifetime.
The early Mesolithic in eastern central Sweden
Before the Yoldia Sea was cut off and the Ancylus Lake was formed, the Yoldia
Sea was connected with the Atlantic Ocean, and during this time, the salinity
increased somewhat. At the time (c. 9900 BP), it was possible for marine animals, such as ringed seal, to make their way into the waters that later became the
Ancylus Lake (Andrén 2003:7; Risberg 2003: xlvi).
As early as 9500-9000 BP, the first trees, hazel and alder, colonized the recently
formed archipelago (Risberg 2003: xlvii). On the mainland, close to the newly
emerged archipelago in the Linköping area in Östergötland, there are traces of
human activity, which have been dated to around 9000 BP (Carlsson et al. 2005).
In addition, there are several surveyed sites that probably can be dated to the
time around 9000 BP, containing a partly unknown lithic toolkit (Pettersson &
Wikell 2004; Wikell 2005: 164; Gustafsson & Nordin 2006).
Excavated sites
A review of published reports treating excavated early Mesolithic sites in eastern
central Sweden gives a poor impression. In total, there are no more than six sites that are believed to represent the earliest part of the early Mesolithic period
(Nordin 2005: 7, 107).
Mikael Nordin & Patrik Gustafsson
At Högby, parish of Högby in the county of Östergötland, two Mesolithic sites
were found in 1992. The sites consisted mainly of artefacts typical of the early
part of the Mesolithic. The finds included scrapers and micro blades of flint
and quartz and traces of beaver and deer exist in the osteological material. The
radiocarbon datings could be separated into two groups. The first group show
dates in the range of 8970-8330 BP. The other group dates mostly to the latter
parts of the Mesolithic period (Larsson 1996). The presence of small circular
scrapers made the excavators draw parallels to the Maglemose culture (Carlsson
et al. 1999: 56). Although, it has to be pointed out that circular scrapers are far
too common throughout the whole Stone Age to be used as a chronological
An archaeological excavation was performed in 1997 close to Mörby, in the parish of Högstad, county of Östergötland. At this site, among other things, two
hut constructions were found. In addition, a varied lithic material was present,
consisting of quartz, flint, siltstone and quartzite. The site was dated to the early
Mesolithic period through 17 radiocarbon datings, ranging from c. 9200-8000
BP (Kaliff et al. 1997: 66). Also at this site, finds of circular scrapers and micro
blades made the excavators draw parallels to the Maglemose culture (Kaliff et
al. 1997: 36). However, recent theories would reassess some of these interpretations (Fredrik Molin, pers. comm.).
At Sörby in the parish of Mjölby, county of Östergötland, archaeological remains were found in 1992 that could date to the early Mesolithic. A posthole
was radiocarbon dated to 8475 BP, and a few artefacts in the form of knapped
quartz were found that could originate from the same time (Helander & Zetterlund 1998: 20). The problem is that there are traces of many different time periods at the Sörby site. In addition to remains from the early Mesolithic period,
finds from the Iron Age and the Neolithic period were made. In the excavation
report, the few traces from the Mesolithic time are interpreted as the remains of
a station for hunting or fishing (Helander & Zetterlund 1998: 17).
At Lilla Åby in the parish of Slaka, Östergötland, a Mesolithic barbed flint point
was found during an excavation in 1988 (Appelgren 1995: 29). This type of barbed flint point is considered a key artefact for the Sandarna culture. A number
of radiocarbon dates as well as typologically dated artefacts at the site suggest
a range in time from the early Mesolithic period to the Middle Ages and later
times. Unfortunately, the published report presents no interpretation of the Mesolithic material.
Unto a Good Land
Just outside Linköping, at Trädgårdstorp in the county of Östergötland, two
early Mesolithic houses were found and excavated in 2004. The artefacts consisted of knapped quartz, quartzite and flints. Several micro blades made from
quartzite and flint were found. The constructions were of mesula type and have
been radiocarbon dated to 8400-7000 BP. One of the houses apparently belongs
to the older phase, 8400-8100 BP (Molin, pers. comm.; Molin 2006: 29).
Around the Gladö area, parish of Huddinge in the southern parts of the county
of Stockholm, several sites, mainly consisting of knapped quartz, have been
located. In the vicinity of the sites, quartz quarries have also been found and
both the settlement sites and the quarry sites have been excavated (Gustafsson
2005; Gustafsson & Granath Zillén 2005). None of these sites have been dated
through radiocarbon analysis. The early Mesolithic date is based on the assumption that they were shore bound during the time of occupation.
At Trollsta gravel pit in the parish of Sorunda, southern parts of the county of
Stockholm, very diminutive archaeological remains were excavated in 2000 consisting of fire-cracked stones (Gustafsson 2002). The dating of the fire-cracked
stones to the early Mesolithic period is based on the assumption that the site was
shore bound during the time of occupation.
Overall, the sites in eastern central Sweden that have been excavated and dated
to the earliest part of the early Mesolithic are very few in numbers. Högby,
Mörby, Lilla Åby and Trädgårdstorp situated on the early Mesolithic mainland
and mainland coast in present-day Östergötland are the only sites that have been
radiocarbon dated. These are sites that also show obvious early Mesolithic finds.
However, this material cannot unambiguously be tied to any of the early cultural
groups discussed below. Admittedly, Sörby has an early Mesolithic radiocarbon
dating, but the place contains a very mixed material, which complicates the interpretation and dating of the site. The same circumstances apply to Lilla Åby.
Trädgårdstorp is a very interesting site, given the traces of house constructions
associated with early Mesolithic find material and radiocarbon dates. The consequences for Trädgårdstorp regarding the discussions about mobility during
the early Mesolithic settlement period are difficult to predict, but interesting
questions are indeed raised. The Gladö sites could very well be of early Mesolithic origin. The Trollsta site should not to be taken into account at all, since
fire cracked stones are not particular to the early Mesolithic period. So far, the
presented material has provided few indications of a possible cultural belonging
for the first pioneers in the eastern central Sweden.
Mikael Nordin & Patrik Gustafsson
Sites found in surveys
Of interest are also the sites that have been located in surveys. During the beginning of the 1990s, several sites were found on heights between 70 and 80 m
a. s. l. on Södertörn. In addition, sites at similar heights were found in the Hälleforsnäs area and in the Kolmården area (Hammar & Wikell 1994; Hammar
& Wikell 1996; Åkerlund et al. 1996; Åkerlund et al. 2002; Wikell 2005). The
observations changed the view of the Mesolithic period in this part of Sweden
by their sheer quantity.
Recently found early Mesolithic sites in Kolmården
The site Lövgölen I is located about 76 m a. s. l. on a sandy and relatively stone
free shelf in an otherwise quite rocky slope, to the south limited by a steep slope
and to the north by a bog (fig. 2). East and west of the site, small streams run
by, draining the bog. In the proximity of the eastern stream, knapped quartz was
found in an uprooted tree. A test pit (1 x 1 m) was dug in the stone-free shelf, in
which lithics and a seal phalanx were found (Ylva Bäckström, pers. comm.; Jan
Storå, pers. comm.). The latter find could possibly indicate that the site actually
was shore bound during its time of occupation. The bone is burnt and weighs
only 0.36 grams, which unfortunately is insufficient for achieving a radiocarbon
Figure 2. A palaeogeographic map with the sites Lövgölen I, Lövgölen II and Linddalen presented on a shoreline corresponding to 75 meter above sea level. Map by
Mikael Nordin, County Museum of Södermanland.
Unto a Good Land
The quartz collected at Lövgölen I indicates an explicit platform method that
has also been noted as the dominating knapping technique at the Mörby settlement site (Kaliff et al. 1997: 36) and at high altitude areas in Hanveden (Wikell
2002: 11). The quartz from Lövgölen I is of very high quality. In addition to
quartz, local rock was represented by small flakes of hälleflint. Relatively large
amounts of flint was also found at Lövgölen I, in total twelve whole and fragmented flakes, including a scraper (fig. 3). South Scandinavian flint as well as
flint from Kinnekulle is represented (Kenneth Alexandersson, pers. comm.).
The flint shows that contacts existed with southern Scandinavia and western
Sweden. The presence of Kinnekulle flint is particularly interesting. It has earlier been noted that this type of flint had the largest distribution during the late
Mesolithic period (Kindgren 1991: 41), but it is also present at several of the
excavated early Mesolithic sites in Östergötland (Fredrik Molin, pers. comm.).
Many of the flints showed signs of severe heat exposure. None of the flints
showed any polished surfaces, which is common for Neolithic flints. The burnt
flint was also found next to something that has been interpreted as the strongly
washed-out remains of a hearth. If the site was shore bound, it could be dated
to around 9000 BP, i.e. the Ancylus period (cf. Åkerlund 1996: 79; Hedenström
2001: 14f). At that time, the site was located by a narrow passage between two
larger islands.
Figure 3. The finds from Lövgölen I. Photo by Mikael Nordin, County Museum of
Mikael Nordin & Patrik Gustafsson
Linddalen is located about 70 m a. s. l. The topography is fairly flat but rises
towards the north, and today the site is situated in an enclosed pasture. Some
20 metres south of the site there is a stream running in an east-west direction.
During the trial excavation of the site, knapped quartz was found including a
scraper resembling the flint scraper from Lövgölen I. In addition, a substantially
dark coloured u-shaped dugout was found, surrounded both on the outside and
on the inside by multiple post holes (fig. 4). In the dugout, a fragment of burnt
bone was found. The dark coloured u-shaped dugout has been interpreted as the
remains of a hut or house structure. Other early Mesolithic huts can be found
e.g. at Mörby in Östergötland and in Årup in Scania (Kaliff et al. 1997; Karsten
2004: 87). There are also parallels from other periods, e.g. hut 3 from the late
Mesolithic site at Pärlängsberget (Hallgren et al. 1995: 14). It is safe to assume
that the construction originates from some part of the Stone Age. Due to the
topography at the location, the flat landscape combined with the stream, the
place would have been attractive for people during many different periods. If
the site was shore bound, the Linddalen site could be dated to around 8500 BP
(cf. Hedenström 2001: 14f). At that time, the site was located in a sandy area on
the north side of a narrow bay.
Figure 4. The possible hut at Linddalen. Photo from the west by Patrik Gustafsson, County Museum of Södermanland.
Unto a Good Land
Key artefacts in eastern central Sweden
The somewhat meagre source situation reviewed above can be complemented
with further information through different key artefacts found in eastern central Sweden. A majority of all lithic material found at Mesolithic sites in eastern
central Sweden consists of quartz (Åkerlund 2001: 53). Objects which have not
been made locally, as well as objects made locally of non-local materials, are
of interest in this context, e.g. micro blades, cores, microliths and shaft hole
pick axes. Furthermore, locally produced objects of local materials can provide
useful information, such as micro blade cores made of quartz. These different
categories of objects are examined closer below.
Shaft hole pick axes
An object category typical of the early Sandarna culture (c. 9200-8000 BP) is
shaft hole pick axes (Nordqvist 1999: 246; Olofsson & Olsson 1999: 75). These
artefacts have been discussed by among others Bo Gräslund, who presented a
distribution map of the whole group (Gräslund 1962: 106).
Gräslund’s definition of pick axes with shaft holes includes a wide range of
types (Gräslund 1962: 109). In his distribution map, he does not take into consideration to which type or what time period the pick axes are ascribed. Therefore,
the definition includes quite a few objects that cannot be said to be the early
Mesolithic shaft hole pick axe. As the pick axes are most commonly found in a
damaged condition, they are often attributed a practical function such as weights
on digging sticks (Broadbent 1978; Hernek 2005: 284). A more plausible interpretation of the pick axes would be that they have been of ritual significance
(e.g. Carlsson 1998: 30ff). The pick axes are the only stone objects from the Mesolithic in Sweden that display ornamentation, and the pick axes could be seen
as part of Mesolithic exchange systems (Hernek 2005: 285).
Acknowledging the fact that many of the shaft hole pick axes in the distribution map seen in figure 5 are not of Mesolithic date, some plain concentrations
can still be seen. In Scania, shaft hole pick axes are all together lacking. In the
area surrounding the southern part of lake Vättern as well as around the city of
Kalmar, smaller concentrations are found. Most obvious of the concentrations
are Bohuslän, Dalsland, parts of Värmland and Västergötland, which can be
seen as a core area. North and particularly south of lake Hjälmaren in Närke,
by Motala stream in Östergötland and in the western parts of Södermanland,
another concentration can be seen. In the county of Södermanland, e.g., there
is a Mesolithic pick axe from Klastorp in the parish of Björkvik, which can be
tied to this group (fig. 6). In Norway, the area around Oslo and the west coast
Mikael Nordin & Patrik Gustafsson
Figure 5. Map showing the distribution of
pick axes (after Gräslund 1962). The dots
representing pick axes in Sweden north of
lake Mälaren (Västmanland, Uppland and
Norrland) should not be counted for, as
they are of a contextually deviant type with
obvious connections to the Neolithic period
(compare Gräslund 1962: 133). Map by
Patrik Gustafsson, County Museum of
Unto a Good Land
Figure 6. The pick axe from Klastorp in Södermanland. Photo by Patrik Gustafsson,
County Museum of Södermanland.
between Stavanger and Trondheim should be emphasised. In northernmost
Norway, as well as in Finland and the Baltic countries, Mesolithic pick axes are
lacking all together.
Micro blades and micro blade cores
Micro blades and micro blade cores are a common element in Maglemose and
Sandarna settlement sites (especially late Sandarna culture). At several archaeological excavations in eastern central Sweden, micro blades mainly of flint, but
also of other rocks and minerals, have been found. Cores, however, are more
or less conspicuous by their absence in this part of Sweden. Nevertheless, micro blade cores in quartz have recently been identified from Östergötland, the
county of Örebro and the county of Södermanland (Apel 1996: 59ff; Gustafsson & Nordin 2008; Molin & Wikell 2009). These cores can neither be classified
as conical cores nor as handle cores, they usually look a bit like both and often
lack platform preparation. The micro blades could have been detached by indirect percussion with a punch or more probable by pressure flaking (Gustafsson
& Nordin 2008:40). The fact that the cores cannot be defined as typical conical
cores probably depends on the inherent physical properties of quartz as a material, i.e. the shape of the core is dependent of the shifting qualities of the quartz.
There are small bipolar cores of flint from Trädgårdstorp, which possibly could
represent the final stage of e.g. conical cores (e.g. Callahan 1987: 44), and from
Mörby there is also a platform refreshment flake of flint from a conical micro
blade core. Micro blades of flint were fairly common at these sites, at least by
eastern central Swedish measures (Molin & Wikell 2009; Fredrik Molin, pers.
comm.). Put together, the source situation makes it difficult, so far, to establish
a reliable chronology of cores in eastern central Sweden during the early and
Mikael Nordin & Patrik Gustafsson
middle Mesolithic period. If anything, it seems clear that the micro blades were
of importance, and less so the morphology of the cores. In northern Scania,
there have been finds made of conical micro blade cores in quartz (Knarrström
2006: 281ff). This does not only suggest that quartz was a useful raw material
even near flint rich areas, it also shows that micro blades and conical blade cores
in quartz are not unique for eastern central Sweden.
Despite the fact that several early and middle Mesolithic sites in Östergötland
have been excavated, the barbed point from Lilla Åby is the only microlith-like
object found so far in the region. From Sverker’s chapel in the Alvastra area
in Östergötland, however, there is one specimen with a slant retouch (Browall
2003: 26f; Fredrik Molin, pers. comm.). Still, if these objects were common
during the early Mesolithic period in eastern central Sweden, there would have
been more finds of microliths or traces of microlith manufacturing, such as micro burins etc. It is probably safe to say that a microlith tradition never existed
in eastern central Sweden, but instead, there was a micro blade tradition (Fredrik
Molin, pers. comm.).
The early Mesolithic in the west, south and east
In western Sweden and Norway, a number of excavated early Mesolithic sites are
referred to as representing the Hensbacka culture in Sweden and the Fosna culture in Norway (c. 10 000-9000 BP). The origin of these groups has been extensively discussed (e.g. Kindgren 1996; Fischer 1996: 168; Fuglestvedt 2005). Several traits indicate that the Hensbacka/Fosna complex actually should be seen
as belonging to the Ahrensburg culture. The material culture is similar, typically
expressed by tanged points (Ahrensburg points), flake axes and core axes (Fuglestvedt 2005: 90). What differentiates the finds from Sweden and Norway from
the Ahrensburg sites on the continent is that the Scandinavian sites usually are
shore bound. The Palaeolithic cultural groups have mainly been studied from an
inland European continental perspective. The background to this is the dramatic
rise of the sea level, which occurred towards the end of the Palaeolithic and the
early Mesolithic period (Preboreal) when large land masses (i.e. Doggersland)
disappeared (Fischer 1996: 170f). The results from studies of the Scandinavian
sites have shown that the marine resources were just as important for the late Palaeolithic and early Mesolithic hunter-gatherers as migrating terrestrial animals
(Fischer 1996: 169). The shore bound sites are primarily located in former archi94
Unto a Good Land
pelago areas characterized by islands, islets and skerries, i.e. environments that
require access to boats of some kind. Studies have shown that marine resources
are relatively more productive and stable, compared to economies based on for
example migrating reindeer herds (Fischer 1996: 169; Kindgren 1996: 202). The
easternmost known Hensbacka/Fosna site is the Almeö site by lake Hornborgasjön in Västergötland. It has been dated to c. 9400 BP, with samples collected
from a stratigraphically sealed layer. At three middle Mesolithic sites adjacent
to the Almeö site, finds included flint from Kinnekulle, a material that did not
occur on the oldest layers. The use of this specific flint reaches a peak during
the late Mesolithic period (Kindgren 1991). However, at several excavations in
recent years, the material has been found at early Mesolithic sites, e.g. at Högby,
Mörby and Trädgårdstorp in Östergötland, and also in Södermanland (Lövgölen I). The excavators of these sites have interpreted the flint as belonging to the
early Mesolithic period. This shows that the results from the excavated sites in
Västergötland cannot be used for determining when Kinnekulle flint first began
to be used in eastern central Sweden. In addition, far too few early Mesolithic
sites have been excavated in the area around Kinnekulle and in Västergötland
to ascertain that the flint from Kinnekulle was not used during this early phase.
In western Sweden, there is a well-known culture called Sandarna. Generally,
Sandarna can be said to be the direct heir of Hensbacka/Fosna (Ahrensburg).
The early phase of the Sandarna culture (c. 9000-8000 BP) is distinguished by the
fact that the settlement sites are primarily shore bound (Nordqvist 1999: 246f).
The finds of the Sandarna culture are mainly distinguished by shaft hole pick
axes, so-called Sandarna axes, core axes, round butted axes, flake axes, barbed
points, lancet microliths, burins, round scrapers, one-sided conical cores, conical
blade cores as well as small and thin blades with large platforms. Towards the
end of the period (c. 8000 BP), micro blades were introduced, at which point the
microlith tradition more or less ceased to exist (Nordqvist 1999: 247). However, according to Hernek, microliths are generally scarcer in western Sweden as
compared to the rest of southern Scandinavia. Barbed points are considered to
be a key artefact at settlement sites of the Sandarna culture, despite the fact that
they are not common, and they also occur in other areas, e.g. in the Maglemose
culture of southern Scandinavia (see below). Produced by means of a micro
burin technique, the barbed points are still separated from the microliths. The
point is most commonly found during the early phase of the Sandarna culture,
but occasionally occurs at settlements dated to late Sandarna (Hernek 2005:
246). Several Barbed points have also been found at inland sites like Anderstorp
and Nennesmo situated by the lake Fornbolmen in The County of Jönköping
(Gustafsson 2008; Pagoldh 1992; Pagoldh 1995).
Mikael Nordin & Patrik Gustafsson
The Maglemose culture existed from the middle of Preboreal to the beginning
of the Atlantic period, and the culture covered a vast area including England,
Denmark, central and southern Sweden, northern Germany and parts of western and northern Poland (Aaby 2006: 162; Jensen 1982: 39). The Maglemose
culture is thought to be a direct descendant of the Ahrensburg culture, and continuity has been noted between Ahrensburg and Maglemose sites (Andersson &
Knarrström 1999: 104, 107).
The Maglemose culture is traditionally divided into five chronological subgroups, where groups 1-3 are regarded as the early phase and groups 4-5 the
late phase (Brøndstedt 1966: 74ff). These groups are distinguished by 1) Rough
micro blade cores, small round flake scrapers, lancet microliths, 2) Fine conical
micro blade cores, small round flake scrapers, lancet- and triangular microliths,
3) Conical micro blade cores, keeled scrapers, triangular microliths, 4) Keeled
scrapers and handle cores, microliths as in group 3, but smaller because the
handle cores produce smaller and thinner blades, and finally 5) The shortest
side of the triangular microlith becomes longer. This chronological division has
recently been questioned from a technological perspective (Sørensen 2006). Generally, the Maglemose culture is considered to be an inland-based culture with
settlement sites situated by streams and lakes in the northern European mainland. This is probably incorrect, however, since several boreal sites have been
found below the present sea level between Scania and Denmark, as well as along
the German and Polish coastline. In other words, the coastal settlements of the
pre-boreal and boreal groups are to be found below the present sea level (Jensen
1982: 39).
The Swiderian culture was the dominant late Palaeolithic culture in the east, and
is sometimes considered to have continued into the boreal time (Sulgostowska
1996: 297). The Swiderian culture is characterised by tanged points, end scrapers
and blades (Zhilin 1996: 273). The tanged points used by the Swiderian culture
are similar to the Ahrensburg points, and both of these cultures are part of the
widespread so-called tanged point techno complex (Carpelan 2006: 82).
In the east there are three cultures which existed between 9000-8000 BP. In the
Baltic area and in Poland, the so-called Kunda culture was predominant. A key
artefact of the Kunda culture was the slotted bone point with microliths as cutting edges. The Kunda culture displays technological features common to the
Unto a Good Land
Ahrensburg culture as well as the Swiderian culture (Carpelan 2006: 83). The
Maglemose and Kunda cultures co-existed in present Poland. The two groups
differed not only in material culture, but also in preferred hunting type of prey.
The people of the Maglemose culture hunted red deer, wild boar and roe deer,
while the people of the Kunda culture preferred elk (Sulgostowska 1996: 302f).
In Russia, east of the Kunda culture area, the Butovo and Veretye cultures were
found. Veretye is sometimes called the eastern Kunda culture (Carpelan 2006:
84), and is found north of the Butovo culture area (Wiik 2006: 102, map 7).
All three cultures are said to be heirs of the late Palaeolithic Swiderian culture
(Sulgostowska 1996: 297).
The first pioneer settlers in Finland probably originated from the Kunda area
in the south, and possibly also from Veretye and in some extent from Butovo
(Jussila et al. 2007:159; Wiik 2006: 102). A number of early Mesolithic sites in
Finland have been dated to around 9000 BP (Matiskainen 1996: 256f). Only a
very small number of these are contemporary with the earliest sites in eastern
central Sweden. The somewhat younger Finnish material show great similarities
with the material from the Baltic and is probably connected with the Swiderian
culture. Blades and scrapers in flint, as well as micro burins in quartz have been
found in Finland. However, no evidence exists to date of a colonization of Finland prior to the boreal period (Matiskainen 1996: 257f), although the final word
has not been said in this matter. Recent research suggests that a pioneer phase
could have started around 9600 BP in the Karelian area and that about 8300 BP,
groups of people reached the vicinity of the Lake Inari. The movement seems
to have gone from the southeast to the northwest (Carpelan 2006; Grydeland
2003: 58f; Jussila et al. 2007:159; Rankama & Kankaanpää 2005).
The earliest known sites in Finland seem to be somewhat younger than the earliest sites in eastern central Sweden. Thus, neither of Finland, Russia, Poland or
the Baltic countries seems to be a possible candidate for the origin of the pioneers in eastern central Sweden. No typical artefacts or exotic raw materials such
as Onega slates or chocolate flint are known from early Mesolithic settlements
in eastern central Sweden. It’s not until the Neolithic period that we find lithic
material in Sweden that originates from eastern sources (see e.g. Halén 1994).
Instead, objects in the form of pick axes, barbed points, micro blades and micro
blade cores in quartz and in flint (from Scania/Denmark and Kinnekulle) exist
in eastern central Sweden. The material culture thus indicates that it is to the
south and the west that we should look for the origin of these pioneers.
Mikael Nordin & Patrik Gustafsson
From the compilation and comparison of artefacts and cultural groups presented above, much point to the conclusion that the marine environment and
the marine mammals (e.g. seals) were central to the early Mesolithic cosmology
and economy, on the west coast as well as the east coast of present day Sweden. The Sandarna and Maglemose cultures could possibly be seen as one large
techno complex, where variations are due to cultural adaptations to the natural
environment (cf. Binford 1972: 106). Both groups also share the same historical
background, i.e. the Ahrensburg culture. This is also indicated through the finds
from Östergötland and Södermanland mentioned above. Perhaps the material
remains from the whole or parts of the period represent the remnants of one
cultural sphere, i.e. one population changing its economic and social strategies
geographically and over time. The material traces from coastal and inland areas
in Sweden show more similarities than differences, which speaks against a cultural dualism in eastern central Sweden during the early Mesolithic period. It
should be emphasised, however, that the traces we find could just as well represent expressions of smaller social/cultural/economical units.
Mörby and Högby resemble the Maglemose sites in southern Scandinavia. Situated on the mainland next to lakes and wetlands, the cultural expressions of
the coastal people (the Sandarna culture) were not far away, as indicated by the
barbed point from Lilla Åby (cf. Fuglestvedt 2005: 66). The Lövgölen site, which
is rich in flint and situated in the archipelago, can also be mentioned in this
context. Further east, on Södertörn, traces have been found of highly mobile
groups of the pioneer phase, involving family constellations, bands of hunters
etc, moving through the archipelagic seascape (see Pettersson & Wikell, this
volume). This interpretation is supported by the results of field walking surveys
at high altitudes in the area, which have produced a massive number of sites.
These groups must have had at least seasonable contacts further south and west,
perhaps by gifts, trade, marriages and warfare. Small sites, temporarily used and
situated at high altitudes in the early Mesolithic archipelago, with exotic raw
materials and adjusted for highly mobile groups probably constitute the remains
of the first pioneer phase of eastern central Sweden, c. 9900-9300 BP. The first
groups of people in this area not only adapted to the landscape and the environment that emerged after the last ice age, but also took an interest in, and
deliberately chose to make use of and reside in, this landscape (seascape). This
environment was not unknown; it was part of the “cultural package” for these
early Mesolithic groups.
Trädgårdstorp, located on the mainland coast, is a site with traces of house
structures suggesting a more permanent occupation during the settlement pha98
Unto a Good Land
se. Quartz, flint, micro blades and bipolar flakes have been found, which might
suggest a mix of both coastal and inland cultural expressions. Linddalen is another site of more permanent character that might be from the same time as
Trädgårdstorp. Sites with house structures of more permanent character, such
as Trädgårdstorp and possibly also Linddalen, probably constitute the remains
of the settlement phase c. 9300-8400 BP. The land, which was claimed in this
way, was a new world with rich possibilities for those who dared to come there.
Only a very small number of settlements from the early Mesolithic pioneer
phase have been excavated in eastern central Sweden. In addition to this meagre
source material, there are also a small number of stray finds and a large amount
of sites found in surveys at high altitudes at Södertörn, Hälleforsnäs and in the
Kolmården area. By comparing the raw materials and artefacts found in these
areas with early Mesolithic cultures in the rest of Scandinavia, Finland and the
Baltic area, one can get an idea or indication of where these first pioneers came
We argue that the earlier proposed hypothesis, stating that the first inhabitants
of eastern central Sweden came from present day Finland, can be falsified. The
hypothesis originates from the idea that knapped quartz is the dominating raw
material in both eastern central Sweden and Finland. The idea however lacks
support in the source material as presented above. There was probably no obstacle to journey from present day Finland or neighbouring areas to eastern central
Sweden by boat, but the origin of the first pioneers should above all be searched
for in the south and the west, as similarities in the material culture can be seen
with the Maglemose culture as well as the Sandarna culture.
Furthermore, we propose a model for the colonization processes in which a
pioneer phase and a settlement phase can be discerned. The pioneer phase is
distinguished by small groups making seasonable use of this new land for hunting and collecting, c. 9900-9300 BP. During the pioneer phase, one can expect
to find exotic raw materials as well as technologies and strategies for making use
of local raw materials. The latter part of the presented period for the first settlement phase (c. 9300 -8400 BP) is plausible for the Kolmården area as well as for
the rest of the eastern part of the research area. In the western part of eastern
central Sweden, there are indications that the groups of people were less mobile
and at the end of the presented period, they even started to erect permanent
house structures of Mesula type. The urge to colonize new areas may be driven
by the combined force of cultural norms of a highly mobile society, curiosity
and the awareness of a new good land at the horizon.
Mikael Nordin & Patrik Gustafsson
Monica Burström helped us translate this paper into English, thank you. We also
wish to thank Roger Wikell for reading and commenting the article during the
process of writing.
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Unto a Good Land
Mattias Pettersson1 & Roger Wikell2
1: Tyresta Forest Foundation, Höjden, Bondvägen 175, SE-13675, Handen, Sweden.
[email protected]
2: Tyresta Forest Foundation, Sjöbergsvägen 50, SE-14896 Sorunda, Sweden.
[email protected]
Uniting Boats
Coastal People Ride Seaworthy and Beautiful Boats
The archaeological record – the distribution of sites – clearly indicates that boats
have been an essential part of the material culture during the Stone Age. Boats
are, of course, necessary if you want to make a living in archipelagos or on
islands far off coast. Boats also enabled social contacts over long distances, and
we can presume that identity was expressed with seafaring skills and elaborate
boats when people met on the shores along the Baltic Sea.
Keywords: Fractal seascapes, archipelagos, settlement pattern, maritime way of living, good
boats, social identity, meetings.
Mattias Pettersson & Roger Wikell
“Kringla Heimsins – the World Roundel – where humans live is cut through by many bays.”
Thus Snorri Sturluson introduces his historical account on the Viking Age kings
of Norway as well as of the remaining Scandinavia (Sturluson c. 1230). The
book is written in the first half of the 13th century, and the passage tells us much
about a boat-carried person’s approach to, and view of the landscape. In this
article, we will penetrate the world and minds of boat-carried people. Starting
in the physical world, we will take a look at a few stalwart cases from different
types of Stone Age seascapes where boats must have played a significant role.
Later in the article, analogues from different periods of history will help us
to see how boats could have shaped ways of life and the minds of people.
We believe, though there are but few artefacts from the period in question to
prove it, that boats were more than just vessels of transport; they were also
important and expensive objects. A boat is a considerable investment, not least
when manufactured with stone tools. Geographical knowledge and navigation
skills are also an investment in time and labour. The boat and the techniques
and skills associated with it must have been one of the most important media
for social expression. Probably much more so than the knapping of quartz, the
most frequent archaeological find-material in eastern Sweden and Finland.
Good seascape
Many of the coasts of Scandinavia are well suited for boat-cultures. Indeed,
the fractal landscape which Snorri describes is probably a milieu in which boats
and navigation could evolve more rapidly than in areas with long, unprotected
shorelines. In a skerry-gard – a fractal archipelago with many small and large
islands that can be found in many places along the coasts of Scandinavia – there
are always sheltered harbours nearby. A skerry-gard also holds many ecological
niches, which favour marine life. Judging from historical evidence and ecofacts
from excavated sites, the skerry-gards of Scandinavia hosted a rich fauna with
fish, seal and seafowl.
In short: the coastal areas of Scandinavia with its island-rich archipelagos and
plentiful marine resources must have stimulated the evolution of boats from the
beginning, producing specialized vessels. Part of this stimulus towards elaborate
boat technology was also the presence, in the early Holocene, of unpopulated
lands waiting around the corner. Moreover, there were people, ready in mind to
venture far and wide. All these factors should result in specialized boat cultures
– peoples of the sea whose identity was to be masters of wide waters.
Uniting Boats
Rare boat finds
As evidenced from historical times, the coasts and archipelagos of northern
Europe have always hosted a broad array of boat types, adapted to local
geographical prerequisites and belonging to different cultural traditions. Boats
have been an essential part of the material culture. Boat finds from early
prehistory, however, are rare in Scandinavia. The exception is Denmark, where
a number of Stone Age dug-out canoes are known, together with other finds of
marine equipment and submarine constructions of organic matter. A spectacular
find from this region of an ornamented paddle gives a sudden glimpse of a
lost world (Andersen 1987). In Finland, Stone Age boats have also been found.
A specimen from Helsinki has most probably sunk in the ancient sea, several
kilometres off-shore! (Luho et al. 1956; Hallgren 2008:53). Hopefully, more
finds of early naval history will be made in the future.
Settlement location – evidence for boats
Accordingly, we do not completely lack suitable find material. Nevertheless,
there must be more to be found and much more that is forever lost, because
the settlement pattern itself requires boats. A large number of 14C-dates and
comparisons with shore-displacement models clearly indicate that most Stone
Age sites in the coastal areas of Scandinavia at the time of occupation were
shore-bound, that is, situated in close connection with the shore-line. Many
settlements are or were situated on islands. Accordingly, this makes it quite clear
that the inhabitants had boats. Journeys on the sea-ice probably occurred, but
are unlikely to have produced this mass of archipelagic settlements that have
been found during surveys the last decades. In addition, walking on the sea-ice
is much safer if you bring a floating device of some kind – a boat, for instance.
Hein B. Bjerck (1989, 1990, 1995 and 2008) has published a number of
interesting works pin-pointing the importance of boats in the Mesolithic and
Late Palaeolithic maritime cultures of northern Europe:
“Although remains of boats are unknown, we need not doubt the existence of a well-developed
boat technology, since it is impossible otherwise to travel in this landscape – or move among the
Preboreal settlements.” (Bjerck 2009: 19f)
The picture is strikingly similar also in the region eastern central Sweden.
Here, a large number of previously unknown dwelling sites have been found
during surveys by the present authors together with Dag Hammar. Most sites
exhibit shore-bound qualities concerning their position in the local terrain
Mattias Pettersson & Roger Wikell
Figure 1. Sweden during the early Ancylus Lake phase of the Baltic, c. 8 500 BC. Note
the remote archipelago, indicated by circle and arrow, south of today´s city of Stockholm. Shore-bound sites found here, 120 kilometres off-shore, are strong indicators of
the existence during the Preboreal in the region of an elaborate boat technology and
good seamanship.
Uniting Boats
(microperspective) as well as in the landscape (macroperspective). This includes
the presence of a good and safe landing-shore and a favourable geographic
relationship to communication, nature resources and social networks. The
settlement goes back into the Preboreal (Hammar & Wikell 1994, 1996;
Pettersson 1994, 1999; Pettersson & Wikell 2004, 2006a, b, 2007a, b, 2010; Wikell
2002, 2005; Wikell & Pettersson 2009; Wikell et al. 2009; see also Åkerlund 1996;
Åkerlund et al. 1995).
The earliest sites have in many cases been situated far off shore, in some instances
on very small islands. In these early times, a narrow scatter of islands, in today’s
province of Södermanland, reached 120 km to the east of the mainland. At
the far east end of this island chain was a larger group of islands, where many
sites have been found during recent years, the oldest shore-line dated to c.
8700—8000 cal BC (Risberg 2003). These sites probably represent the pioneer
period in the archipelago (fig 1) (See also Nordin & Gustafsson this volume).
Looking at the maps, the longest distances covered were not enormous, but
the journeys the more impressive, since the islands were relatively low. In some
cases, the paddler has not seen the island towards which he was navigating from
the surface. Higher peaks must have been visited for the purpose of course
determination while navigating in this vast seascape. Many of the sites we have
encountered are in fact located near prominent hilltops with good view.
The archaeological situation is similar in Finland. Here, research a century ago
made it clear that many Stone Age sites were shore-bound. This picture has
been strengthened by field-surveys and excavations during recent years (Luho
1967; Jussila & Matiskainen 2003, Jussila et al. 2007; Takala 2009). New datable
material has been excavated and confirmed the dating of the oldest settlement
to the Preboreal. To cite a recently published work:
“The median date of the dated burnt fragment of elk bone from Helvetinhaudanpuro is 8400
cal BC (Hela-918: 9200±75 BP), which corresponds extremely well to the age determination
given by shore displacement chronology.” (Jussila et al. 2007)
There should be even older sites in Finland. Most probably, the first journeys
to Finland, as well as to eastern central Sweden, occurred during the Yoldia Sea
stage of the Baltic (Jussila & Matiskainen 2003, Pettersson & Wikell 2006c). At
this time, seal, fish and other sea organisms immigrated into the Baltic basin via
the so-called Närke Strait, an ancient marine connection over the central Swedish
lowlands. On the whole, prerequisites for a marine-based economy were good
around the northern Baltic coasts soon after the land-ice had melted away. The
Mattias Pettersson & Roger Wikell
whole area has, if not colonized, at least probably been explored by boat-carried
people at a very early point of time, similar to the situation in Norway.
More evidence for the early existence of boats comes from Gotland, the large
island in the centre of the Baltic. Here are shore-bound settlement sites that date
to the Ancylus stage of the Baltic, earlier than c. 7000 cal BC (Lithberg 1914,
1918; Nihlén 1927). On the island Stora Karlsö off Gotland’s west coast, thick
cultural layers from the Stone Age has been excavated in the cave Stora Förvar
(Schnittger & Rydh 1940). Most finds are Neolithic, but there was a bottom
layer dating to the Mesolithic. This has been confirmed by recent 14C-dates of
burnt human bones which show that the cave was visited as early as 9500-9000
years ago (Lindqvist & Possnert 1999). Journeys to and from Gotland with its
surrounding isles are, of course, impossible without boats. Most of Gotland’s
Stone Age sites can be found along the ancient shore-lines (Österholm 1989).
The boats
Is it possible that the seascapes inhabited and the distances evidently covered
could tell us something about what the boats looked like? How were they
constructed? Judging from the sometimes rather lengthy distances on the
open sea (at least many hours), the boats must have been constructed to ride
out waves of a considerable height. Even if periods with stable weather were
chosen for the long leaps, weather can change quickly. Are dug-out canoes too
rigid to function on the open sea? A number of suggestions on Stone Age
boats for longer sea-journeys have been made by different authors. Based on
ethnographical evidence in the Pacific, Sven Österholm (1997) suggests outrigged canoes and makes a successful experiment off the Baltic island Gotland
with a replica. Dug-out canoes with raised gunwale made of sewn-together
wooden planks to protect against waves is another suggestion. The latter could
have evolved into regular plank-boats, which are more flexible in the water. In
ancient Egypt, the first plank-boats appear in the graves of Abydos, dating to the
fourth millennium BC. It seems reasonable, knowing the fractal, boat-favourable
geography of Scandinavia’s coasts mentioned earlier, that plank-boats have
existed in the Nordic countries long before they appeared in Egypt.
Skin-boats are perhaps the most frequently suggested boat-type. They are present
among many circumpolar cultures (small boats like the Kayak and Baidarka, see
below). This is special “hi-tech” boats and equipment that kept the seafarer dry
and warm. Skin-boats were also used by the Irish monks who sailed around a
great part of the northwest Atlantic during early medieval times. The modern
Uniting Boats
Irish curraghs are seaworthy, and probably a direct link to medieval skin-boats. It
is clear that Irish monks reached Iceland long before the Vikings, and a modern
replica-boat have successfully sailed across the north Atlantic (Severin 1978).
Boats and social identity
Boats and a sea-oriented way of life must have been an important part of
people’s cultural identity. The boat itself is an investment in time and labour,
as is knowledge about the seascape. Navigation in skerry-gards and the
memorization of routes to fishing banks and seal islands is a lifelong learning.
All this creates a boat culture, carried by people whose identity is to be the
masters of wide waters. You are fisher and seal hunter, totally at home in a
maritime environment. Yes, the boat itself becomes a part of the landscape; an
artefact but at the same time a geographical place. Motion becomes part of the
essence of existence in a landscape with which you are very familiar. The world
of seafaring people consists of channels, straits and natural harbours. Recall the
lines by Snorri Sturluson in the introduction: “Kringla Heimsins – the World Roundel
– where humans live is cut through by many bays”!
Judging from place-names in today’s Stockholm archipelago, language can tell
us much about navigation. This can be exemplified by the concept of island.
In Swedish, there are a number of terms designating islands of different types:
Skär Ör
island (with trees)
small island (with trees)
small rocky island
rocky island with a chubby appearance
small, high and steep skerry
high skerry
skerry, low rock
low island consisting of stones and gravel
barren flat skerry
very small, flat island consisting of rock
small skerry just breaking the surface
small skerry just below the surface
seafloor (rock) close to the surface
These 13 words, among many others, are bearers of important information for
a person moving in the archipelago (at least 100 years ago when the old way of
life still prevailed on the east coast of Sweden). This state of things reminds of
the Saami’s and Inuit’s many words to describe snow. As an expert you need an
adequate terminology.
Mattias Pettersson & Roger Wikell
Throughout history, boats have expressed status and identity and have had major
roles in legends and myths. We do not have to leave eastern central Sweden
to find examples: 17th-century warship Vasa, sunk on her maiden voyage, was
constructed to glorify king and country. The Vasa is each year worshipped by
hundreds of thousands of tourists.
Further back in history are the Viking ships. The spectacular find from Oseberg,
Norway, as well as many passages from the Icelandic sagas tell us how prestigious
these boats were. Unfortunately, nothing as stunning as the Oseberg find has
been unearthed in eastern Sweden as yet; but we can assume that there were
such ships here as well (fig 2). Not least the numerous rune stones memorizing
journeys in the east and west bear witness of extensive seafaring here during
these decades (Larsson 1990). In AD 98, the Roman historian Tacitus tells us
Figure 2. To create a boat is an investment in time and labour. It is a skilful business
involving knowledge, material and tradition. Boatbuilder Anders Ahlgren is seen in
action building a replica of the Viking boat from Årby, parish of Rasbo-Kils, Uppland,
Eastern Central Sweden (Arbman 1940, Cederlund 1993). The axe is a replica from
the Mästermyr find, Gotland (Arwidsson & Berg 1983). (Photo Roger Wikell)
Uniting Boats
that the Sviones, probably the inhabitants of the area around Lake Mälaren in
eastern central Sweden: “are rich in men, horses and boats”. The boat graves
from Vendel and Valsgärde bear witness of the boat’s status both in this world
and the afterworld (e.g. Arwidsson 1954). Stone ships occur regularly on Late
Iron Age burial grounds, as well as ship graves, where the dead has been
cremated in a boat. Cf. Ibn Fadlan’s often cited account of a boat funeral in AD
920 (Wikander 1978).
No Bronze Age boats have been found in the region, either. Nevertheless,
boats are depicted on innumerable rock-carvings. In eastern central Sweden,
2 500 boat figures are known, and new ones are found nearly every year
(Kenneth Ihrestam, pers. com.). The carvings indicate both the ships’ practical
and symbolical meaning. The impressive stems on the carved ships are often
decorated with spirals and animal heads, which indicates that this was the case
also with the real ships (Ling 2008). Similarly, boats with up-turned stems and
decorated with animal heads are depicted on rock carvings in arctic Norway,
dating to much earlier times. The oldest pictures have been found on some loose
boulders, covered with marine gravel, at the excavation site Slettnes (Hesjedal et
al. 1996:75-83). The dating is based on the shore-displacement and could be as
early as 10 500 cal BC, but more probably between 5000 and 4300 cal BC.
A strong suggestion is that the boat was of similar importance during the Stone
Age as in later times. Status and communication are themes ever new, and the
boat is a perfect medium for these. Boat skills give increased reputation in your
group, and with the boat you show who you are before others. The presentation
of beautiful boats and seafaring skills must have been very important when
other groups of people along the coast were visited. It is therefore reasonable
that many boats were richly decorated. A recent example is the canoes of the
Indian tribes of the North West American pacific coast. Here, canoes were
important objects of status at political meetings. A similar situation existed in
Hawaii and New Zealand, where elaborate war canoes were of great importance
(Ihimaera 1987, Caro 2001).
All this indicate that the Stone Age inhabitants of the northern Baltic coasts had
many types of boats, ranging from everyday boats to richly ornate status boats.
We might call the latter “bling-bling boats”. In these funky vessels, relatives and
political confederates were visited. In these, enemies were confronted. Imagine
such a boat being excavated in the future!
Mattias Pettersson & Roger Wikell
To conclude, we would like to give some examples of boats and shipping skills,
illuminating the social identities in coastal, boat-centred cultures.
The first example is from the recent archipelagos, skerry-gards, of eastern
central Sweden. The skerry-men (Sw. skärkarlarna) were the coastal fishermen
on the outermost islands of later historical times. The last ones still upholding
the old life-style was in action as late as the 1950s. In 1934, the photo in figure 3
was taken of skerry-man Amandus Sjöberg’s landing bridge and boats. This man
had seven (!) different boats for different purposes. The classical Large Boat is
replaced by a motor boat, indicating winds of change in the archipelago. The
number of boats is, broadly speaking, a reminiscence of the Sami’s many words
for snow. In the archipelago, the boat is a constant topic of discussion, being
both functional and loaded with symbols. You are an expert in your profession.
The outermost skerries and the traditional lifestyle that still prevailed in the
Stockholm archipelago was a “wild experience”, attracting artists and authors
during the 20th century. Thanks to them, we have a living documentation of
Figure 3. Fisherman Amandus Sjöberg’s landing place in 1934 at Griskär, an island
in the eastern central Sweden archipelago. The number of boats is seven. Each boat
is made for different purposes. The landing place is a protected natural harbour. The
situation is identical with the terrain position for Mesolithic sites in eastern central
Sweden. (Picture from Eskeröd 1973:111).
Uniting Boats
the fishermen’s “Mesolithic lifestyle”. The old fishermen did not follow the
youths to the large city’s industries and offices. They stayed with their boats on
the skerries: a free life at the horizon. The artist and archipelago connoisseur
Roland Svensson has written the following memorable words of one of these
last traditionally living skerrymen – John Andersson, who died in 1956. And he
died as he lived:
“He lay, seemingly calmly sleeping, in his boat, but his heart had stopped. John had left us,
quickly and without pain.” (Svensson 1995)
The last examples are quotes from 18th and 19th century explorers meeting with
coastal cultures in Alaska and Greenland. They illustrate the importance of
seafaring skills and good boats.
”The baidarks, or boats, of Oonalashka are infinitely superior to those of any other island. If
perfect symmetry, smoothness, and proportion constitute beauty, they are beautiful; to me they
appeared so beyond anything that I ever beheld. I have seen some of them as transparent as
oiled paper, through which you could trace every formation of the inside and the manner of the
natives sitting in it; whose light dress, painted and plumed bonnet, together with his perfect ease
and activity, added infinitely to its elegance. Their first appearance struck me with amazement
beyond expression.” (Sauer 1802 (1785))
“He who has a baidarka is rich.” (Davydov 1977 (1804))
“It is a gallant business, this kayak-hunting; it is like a sportive dance with the sea and with
death. There is no finer sight possible than to see the kayak-man breasting the heavy rollers
that seem utterly to engulf him.
Or when overtaken by storm at sea, the kayaks run for the shore, they come like black stormbirds rushing before the wind and the waves, which, like rolling mountains, sweep on in their
wake. The paddles whirl through the air and water, the body is bent forwards, the head often
turned half backwards to watch the seas; all is life and spirit – while the sea around reeks
like a seething cauldron.
And then it may happen that when the game is at its wildest a seal pops its head up before
them. Quicker than thought the harpoon is seized and rushes through the foam with deadly
aim; the seal dashes away with the bladder behind it, but is presently caught and killed, and
then towed onwards.
Everything is done with the same masterly skill and with the same quit demeanour. The
Eskimo never dreams that he is performing feats of heroism.” (Nansen 1893)
Mattias Pettersson & Roger Wikell
Final words
There are relatively few boat finds from the Stone Age around the Baltic.
However, the location of settlements clearly indicates that navigation skills were
important in the coastal societies in this area. Seaworthy boats and seafaring skills
were probably much more important than lithic technology, at least the quartz
knapping that prevailed in eastern central Sweden’s (and Finland´s) Mesolithic.
The boats dominated everyday discussions and featured frequently in myths and
We can assume, in analogy with other coastal cultures from different ages and
corners of the world, that the boat expressed social status and identity. This
important and colourful part of the culture is archaeologically hard or impossible
to reconstruct. But we can imagine a Baltic region connected through a network
of contacts, made possible with boats (fig. 4). Beautiful boats prepared for social
meetings - Uniting Boats.
Figure 4 (opposite page). The archaeological record mostly consists of stones.
However, the stones have been a part of everyday living. This includes social meetings
with neighbours along the coast of the Baltic. This situation is here illustrated by the
front cover of a Danish schoolboy book, “The Flint Dagger” (DK Stendolken). For us
as archaeologists, only the dagger remains. The boats in the background represent
a rich investment, similar to the dagger. The boats are gone, but we understand that
they must have been there.
Uniting Boats
Anders Ahlgren, Mälarhöjden; Hein, B. Bjerck, Trondheim; Sven-Gunnar
Broström, Tumba; Dag Hammar, Stockholm; Kenneth Ihrestam, Tullinge;
Mikael A. Manninen, Helsingfors; Fredrik Molin, Linköping.
Mattias Pettersson & Roger Wikell
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Liv Nilsson Stutz
Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Lund University,
Box 117, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden
Department of Anthropology, Emory University, USA
[email protected]
A Baltic Way of Death?
A Tentative Exploration of Identity in Mesolithic
Cemetery Practices
This paper is a preliminary exploration of how identity may have been expressed in the mortuary rituals around the Baltic during the Mesolithic. The casestudies discussed are the large cemeteries at Skateholm in Sweden, Zvejnieki
in Latvia and Vedbæk/Bøgebakken in Denmark. Besides the often discussed
variability and complexity recognized in the mortuary practices at these sites,
the treatment of the dead also encompasses a number of fundamental shared
practices involving the treatment of the body. In this paper, which builds on a
practice theory view of both ritual and identity, the author proposes that by exploring the taken-for-granted, the fundamental and often unreflected practices
in the treatment of the dead, we might be able to get at some dimensions of a
shared identity around the Baltic and how they might have changed over time.
Keywords: practice theory, mortuary practices, ritual, identity, Mesolithic, Skateholm, Zvejnieki, Vedbæk/Bøgebakken
Liv Nilsson Stutz
Uniting Sea. The name of the workshops and the title of the publications invite
us to reflect on the difficult, often contested and even controversial issue of
identity in the past. To what extent did the people living along the shores of
the Baltic Sea have contact with each other during the Stone Age? And more to
the point: to what extent did they feel an affinity to one another? The question
of whether the Baltic Sea was a uniting or dividing sea has relevance not only
for how we can understand the Stone Age societies in the region. It may also
have repercussions for identity formation processes in the present. After the fall
of the Soviet Union, exchanges have increased between researchers around the
Baltic, on both purely practical and intellectual levels. It is probably not a coincidence that the theme of research focusing on contacts and shared interests
emerges at this point in time when the geopolitical map of Northern Europe
is being redrawn to pull together the eastern and western shores of the Baltic
into a shared identity as members of the European Union. This observation
obviously calls for caution. Archaeology must always be seen within its contemporary political context, and the risks involved in the processes that turn
the past into useful building blocks for various political agendas must always
be considered critically. However, despite these concerns, the question of contacts across the Baltic in the Stone Age remains an important field of research.
And even if difficult and potentially controversial, the more general questions
concerning identity, carefully expressed by Chris Gosden as “part of a perilous,
but necessary, search for the things that bind and divide human groups locally
and globally” (Gosden 1994:166), remain an important, if not central question
within archaeology.
In this article I will address the question of a shared identity - that elusive something that binds and divides - around the Baltic during the Stone Age. The
contacts across the Baltic have previously been approached from a perspective emphasizing trade and exchange (e.g. Zvelebil 2006). My focus here could
be seen as complementary to these studies. The work presented is limited to
an exploration of mortuary rituals at the three large Mesolithic cemeteries of
Skateholm in Southern Sweden, Vedbæk/Bøgebakken in Eastern Denmark and
Zvejnieki in Northern Latvia. The selection of these sites is motivated by many
factors. They are among the largest Mesolithic cemeteries known in the region
today, although Skateholm with 79 human burials and Vedbæk/Bøgebakken
with 17, are both clearly overshadowed by the more than 300 burials at Zvejnieki. But even though Skateholm and Vedbæk/Bøgebakken are smaller in size,
they have had a significant impact on the international academic debates about
Mesolithic mortuary practices, a debate in which Zvejnieki only recently (proba128
A Baltic Waay of Death?
bly for a combination of geopolitical and language related reasons) is claiming
its rightful place. Now that the information about the mortuary practices from
around the Baltic is being compiled and shared, we have an interesting opportunity for comparison.
When discussing Mesolithic mortuary practices, researchers often underscore
the complexity and variability of the practices. More specifically, the debate has
been dominated by questions regarding the level of social complexity in the
living societies (e.g. Newell & Constandse-Westerman 1988, O’Shea & Zvelebil
1984, Jacobs 1995, Neeley & Clark 1990, Kannegaard & Brinch Petersen 1993,
Knutsson 1995, Tilley 1996, a.o.). With a focus on identity formation in the past,
it is interesting that the debate on social complexity and status inequality stressed
the ways in which people were distinguished from one another in death. While
variability in the position of the body and the grave-goods is empirically undeniable, there are also several interesting patterns in the treatment of the body that
are repeated, not only within these sites, but also among them. Can these broader Late Mesolithic similarities reveal an underlying shared notion of humanity
that tied the people at these sites together into some — at least loose — sense
of collective identity? In the light of the observations of similarities, I want to
ask the question: Is there a Baltic “way of death” during the Mesolithic? I want
to investigate whether there is a mortuary program that is shared among the
three cemeteries investigated here. If, as I argue, the answer is yes, then we face
two closely related follow-up questions. To what extent can the shared set of
mortuary practices be said to express a sense of a shared identity in death? And
to what extent does this way of death reflect a way of life, i.e., could any such
similarities in the mortuary practices have contributed to producing a sense of
shared identity among the living? I approach these questions about Mesolithic
mortuary ritual and identity formation through practice theory, stressing the
importance of how practices, often unreflected routines, reproduce the world
and a sense of place for the actor within in it, and in the process create a sense
of shared identity.
Archaeology and Identity
The question of identity in archaeology is both difficult and contested (DíazAndreu & Lucy 2005, Insoll 2007, Jones 1997). Archaeological research has been
devoted to different dimensions of identity in the past, including gender, age,
status and power, sexuality and religion. However, identity is often explicitly or
implicitly associated with ethnicity (Díaz-Andreu & Lucy 2005:1) an association
with heavy historical luggage, often inflamed and contested (Jones 1997, Meskell
2007 [2001], Rowlands 2007 [1994]).
Liv Nilsson Stutz
In the past several decades, there has been a significant shift in how archaeology
approaches identity. In the past, archaeology embraced a static and essential
view of identity. Material remains were seen as an expression of an inherent
cultural identity, and maps based on this spread of artifacts were drawn up to
represent the presence of “peoples” or “tribes.” Beginning in the late 1960s,
this static view of identity was first rejected by processualist approaches that
emphasized social roles and identities as part of functioning, adaptive social
systems. In turn, the processualist perspective has been challenged, replaced by
a view of identity as fully socially contextualized and fluid — something that is
strategic, positional and continually reproduced in peoples’ lives (Díaz-Andreu
& Lucy 2005, Insoll 2007, Jones 1997). Identity, it is argued, is socially mediated,
constructed through interaction with others (Barth 1969, Díaz-Andreu & Lucy
2005, Insoll 2007 etc). The focus on the intricate social processes underlying
identity formation emphasizes the flexibility and multidimensional nature of
identity. This might be one of the most important factors rendering research
into identity in the past relevant for the contemporary world (Insoll 2007:14).
How can this idea of identity as socially and symbolically fluid and flexible be
implemented archaeologically? Siân Jones has argued that identity is constantly
reproduced through practice (Jones 1997, 2007 [1996]). According to her approach, which builds on the framework of Pierre Bourdieu (1977, 1990), identity
— and more specifically ethnic identity — is neither a passive reflection of shared cultural similarities, nor a mere construction of social interaction. Instead,
ethnic identity is seen as a subjective construction grounded in habitus which
shapes and is shaped by communalities of practice carried out in the context
of social interaction (Jones 2007:49). To put it in very simple terms, the way we
do things is culturally and socially shaped, and as we carry these actions out, we
also contribute to strengthening and reproducing the social and cultural structure. In the careful language of practice theory, we would say that practices are
simultaneously structured and structuring. The term practice is used to denote
activities which are learned — something which distinguishes them from mere
habits (Turner 2001:120) — and which are “situated, corporeal, and shaped by
habits without reflection” (Thévenot 2001:56). They are thus to be seen as socially produced, and yet, at the same time, they are also fundamental in structuring
society. In the case of identity, practices can be seen as both expressing and shaping a notion of identity, and they thus hold a central role in all identity production. The practice of doing things in a specific way, rather than another, creates
feelings of communality. In processes of production of a specific identity, these
feelings are produced through habitus and are “given form through existing
symbolic resources” (Bentley 1987:173, quoted in Jones 2007:49). Jones argues
A Baltic Waay of Death?
that the symbolic resources are not arbitrary. “The cultural practices and beliefs
which become objectified as symbols of ethnicity are derived from and resonate
with the habitual practices and experiences of the agents involved, as well as
reflect the instrumental contingencies of a particular situation” (Jones 2007:49).
As opposed to more essentialist views of identity, this perspective underlines the
importance, not of explicit markers of difference, but of the subliminal takenfor-granted or “natural” of cultural practices. It is those practices that are so
taken for granted that they are not even up for negotiation, that appear to be the
most powerful in the process. However, in the encounter with “the other,” these
taken-for-granted practices still have to be systematized and rationalized, and it
is at this level, which tends to be discursive, that ethnic categories are produced
and reproduced (Jones 2007:49).
It is a challenge to transfer these complex understandings to archaeology. The
information sources that we have about the past are very different in character
from those of sociologists and historians. But while this might limit the success
with which we can immediately transfer these concepts to the study of prehistory, we can still successfully use them in order to better understand how practices may have operated and how identity was constructed in the past. The focus
on practice — rather than on discourse and meaning — allows us to start the
analysis of patterns of action. Since many actions leave material traces, the archaeological reconstruction of patterned actions may be explained as the result
of structured and structuring practices. In short, past practices are accessible
with an archaeological methodology. And in the broader scope of archaeological
interpretation, practices associated with different archaeological contexts can be
analyzed to make new arguments about social phenomena such as identity and
Mortuary Practices as a Locus for Identity Production
In what way can ritual practices in general, and mortuary rituals in particular,
contribute to our understanding of identity processes around the Baltic during
the Stone Age? In order to answer that question, I want to begin by addressing
some central issues of ritual theory and their implementation in the archaeological study of mortuary rituals.
Just as theories of identity have moved away from essentialist views toward a
practice theory grounded approach, so has ritual theory shifted from a search
for meaning toward a focus on practice (Bell 1992; De Boeck 1995; Asad 1993;
Parkin 1992). Instead of emphasizing an underlying meaning, the practice oriented ritual theory focuses on process of embodiment. It is the active participation
Liv Nilsson Stutz
in the ritual that creates the sense of structure in the participants. According to
this view, ritual generates both meaning and structure (Bell 1992:82, Bourdieu
1977:120), instead of simply reflecting it. Here, we see a clear parallel to the
practice theory inspired approach to identity outlined above, where identity is
constantly reproduced rather than expressed or signaled. One of the most comprehensive presentations of a practice theory based ritual theory is presented by
Catherine Bell (1992). Bell builds her ritual theory on Bourdieu’s practice theory
framework and focuses on the importance of the embodied dimension of practice in the process structuration (i.e. why practice has simultaneous structured
and structuring aspects). She argues that it is through ritual practice – which
she also defines as a specific and strategic way to act (she uses the concept of
ritualization as a crucial concept that distinguishes rituals from other acts) - that
a structured world, a cosmology, is created. Ritualization proceeds through the
dialectic between practice and structure. The structures that give form to ritual
may be said to structure and simultaneously be structured by actions. This is
because human action generates bodily memories, associated emotional sensations, and—not least—symbolic representations, which tend to resonate or gain
relevance as formal relationships organized into binary oppositions, often articulated hierarchically (Nilsson Stutz 2003:41). These structural links intertwine
into complex chains of associations, which in turn generate a feeling of a logical,
hierarchical and “natural” order, a cosmology. Ann Swidler (2001) has argued
that ritual practice might have a privileged role, at least under certain circumstances, as anchoring the social and cultural structure, by reinforcing constitutive
rules – especially if they “define socially central but informally structured social
relationships” (Swidler 2001:91). The structures thus generated are not completely rigid. Every time the ritual is carried out, it is recreated, and in this process
change may emerge.
Since the framework recognizes a continuum of practices, ranging from highly
ritualized acts to mundane and every day practices, one challenge for archaeology is to distinguish whether we are indeed dealing with the remains of ritual
(Berggren and Nilsson Stutz in press). In this particular study, it is assumed that
the handling of the dead at these cemeteries was ritualized. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but over all, essentially all human societies respond to death
with ritualized, richly structured practices (Grimes 2000:218).
A recurrent theme in mortuary practices is the handling of the human cadaver,
which is an almost universally defining component of death. Here, the cadaver
is seen as a nexus around which the mortuary practices are carried out. At death
A Baltic Waay of Death?
the vital functions of the body cease, and it enters into a transformative process
that will ultimately consume it. This transformation is not unproblematic and
can be seen as a sort of crisis. The cadaver used to embody the living person, but
through death it has begun a process that cannot be reversed. The cadaver will
constantly change, as processes of putrefaction and decomposition progress.
The body is different. It no longer is that person it used to embody – but initially, it still resembles it. It is no longer a person but not yet a neutral object – it
is situated somewhere in between (for a more detailed discussion on this liminal
and abject phase, see Nilsson Stutz 2003:95ff). Despite the great variability in
beliefs about the dead body in different cultures, death gives the body a new
ambiguous, challenging character, and it now requires a different kind of care.
The control that the living embodied individual could impose on itself, alongside
the social agency she or he could exert, becomes impossible in death. Order
now has to be imposed from the outside, by the mourners. The treatment of
the cadaver becomes a way to control death, with the aim of socially producing
a good death. Drawing on van Gennep (1909) and Turner (1967), it is possible
to see cross-culturally variable treatment of the body as part of a liminal phase
that challenges social order through the abject character of the cadaver. The
mortuary practices achieve a ritualized product, redefining the cadaver and produce a “good death.” This redefinition allows the mourners to separate from the
dead. Often involving an idea of separation between the physical remains and
the spirit, soul, or memory of the dead, the mortuary practices thus structure
an acceptance of death. Seen within the framework proposed by Bell, every
such ritual becomes an event for the reconstruction of the social structure and
the cosmology as a whole. The ritual involves creating or staging an image of
death which is socially acceptable, a proper death, which holds a place within
the general cosmology. Such an event would often favor reproduction of existing relationships and practices, but because death, by definition, removes an
active agent from a social configuration, the ritual holds a dramatic potential for
The death of a social being constitutes a crisis on an individual and structural
level in society. As the mortuary practices produce the “good death,” society as
a whole manifests its resistance and control over death. Mortuary practices thus
produce a community locus in which the “ultimate rite of passage,” that from
life to death, is facilitated. The mourners redefine their relationships — among
themselves and with the dead — as they heal the rupture in the social fabric
caused by death. This can clearly be an important locus for collective identity
Liv Nilsson Stutz
When we apply this theoretical model of mortuary ritual to the Mesolithic burials in the Baltic region, it is no longer our first concern to highlight variability. It
is just as important to look for material traces of structured, reproduced practices, representing the unreflected or non-negotiable response to death. Repeated
actions in treating and burying bodies of the dead which structure and are structured by the most fundamental aspects of death and the embodied knowledge
of what a “good death” and proper burial should be. Here, it is also interesting
to note that ritualized social control over the dead body may also be linked
— through a dynamic practice-structure dialectic — to the ontology of the
individual’s place in the world and, more specifically, in society. Once we consider patterned traces of repeated rituals, we can then look at variation in burial
features. In the context of the major Baltic Mesolithic cemetery sites considered
here, the variation likely reflects social negotiation, whether it is expressed within
the context of the “proper burial” or outside of it (for a discussion, see below).
If archaeological analysis can identify some widely shared aspects of Baltic Mesolithic mortuary practices, then we may be able to argue for some shared response to the social and biological crisis of death. The basic idea here is that
people from different communities in a region, in treating their dead in similar
ways, would have had a sense of collective identity, which would have structured
and been structured by the shared mortuary practices.
A Baltic Way of Death?
Were Mesolithic mortuary practices complex? This question continues to be
debated, and disagreement has circulated around whether the burial practices
were highly variable or not. It is clear that as this question has been considered in
the past, discussion has centered on the question of the level of socio-political
complexity. This study is driven by a different set of questions. Instead of searching for hierarchical ranking among social roles within the various societies,
I ask whether there was a core set of practices for the treatment of the body,
regardless of individual status variability. This question refers to how the category “person” or “human” was defined, in life and in death. I argue that there
are indeed striking similarities in the treatment underlying the often mentioned
In the Skateholm and Vedbæk cemeteries, which I have studied in considerably
more detail than Zvejnieki, a careful taphonomic analysis of the burial features
identifies the following core mortuary practices, which seem to have been nonnegotiable in the community response to death (for more details, see Nilsson
Stutz 2003):
A Baltic Waay of Death?
The bodies were interred as primary burials (with very few exceptions).
The burial pit was immediately filled.
The bodies were placed on the back or on the side with limbs flexed.
At Skateholm several individuals were buried in a sitting position.
Occasionally the bodies were wrapped or placed on platforms.
Artifacts and ochre were placed in the burial with the dead.
Figure 1. Grave 63 in Skateholm I. The bodies of the two individuals are arranged so
that they relate to each other, especially in the way the faces are turned toward each
Liv Nilsson Stutz
When looking at these repeated actions from the practice theory perspective,
it seems as though the “good death” produced by mortuary ritual involved the
living separating from the dead while the body and, possibly, the individual still
maintained its integrity. The natural processes of decomposition were hidden,
buried underground. The last image of the dead was ritually staged as lifelike.
This can basically be seen in the practice of primary burial. It is also evident in
how the dead body was often carefully positioned in the grave, something especially clear when two or more bodies were interred together (fig 1). Moreover,
the dead body was often cared for as if the individual remained a kind of subjective agent who required comfort or protection in making the passage to the
realm of death and the dead. For example, several graves from Skateholm and
Vedbæk/Bøgebakken show intact or indirect taphonomic traces of platforms or
padding to support the body and separate it from the earthen floor of the pit. In
another well known example, an infant was placed on a swan’s wing. And while
claims for wrapping the dead in the northern European Mesolithic appears to
have been exaggerated (Nilsson Stutz 2003:296f), a handful of well documented examples from Skateholm and Vedbæk suggest a practice of protecting the
body. The respect for the integrity of the body is also indicated by the fact that
earlier graves were rarely disturbed by later graves; the mortuary ritual would
have been a focus for the production of memory of the dead, and the location
of the grave appears to have been remembered and respected. In those few
cases of later disturbance, though, the dry bones were simply left scattered, and
this suggests that at least after some time, the integrity of the individual in death
was not associated with integrity of the dry skeletal remains.
In the shared core of mortuary practices, the processes of decomposition were
hidden, but as the exceptional grave 28 in Skateholm I shows, decomposition
was clearly understood and even carefully controlled by members of the Mesolithic community. In this single primary interment, several long bones of the
skeleton were absent (fig. 2). Taphonomic analysis indicates that the missing
bones were carefully removed after the process of decomposition was at a very
advanced stage (Nilsson Stutz 2003:310ff). Indeed, the greatest challenge to the
practice theory model presented here is how we deal with the mortuary variability. Even if there is a basic shared mortuary tradition, there are still some cases that challenge an easy distinction between what can be considered variation
within the (structured and structuring) norm and what can be seen as variation
outside of it. Grave 13 at Skatehom I illustrates the dilemma well (fig 3). Here,
the dismembered remains of an incomplete body were probably placed in a container of some organic material. Did this individual receive a burial treatment
that was as close to the norm as the survivors could achieve? Maybe the place136
A Baltic Waay of Death?
Figure 2. Grave 28 in Skateholm I. Several bones on the left side of the body (radius,
ulna, ox coxai and femur) were carefully removed at an advanced stage of decomposition.
Liv Nilsson Stutz
ment in a container even masked the lack of integrity of the body after an accidental or violent death. Or did this individual receive a radically different burial
treatment, one that broke with the conservatively repeated, normative notion of
death? In this burial, to be sure, dismemberment clearly violated the integrity of
the body, and perhaps the circumstances in the death precipitated negotiation
or outright conflict over the proper response to it. As I discuss elsewhere (Nilsson Stutz 2003:337ff), those burials that violated the norm — including the two
cases mentioned here, along with several examples of cremation — are uncommon but significant in the Skateholm cemeteries, in part because they may give
us insight into the processes social change from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic.
Figure 3. Grave 13 at
Skateholm I. Incomplete and
partially disarticulated remains
of an individual were buried in
a way that suggests that they
probably were placed inside a
A Baltic Waay of Death?
How then does Zvejnieki, on the other side of the Baltic Sea, compare with the
cemetery sites in Southern Scandinavia? Did the mortuary practices in Zvejnieki create a similar view of death, or was it different? I have not been able to
study the burials in Zvejnieki in the same detail as the burials at Skateholm and
Vedbæk/Bøgebakken, and the comparison is therefore tentative. Yet, Zvejnieki
stands out as an exceptional site in many ways. With currently 329 graves recorded, it is significantly larger than the other two, and it was also in use for a longer
period of time, with datings ranging from the Early Mesolithic to the Late Neolithic (and even include some Bronze Age burials) (Zagorska 2006). The larger
number of individuals translates into an even greater variability in placement of
the body, the artifacts accompanying the dead and the number of individuals in
each burial are also greatly variable (at Zvejnieki several collective burials with
four or more individuals have been found). It also appears that the older burials
were disturbed more frequently at Zvejnieki with its high density of burials in a
limited area. The differences cannot be ignored.
However, there are also interesting similarities. Just like in the southern Scandinavian burials, the vast majority of the burials were primary, and it appears
that the pits were filled in immediately after the deposition of the body. Within
this context, the dominant position of the body is on the back with the limbs
in extension, although significant variation occurs, including some of the positions that were also found in Skateholm I (on the abdomen, crossed legs, etc).
Several burial features preserve taphonomic evidence of wrapping of the body
(Nilsson Stutz 2006), and artifacts and ochre were placed with the dead. These
archaeological similarities may be interpreted as shared prehistoric practices involved in staging the image of death. Again, we see how the natural processes
of decomposition are hidden and how the dead are buried in a way that respects
the integrity of the body, at least at the time of deposition. This similarity is especially interesting when compared to the mortuary practices that were introduced in southern Scandinavia with the Funnel Beaker Culture, where the natural
processes of decomposition were openly played out, as the dead body became
disintegrated, fragmented and arranged in large collective burial chambers.
From a chronological point of view, I have suggested that there are less common practices present in the Mesolithic cemeteries Skateholm and Vedbæk/
Bøgebakken that took on a more central role in the Neolithic practice of collective burials and heavy manipulation of body parts and human bones (Nilsson
Stutz 2003:351f). I refer specifically to examples like Skateholm I graves 28 and
13 (see above), along with the presence of human bone in Mesolithic settlements. It is interesting to note that while collective mortuary practices that play
Liv Nilsson Stutz
out the disintegration of the body are introduced in southern Scandinavia during
the Neolithic, the practice of primary burial continues further north within for
example the Comb Ware and Pitted Ware Neolithic traditions documented at
Ajvide in Gotland, and on the eastern shores of the Baltic. Zvejnieki shows
some particularly interesting parallels to the Pitted Ware Culture mortuary practices. As I have observed elsewhere, tight wrapping of the body before primary
interment, a practice somewhat more common at Zvejnieki, produces an image
of the dead with intriguing resemblance to Pitted Ware sculptures (Nilsson Stutz
2006). Torsten Edgren (2006) has taken this seeming parallel even further, discussing the similarities between the Neolithic burials in Finland and the mortuary
practices at Zvejnieki (and in particular the presence of amber rings and clay
in the eye region of the dead), and then expanding the parallel to include the
plastered skulls of the Neolithic Middle East. While the idea is speculative, it
inspires further inquiry. Perhaps the Mesolithic groups around the Baltic initially
shared a sense of affinity and identity, which was expressed in the mortuary
practices that contrasted with those of surrounding Neolithic groups, thus reinforcing a sense of shared identity among these hunters and gatherers. As Jones
puts it, “ethnicity involves the objectification of cultural difference vis-à-vis others in the context of social interaction. Such objectifications are based upon the
perception of commonalities of practice and experience, as well as the conditions prevailing in particular social and historical contexts” (Jones 2007:51). The
production of social similarity and difference through highly ritualized mortuary
practices would eventually have changed through time. In southern Scandinavia
the Neolithic eventually was associated with the Funnel Beaker collective burial
practices, which show similarity to the megalithic practices in Western Europe.
At Zvejnieki and among other Baltic cultures, including the Comb Ware and
Pitted Ware Cultures, mortuary rituals showed greater continuity with previous,
widespread Mesolithic core of practices. However, new practices and structures
also seem to have emerged, and some of these may have been shaped by social
interactions originating from Neolithic cultural and population expansion from
the Near East and southeastern Europe in the Middle East that may have taken
a different route to the north penetrating the area form the southeast rather than
via northwestern Europe.
In presenting some new interpretations of Mesolithic mortuary variability in
the Baltic region, I view this project as an invitation to renewed reflection over
identity production and its archaeological traces. The framework proposed here
emphasizes the fluid and flexible nature of identity processes, and the case study
A Baltic Waay of Death?
proposes a scenario in which identity processes changed dynamically over time.
More specifically, with my background in mortuary archaeology, I have focused
on mortuary practice as a highly ritualized nexus for identity production. And I
have highlighted some pan-Baltic shared Mesolithic practices in how the mourners treat the dead body, ritually staging the “ultimate rite of passage.” The
exploration of Mesolithic identity formation processes should of course not
be limited to mortuary practices in three well known cemetery sites. The practice theory framework leads us to expect that the production of social identity
and social difference would have occurred in multiple contexts, with associated
multiple context-dependent identities emerging. But when it comes to the care
and disposal of the dead, there appears to be some interesting similarities that
connected the groups at both deeper and broader levels.
I have further suggested that the shared core of practices underwent a geographically mosaic pattern of change. I observed a more extensive — but not
completely radical — transformation occurring in southern Scandinavian Early
Neolithic mortuary ritual, while more continuity in practice may be traced over
the same time period at Zvejnieki. It may be that the Mesolithic shared practices
and the later mosaic pattern of transformation reflect successive, changing social responses to Neolithic expansion, which followed multiple paths in southeastern and western Europe.
Bringing this notion into the present, I hope that this study helps us to reflect
over the long-term dynamic role of the Baltic, as sometimes a dividing and sometimes a uniting element.
Liv Nilsson Stutz
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A Baltic Waay of Death?
Łukasz Pospieszny
Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University, ul. Św. Marcin 78
61-809 Poznań, Poland
[email protected]
The Neolithic Landscapes of the Polish
Earthern Long-Barrows and Their Histories
This article discusses the social and ideological changes in early farming
communities inhabiting the Polish Lowlands at the turn of 5th and 4th millennium
BC. Remains of eroded earthen long-barrows of Funnel Beaker Culture are
being widely recorded in the territories of Linear cultures in Cuiavia and in
Greater Poland. Their appearance marks the constitution of a new, competitive
model of society, visible and negotiated in the landscape. Thus, barrows are
seen here as large elongated imitations of long houses of contemporary Late
Band Pottery Culture. Cemeteries of Neolithic monuments became places of
ceremonial activities for centuries and played an important religious role until
the time of Christianization.
Keywords: earthen long-barrows, long houses, landscape, social change.
Łukasz Pospieszny
In the landscape of today’s Poland it is difficult to see any traces of activities
left by people who lived here in the Neolithic. They did not build monumental
constructions in the type of dolmens or passage graves, which are more typical
for Northern Europe. The Early Neolithic architecture of the Polish Lowlands
consisted, first of all, of rectangular, long timber houses, characterised by almost
gigantic sizes and an unusual regularity and geometry of shapes. They belonged
to the first farming societies of the Linear Band Pottery Culture (German
Linearbandkeramik – LBK) related to the Danubian tradition of Linear cultures
from the end of the 6th millennium BC. One thousand years later, communities
of the Funnel Beaker Culture (FBC) began to construct the first earthen longbarrows. The appearance of a second type of longhouses – with a trapezoidal
shape – was a result of the beginning of the Late Band Pottery Culture (LBPC
or Brześć Kujawski Group of the Lengyel Culture) in the end of the 5th
millennium BC. Gradually, as the stone frames of the barrows were removed
and the mounds yielded to water and wind, they lost their original shape and
size. The originally impressive longhouses are invisible in today’s landscape.
Thus, it is not easy to imagine the view of the lowlands six thousand years ago.
Nevertheless, the re-construction of the Neolithic landscape gives us the chance
to understand some of the interactions that were taking place between societies
living in that landscape. In addition, studies of e.g. pottery stylistics and flint
industries can help our understanding. The foundation and use of the great
earthen barrow cemeteries was such a strong interference in a natural lowland
landscape that they became special, sacred places of ceremonial practices for the
subsequent centuries. Thus, fragments of the Neolithic world are still available
for archaeology.
Monuments and houses
The excavations taking place in Cuiavia since the first half of the 20th century
revealed remains of numerous LBK settlements, consisting of impressive
double-floor houses built on a rectangular plan, 40 m long and 7-8 m wide.
They were made of wood covered with daub, probably painted in colourful
The Neolithic Landscapes of the Polish Lowlands
Figure 1. Schematic map showing the area discussed in this paper.
patterns (Czerniak 1998: 25). Later LBPC settlements were characterized by a
complicated structure composed of longhouses built on the plan of a trapezoid
(Czerniak 2002). Ceremonial feasts took place along the houses, and the dead
were buried in the close proximity of the villages (Grygiel 1986; Czerniak 1994;
Marciniak 2005). Very large LBPC settlements are frequently discovered also
outside Cuiavia, within the confines of infrastructural rescue excavations and
owing to an aerial survey (Czerniak 2002, 2007; Czerniak et al. 2003).
Łukasz Pospieszny
The earthen long-barrows of the FBC, also called unchambered barrows and
(in Polish archaeology) Cuiavian barrows (Jażdżewski 1973; Jankowska 1999),
represent a widespread form in the south-western Baltic area. Strikingly similar
constructions are well known also from France and the British Isles (Midgley
1985, 2005). On the Polish Lowlands they were discovered in Cuiavia, an
essentially Neolithic settlement centre (Prinke & Szmyt 1990), and in river
valleys along the southern shores of the Baltic (Midgley 1985; Jankowska 1999).
At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Cuiavian barrows were attributed to
the Globular Amphora Culture (GAC) societies. In the first half of the 20th
century, after the introduction of stratigraphical analysis, it became clear that
GAC graves in the form of stone cists were only dug into the older mounds of
FBC barrows (Chmielewski 1952; Góra 1972; Jażdżewski 1973).
In Cuiavia, the oldest unchambered barrows, without the typical frame
of boulders, were built above the remains of FBC settlement from phase I
(Sarnowo), dated to c. 4500 BC (Niesiołowska-Śreniowska 1999; Domańska
& Rzepecki 2006). Monumental stone constructions appeared in phase II and
especially in phase IIIA. In the Late Neolithic, in phases IIIB and IIIB-IIIC
of the FBC (3700-3200 BC), the use of stone facing was abandoned. At that
time, FBC communities began to settle the fertile plateaus that used to be the
domain of Band Pottery settlement. The size of the barrows became smaller,
and they were built with pebbles, pebble-wooden or wooden mound-frame
constructions. Today their identification is very difficult, owing to their high
vulnerability to destruction and their similarity to houses or flat graves with
stone pavements (Kośko 2006). People buried in the earthen long-barrows
were very poorly equipped. Furthermore, organic materials, including human
and animal bones, are generally badly preserved. The number of 14C dates for
long-barrows is still very small, making difficult a precise dating. Discoveries
in southern Poland indicate that the long-barrow cemeteries formed large,
complicated ceremonial complexes, enclosed by ditches and mounds (Tunia
2006). In Cuiavia, all cemeteries were only fragmentarily excavated, and similar
arrangements have not yet been discovered.
The Neolithic Landscapes of the Polish Lowlands
Based on studies of all barrows that have been published in detail, comparative
analyses of the outlines of longhouses and trapezoidal parts of long-barrows
from the territory of Cuiavia revealed that both categories are characterised by
an asymmetry of the longer walls, caused by the shift of symmetry as well as a
distinct concavity of one of the long walls (Midgley 1985: 210-212). M. Midgley
affirmed that owing to such a striking similarity of both types of structures,
it is likely that the barrows were modelled on longhouses (Midgley 1985: 209212). The author also emphasized that it would not be correct to look for direct
similarities between both categories of structures for several reasons. First
of all, barrows had very diverse shapes and were not only simple copies of
an initial form. Secondly, different materials were used to build barrows and
houses respectively and this would have influenced their final shape. Finally,
longhouses and long-barrows had different functions, in other words, they were
used in different ways. Practices and ceremonies that took place inside or outside
barrows and houses needed different internal arrangements and constructional
solutions (Midgley 1985: 208).
Figure 2. The outlines of a FBC long-barrow in Wietrzychowice (A) and an LBPC
longhouse in Bożejewice (B) in Cuiavia (Czerniak 1980; Midgley 1985).
Łukasz Pospieszny
What separates longhouses and monuments, as far as the construction is
concerned, is the presence of an elongated stone/earthen mound, ‘a tail’,
stretching behind the barrow. This solution is mainly known from Cuiavia
and Western Pomerania. The reason for constructing the long ‘tails’ has yet to
become a target for separate research. It must be noted that in Cuiavia, some
of the long-barrows from both the early and late phases of FBC, constructed
of wood and small stones, do not have the tails and have a shape similar to
trapezoid (Rzepecki 2004: 126: fig. 52: 2, 4; 130: fig. 54: 1; Kośko 2006). However,
it could be caused by a higher vulnerability to destruction in the case of barrows
that were not supported by a stone frame or where the latter was removed in
historical times (Rzepecki 2004: 125; Domańska & Rzepecki 2006: 427, 432).
Outside Cuiavia, in the region of Pomerania numerous unchambered barrows
existed at the turn of the 19th and 20th century AD, until they were destroyed
through the re-use of the boulders of the stone frames and the following
erosion of the mounds. Some traits of their presence survived to modern times
in the names of fields and holy or dangerous places, which today are usually
forgotten. On the basis of documents from the beginning of the 20th century,
it was possible to partly reconstruct the range of their appearance (Czarnecki
1969). Archaeological excavation was mainly performed on the remains of longbarrows in the so-called Łupawa group of the FBC, and these can be dated to
c. 4030-3450 BC (Jankowska 2005). Here, an unusual relationship between the
shapes of barrows and houses was recorded, in that the barrows resemble the
trapezoidal houses of the LBPC. This coincidence had been explained as a result
of the presence of immigrant communities of FBC from the Lower Elbe. They
were influenced by the Rössen Culture, with Danubian traditions (Wierzbicki
1999: 244). A few of the monuments show similarity to the Cuiavian barrows
– the longer wall has the specific concavity mentioned above (Jankowska 2005:
137) – but none of them has the ‘tail’ made of stones and earth.
The Neolithic Landscapes of the Polish Lowlands
Figure 3. The outlines of barrows (A and C) and house (B) in the Łupawa group of the
FBC (Świderski & Wierzbicki 1990).
Long stories of long-barrows
Today, the distribution of earthen long-barrows is not representative, since
throughout the millenniums, the mounds gave in to erosion or were destroyed by
human activity at the turn of the 19th and 20th century AD, before they became
the subject of interest for archaeologists (Chełmiński 1842; Borucki 1882: 235).
The destruction was caused by a rising demand for stone raw material and the
extensive use of the mechanical plough. This especially concerns monuments
erected using wooden elements and pebbles. At present, only remains of the
lower parts of stone constructions can be recorded, usually owing to largescale excavation work and often on rescue excavations owing to construction
Łukasz Pospieszny
works of gas pipelines and motorways (Kośko 2000: 38, fig. 7; Kośko & Przybył
2004: 271, fig. 133). Nevertheless, before the barrows were destroyed, they
persisted almost intact for thousands of years and left a durable trace in the
cultural landscape of the lowlands. Thus, it is possible to partly re-construct the
distribution of cemeteries through the application of several methods alternative
to digging, such as the reinterpretation of old excavation results and the use of
different categories of historical sources. Names given to places of, in most
cases, barrows that are no longer visible or stories and legends related to them
can be very useful. Neolithic places of ceremonial practices were often re-used
for cult purposes in later periods, even until the beginning of 20th century AD.
Slavs migrating between the 6th and 7th century AD within the area of today’s
Poland, called the old barrows in the area ‘groby olbrzymów’ (giants’ graves) and
‘żale’ (Kowalczyk 2000: 31). The meaning of the second word is not clear – in
the 19th century, during the Romantic Period, they were linked to the Polish
word ‘żal’ which can mean sorrow, but this interpretation has been challenged
since (Kowalczyk 2000). The Germanic settlers also called the barrows giants’
graves (‘Hünengräber’), or explained their presence by the activities of devils
or witches (Czarnecki 1969). A critical analysis of this type of toponyms
shows that a significant part of them could be connected to Neolithic barrows,
characterised by their remarkable size and the use of stone building material
(Pospieszny & Szydłowski 2006). In Cuiavia and Pomerania, the distribution
of names suggesting the presence of barrows covers the areas where FBC sites
have already been discovered. However, the most essential observation is the
presence of similar toponyms in Greater Poland and other areas of intensive
FBC settlement from phases II to IIIC (4000-3200 BC). The contemporary lack
of any kind of material remains of Neolithic barrows in these areas can be
a result of a significant degree of transformation of the landscape caused by
the 19th century’s economy and extensive agriculture. In a few cases, cemeteries
of earthen long-barrows that still existed in the 19th century were described by
local antiquarians, but their notes have been forgotten for almost 150 years (e.g.
Gorczyca 2005).
The Neolithic Landscapes of the Polish Lowlands
Figure 4. Distribution of cemeteries and single long-barrows of the FBC (1), toponyms
attributed to FBC cemeteries or barrows (2) and longhouses of the LBPC (3) in northwestern Poland.
Excavation work in Cuiavia and in Greater Poland has revealed an unusual
durability in time at places of death cult founded already in the Neolithic. One
of the most spectacular examples is a complex of cemeteries and ceremonial
features at a small hill in Krusza Zamkowa in Cuiavia, used (in intervals) between
Łukasz Pospieszny
the 4th millennium BC and the 13th century AD. The oldest feature at the site
was an unchambered FBC barrow from phases III-IIIA (Kośko 1989: 27, 33).
Soon after it was erected, an animal burial was placed there (Szmyt 2006). It
was discovered within the limits of a GAC settlement and dated to 3080-2890
cal. BC (2σ) (Czebreszuk, Szmyt 2001: 185, Tabel 1), which falls within phases
IIb-IIIa of the Cuiavian GAC. Nearby, a GAC passage grave was recorded,
also from phases IIb-IIIa, synchronized to phase V of the FBC (Kośko 1989:
43-44). The next feature of ceremonial use was a partly destroyed tomb with
grave goods showing relations to the FBC from phase VA and the Corded Ware
Culture (CWC) from the so-called A horizon (Kośko 1989: 46-58; Furholt 2003:
184-185). It was recently re-dated to 2880-2610 BC (2σ) (Goslar & Kośko in
press). A single grave from the late CWC was dug into the mound of a FBC
long-barrow (from phases II-IIIA) (Kośko 1989: 58-60). Within the limits of the
barrow, fragments of pottery from the Bronze Age were discovered, interpreted
as material remains of ceremonies practiced by Lusatian Culture societies
(Kośko 1989: 60-61). The site was used as a cemetery again in the 2nd century
BC. The graves surrounded a central feature interpreted as a sanctuary assigned
to ancestral cult (Cofta-Broniewska et al. 1989: 65-124, 125-159). 1000 years
later, in the Early Middle Ages, a cemetery surrounding a small church or chapel
was established at the site (Cofta-Broniewska et al. 1989: 202). Neighbouring
lands were at that time sparsely settled, and they lacked significant economical or
political importance and so did not need any religious centre of their own. Thus,
the erection of a Christian temple and cemetery at the place of a pagan cult
resulted from the church policy, aiming to eradicate the old religion (Łowmiański
1979; Cofta-Broniewska et al. 1989: 202). In conclusion, the tradition of a sacral
character of this place must have been still alive.
Not all cemeteries and structures for pagan rituals were replaced with Christian
temples. In other cases, the ‘exorcism’ was performed only in terms of language
and symbolism. Such places were renamed as ‘chapels’ or ‘churches’ and in
this way, they ceased to be dangerous. Cholera cemeteries, intended for people
who could not be buried in a traditional way at a churchyard or in the parish
The Neolithic Landscapes of the Polish Lowlands
Figure 5. Main phases of activity at the site Krusza Zamkowa 13 in Cuiavia: 1 –
Neolithic (A – FBC long barrow; B – passage grave of GAC; C – FBC/CWC tomb),
2 – La Tène, 3 – Early Middle Ages.
graveyard, were founded in their vicinity. In this way, the earth marked by the
presence of pagan cemeteries was becoming a part of the cultural landscape in
the time of Christianity.
On the basis of the research outlined above, it can be assumed that earthen
long-barrows were significant elements of the landscape of Cuiavia and Greater
Poland for more than one thousand years. What is more, it seems probable that
they were the most common type of FBC graves and that they left a durable
trace in the cultural landscape of the lowlands. An unusual, mysterious nature
of the places and stories connected to them are often the only remains of these
non-existing monuments.
The appearance of Beaker communities in Cuiavia
The analysis of earthen long-barrow distribution (apart from Pomerania) shows
that they are or were present only in the area of LBPC (fig. 4; Czerniak 2002:
11, fig. 1). Sparse trapezoidal longhouses of LBPC have also been recorded
outside its Cuiavian settlement centre (Czerniak 2002, 2007; Narożna-Szamałek
& Szamałek 2007: 164, 194, fig. 10). On the Polish Lowlands, early FBC had
existed simultaneously with the LBPC from the turn of the 5th and 4th millennium
Łukasz Pospieszny
BC. As already stressed, the first unchambered barrows in the lowlands were
erected in phase I of the FBC. It should again be noted that there is a striking
similarity in shape between the FBC long-barrows and the LBPC longhouses.
This relationship has been widely discussed in the literature and has brought a
number of hypotheses explaining the appearance of monumental architecture
in the context of FBC origin and the related process of the neolithization of the
north-European lowlands (e.g. Hodder 1984; Sherratt 1990).
In a classical approach based on the studies of cultural development of
Cuiavia, it was assumed that the origin of the local FBC was to be sought in
the neolithization of (Mesolithic) hunter-gatherer groups in the process of
acculturation by LBK societies (Childe 1949: 208; Jankowska & Wiślański 1991:
53-56; Midgley 1992). It was supposed that this process started simultaneously at
Lower Saale, in Brandenburg, northern Greater Poland and in Cuiavia. Shortly,
the neolithization spread to lake lands and coastal areas of Jutland, SchleswigHolstein, Mecklenburg and Pomerania (Cofta-Broniewska & Kośko 1989: 39-40).
In Cuiavia, traits of LBK settlements were recorded on the sandy soils, outside
the usually preferred black soils. Adaptation to atypical ecological conditions
and the acculturation of local Mesolithic groups led to the formation of a new
cultural system (Kośko 1981: 14-16). It was suggested that the cultural tradition
of Mesolithic societies was present in the beliefs of the early FBC groups. It
was displayed in ritual deposits of ceramics and stone artefacts in bogs, small
lakes and river bands. The social position of patriarchal community leaders was
manifested by a burial inside the long-barrow. Turtle shells and peat (brought
from remote places of cult) found in the barrows were also seen as the remains
of Mesolithic beliefs connected to the world of water. On the other hand, the
symbolism of farming societies was visible in the form of barrows, modelled
on the construction of longhouses (Cofta-Broniewska & Kośko 1989: 45-46).
It was not the shape of older LBK houses, but the trapezoidal constructions of
LBPC, contemporary to FBC (Kośko 1976: 407, table 2).
The Neolithic Landscapes of the Polish Lowlands
The intensification of excavation work in Cuiavia, from where the oldest
securely dated FBC finds are known, challenged the hypothesis of acculturation
and a change of lifestyle in Mesolithic groups caused by contact with farming
societies. First of all, it was not possible to construct a model of LBK evolution,
explaining the appearance of the FBC (e.g. Kukawka 1997). On the other hand,
studies of flint technology and ceramics of the early FBC showed a number of
references to Linear cultures of the Lengyel-Polgar tradition (Czerniak & Kośko
1993: 116). The Linear tradition was suspected also in the construction of early
FBC houses with an insignificantly trapezoidal outline (Czerniak 1994: 126).
The oldest FBC settlements were found in the areas of sandy soils, exploited
for centuries by LBK societies, even though these areas were not preferred by
them, but by hunters and gatherers. As a result, already sparse Mesolithic groups
were dislodged or assimilated. An advanced stage of agriculture development
in the early FBC clearly shows that this was not a culture in which people were
just learning how to cultivate. Thus, the appearance of the FBC phase I and the
LBPC phase II could have been an effect of a process of cultural differentiation
of lowland societies after the disappearance of the LBK (Czerniak 1994: 127128). Nevertheless, the spread of FBC to the north, outside the area of LBPC
settlement, was basically connected to a number of interactions with huntergatherer societies (Czerniak 1994: 129; Fischer 2002).
At the early stage of research, it was stressed that the long-barrows in Cuiavia
occur only in sandy areas, outside the area of Linear Pottery cultures that
exploited the black soils. That view was changed owing to intensive research
work in the fertile plateaus. Due to the lack of boulders, normally used for
building the stone frames, the long-barrows were constructed with supporting
frames made of wood and pebbles. Hence, the durability of these monuments
and the possibilities of their detection are limited. Nevertheless, there is no doubt
that communities of LBPC and FBC lived in direct proximity to each other. L.
Czerniak maintained that the essence of long-barrows was their monumentality
Łukasz Pospieszny
and similarity to longhouses of the LBPC (Czerniak 1994: 132). It must be
stressed here that longhouses and long-barrows were not built for the purpose
of influencing the societies of hunters and gatherers. The monuments mainly
served their creators, being the base of symbolic construction of the society.
They also had an integrating sense, differentiating a specific group against the
background of a strange cultural environment (Kośko 1989: 33). The appearance
of earthen long-barrows could then be a result of a need for identification with
and reference to a common symbolism of early FBC communities, who lived in
the same environment as other groups.
L. Czerniak did not exclude that there were some kind of relationship between
societies in Cuiavia and northern France, where strikingly similar barrows were
raised (Czerniak 1994: 135). This hypothesis was developed by S. Rzepecki,
who regarded the origin of FBC in Cuiavia and Pyrzyce land as an effect of
fusion between early LBCP from phases I-IIa and west European patterns that
arrived from the Paris Basin area through the agency of the Rössen Culture
(Rzepecki 2004). In Rzepecki’s opinion, this is how the idea of monumental
barrows, visible in the construction of French Passy-type structures, appeared
on the Polish Lowlands. It is worth noting that at the northern French cemetery
in Balloy, in five cases the barrows had been raised almost precisely on top of
remains of LBK (Villeneuve-Saint-Germain) houses (Mordant 1997: 462).
Early FBC developed simultaneously with the LBPC, causing its acculturation
and finally disappearance before 3650 BC (Rzepecki 2004: 155). Features of
FBC sporadically appeared in LBPC in the form of pottery imports and the
borrowing of certain elements of burial practice, first of all the application of
stone constructions of the grave chambers and the arrangement of the dead
body in a supine position on the back (Czerniak 1980: 120, fig. 53). Sparse, still
existing Mesolithic communities were assimilated and their contribution in FBC
was limited to a small flint tool assemblage.
The Neolithic Landscapes of the Polish Lowlands
In Rzepecki’s model, the interpretation of late LBPC (phases II-III) and early
FBC (phase I) as two alternative models of early farming cultures can be very
inspiring. Since the second half of the 5th millennium BC, communities of early
LBPC stayed under west European influences. Thus, they faced the alternative
of adaptation or rejection of a new cultural package. The conservative part of
those societies retained their older, sometimes anachronistic cultural patterns.
Such a pattern was the manifestation of their affiliation to the Linear cultures
civilization, leading to the origin of the late LBPC. The adaptation of new
technological and ideological patterns by a more open part of the early LBPC
societies initiated the origin of FBC. The differences between these two separate
models had, in Rzepecki’s opinion, a character of deep ‘political’ divisions
(Rzepecki 2004: 177-178). The Beaker communities intentionally created
cultural differences in relation to LBPC groups and their expansion on sandy
soil areas led to the assimilation of the remains of Mesolithic populations. If
we accept the above assumption, it is possible to look at the long-barrows in the
context of mutual interactions of LBPC and early FBC societies. Both cultures
functioned together for more than 700 hundred years and undoubtedly created
a very strong sense of identity and autonomy of the people who represented
them (Czerniak 1994: 127). In the following, the monuments will be considered
as an element of material manifestation of groups of ideas restructuring the
Linear culture societies, changing the social and economical conditions of their
existence (Tilley 1996: 72).
Ceremonial practices in the landscape
The areas of earthen long-barrow presence in Europe did not stay in a state of
mutual isolation (Midgley 1985, 2005). In the context of revealing the senses
and meanings attached to Cuiavian barrows, the studies of T. Kirks considering
the Early Neolithic communities in the Paris Basin can be very helpful. The
latter have in Kirks’s opinion conceptualized death and used it in the process of
constituting their own ideas about space, time and social relations (Kirk 1998:
Łukasz Pospieszny
103-104). Depositing human remains and artefacts inside the barrows led to an
initial forming of social space and order through invention and use of tradition
and social memory. Social practices and processes manifested themselves in
the space (Kirk 1998: 104). The ceremonial constructions were many times
elongated and amended. This invention was allowed to influence on the world
view according to the aims of particular groups of people – “Their intention may
have been to legitimize new strategies for the exploitation of space, time and resources through
reference to traditional concepts or themes, such as the dead as ancestors and as symbols of
continuity from past to present.” (Kirk 1998: 114).
Building monumental constructions was simultaneously the medium and
outcome of social practices aimed to produce potentially novel and competing
perceptions and embodiments of the world and the place of society and the
self within it (Kirk 1998: 115). Today, stratifying and cutting arrangements
of barrows and the associated ditches are the effects of lasting centuries of
dialectical and reflexive interactions between them, determined by specific
material and historical conditions (Kirk 1998: 115). Processes of structuration
(sensu Giddens) took place there, meaning that impersonal forms of social
practices manifested themselves in individual activities. Present practices were
transformed in a process of continual structuration in which the old and the new
were fused together (Tilley 1996: 108). In other words, the way barrows were
constructed was not only qualified by the provenience and knowledge of their
creators. It belonged to the category of social practices actively constituting a
community and its identity.
The review of concepts considering the origins of earthen long-barrows
demonstrates the process of evolution of ideas about the beginning of FBC and
its relation to Mesolithic and LBPC societies. As seen above, Cuiavia is relatively
well surveyed. At the end of the 5th millennium BC, this area was already strongly
deforested and had become a difficult place to live in for the increasingly sparse
Mesolithic groups. West European influences lead to the formation inside the
The Neolithic Landscapes of the Polish Lowlands
Neolithic societies of two distinct cultural models. Essential differences between
them could have an ethnic character, based on their different perceptions of
the surrounding world, people living within it, their laws, beliefs and ancestry.
Ceremonial life, shaping and maintaining the stability of the community, was
related to settlements in the LBPC. The Beaker societies derived from the same
Linear cultural patterns. Social, cosmological and economical differences were
underlined in rituals and material culture. In the process of structuration, old
cultural patterns were transformed and new ones created to cope with the
challenges of existence on the lowlands, beyond the areas of the fertile soils.
Ceremonial life of the FBC societies was recognized in very limited realms.
Nevertheless, the earthen long-barrow constituted a distinctive element in the
cultural landscape of the Polish Lowlands.
It seems that the monumental size of longhouses and long-barrows is their most
significant feature. It can then be assumed that meanings and senses attached to
both types of features were related to the way in which they acted in the cultural
landscape together with the people inhabiting it. In the majority of places where
LBPC settlers arrived and subsequently FBC settlement developed, traits of
long-barrows have also been recorded. This view is becoming increasingly clearer
as a result of excavation work in connection to infra-structure investments
and owing to the appliance of alternative approaches in the research of the
history of monuments. In recent years, the first LBPC longhouses outside
Cuiavia have been discovered and/or published. It has now become possible to
verify hypotheses considering the interrelationship of the LBPC and early FBC
The settlement of the early FBC covered a belt of lowlands spreading towards
the north-east and west from Cuiavia, previously settled by LBK and LBPC
communities. According to the reasons mentioned above, the long-barrows
in the area of the LBPC are known mainly from Cuiavia, Chełmno land and
Pyrzyce land (no traces of LBPC houses yet have been recorded in Pyrzyce land,
probably due to the lack of serious excavation work). Toponomastic research,
Łukasz Pospieszny
archive survey and re-interpretation of the past excavation results also reveal
traces of severely damaged barrows in Greater Poland. Therefore it can be
assumed that cemeteries of earthen long-barrows were inherent elements of
FBC settlements in phases I to IIIC in this part of northern Poland. There
seems to be no reason to claim that the distribution of long-barrows was limited
to enclaves in the area of Cuiavia and Pomerania.
Bearing in mind the discursive character of material culture within the LBPC
and the FBC, I will propose a hypothesis that explains some of the reasons for
giving the long-barrows their specific shape, especially the stone ‘tails’. Similar
to the situation in the Paris Basin, the construction and especially the elongation
of barrows resembling LBPC houses in Cuiavia could be an element of social
practices, manifesting the new ideology that was shaping the FBC. The process
of social change required a reference to old cultural patterns of the Linear
world and to the authority of the ancestors placed inside the mounds. The
constructions for ceremonial purpose, the houses and barrows were elements
of discourse between the Linear and Beaker communities. The tension between
these two worlds was probably also present in other levels of the living culture,
inaccessible to archaeology.
A different situation took place in the lake lands along the southern cost of the
Baltic. The natural environmental conditions did not favour a steady settlement
of Linear cultures. The neolithization of these lands was connected to the
migration of FBC communities, mainly from the Lower Elbe area. Perhaps
the communities of the Łupawa group, living in relative isolation from LPBC
groups, did not have to construct their identity on the model of the Cuiavian
FBC communities. The material culture evidently did not have a discursive
character there. Monuments mainly served to integrate the group and to maintain
its continuity and social reproduction.
The Neolithic Landscapes of the Polish Lowlands
Further complex studies are necessary in order to find the meaning of
monuments for the people who not only invented them but who lived in their
vicinity for hundreds of years. This landscape, whose history began with the
barrows, is still around us.
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The Neolithic Landscapes of the Polish Lowlands
Almut Schülke
University of Oslo, Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History
P.O. Box 1008 Blindern, N-0315 Oslo, Norway
[email protected]
Social Space in Northwest Zealand During
the Time of the Funnel Beaker Culture
Some Thoughts About Archaeological Traces as Manifestations
of Mobility
The article deals with the incorporation of aspects such as mobility and
communication into landscape archaeological studies. The background for this
discussion is an on-going post-doc.-project on social space in the Funnel Beaker
Culture, discussed for the area of Northwest Zealand, Denmark. The theoretical
starting point is the presupposition that human beings perceive the world from
changing physical and mental perspectives. It is argued that multiple aspects
of mobility and communication are incorporated in each archaeological findcontext. Analysing the life-stories of archaeological contexts, which embrace
both moveable material and place-bound structures, and discussing them from
the shifting perspective of individuals and groups, will open up for a better
understanding of the complexity of the meaning of materially marked places
and their surrounding space.
Keywords: social space, mobility, communication, archaeological traces, Funnel Beaker Culture;
Northwest Zealand
Almut Schülke
In this article I would like to present some aspects of my ongoing post.doc
research-project “Social space in Northwest Zealand during the time of the
Funnel Beaker Culture”. The project is carried out at the National Museum of
Denmark in Copenhagen.
My project aims at discussing man’s shifting relationship to space during the
Funnel Beaker Culture (c. 3950-2800 BC), the first Neolithic Culture in Southern
Scandinavia (Midgley 1992; Tilley 1996; Koch 1998: 172ff; Fischer 2002). The
case-study area is the northwest part of the island of Zealand, Denmark. I have
dealt with aspects of spatial distribution of the archaeological sites elsewhere
(Schülke 2008a, Schülke 2009a, Schülke 2009b). In this paper, I would like to
focus on the central argument of the study: the relationship between place-bound
archaeological traces, also called “find spot” or “archaeological site”, and the
aspects of mobility and transitoriness, which are reflected in the archaeological
traces that result from past human life. I will concentrate on theoretical aspects
and illustrate them with a few examples from the study area.
Life in flux: human mobility and communication
The theoretical starting point is on the one hand based on works that belong to
the direction of post-processual landscape archaeology (Ingold 1993; Tilley 1994;
Tilley 2004; Thomas 1996; Thomas 2001; Altenberg 2003), on the other hand a
result of my own occupation of many years with landscape analysis. I also find
relevant thoughts in the outlines on Behavioral archaeology, even though I cannot
identify with the aims, which its followers, though with some reservations,
proclaim: to formulate universal principles of behaviour (Schiffer & LaMotta
2001: 16ff).
The term “social space” that I use mainly refers to people’s social and spiritual/
mental relations and the spatial aspects that these involve. In this context, two
notions are of main importance: mobility and communication.
The notion of social space as presented here is characterized by the
presupposition that human beings are physically and intellectually mobile. This
means that space both can be experienced from different physical positions, and
also from different intellectual perspectives. The individual’s being is therefore
Social Space in Northwest Zealand
always in flux, and it thereby also extends beyond his or her actual physical place
of being. Different physical positions in the world and intellectual perspectives
on the surrounding space result from specific aims, tasks, social identities and
background, personal experiences, and are bound to certain situations (Ingold
The social relationship between the – mobile – individual and his or her
surrounding space is gained and maintained through communication. The
individual is in constant communication with the world (Schiffer & LaMotta
2001: 33ff), be it through sensual experience, observation, through thinking,
or through lingual or bodily communication (Tilley 2004: 1ff). The latter also
involves the active use of the material surroundings.
Thus the surrounding space embraces not only other individuals or groups,
but theoretically the complete output of natural and cultural beings, which
communicate with each other. Therefore it also includes geographical phenomena,
artefacts, animals and vegetation, together with traces of an individual’s own
and others’ existence, with experiences and memories. The surrounding space is
neither “natural” nor “cultural”, but a world of interplay (Tilley 2004: 23f). This
world consists of changing passive and active parts dependent on the focus,
stand point and situation of the observer (Thomas 1996: 89ff).
The individual is embedded into that world, and acts on and reacts to the values
that prevail in the respective surrounding world (A. Giddens after Andersson
2004: 37). The latter is shaped by the rules and modes of behaviour, which are
communicated in complex social unities/societies, which inhabit that world.
Human beings react to their surroundings; they reflect, use and change them.
The material and animated parts of the surrounding world, amongst them
animals and vegetation, are part of individual experiences and life histories,
they have meanings for certain individuals. Nevertheless, the material world also
comprises and reflects the – ritualized – behaviour and sets of rules, events and
actions that groups of people have performed through time at certain places
or in certain areas. Both spheres, the individual and the social or group-related,
have to be taken into account in an interpretation of “social space”.
Almut Schülke
Archaeological traces: The find spot and the site as
archaeological concepts
Archaeological traces such as objects, structures and other traces of past
existence are found in a spatial context. Sites or find spots differ from nonsites through the occurrence of archaeological traces. They are archaeologically
Sites and find spots are meeting places between the archaeologist and her or
his subject. Whether directly in the field or in later interpretation, it is from this
focal point that the reasoning about past lives unfolds.
Find spot and archaeological site are central concepts within archaeology.
Information on the topographical position of a find spot or a site is most relevant
for classifying and interpreting archaeological traces. Archaeologists record these
places through mapping, and archaeological archives have catalogues based on
the topographical position of the sites. Databases and GIS-applications depend
on the spatial localisation of find spots. One of the basic aims of any field
archaeological investigation, be it survey or excavation, is to investigate the
spatial boundaries of archaeological sites.
Archaeological analysis and interpretation always reach beyond the find spot as
such. This happens through the “intellectual process” of recognising features,
through comparing them with other find material from other places and through
binding them in into wider reflections. However, it is done on different levels.
In many works it has been pointed out that traditional settlement archaeology
has focused on the distribution of certain find categories like settlements and
economic facilities, often with the aim to answer questions about colonisation
of economically suitable land. Here the find spots are regarded as cultural,
human made markers in an otherwise more or less natural environment, which
was seen as background stage or scenery for human choices (Gramsch 1996:
19ff; Conneller 2006: 39).
In works that are ascribed to post-processual landscape archaeology, however,
it has been argued that find spots/archaeological sites have to be interpreted
in their wider spatial, social and historical context (Thomas 2001; Altenberg
2003: 20ff). The close relation of place and the surrounding space was stressed,
though from different perspectives. T. Ingold has presented ideas on the social
temporality of landscape experiences and their being bound to taskscapes
(Ingold 1993). C. Tilley’s phenomenological approach (Tilley 1994, 2004) focuses
Social Space in Northwest Zealand
on the perspective of the individual, and his or her bodily moving through
and experience of space. J. Thomas argues for an understanding of place and
landscape as relational (Thomas 1996: 89ff, 2001: 172ff). In addition, “off-sites”
have become part of the debate (Bradley 2000). The surrounding space has
been, with different approaches, discussed in terms of physical accessibility,
visibility and cultural restrictions (Gansum et al. 1997; Criado Boado & Villoch
Vázquez 2000; Rudebeck 2001; Schülke 2008b). The discussion of movement
through space and possible communication corridors plays an important role in
these studies.
The aim of my study is to integrate the aspects of human mobility and
communication as mentioned in the previous section into the analysis of the
statically documented archaeological record. My analysis of the archaeological
record seeks to deliberately exceed the find spot, which has to be understood in
the context of the surrounding world. Before I go into more detail with these
ideas, I would briefly like to present the source material of my study.
Settlement archaeological background: The find spot
as analytical starting point
The project stands in a settlement archaeological tradition: As analytical tools I
use, in a first step, the typological classification of the source material into find
categories, their chronological analysis and the study of their spatial distribution.
A database, which is grouped after either find spots or sites, is the key for the
analysis. To understand the basis of the study the find categories are mapped,
in chronological order, and in relation to different geographic aspects, like soil
conditions, relief, watercourses and wetlands.
The study-area is geographically defined (see fig 1). It contains the northwest
part of the island of Zealand, Denmark, which is about 500 square kilometres
in size, and in geographical terms quite varied. This area is only a part of the
region, which T. Mathiassen analysed as Northwest Zealand in his settlement
archaeological study from 1959 (Mathiassen 1959). My study area is characterised
by hilly moraine-ridges with heights up to 100 m, which are divided into three
“chambers” by three drainage systems. In the southern part, the Halleby River
drains a huge system of bogs – including Lille Åmose – and Lake Tissø. The
coastline encompasses both half-moon-shaped bays with a flat hinterland, and
steeper cliffs, especially along the east-west outstretching peninsulas Røsnæs and
Asnæs, which embrace the Kalundborg inlet. In the Early Neolithic, the coastline
was situated further inland than today at the 2.5 m contour line (Hede 2003), and
Almut Schülke
Figure 1. The study area (Northwest Zealand): distribution map of the archaeological
remains from the Funnel Beaker Culture. Sources for the geographic data:
Watercourses: AIS – Miljø- og Energiministeriet, Areal Informations System, see http://
www2.dmu.dk/1_Viden/2_Miljoe-tilstand/3_samfund/AIS/ (1996-2000). Contour lines:
© Kort & Matrikelstyrelsen (Målestok 1 : 25 000) (2004); Wetland areas and lakes:
Danmarks jordarter 1999 – © GEUS: Digitalt kort over Danmarks jordarter 1 : 200 000
Social Space in Northwest Zealand
the bogs were open water (Noe-Nygaard & Hede 2003). Consequently, the area
looked different at that time. It was quite easily accessible by boat via the shore
and the watercourses, while the inland, at least during the wet seasons, must have
been difficult to pass at many points.
The high density of finds from the Funnel Beaker Culture (fig 1) is the result of
intensive archaeological activity in this region, resulting from an interplay of the
archaeological richness of the area and the many archaeological projects which
it triggered (Schülke 2008: 10ff).
Figure 1 shows the archaeological potential of the study area: About 1600
find spots and archaeological sites can be dated to the Funnel Beaker Culture.
These include around 200 sites that are addressed as settlements, more than
300 megalithic monuments, about 170 bog-finds/deposits, together with a
high number of stray-finds. The stray finds are difficult to classify, owing to
the uncertainty about their original archaeological context and the unclear
chronological relation of the find material from these find spots to each other.
It has to be stressed that figure 1 shows a very rough distribution pattern,
including all the find spots from a period that lasted for more than 1100 years. It
can only be a starting point for a more thorough analysis of social space during
the time of the Funnel Beaker Culture.
Exceeding the place: Find spots and sites as “container”
of mobility
In my study, the two following components constitute the key for the analysis
of social space:
1. The physical accessibility of the surrounding space
2. The multidimensional decoding of the archaeological sites/find spots
into the activities and movements which formed the site/find spot, and a
discussion of the sites’ social meaning(s) in Funnel Beaker society.
Concerning point 1, it can be stated that the study area, though with minor
barriers like steeper slopes, watercourses/wetlands or coastal cliffs, has been
quite easily accessible in physical terms. On fig.1 the places of final deposition
are mapped together with the locations of structures. It gives the impression
that people with Funnel Beaker Culture background have moved throughout
the whole area. While splitting the material up in different chronological phases,
Almut Schülke
a clear spatial development of materially marked places can be seen. While in
the first part of the Funnel Beaker Culture (EN I) the settlement remains are
distributed coast-near and close to inland water-systems, in the more developed
phase (EN II-MN A II) both the coastal and inland zones are materially marked
by settlement remains and megalithic monuments (Schülke 2009b). In the
latest part of the Funnel Beaker Culture (MN A III-V), the concept of inland
settlement, which we see in the foregoing period, seems to continue, though
with clear concentration in the centre part of the study area and around the town
of Kalundborg (Schülke 2008a: 12 ff). It can be stated that this chronological
development in spatial marking of the surrounding space was not due to its
overall physical accessibility, but more with cultural habits, subsistence strategies
and more intensive modes of using the communication routes (Schülke 2008a:
15ff). The presupposition is that people have moved through and have known
the study area as such (of course not all the people knew all of it, but the sum of
the spatial knowledge collected by single individuals or groups has supposedly
made this area known to people) also at the places, which were not materially
marked, but they did not – as far as we know – leave traces there.
Point 2 is the main aspect here: The find spot should not be regarded in terms
of a spatially fixed place for prehistoric activity. Instead, it should be seen both
as a culturally relevant place for past people, but also as the place for the final
deposition of things. The archaeological record is the last physical station of
the social life of its components – in their prehistoric life. Even if it is recorded
statically in archaeological documentation (by being fixed in plans/maps and so
on), this material accumulation has to be regarded as evidence of depositional
habits and as a container of prehistoric activity, a kind of cultural sum. It can
be decoded into numberless levels of activities and experiences, many of
them having spatial dimensions that reach beyond the final find spot. In short:
archaeological sites absorb the movement that has occurred in between the places
of deposition and beyond. The off-site space was also part of the inhabited
world. Moreover, within this overall space, various individual perspectives could
meet in different layers of experiences. Each of them constitutes a perspective
on the surrounding space.
How are we to deal with this multitude of perspectives in an archaeological
analysis of social space? As an analytical tool, the levels of activity that are
compiled in the archaeological record have, in a second step, to be decoded, in
the sense of operational chains (Schiffer & LaMotta 2001: 21ff). The activities
that can be recognized in the archaeological record often occur at many places.
Social Space in Northwest Zealand
They witness therefore of generally accepted social behaviour, with certain
rules and (everyday-) rituals. However, in each case the record also witnesses of
individual actions, performed by single persons or groups. Also in cases where
they reveal atypical behaviour, they give, in form of being exceptional, hints on
“the whole”. Both the individual experience and its social background lies in
each piece of archaeological evidence.
There are of course many problems connected to such a form of analysis:
Firstly, how to grasp the spatiality of the activities that took place before a site
was constructed or before certain objects were deposited. Here we face clear
limitations in valid interpretations. New archaeological approaches in network
analyses look at find material from different find spots, classifying their material
with regard to different degrees of similarity (Claßen 2004; Sindbæk 2007).
Through the methods used, different levels of contact between the materially
positive marked places can be asserted, which exceed the individual place, but
also without knowing, how the space in-between the materially marked places
actually was used.
Secondly, the construction of operational chains, and the question of how to
avoid splitting up the surrounding space into smaller and smaller entities, without
incorporating the idea of social space as being multidimensional (Conneller
2006). This problem can only be overcome by deliberately shifting focus: To
analyse layers of action within one site, but to interpret them at the same time
from different stand-points: for example as – shifting – individual, or in the
eyes of a group/different groups, from the point of view of the object, and at
different stages of action/construction.
It can be stated that there exists no “prehistoric picture” of social space as such.
Archaeological finds and their find spots have, in spite of the similarities and
regularities in the archaeological record as the output of similar activities and
sets of ideas, countless levels of meaning; and, not to forget, including levels
of meaning which are applied from a modern archaeological point of view. The
challenge is to combine the two following aspects: On the one hand to recognize
patterns and to apply a sensitive classification to the data, which inevitably
also means a constraint on the data, and on the other hand to overcome this
constraint by incorporating aspects of mobility and communication.
Almut Schülke
Some perspectives on social space
My study deals with questions such as: How is space marked during the time of
the Funnel Beaker culture? How did people shape, use, perceive and reflect on
the surrounding space? Which continuities and discontinuities can we discover
through this period which lasted 1100 years?
To illustrate my argument, in the following I would like to look at settlements and
megalithic monuments, discussing the difference between the spatial expression
of moveable things and place-bound structures.
Figure 2. Example of settlement structures that can be dated to the Funnel Beaker
Culture: “Ubby Hovvej” (Det Kulturhistoriske Centralregister Stednr. 030109 sb. 243)
with cultural layer, pits and fireplaces. Illustration: Pia Brejnholt after original plan by
Jens Nielsen (with permission by Kalundborg og Omegns Museum).
Social Space in Northwest Zealand
“Settlement” is still a euphemistic expression within Funnel Beaker Studies.
Only a few structures that can be described as houses or as other settlement
specific buildings have been found in Denmark (Nielsen 1997). In Southern
Sweden however, some settlement complexes lately have been excavated through
extensive surface-excavations (Artursson et al. 2003). In Northwest Zealand, as
in so many other areas, there are mainly two groups of material expressions that
can be classified as belonging to the category of settlements:
1. Single structures, such as hearths, garbage pits or postholes, which through
their connection with certain objects such as flint tools and pottery sherds
are labelled as “settlement”. Most of them are found in the course of rescue
excavations, which only followed narrow search trenches (fig 2). We know
around 50 sites of this kind from the study area. Only at one place groundplans of houses which might date to the Funnel Beaker Culture have been
recorded (Det Kulturhistoriske Centralregister, Stednr. 030109 Loknr. 247;
Bican 2004).
2. Assemblages of stray-finds with artefacts that are classified as being of
typical “settlement” character, such as flint tools and -debris, pottery sherds,
traces of fire, burnt clay and animal bones (Andersen 1997: 89; Schirren
1997: 29ff).
The fragmentary expression of these sites, even if they also have to be regarded
as space-bound constructions (see next section), makes it problematic to look
at these places as architectural monuments, e.g. in the sense of a farm or a
village. Much more, the archaeological remains can stimulate a new look at these
places that is not primarily fixed on a place-distinctive interpretation: The find
spots should be regarded as what they also are: as place-bound phenomena that
witness of countless activities.
If we look at the place-bound activities, which are connected with the structures
itself, we can e.g. in the case of a pit (see fig 2) say the following:
pits witness of digging, e.g. clay-digging or the specific digging of waste pits
(Andersen 1999: 75ff)
the deposition in the pits witnesses of place-bound activities like the
throwing away of garbage or the deliberate deposition of objects which had
to be taken out of the life-cycle (Andersen 1999: 76ff).
Almut Schülke
Apart from this, the find-objects themselves, such as flint tools and vessels,
which by nature are moveable objects, give hints about other, spatially related,
activities. It is important to bear in mind that the find objects most likely have
had a much more complex spatial history than their final place of deposition
suggests. Today, only their deposition at the specific place, in the pit, gives a faint
hint about their former spatial use in depositional contexts. But it is important
to bear in mind that their spatial history exceeded the place of deposition itself.
If we as an example take ceramic remains, which occur in high number and in
high quality in Funnel Beaker contexts of the study area (fig 3):
The vessels, which we find as sherds in a pit, have most likely been
manufactured at another spot in the near or distant vicinity (maybe even
outside the study area)
They were produced while using handed down know-how that followed
certain functional and aesthetic standards (Koch 1998: 122ff). This
introduces the spatial aspects of rules and traditions, and their existence at
certain times and in certain areas.
Figure 3. Ceramic finds from EN II/MN IA from the cultural layer (A 20) at “Ubby
Hovvej” (see fig 2). Illustration: Eva Koch after original sketch by Almut Schülke (with
permission by Kalundborg og Omegns Museum).
Social Space in Northwest Zealand
These sherds originally belong to vessels, which have been used in certain
contexts. In these contexts, they had their innate place: Most likely they have
been used to store special things or liquids, they have been emptied, washed,
refilled and so on. They have been looked at, some of them have been
admired because of their elaborate decoration. They have been touched,
carried around, and their clinking has been heard. One day they were,
deliberately or not, broken. Vessels might have been given as gifts or as
inheritance, and they may have had, through repeated daily use, or through
a special relation to the pottery-maker, a special personal meaning to certain
persons: Even if the concrete spatiality of a distinct vessel’s life history,
in the sense of reconstructing the spatial stations of its use, is difficult if
not impossible to grasp (see above), the thoughts about the objects predepositional spatial life are important for understanding the background of
its later deposition.
An important point is the question about the time-relation between the predepositional use of the objects that are found deposited together in, for
example, a pit. Did these objects, whose context is described as “closed find” by
archaeologists, also have parallel lifetimes and life-histories? The more varied the
find material from a closed find is, the more varied is the complexity of spatial
aspects that are contained in the specific archaeological record.
What is important in our context is, whether the regularity that we see in the
distribution of settlement-structures like waste pits with debris, reveal an
intentional use of particular places/topographical situations that reveal certain
rules of structuring space. Even if the structures mentioned are only remnants
from an activity conducted without conscious forethought, it has to be admitted
that they also are place-markers: structures, whose construction has changed
a place by at least establishing a trace of inhabitance. It might be that these
structures hint to more monumental settlement places (as the very restricted
excavation practice suggests). But, as described using a “vessel” as example,
things and their material context extend beyond their final depositional spot.
These things open up for a broader interpretation, which also embraces the
surrounding space.
Megalithic monuments
There are recorded more than 400 megalithic monuments from the study area.
They consist of several types, amongst them as definable main types: longand round dolmens (88 and 144 specimens respectively), passage graves (33
specimens) and double passage graves (15 specimens). The chronology of these
Almut Schülke
Figure 4. Double passage grave “Loddenhøj”/”Nordenhøj” at Rørby parish (Det
Kulturhistoriske Centralregister Stednr. 030104 sb. 1). Photo: Almut Schülke.
types is not finally established, but researchers agree in that the dolmens are
earlier than the passage graves (Nielsen 1984, Hansen 1993:11, Koch 1998:190,
Ebbesen 2007:19f). Seen as a whole, megalithic monuments first occur from the
middle part of the Funnel Beaker Culture, from ca. 3500 BC (the phase EN II).
Their different, developing architectonic traits can be interesting for a discussion
of the monuments’ spatial significance. Megalithic monuments are space-bound
structures (fig. 4).
Clearly they are built to be monumental. Even though their locations vary
significantly and we both find them in low topographic positions, in hilly areas,
and on hilltops, in the inland and coast-bound, it can be assumed that their
locations are deliberately chosen. There are many spatial aspects that these
space-bound structures embrace:
Social Space in Northwest Zealand
Megalithic monuments are made to be focal points. Their meaning as focal
point gives not only their physical location a special meaning, but it also
involves their surrounding space, as it is from there, that relations to this
focal points were established. The relationships that established towards the
single monuments are countless, and they have a historic dimension.
The megalithic construction itself has many spatial aspects, which extend
beyond the megalithic site as such: Behind the construction lies a plan
about how to build the monument. Even if this plan only may have been
stimulated by a neighbouring site, or deliberately or undeliberately by social
rules or habits, the use of the megalithic concept reveals that also the people
who left these architectonic traces were part of a bigger, communicating
world, which went far over the defined spot or the study area as such.
Megalithic monuments reveal building activities, which stretch far beyond
the spot. They involve people who know how to build them (Hansen
1993: 21ff), which implies that these people may have learnt their craft
elsewhere, at other places. It involves the knowledge about, the choice and
the transport of raw materials (Dehn et al. 1995: 141ff), together with all
the physical aspects of transportation through the surrounding space with
its accessible and non-accessible areas. It reveals that many individuals
have been involved, who worked together on the task (Andersen 1997: 99;
Sjögren 2003: 237).
Furthermore, the erection of the monument had a social background.
The possible religious, political and economic significances of erecting the
monument at distinct places has been discussed intensely (for a summary of
the debate, see Sjögren 2003: 33ff).
Once erected, the monuments were used. It is difficult to say how much
the users had to do with the people who commissioned and built the
The usage of the monuments also includes the physical accessibility of the
site. There are areas where it seems as if the megalithic monuments were
erected at liminal places outside the settlement areas (Sjögren 2003: 311ff).
Such examples also occur in the study area. However, there are also other
examples that show that the monuments at the same time were erected
alongside communication corridors, where people that had access to these
roads could pass along a chain of monuments (Schülke 2009a).
Almut Schülke
Figure 5. Plan of the double passage grave “Loddenhøj”/”Nordenhøj” at Rørby
parish (Det Kulturhistoriske Centralregister Stednr. 030104 sb. 1). The finds from the
chamber are mapped. Illustration: Ludvig Zinck 1885 (with permission by The National
Museum of Denmark).
Social Space in Northwest Zealand
One of the megalithic monuments’ meanings is their religious significance,
as meeting point between the “real” world and “the other world” (Holten
2009). As such, the monuments and their find-context can be interpreted
as markers of human communication with the supernatural, with the nonphysical and non-spatial (Schiffer & LaMotta 2001: 35)
The moveable “things” and remains of animated beings, which are deposited
inside and outside the monuments, stand in a relationship to this monument
and are placed in relation to the monument (fig 5).
The objects deposited have the same multiple spatial, place-exceeding aspects
as the ceramic sherds in waste pits named above. Also in this respect, the
megalithic monuments are containers of mobility. Finally it has to be said that
the meaning of the monuments, which were materially marked throughout the
Funnel Beaker Period and in later periods, possibly changed through time.
Concluding remark
I have tried to formulate the theoretical approach to the material of my study
area, and to formulate possibilities, for how aspects of the fluidity of human
existence and aspects of interplaying mobility can be integrated into the analysis
of an archaeological record, which is from the archaeologist’s perspective
experienced as static, and also recorded as such. Further studies within my
project will show whether the theories developed here are elaborate enough,
and can bring in new results into the research on Funnel Beaker Culture, which
try to overcome static and one-dimensional interpretations and instead focus on
the multiple perspectives of social space.
I am indebted to Carlsbergfondet, Dronning Margrethe II’s Arkæologiske Fond
and the Danish Research Council for financing the project. Warmest thanks to
Jan Bill for comments on the manuscript and to Sue and David Gregory for
correcting my English.
Almut Schülke
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Social Space in Northwest Zealand
Kim von Hackwitz
Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies
Stockholm University, Wallenberglaboratoriet
SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
[email protected]
What Makes a Place?
Feature Perspectives on Site Locations
When discussing the Swedish Middle Neolithic material, the focus has mainly
been on verifying differences between the Pitted Ware Culture and the Boat
Axe Culture. Traditionally, the different distributions of these two assemblages
have been understood as designating two different more or less contemporary
ethnical cultures: the seal-hunting Pitted Ware Culture in the coastal area and
the agro-pastoral Boat Axe Culture in the interior. In contrast to the location of
sites, enquiries of stray finds show a presence of the Boat Axe Culture all over
the landscape, while the Pitted Ware Culture is more or less absent. The question
examined in this paper is why the Pitted Ware sites are fixed to the coastal zone.
I suggest that by using an approach focusing on site performance characteristics
the issue can be further elucidated. An investigation of the formal characteristics
of Pitted Ware sites is carried out including the use of a GIS-based viewshed
analysis. The results suggest that the Pitted Ware sites should be considered as
nodes in a social network, and that the locations of the sites are connected to
journeys across the sea.
Keywords: Sweden, Middle Neolithic, Pitted Ware Culture, Site Performance Characteristics,
Viewshed analyses, Communication, Nodes
Kim von Hackwitz
Research on the Swedish Middle Neolithic has largely focused on verifying
differences between the two different material cultures that are present during
the second half of the period (c. 2800-2300 BC): the Pitted Ware Culture and
the Boat Axe Culture.
The Boat Axe Culture is said to have emerged in Sweden as a result of
immigration (Müller 1898:278; Forssander 1933:142f; Oldeberg 1952: 148ff) or
from a new set of ideas issuing from contacts with the Corded Ware Culture and
later the Bell Beaker Culture in Denmark and the rest of Europe (Åberg 1935;
Malmer 1962:677ff). Despite the explanation concerning the emergence of the
Boat Axe Culture, the culture is usually positioned in a dualism with the Pitted
Ware Culture. The two cultures are said to have been representing two different
ethnic and/or economically different groups. Based on the assumption that an
unstructured grave design existed within the Pitted Ware Culture, the society
has been understood as a profane and egalitarian hunter-gatherer group with a
marine economy sometimes including animal husbandry (Tilley 1982; Knutsson
1995:166ff). Although rare, remains indicating cultivation have been found on
some Pitted Ware sites (Welinder 1987:117f; Edenmo et al. 1997: 180; Welinder
1998: 97ff, 183ff). Conversely, the Boat Axe Culture is perceived as an agropastoral society living in the inland (Malmer 1975: 116f, 2002: 177ff; Welinder
1998: 185f). In contrast to the great variation of grave designs found in the
Pitted Ware Culture, the Boat Axe Culture is understood as a more totalitarian
and ritualised society, since the graves are more formally designed (Tilley 1982;
Knutsson 1995:166ff). There are however some researchers that question the
supposed cultural dualism and the very existence of ethnicity during this time.
Based on different investigations they prefer to interpret the differential Middle
Neolithic material as a result of different actions performed within one society
(Carlsson 1987; Nordqvist in Edenmo et al. 1997; Strinnholm 2001; Gill 2003;
Svensson 2006; von Hackwitz 2008).
In my recently published thesis (von Hackwitz 2009) I examined the basis
for the conventional view stressing that the Middle Neolithic material culture
represents two different groups of people. To briefly summarize, I believe that
the perceived cultural dualism is mainly the result of archeological research
treating the identification of the two ethnic groups as a goal in itself. In pursuing
the ethnic framework, examples of the different cultures are taken from different
geographical areas and presented as if they represent an actual situation of social
and economic interaction between two different ethnic groups. This is partly due
to different preservation conditions in different geographical areas. However,
What Makes a Place?
the Pitted Ware Culture is reconstructed mainly from sites located in the outer
archipelago of east central Sweden and on the larger islands in the Baltic,
particularily the island of Gotland, in terms of social structures and ideology
(see for example Wyszomirska 1984; Knutsson 1995; Fahlander 2003; PapmehlDufay 2006), economy and DNA (see for example Eriksson 2003; Malmström
et al. 2008). Reconstructions of the Boat Axe Culture are usually based on sites
located in the province of Scania in southernmost Sweden (see for example
Malmer 1962; 1975; 2002; Tilley 1982, see however Edenmo 2008). Hence, the
ethnic understanding can be questioned when the two different cultures are
studied in one specific area (von Hackwitz 2009). Still it is clear that Pitted Ware
sites are mainly found in the coastal area and Boat Axe sites are mostly found in
the interior (fig 1, table 1). If it can be presumed that these sites were the places
where people lived and expressed their ethnicity the distinctive distributions may
provide support for the ethnic model. The aim of this paper is to question the
conventional understanding of the Middle Neolithic by presenting an alternative
interpretation of these sites, which also takes into account the distribution of
stray finds from the two cultures. The question that will be discussed in the
paper is why the Pitted Ware sites are fixed to the coastal area.
Figure 1: Sites associated with the Pitted Ware Culture (PWC) and the Boat Axe
Culture (BAC) marked on the map. The numbers correspond to the ones presented in
Table 1. The eskers are hatched. 25 m a. s. l. After von Hackwitz 2009.
Kim von Hackwitz
Table 1. Middle Neolithic
sites in the area of Lake
Hjälmaren. The numbers
correspond to the ones
presented in figure 1.
Frötuna gård
Hagby udde
Lundby 1
Lilla Malma
Lilla Malma
Lilla Malma
Hyltinge nya kyrkogård
Sparreholms slott
Ådön 1
Julita kyrkogård
Villa Julsäter
Stora Malm
Sävsta gård
Västra Vingåker
Västra Vingåker
Stora Mellösa
Stora Mellösa
Örebro stad
Örebro stad
Örebro stad
Örebro stad
Gottsäters mosse
What Makes a Place?
Stray finds in the area around Lake Hjälmaren
The area in concern is centred on the area surrounding Lake Hjälmaren in east
central Sweden. Hjälmaren is the fourth largest lake in the country, with a water
area of 458 square kilometres (Claesson & Klingnéus1999: 7). Several glaciofluvial
eskers cross the area in a north-south direction as landscape relicts from the last
glaciation. There are plenty of archaeological and historical remains found on
and nearby the eskers. The reason could be that the eskers have been used as
roads (Malmer 2002: 138) and because they contain sandy light soils good for
farming. There are 41 sites that have been dated to the Middle Neolithic in the
area: 20 Pitted Ware sites and 21 Boat Axe sites (fig 1, table 1). During the time
period in question the area consisted of a lake with brackish water connected to
the Baltic Sea, which at this stage (the Littorina Sea stage) had a higher salinity
than today. At the beginning of the Middle Neolithic the land had risen to about
35 m.a.s.l. By the end of the period the sea level had fallen to at least 25 m.a.s.l.
Today, Lake Hjälmaren lies at 22 m.a.s.l.
Stray finds hold a meaning in themselves, as they can be connected to different
actions in the landscape. Additionally, they contribute to a deeper understanding
concerning the past landscape and the activities occurring there (see for
example Karsten 1994; Lekberg 2002: 52; von Hackwitz & Lindström 2004).
In a comparative study regarding how and where Middle and Late Neolithic
sites and stray finds appear, Per Lekberg questions the Middle Neolithic cultural
dualism. His analysis shows not only a continuous use of the landscape through
the “culture dualistic” Middle Neolithic and the “homogeneous” Late Neolithic
(his quotation marks) but also a continuous understanding of the landscape, as
the sites are located in the same topographical settings (Lekberg 2002: 52ff, 70).
Lekberg also demonstrates how the division between the two Middle Neolithic
cultures as two geographically separated cultures is a simplified explanation,
since the Boat Axe sites and stray finds (mainly boat axes and concave-edged
flint axes) are located in the inland as well as in the coastal area. Moreover,
the stray finds from the Boat Axe Culture dominate all zones in the landscape
(Lekberg 2002: 52ff, fig 3.12a-b, fig 3.13a-b; von Hackwitz 2008). On the other
hand, Pitted Ware stray finds are more or less absent in the material (Carlsson
1987; Lekberg 2002; von Hackwitz & Lindström 2004; von Hackwitz 2008).
If one wants to maintain the image of a dualistic Middle Neolithic, it could
be argued that the pattern reflects exchange between two ethnic groups.
Nevertheless, this hypothesis is contradicted by the fact that, already from their
introduction, the distribution of stray finds of Boat Axes is fairly even between
the different topographical contexts. Furthermore, the Boat Axe finds in the
Kim von Hackwitz
coastal area include pre-forms, supposed votive depositions, broken axes etc
(von Hackwitz 2009). It appears that the finds represent the whole production
chain, which in turn suggests that they were not brought there through exchange.
Site Performance Characteristics & Landmark Theory
Site performance characteristics are what make a place suitable for specific activities,
such as location direction, view, acoustics, distance etc. The concept was
introduced by Michael B. Schiffer and James M. Skibo (1997) in order to
explain artefact variability. The theory was later used and developed in a paper
by María Nieves Zedeño (2000), where she investigates how people build
social environments in the process of “appropriating nature”. Usually, a “built
environment” is associated with modification of the earth, such as houses and
monuments. However, the framework is not suitable for people who build their
social environment around natural recourses, such as plants and landforms.
For that reason, Zedeño suggests an alternative view, whereby the concept of
landmark is introduced (Zedeño 2000; see also Zedeño et al. 1997).
A landmark is a place that has become a material culture category through the
transformation of human action. A landmark can include unmodified features
such as rock formations or human modified features, such as a monument. What
makes it significant is that it constitutes a piece of history of land and resource
use practices. For example, a landmark can start out as a hunting place. Through
time, it also becomes a place for the memory of successive use, an ancestral
place. For that reason, a landmark has a role of multiple functions including
events of ritual, economic and social nature. “As material culture, places have
properties, performance characteristics, and life histories that must be brought
to life before we can understand how social environments are built from nature”
(Zedeño 2000: 98). A landmark study includes the identification of the formal
properties and performance characteristics of a place in order to evaluate its
potential for attracting people to carry out activities there. Furthermore, it
includes the study of interactions and activities that transformed the place into
a landmark (Zedeño 2000). Below I will test this approach on Pitted Ware sites
located on the shores of Lake Hjälmaren.
What Makes a Pitted Ware Site?
The conventional view of Pitted Ware sites denotes that they are located on sandy
slopes facing south or south-west as those directions expose the site to more
sunlight and warmth. These slopes are often located in narrow valleys, protected
from the wind by the surrounding higher terrain (Edenmo et al. 1997: 172ff;
Malmer 2002: 77ff). In other words, the Pitted Ware sites hold excellent features
What Makes a Place?
for settlement location including warmth and shelter. Furthermore, the Pitted
Ware sites display a great variation in size ranging from 500 m2 up to 90 000 m2
(Edenmo et al. 1997: 173). In addition to huge amounts of fragmented pottery,
objects such as amber items, clay beads, burnt bones, stone, quartz and flint
items have been found on the sites. At several sites, the pottery is of both early
and late types. This could mean that these sites were in use during an extensive
period of time, since the Pitted Ware Culture is in use between 3100-2300 BC.
The interpretation agrees with a conventional view on Stone Age settlements, as
expressed by Mats P. Malmer who suggests that:
“If we want to find Stone Age settlement sites within a particular area, we can
start by registering those already known and compiling statistics about how they
are located in relation to different landscape formation, and then on the basis we
can do reconnaissance on the ground. Another method, however, is simply to sit
down on a slope and feel whether there is shelter from the wind and the whether the sun provides
warmth, If it feels pleasant, it might be worth digging a test pit. Even if this simple form
of archaeological actualism is not sufficient alone as a survey method, it can be
of good assistance.” (Malmer 2002: 174, my italics).
Malmer’s somewhat phenomenological approach for finding Stone Age sites,
conflicts to some extent with my own experience of Pitted Ware sites around
Hjälmaren. I would describe them as rather wind-torn in relation to the
surrounding area. This impression can be formalised by a GIS analysis of the
Pitted Ware sites in the Lake Hjälmaren area. The analysis indicates that none
of the sites face south and 12 out of 20 sites are located in slopes facing other
directions than south or south-west (fig 2). The winds in the Nordic countries
are affected by the Gulf Stream, and Sweden is situated in the so called “west
wind belt” (Swe: västvindbältet) and is predominantly exposed to wind coming
from the south-west or west (SMHI). It is rather certain that the winds were the
same during the Neolithic (Erlingson 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006). This means that
11 out of 20 sites are exposed to wind. This can be further noticed on several
of the Pitted Ware sites, even those not facing the south or south-west, in the
form of physical phenomena such as uprooted trees, wind-broken trees, terraces
in the slopes formed by the waves beating the shore and water-affected till (fig
3A-C). I will demonstrate this by presenting in more detail two sites in the area,
Lundby and Lundby-Åläng.
The two sites are situated at 32-38 metres above the sea level only a few hundred
metres apart in a southwest facing slope of an esker. During the time of the
Pitted Ware Culture, the sites were situated on a sandy shore inside a bay of
Kim von Hackwitz
Figure 2. Aspect investigation of the Pitted Ware sites in the research area. N = site
facing north, NE = site facing northeast, etc. The diagram show that a majority of the
sites are facing west or southwest towards the dominant west/southwest wind.
Figure 3. Phenomena indicating strong wind at Pitted Ware sites. A: Terraces formed
by waves beating the shore, B: Up-rooted tree, C: Wind broken tree. Photos by the
What Makes a Place?
Lake Hjälmaren. The location would presumably have granted access to a rich
marine life. The sites were excavated in 1969 and 1982. The findings consist of
fragmented Pitted Ware pottery, clay beads, burnt bones, tools of stone, quartz
as well as sunken features such as hearths and pits (fig 1, table 1 site nr 16 and
17; Olsson 1984). In contrast to the conventional view presented above, the
formal properties and performance characteristics of the sites can be described
as an exposed landscape setting, facing the incoming wind from the south-west.
A survey documented 68 wind-broken trees, up-rooted trees, water-affected till
and terraces created by waves beating the shore, which in turn can be considered
as indicating continuous wind activity extending to prehistoric times. Pottery
and fire-cracked stones were retrieved from two of the up-rooted trees.
The sites should in certain parts of the year have been exposed to harsh
conditions and cold wind. For this reason I think it is possible to suggest that the
activities resulting in the sites at Lundby and Lundby-Åläng have not primarily
been of settlement character.
If windy and harsh conditions did not discourage the location of Pitted Ware
sites, the next question is what kind of activities were carried out at the sites.
The conventional view would stress that the people maintaining these sites
focused on seal hunting and fishing, and this would be the most important
factor in explaining their locations. However, why did they not choose more
protected locations? Especially when such places are usually available very close
to the sites and often used during the previous period (von Hackwitz 2009).
For these reasons I think that the Pitted Ware sites can not be interpreted solely
as fishing camps. It should be noted that the archaeological materials on these
sites suggest that they functioned as places for social gatherings and rituals (see
for example Gill 2003). In addition, many Pitted Ware sites also contain exotic
material and/or objects that indicate contacts over large geographical areas (see
for example Björck 1998; Nordlund et al. 2002; Holm 2003). For that reason,
I believe that the site location characteristics and the material culture probably
have an explanation that goes beyond pure economy and hunting strategies.
Visuality and Communication
Current landscape archaeology has often stressed the importance of investigating
visibility between places and features in the landscape. Many works dealing
with visuality has focused on issues concerning visual relationship between
monuments and whether sites can be related to specific topographic features
(Bradley 1991, 1998, 2000; Bender 1992; Tilley 1994; Lake 2007). During the
past ten years, GIS methodology has improved the possibilities to perform
Kim von Hackwitz
visibility analyses between sites. One of the methods estimating visibility
between selected points is viewshed analysis. A viewshed is an area of land,
water or other elements in the environment that is visible from a selected point,
i.e. a prospect. Through the use of viewshed analysis, it is possible to compute
and visualize the various local visibilities to and from each other and the visibility
towards the surrounding topography. The method has been used in landscape
reconstructions by modeling visual relations between Neolithic monuments in
northern England (Llobera 2007), in works reconstructing ancient landscape
perception (Fitzjohn 2007) as well as in research aiming to understand how the
surrounding landscape influenced the design of monuments (Lake & Woodman
Figure 4. Viewshed analysis including the 20 Pitted Ware sites in the research area.
The results from the analysis suggest that the location of the Pitted Ware sites is
dependent on extensive view over large bodies of water. 25 m.a.s.l. Modified after von
Hackwitz 2009.
What Makes a Place?
It should be noted that the method has received criticism. A part of the criticism
is based on the fact that it does not take into account vegetation in the landscape,
such as trees and shrubs, which could block the view (Llobera 2007), nor does
it consider from how far away an object or a location is visible to the human
eye (Ogburn 2006). In some cases, visibility between objects was not correct in
reality as the objects were too far apart or were too vague in the terrain to be
identified by the human eye. Other criticism is that the method has focused too
much on visibility, neglecting other possibly relevant phenomena such as hearing
and smell, thus creating a so-called “Western perspective” (Bender 1999).
Nevertheless, the viewshed analysis of the Pitted Ware sites around Lake
Hjälmaren indicates that not only did they have good visibility across large
bodies of water, their viewshed also covered a large area of ancient Hjälmaren,
the entrance from Littorina Sea and the outer archipelago (fig 4). The sites have
probably also been clearly visible from boats on the waters as they were located
directly on the beach without protection of outer islands. Some sites have a view
to each other but as we lack absolute dates for many of them it is impossible to
say if the sites have been in use simultaneously and thus if the visibility between
sites were of importance. The sites are in all cases directed towards the waters
around them and in some cases towards a nearby land area such as the other
side of a bay.
Several studies in western Sweden have discussed the relationship between
monuments and the sea (Clark 1977; Blomqvist 1989; Bradley & Phillips 2004).
Bradley and Phillips (2004) interpret megaliths erected on the Swedish islands
of Tjörn and Orust as strategically located towards main exits and entrances of
water routes. Similarily, GIS based studies of Neolithic monuments on Orkney
indicate that their placement was mainly based on access to a view of the ocean
(Phillips 2003). The monuments on Orkney also appear to be located in strategic
locations such as narrow passages. Philips interprets them as landmarks for sea
travelers and therefore they are positioned on places which grant prospect from
the sea (Phillips 2003: 376ff). Further, Gordon Noble suggests that coastal areas
nurtured more intense social interaction compared with inland areas. Therefore,
coastal sites served as meeting places for people from widely dispersed areas.
This is also evident in the archaeological material from the megaliths of the
Orkney Islands, which can be associated to different geographic areas (Noble
2006: 100ff).
Kim von Hackwitz
There are several similarities between the location of the Pitted Ware sites and
the megaliths of the Orkney Islands: Both types of sites are strategically located
at places with a view over the surrounding water areas, but limited view over
the inland. Both types of sites contain archaeological material indicating long
distance contacts, suggesting that they had a role as gathering sites. Furthermore,
the megaliths on the Orkney Islands are located in areas where boats can pass on
their way to calmer waters and inland roads. The same can be said concerning
some of the Pitted Ware sites. Several of the sites are not adequate as ports
owing to their exposed position towards the sea where hard waves would make
a landing difficult. However, just behind the sites we often find quiet beaches
where boats could land and access the inland.
Nodes in Communication – final remarks
Based on the discussion above I believe it is possible to argue that Pitted Ware
sites in the Lake Hjälmaren area lack the qualities that are usually considered as
important for settlements. Rather than being located in protected habitats, in
most cases they are positioned in places affected by strong and continuous southwesterly or westerly winds. This can also be observed in the geomorphology and
present vegetation at the sites. A GIS model based on a viewshed analysis infers
that the Pitted Ware sites were strategically located on places with views covering
large areas of water, including the entrance into the ancient Lake Hjälmaren
from Littorina Sea. Further, exotic items from different geographical areas
retrieved from the sites suggest that the Pitted Ware sites constituted a network
of sea routes and important places for creating social interaction.
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What Makes a Place?
Åsa M. Larsson1 & Gunlög Graner2
1. Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University
Box 626, SE-751 26 Uppsala, Sweden
[email protected]
2. Ullavigatan 15, SE-703 57 Örebro, Sweden
More than Meets the Eye
Pottery Craft in Transition at the End of the Middle Neolithic in
Eastern Sweden
Pottery has a central position in the Neolithic and is often used by archaeologists
to identify and categorize cultures and groups. Yet the definition of types often
rests on style and does not go deeper than the surface. Theories on change
and continuity in ceramic style which are said to relate to cultural changes also
tend to lack a deeper knowledge of craft processes and the situated knowledge
of potters. Ethnoarchaeological studies have given us a better insight into the
mental and embodied practices that govern and steer change both individually
and collectively. Craft is both a social and socialising part of life in traditional
societies, and the chaîne opératoire of pottery making is therefore a glimpse into
the ideologies and processes of prehistoric cultures. At the end of the Middle
Neolithic, the two distinct pottery traditions of the Pitted Ware culture and
Battle Axe culture in Eastern Central Sweden are showing signs of hybridization
of the crafts. Analyses of certain beakers show that there is more going on
beneath the surface than is immediately evident to the naked eye. Several beakers
are now made with techniques more commonly associated with Pitted Ware
pottery craft.
Keywords: Middle Neolithic, Late Neolithic, Battle Axe culture, Pitted Ware culture, third
group pottery, craft, pottery, chaîne opératoire, practice, embodied, ethnoarchaeology, change
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
Stone Age archaeologists are under challenge to understand societies where there
is no historic information whatsoever. All that is left are fragmentary material
remains and scarce evidence of built structures. Any attempt to interpret social
events and processes from these must therefore rely heavily on theories regarding
the relationship between humans and material culture. It is mainly from within
anthropology and sociology that we can hope to find such theories, constructed
out of the study of living societies.
Unfortunately, for most of the 20th century these disciplines have been reluctant
to study material culture. Thoughts, mental constructs and spiritual aspects of
society were worthy of study, not the ‘physical debris’ (Trigger 1998; Ingold
1999). In the past few decades however, more and more researchers in sociology,
anthropology and even philosophy have come to realise that it is a fallacy to view
the human body and its actions as mere superficial symptoms of the cultural
mind. Body and mind are interlinked in ways that inform and shape each other
(Bourdieu 1990; Lakoff & Johnson 1999). Through this increased interest in
the embodied mind, cognitive systems and situated experience, archaeologists
have been given a better chance to understand the material remains at their
disposal and what they might tell us – and not tell us – about a prehistoric human
Material culture is important, not only because it is shaped and created by
members of a community, but because it in turn has an influence on what is
considered familiar or exotic. In traditional small-scale societies where most
daily objects were crafted by local residents, the socialisation of children into
society is intimately linked to embodied experience through the learning of a
craft. This has triggered our interest in pottery craft in general, and in ‘atypical’
vessels in particular. We will here discuss certain types of vessels appearing at
the end of the Middle Neolithic in Eastern Sweden, that appear to have mix
of traits from both pitted-ware and battle-axe pottery. In order to arrive at a
better understanding of what these vessels might represent, we will argue that
it is imperative to combine stylistic and technological analysis, and especially
to take anthropological studies of craft, learning and embodied practice into
The results reported here have been attained through the “third group pottery
project” involving both of the authors and financed by the Berit Wallenberg
More than Meets the Eye
Foundation. The outlines of the project were presented at the first Uniting Sea
Workshop in 2002 (Larsson 2003), and the preliminary results were published
in 2004 (Graner & Larsson 2004). The questions triggering this project concern
the appearance of pit decorated battle-axe beakers on Middle Neolithic sites in
South Sweden, that were named “third group” pottery (Fig. 1) (Olsson 1996).
Group in this case, refers not to another archaeological culture or ethnic group,
but to an atypical kind of battle-axe beaker with decorative elements from
The relationship between the Battle Axe culture and the Pitted Ware culture
is a contested subject in Swedish archaeology (Larsson 2009c: chp 3). The
Pitted Ware culture is found mainly along the southern East Coast of Sweden,
from Gästrikland to Skåne. The oldest sites appear in Eastern Central Sweden
(Mälardalen) around 3400-3200 BC, and shortly thereafter on the large islands of
Gotland and Öland, in the Åland archipelago, and southwards and northwards
along the coast. The settlements are noted for their large quantities of pottery,
osteological remains of wild fauna that over time become almost entirely marine
(e.g. seal, porpoise, fish, water fowl). There are also finds of slate tools and
zoomorphic objects otherwise known from Northern Sweden, Finland and the
Baltic states. Dietary studies on human bones from Pitted Ware burials show
an almost completely marine diet (Eriksson 2003; Lidén & Eriksson 2007;
Fornander et al. 2008).
During the third millennium BC there are marine hunter-gatherers along the
Swedish West Coast as well, that are often referred to as Pitted Ware culture
(Becker 1950). However, the material remains on these sites differ in many
respects from that of the eastern and southern coasts, and several archaeologists
have questioned the notion that all marine hunters in South Sweden at this
time should be viewed as a single culture (Wyszomirska 1984; Thorsberg 1997;
Papmehl-Dufay 2006; Larsson 2009c:55-58). In this paper we will only refer to
the East Coast sites, including Skåne, as Pitted Ware culture.
Battle Axe culture is the Swedish-Norwegian regional version of the continental
Corded Ware complex, that covers most of Central and Northern Europe in
the period between 2900-2300 BC. The Battle Axe sites are mostly found a bit
removed from the contemporary shore-line, on light sandy soils by the glacial
eskers and in the inland. Burials, stray finds and the occasional house are found
all over South Sweden, from Uppland to Halland to Skåne. The settlements have
only small amounts of preserved remains, and most of the material evidence
comes from the burials. In the graves there are tools made of sheep bones, as
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
Figure 1. Pottery types of the Middle Neolithic B in South Sweden: a) Pitted-ware
pottery (Siretorp, Blekinge); b) ‘Third group’ beaker (Turinge, Södermanland); c)
Battle-axe beaker (Högarne, Västergötland).
well as bone and antler from deer. Dietary analyses on a few individuals have
shown that they had a diet based on land animals and plants (Lidén et al. 2004;
Lidén & Eriksson 2007).
These two archaeological cultures co-existed partly in the same regions over a
long period of time (Middle Neolithic B), and both ‘disappear’ at around the
same time, 2300 BC, when the Late Neolithic culture replaces them. The pottery
of each culture is quite distinctive, and pottery showing traits of both traditions
are extremely rare. In order to be able to discuss the “third group” pottery and
other hybrid types, it is necessary to give a short presentation about what defines
each craft tradition.
Pitted-ware pottery
The general shape of pitted-ware is that of a conical vessel with a roundedpointed base, carinated shoulder, and a straight or slightly concave neck (Fig
1). Vessels of this shape occur in all sizes, from large containers with a rim
diameter of over 40 cm, to miniature vessels less than 10 cm in height. The
most common decoration is that of at least one horizontal row of large round
pit impressions, which is present on most though not all vessels. Apart from
these general characteristics, there is a considerable variation in the shape of rim
edges, which can be anything from thin and rounded to large and flat or bulbous.
The decoration on the vessels is deceptively simple, since it often involves short
More than Meets the Eye
vertical or oblique strokes/comb impressions which create horizontal fields of
patterns, often with herring-bone motif. However, the tools and application
techniques may vary considerably, and the combinations of various fields and
patterns on vessels are such that it has proven to be virtually impossible to create
typologies based on style for pitted-ware. Typical pitted-ware is often referred
to as Fagervik III (F III) and Fagervik IV (F IV), after a systematic study on the
eponymous site by Axel Bagge (Bagge 1951, Larsson 2009c: 97).
Pitted Ware sites are comparatively easy to identify today due to the vast
quantities of pottery sherds, quite often in excess of a hundred kilos. In most
cases, the pots seem to have been deposited in a more or less fragmented state.
On several sites otherwise complete bases have been deposited upside-down.
What is interesting is the fact that upside-down bases also appear in some Pitted
Ware burials. In fact, the graves only rarely contain any pottery, except for in a
few cases just the bases, or a few sherds, or occasionally miniature vessels/cups
(Larsson 2009c:345ff).
Technologically speaking, the vessels were fashioned with coiling, and the coils
were usually fastened through N-technique (smoothed by being drawn upwards
on one surface and downwards on the other). The surfaces are fine but not
at all smoothed or polished, and the vessels were fired in an open fire. Thin
section microscopy has been performed on pitted-ware pottery from a number
of sites over the last few decades. Most of these sites are from Eastern Central
Sweden, though there are additional settlements on Gotland and Öland to
act as a comparison (Papmehl-Dufay 2006; Larsson 2009c: chp 7). In Eastern
Central Sweden virtually all the pitted-ware was made with fine clay, mostly noncalcareous (c. 75 %).
On Öland and Gotland in contrast, most vessels were made with coarse or
medium-coarse clay. That the gotlandic vessels were almost exclusively made
with calcareous coarse clay is perhaps not surprising, considering virtually any
clay that can be found on the island is of that nature. The ölandic vessels are
interesting, however, as they are all non-calcareous despite the fact that it is
difficult to find such clay on the island. In addition, over 25% are made with fine
clay, which is quite rare on the island. This leads Papmehl-Dufay (2006:209f) to
suggest that either the potters spent a concentrated effort on finding the few
clay sources of non-calcareous clay on the island, or most of them were made
on the nearby mainland and transported to the island sites. Another alternative
is that the raw clay was transported by boat from the nearby mainland to the
island settlements.
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
A technological novelty of pitted-ware is the use of calcareous materials for
temper: calcite, burnt bones and shell have been identified (Brorsson 2008;
Larsson 2009c:205-209). This increased use of calcareous temper is evident in
the fact that over time a larger portion on pitted-ware is notably poriferous. This
is a result of the temper being dissolved in the mostly sandy, acidic soils over
time, and would not have been evident to the prehistoric population. Apart from
this, there is a somewhat greater variation in the types of rocks used as temper
as well (Larsson 2009c: fig. 7.4). Not just crushed granite, as was the general rule
in the earlier funnel-beakers, but also quartz, sandstone and natural sand. Calcite
was also commonly used as temper on Gotland. However, on Öland very little
of the pottery is poriferous and only a few of the analysed sherds contained
calcite and none contained bone temper. Instead, most of the sherds from the
northern site Köpingsvik were tempered with sandstone, whereas the majority
of the sherds from the southern site Ottenby were either tempered with natural
sand, or had no temper at all added to the coarse clay (Papmehl-Dufay 2006;
Stilborg 2006).
Battle-axe pottery
Battle-axe beakers are mainly known from the graves, where they are a common
burial gift. Small, globular and thin-walled, they both strongly resemble and clearly
differ from the contemporary corded-ware beakers of Denmark, Germany
and Poland. In terms of shape, the closest parallel outside Sweden-Norway is
Finnish corded-ware (Edgren 1970; Larsson 2009c:257ff). The early beakers are
mostly cord decorated, as the name implies, but later types in Sweden are also
often decorated with dense square-pegged tooth-stamp and at the end of the
period also by whipped cord-stamp. The decorative patterns are quite rigidly
prescribed in their composition, and similar across the whole of South Sweden
(Malmer 1962; 2002). The beakers often have a carefully smoothed, even glossy
surface, and several have undoubtedly been fired in a reduced atmosphere in a
pit or beneath a covering, resulting in a pitch black ware. However, the vessels
were often cooled in open air when still hot, which makes the exterior oxidized
whereas the ware directly beneath the surface is black (Rye 1981:98, 116f;
Larsson 2009c:242ff, fig. 8.8).
As mentioned, these small beakers are found in the graves, but they also occur
in settlement layers and at the long houses of the Battle Axe culture. There is
usually only a small amount of battle-axe pottery to be found at settlements due
to several reasons: the small sizes of the vessels, the thin walls, no routine of
depositing vessels in pits, and the continued settlement at many of these sites in
More than Meets the Eye
the Late Neolithic which increases the destruction. But the fact that Battle Axe
communities used pottery for different reasons is another aspect contributing
to the difference in quantity compared to the Pitted Ware sites (Larsson 2009b).
It should be noted that there is also a type of more purely ‘domestic’ ware
associated with the Battle Axe culture. These larger vessels are sparsely decorated
with cord, dots, or a short-wave moulding at the upper part, but otherwise
undecorated. The surface was also often brushed when still wet with grass
or something similar, unlike the carefully smoothed surfaces of the beakers
(Larsson 2008, 2009c:242). As these types of vessels are not included in the
graves, and are only known through fragments on the settlements, they are often
overlooked by archaeologists. Especially since many Battle Axe sites have phases
of later settlements as well, mainly of the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age. Since
similar versions of coarser domestic ware exist in these periods as well, it is often
problematic to ascertain which undecorated sherd belongs to which period.
Technologically the battle-axe pottery differs notably from other contemporary
and earlier types of Neolithic pottery in Sweden (Larsson 2009c: chp 8). The
reduced firing mentioned above is virtually unknown before this, but even the
very earliest beakers are often fired this way. The beakers are also fashioned by
pinching rather than coiling, though the rim may be added as a coil. But the
defining trait of the Battle Axe pottery craft is perhaps the use of grog (chamotte),
crushed pottery, as temper. The earliest beakers are tempered with little else,
and there are cases of grog-tempered grog used as temper. Some vessels have
a combination of grog and crushed granite, especially the larger storage vessels
and the later types of beakers, and a few have only granite temper. It should be
pointed out that grog is at times very difficult to identify in a thin section, unless
it is made from a different type of clay, or the initial vessel was fired at a higher
temperature (Lindahl 1990; Stilborg 2005). Other non-plastic inclusions are very
rare. In Skåne a few vessels have been tempered with sandstone or natural sand.
Most of these are of younger types.
Learning to be a potter and the chaîne opératoire
Most studies of pottery in archaeology have tended to focus on either style or
function. Stylistic qualities have been defined as cultural embellishments and
often viewed as a means of symbolic communication. Decoration, in short, is
often approached as ‘text’ or ‘symbolic’. In contrast, the technology of pottery is
mostly viewed in functionalistic terms, as a way of rationally solving a problem.
Both these viewpoints tend to focus on intellectual intentions and the finished
product, not the process that makes the product or the person performing the
task. Ethnoarchaeological methods have been employed to study these aspects
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
in living traditional societies, but the results of these studies were often hard
to fit into the theoretical templates of style vs. technology (Gosselain 1994).
With the exception of a few highly specialized uses of ceramics in smelting,
or the advent of market economy specialists, there is very little in terms of
rules about what type of clay or temper is used for a specific purpose (Arnold
2000). For every example of pottery decorations having specific meanings and
interpretations, there are ten examples of potters not being able to “translate”
motifs and designs into meaning the way a written text can be (Smith 1989;
Gosselain 1992; Barley 1994:121).
That is not to say that ethnoarchaeology is not useful when trying to understand
pottery craft in traditional societies. Over the past few decades a greater interest
in the learning of a craft, and the embodiment of practice, have helped reveal
that the creation of material culture is a deeply socially embedded part of not
just society, but also the individuals themselves (Larsson 2009c: chp 6.1). The
growing interest in the social aspect of making objects draws upon the works
of the French archaeologist André Leroi-Gourhan (1993 [1964]), anthropologist
Pierre Lemonnier (Lemonnier 1986; 1993), as well as the research into learning
structures of the Americans Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (Lave & Wenger
Leroi-Gourhan has introduced the concept of chaîne opératoire, the operational
sequence, which highlights that technology is more than an assortment of raw
materials and procedures: it involves a sequence of events, specific gestures,
choices and routinized actions. There is in effect an interaction of technology,
techniques and cognition. While the operational sequence is dependent upon
social structure, it is not in itself necessarily a conscious ethnic or cultural marker.
Most importantly, the operational sequence is a process of socialisation in itself,
much in the same way as Bourdieu (1990) discussed the creation of a habitus
through daily practice. Understanding the stages of the manufacturing process
can potentially offer insight into many different levels of society, including the
socialisation of children, the organisation of production in a traditional society,
and attitudes toward authority and innovation in a cultural setting.
A growing number of ethnoarchaeological studies focused on pottery craft from
this perspective have resulted in a better understanding about how potters work,
how they teach and learn, what aspects are more prone to change and what
the reasons for resistance to change may be. These are discussed extensively in
another publication (Larsson 2009c: chp 6), however, a synopsis of the general
conclusions are presented here.
More than Meets the Eye
Clay selection
Clay is almost always retrieved from within a distance of 3 km of the pottery
production site, unless modern transportation is available. Only rarely do potters
use sources further away than that, and in those cases the source is usually
located close to a relative’s settlement (Sillar 1997:table 1; Arnold 2000:343;
Livingstone Smith 2000; Gosselain & Livingstone Smith 2005:35; Gosselain
2008b:70). Far more important than the actual energy expenditure when using
a source are social and cultural factors, including pathways across the landscape
and traditional ancestral ties to a source, or part of the land (Smith 1989; Frank
1994:29; Sillar 1997). An important aspect is that the clay sources tend to be
situated close to areas frequented for other reasons as well, so they are part of
the general appropriation of the landscape (Gosselain 2008b:70). The source is
hardly ever personal property, but collectively owned and maintained by all or
many of the local potters – sometimes even potters from completely different
ethnic groups (Livingstone Smith 2000; Wallaert-Pêtre 2001).
Clay can have many properties, but some of the most apparent to potters are
coarseness, plasticity and amount of inclusions. While many potters may profess
to a preference for a specific type of clay and declare its optimal qualities for the
intended use of the vessels, it is equally clear that these preferences are anything
but universal. One community may use coarse clay for a cooking pot, where
another uses fine clay (Gosselain 1994; Sillar 1997). Technological analysis of
shock resistance and thermal characteristics in a laboratory might indeed prove
that certain pastes do indeed have more or less optimal qualities. The problem is
that this does not seem to influence pottery craft among non-specialists to any
notable degree (Sillar 1997; Arnold 2000:345). Potters will evaluate potential clay
with the help of the senses. Sight, smell and even taste are employed, but the
most important help is touch. The clay is rolled into coils, rubbed between fingers
and on the cheek to check the plasticity and coarseness. The physical property of
clay is extremely important for potters when they make their selection (Dietler
& Herbich 1989:153; Sillar 1997:11; Gosselain & Livingstone Smith 2005:40).
Clay generally needs to have non-plastic material added to prevent it from
cracking and fracturing during firing. A large number of materials are used as
temper: sand, bones, shell, hair, grog, plant material, dung, blood, rice, cereal
husks, wool, ash, asbestos etc, as well as crushed rocks of every kind (granite,
calcite, flint, quartz, slate, volcanic) (Rye 1981:31ff; Lindahl et al. 2002:18ff).
Different materials can also be mixed together to form a type of ‘recipe’ for the
final paste. While the material used and the amount added to the clay is mainly
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
culturally prescribed, the potter will often adjust the quantities in a manner that
will result in a paste that ‘feels right’ (Frank 1994:40; Arnold 2000:355).
Forming a vessel is often roughly divided into primary and secondary stages, as
well as surface modification.
Primary forming is the basic converting a lump of clay into something
resembling the final shape. Different parts of a vessel can be made in separate
stages. Techniques of primary forming are mainly versions of coiling, pinching,
molding, pounding, slab-building, drawing and/or wheel-throwing (Johnston
1977; Rye 1981). A vessel might be shaped using only one or several different
shaping methods. Coiling is the general technique of Neolithic Scandinavia,
which means that the vessel is constructed from coils of clay placed on top of
each other or added as a spiral. The way in which the coils are then made to
form a smooth wall can vary. The most commonly used technique in Neolithic
Sweden is N, which means that the coils are smoothed downwards on one side,
and upwards on the other, creating sloping joints (Lindahl et al. 2002:21ff).
Secondary forming involves adjusting and completing the vessel shape.
Techniques used involve turning, scraping, paddle-and-anvil, beating, trimming,
and additional wheel-throwing, coiling and/or joining. The proportions and
finer aspects of the shape are set, and features such as the shape of the rim are
completed (Rye 1981:84ff). Surface modification can take place during either
of the previous stages and/or after them. This means changing the texture of
the surface to some degree, e.g. by scraping, smoothing, polishing, burnishing,
or applying slip etc (Rye 1981:62ff; Gosselain 2000; Lindahl et al. 2002:25f).
Separating surface modification from decoration is perhaps an arbitrary division,
but it is unfortunately often overlooked by archaeologists. Surface modification
can take longer and be more difficult to master, than applying decoration.
Embellishment and decoration can take almost any form imaginable, from
impressions of tools or objects, to painting motifs, to molding 3-dimensional
patterns. Although most archaeological works have tended to focus upon
decoration as symbolic text and/or as an identity marker, examples of this in
ethnographic research are quite scarce. There are of course cases of decorative
patterns of symbolic meaning (Gosselain 1992:574), however there are far
more cases of patterns being viewed as traditional embellishments and nothing
more (Smith 1989:62f; Gosselain 1992:574): “[D]ecoration belongs to a category of
More than Meets the Eye
manufacturing stages that are both particularly visible and technically malleable, and likely to
reflect wider and more superficial categories of social boundaries” (Gosselain 2000:193).
The tools used to create decorations and patterns are very often simple and
non-specific: a sharpened twig, a piece of cloth, a shell, an ear of corn. Some
are specifically made, such as pegged comb or tooth stamps. Gosselain has
studied the widespread use of various types of roulettes in sub-Saharan Africa,
made of fibre or carved out of wood. These were not restricted to certain
areas, or to certain ethno-linguistic groups. However, their distribution was not
completely random either, as they tended to be handed down from teacher to
disciple (Gosselain 2000:200). The use of such tools then represented teaching
networks, developing over time.
For many potters, this is the most perilous phase of the manufacturing process.
All previous hard work may come to nothing if the vessels fracture and crack
when fired, which can easily happen. The firing is therefore often surrounded
by many taboos and ritual prescriptions, and it is not something potters tend
to experiment with. It is also usually a collective affair as most firings tend to
include vessels made by many potters, if more the community has more than
one (Dietler & Herbich 1989:155; Frank 1994:32; Sillar 1997; 2000; Gosselain &
Livingstone Smith 2005). In Neolithic Scandinavia kilns were not in use, which
leaves two main methods:
Open Fire: The basic method is to place dried vessels on wood, dung, grass or
other types of fuel. While it is deceptively simple, it requires a lot of experience
and know-how by the potter in order to avoid extreme temperature variations
that may cause the vessels to fracture. An open fire can easily reach 800ºC, or
even above 900ºC if it is constructed properly (Rye 1981:102f). Firing too short
a time will make the vessels unstable or prone to disintegration, while firing
too long a time may make them too brittle. Clay containing calcite, or being
tempered with shells or limestone, will be weakened by temperatures above
800ºC, and should preferably be fired at lower temperatures (Rye 1981:98). An
open fire creates an oxidized atmosphere, meaning the clay interacts with the
air and the surface is light yellow to reddish brown in colour, depending on the
minerals (e.g. calcite, iron) it contains.
Closed Fire: An alternative way is to cover the vessels and the fuel with a layer
of non-combustible insulating material, such as earth, dung, wet grass or stones.
Either this is constructed as a mound around the vessels, or they are placed
inside a pit. Since this creates a reduced atmosphere, the vessels become dark
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
and blackened. However, if the still warm pots are allowed to cool off in open
air, the outermost surface can become oxidized (Rye 1981:98, fig 105).
Some interesting aspects about the conservative nature of potters are revealed
by research undertaken among present day potters in traditional societies, where
pottery is still produced for domestic purposes rather than as a commodity for
sale. While there can be no denying that potters in these societies are skilled
craftspeople, sometimes exceptionally so, it is a fallacy to assume that this means
that functional optimisation is the main goal of their technology. Even when
potters of different ethnic groups live close by, even in the same village, the craft
rarely changes (Gosselain 2008b).
Sometimes one group is willing to admit that the other group’s pottery has a
better reputation or that their shaping method is more efficient, yet they are still
reluctant to change their practice. The main stated reason for this is that craft
is consciously and intimately linked with social identity and family traditions.
Pottery craft is almost always taught by a close relative, often a parent, and it is
therefore part of the cultural inheritance of an individual (Dietler & Herbich
1989; Smith 1989; Gosselain 1998). Since most teaching takes place informally
from a very young age by ‘peripheral participation’ (see Lave & Wenger 1991),
most aspects of the operational sequence is integrated on a partly sub-conscious
level. The potter simply does not think of it in terms of technical choice, it is
simply ‘the way to make pottery’ (Gosselain & Livingstone Smith 2005:41).
Even when confronted with alternative technological choices, most will reject
them as valid but ‘foreign’.
The shaping is especially conservative, and strongly associated with tradition and
cultural identity. The reason for this is partly because it is often taught at a young
age, and partly because it becomes embodied in motor habits which are difficult
to change (Lackey 1993; Gosselain 2000:192, 210). One of the authors of this
paper, Gunlög Graner, has extensive experience of making pottery, and has also
worked with making replicas of prehistoric pottery. She makes the following
observation about the embodiment of motor habits:
Long before I knew that there were anthropological studies on the matter, I noted for myself
the firm opinion of potters as to how shaping and firing should, and must, be carried out to
avoid cracking. I have met several Swedish potters holding entirely opposite, but very decided
opinions concerning the necessity for instance of scraping the surface of the coils, or to use slip
between them, when building the vessel. Firing vessels in an open fire without pre-heating or
covering them is also a method that many potters do not believe to be possible until seeing it
More than Meets the Eye
with their own eyes. As for myself, I have noticed with astonishment how certain parts of the
working process have become embodied routine, for example in what direction to build up the
coils. Working in another way than my usual one gives me such an awkward feeling that I
would rather avoid doing it.
In fact, the stages of the production process that are the least visible in the final
product tend to be quite conservative, as there is rarely any external pressure to
change these. So the shape of a vessel may be altered, but the method of shaping
stays the same (Nicklin 1971:23; Wallaert 2008:186, 196). Any stage that is
undertaken collectively, such as clay collecting and firing, will also be resistant to
individual innovation and experimentation. Depending on the cultural ideology,
potters may be more or less actively pressured by the rest of the community to
keep to the established norms as well. Anyone who deviates will run the risk of
being ridiculed or even publicly censured.
The most common reason for changing ones craft is relocation, and the most
common reason for relocation is marriage (Stark 2003; Lane 2006; Gosselain
2008a). A marriage may take place within ones own ethno-linguistic group or it
may involve moving to a completely different ethnic community. Depending on
the circumstances, the craft may be practiced very much in the same manner in
which the potter has been taught, or the local potters may have a very different
chaîne opératoire. Different societies may have very diverse attitudes toward
variations in craft practice. In some groups the potters are expected to change
the outward style to fit with local norms, but are allowed to fashion vessels in
the manner with which they are familiar, which means they will also teach their
children to make vessels in the same way (Gosselain 1998). This will lead to very
varied craft practices across a region over time. Indeed, sometimes co-wives in
the same compound will keep parts of their own craft tradition despite working
next to one another (Nicklin 1971:26).
However, other societies have very different customs and demand that all potters
not only make similar looking vessels, but also that the basic manufacturing
process conforms to the local norms. Among the Luo of East Africa, who
practice polygamy and patrilocality, a new wife is immediately expected to begin
re-training under her mother-in-law or a senior co-wife. Every stage is carefully
supervised, as deviation from it is viewed as synonymous with disrespect for
authority and the lineage (Herbich 1987; Dietler & Herbich 1989). Despite
the fact that all married women in a community come from somewhere else
originally, the pottery produced will have a specific and very coherent style
associated with that particular pottery centre. There is also the possibility that
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
potters will voluntarily adjust their craft over time, to fit more with that of other
potters. This will mainly affect aspects of the craft that are easily perceived as
different, such as tempering, primary shaping or decoration, whereas the fine
motor-habits associated with finishing the walls or shaping the rim, and the type
of decorative tool used, will not always be consciously considered as ‘different’
(Gelbert 1999:221f).
Peer pressure among fellow potters, or from a socially and politically influential
segment of society, can act as an agent of change. It is important to note however,
that when new types of pottery are adopted by imitation rather than through
active re-training by experienced potters, the technological aspects are often not
changed. Instead, the potters use familiar techniques and raw materials to make
the new types of vessels (Nicklin 1971:20; Wallaert 2008). When reasons for
substantial changes in shape, technology or style are stated to be for efficiency,
functionality or aesthetic values, the pressure is almost always from a market
economy and commercialisation. Potters in small-scale traditional societies who
make pottery for the own group, for domestic and ceremonial purposes, tend
to be quite conservative since the craft is deeply embedded in their identity and
acts as a link to preceding generations. Change occurs over time of course, but
the pace and extent of changes from one generation to the next depend very
much upon the culturally specific attitudes towards innovation, variation and
proper behaviour.
In most small-scale societies today, pottery craft is in the hand of women –
though not necessarily all women (Arnold 1985; Sassaman & Rudolphi 2001:420).
Sometimes most women of an ethnic group are expected to learn how to make
pottery (Bowser & Patton 2008), sometimes the potters are concentrated to
a few communities (Dietler & Herbich 1989), certain lineages, or a specific
social class or caste (Gosselain 2008a). There are examples of male potters in
traditional societies as well, though in most cases they are more likely to make
pottery as a commodity for sale (Barley 1994:25; Gosselain 1999:210; Gosselain
& Livingstone Smith 2005:42). There are also societies where both men and
women become potters, often as part of a household team, though they might
make different types of pots (Lackey 1993; Sillar 1997; Degoy 2008).
With what we have learnt about small-scale pottery craft in traditional societies,
it is time to look at some of the atypical types of Middle Neolithic pottery. We
are hoping to show that it is necessary to take the operational sequence and the
context of pottery depositions into consideration, when trying to understand
both material culture and exceptional examples.
More than Meets the Eye
Third group pottery
Large pit impressions, which are found on the great majority of pitted-ware
vessels, are extremely rare on battle-axe beakers. In the 1990’s the term “third
group” pottery was used among field archaeologists when discussing the
phenomenon of pit impressions on beakers. The term designated a third kind of
pottery with traits from both battle-axe pottery and pitted-ware, and therefore
not easily categorized to one of Malmer’s battle-axe pottery groups. It was not,
as some have later on inferred, meant to suggest a third archaeological
culture or ethnic group. The vessels in question were known only through a
few examples, and only on sites that were otherwise dominated by Pitted Ware
culture or Battle Axe culture (see below).
Figure 2. Map of sites with pit decorated or poriferous battle-axe beakers: 1. Torslunda;
2. Tibble*; 3. Vrå; 4. Apalle; 5. Fågelbacken; 6. Bollbacken*; 7. Täby; 8. Turinge; 9.
Kyrktorp; 10. Torpaskog; 11. Fagervik. * = poriferous beakers. (Shoreline map for
4000 BP created by Lars Andersson and Tore Påsse)
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
Table 1. Sites with pit-decorated battle-axe beakers, the so-called ‘third group pottery’.
Also discussed in the article are two sites where beakers with poriferous ware have
been found, which is usually characteristic for pitted-ware pottery. PWC = Pitted Ware
culture; BAC = Battle Axe culture; LN = Late Neolithic; ps = parish.
Atypical beakers
Type of site
Torslunda, Tierp parish
Tibble, Björklinge ps
Poriferous beakers
Vrå, Knivsta ps
Apalle, Övergrans ps
Fågelbacken, Hubbo ps
Bollbacken, Tortuna ps
Poriferous beakers
Täby, Öja ps
Turinge, Turinge ps
Mortuary house
Kyrktorp, Grödinge ps
Torpaskog, Muskö ps
Fagervik, Krokek ps
Hedningahällan, Enånger ps
Aggregation site
Definitions of the “third group” were vague, and at times seemed to include
battle-axe beakers with other pitted-ware traits such as poriferous ware (Olsson
& Edenmo 1997). In order to determine whether the group was in any way a
viable category of prehistoric pottery or not, it was decided to undertake a small
project, which has been generously funded by the Berit Wallenberg Foundation
(Larsson 2003). This included compiling all the cases we could find, and also
making thin section analysis on a few of them. We decided to go with the
initial definition of “third group” pottery: i.e. small globular beakers with pit
impressions. We wished to investigate whether this category had any validity
at all, or if it was simply the result of random variation. Initial results of the
archaeological part of the project have been published previously (Graner &
More than Meets the Eye
Larsson 2004). Additional thin section analysis of the Torslunda settlement has
been done by Torbjörn Brorsson (2006). The results of these are discussed
A total of ten sites with anything from one sherd to several beakers with pit
impressions have been identified in various reports (Tab 1). While this is a very
small number, one is immediately struck by the limited geographic spread of
these sites: all but one are found in Eastern Central Sweden. Hedningahällan, the
one exception, is situated further up the eastern coast in Norrland (Schierbeck
1994; Holm 1997). The southernmost site is Fagervik in Östergötland (Bagge
1951). Apart from this there are four sites in Södermanland, three in Uppland
and one in Västmanland. This strongly suggests that neither the presence nor
absence of pit impressions on beakers is a coincidence, but a socially significant
It should be pointed out that in our previous article, we also listed another find
spot: the cave Stora Förvar at Stora Karlsö (Gotland), which is not included here
(Graner & Larsson 2004:fig 6b). This vessel is decorated with wolf-tooth pattern
and a row of pits. Wolf-tooth pattern, made with comb stamp, is particularly
associated with the late pitted-ware type Fagervik IV in Sweden and on Åland.
F IV vessels usually have a very diminutive shoulder, and sometimes no shoulder
at all making the vessel conical or rounded-conical like most of the Finnish
comb-ware. The shape of the Stora Förvar vessel is more reminiscent of that,
than of the battle-axe beakers whose middle has equal or greater circumference
as the rim. It also has an uncharacteristically flat rim for a beaker (Schnittger &
Rydh 1940:fig LV:2). On closer deliberation, for this reason we have decided to
not include the vessel in the “third group”.
Apart for the limited geographic spread, there is also another aspect that is
common to all the “third group” vessels: chronology. Although exact dating
is not possible, all the pit decorated beakers are found in contexts that suggest
they were made at the end of the Middle Neolithic B or at the beginning of
the Late Neolithic. Also, apart from the pits the decorations on these vessels
are otherwise consistent mostly with Malmer’s late battle-axe pottery groups J
and K. On Hedningahällan some beakers with decoration resembling group M
had pits, and there are also some examples of otherwise undecorated globular
beakers with large sparsely placed pits. Apart from this consistency, there is
no clear correlation between a certain type of decoration and pit impressions.
Some vessels have oblique lines in the J-style, others have dense herring-bone
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
pattern of the K-beakers, and still others have vertical lines formed by tooth
stamp or whipped cord stamp. The largest variation is found at Hedningahällan,
where various types of single stamp are used to create surface covering patterns.
However, since some of the beakers are only preserved as rim sherds, it is not
always possible to tell what kind of decoration existed on the body.
There is no apparent consistency in which context these vessels appear. They
have been found in two Battle Axe burial contexts, as well as on both Battle
Axe and Pitted Ware settlements, and in Late Neolithic settlement layers. They
have not as yet been found in any Pitted Ware burial. If these beakers were
meant for a specific use or occasion, it is not possible to determine this. In
general, battle-axe beakers of later types (G, H, J and K) do occur in the younger
Pitted Ware settlement layers with certain consistency. It is usually only a few
vessels found at the lower elevations and/or with Fagervik IV pitted-ware, a
very small amount compared to the huge quantities of pitted-ware at these sites.
Interestingly, pitted-ware does not occur on Battle Axe settlements, at least not
in contemporary assemblages. For instance, in Västmanland at the Pitted Ware
settlement Bollbacken, 14C-dated to the second half of the Middle Neolithic B, a
small amount of G, H and J battle-axe beakers were found together with pittedware in the northern part of the site close to some of the small houses there
(Artursson 1996). A few kilometres away there was a roughly contemporary
Battle Axe settlement with a long house, at Fågelbacken (Hallgren 2000). Sherds
from several battle-axe beakers were found in and around the house, but no
pitted-ware at all. However, though most of the beakers were typical battle-axe
pottery, there was one sherd of the “third group” with pit impressions.
In order to examine whether the “third group” represented a cohesive craft a few
sherds were selected for analysis by thin section microscopy. From Fågelbacken
the “third group” sherd and two sherds of typical battle-axe beakers were selected
for comparison. A single grave at Täby (Öja ps), in Södermanland contained two
beakers, one with a horizontal row of pits by the rim and vertical stamped lines
over the body, and one J-vessel (Malmer 1962:934). The burial gifts also included
two hollow-edged ground stone axes, a hollow-edged stone chisel, and an E:2
battle axe, which is the youngest type. Independently, Torbjörn Brorsson (2006)
has also analysed sherds from the late Pitted Ware site Torslunda (Uppland)
which are included here as well. The project also analysed some beakers with
poriferous ware (see below).
More than Meets the Eye
Technological analysis of “third group” pottery
Fågelbacken, Hubbo ps, Västmanland
A Battle Axe culture house. Three sherds were analysed (Fig. 3). Two battleaxe sherds of types M and G/H are made with coarse clay tempered with a
combination of grog and crushed granite, completely consistent with Battle
Axe craft tradition. The “third group” sherd in contrast, comes from a vessel
made with calcareous fine clay tempered with calcite. Both of these materials
are otherwise virtually unknown in battle-axe beakers (though see below), but
are consistent with pitted-ware pottery craft. Unfortunately the sherd was so
small that a proper thin section could not be made, only a microscopy of the
cut surface. While this is enough to identify the type of clay and rock mineral
used, it was not possible to ascertain whether there was any grog temper present
or not. The shape of the rim and the tooth stamp used do not in deviate from
battle-axe tradition, but the exterior surface was perhaps less smoothed and
glossy than many of the other battle-axe sherds at the settlement.
Figure 3. Battle-axe pottery sherds from Fågelbacken settlement, analysed by
microscopy of thin sections. F 113 and F 20: Beakers made of non-calcareous coarse
clay, tempered with crushed granite and grog. F 20 also had a fragment of burnt bone.
F 99: Pit-decorated beaker, made of calcareous fine clay, tempered with calcite. The
sherd was too small for a proper thin section, so it could not be ascertained whether it
also contained grog. Photo: Åsa M Larsson
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
The “third group” vessel at Fågelbacken was made with a technology more at
home in the Pitted Ware culture, where calcite was a common temper and fine
calcareous clay was used in c. 25 % of the vessels in Eastern Central Sweden.
Equally important to note is the fact that the other battle-axe beakers at the
house do not deviate from the Battle Axe pottery craft. This suggests that the
application of pit impressions were not just being a decorative embellishment,
but were visual markers of something even more atypical beneath the surface.
Looking beneath the surface can also potentially reveal aspects of variation in
the craft that are not visually apparent. One of the typical battle-axe beakers
also contained a piece of burnt bone, which might possibly suggest that a small
amount of burnt bones were added as temper in addition to the granite and
grog. Bones are commonly used as temper in pitted-ware, but not in battle-axe
pottery. The decoration and surface treatment of the sherd were otherwise a
fairly typical, though somewhat clumsily executed, angular band known on the
G-group. It is possible to interpret the pit decorated beaker as a vessel made
by a potter initially taught the craft in a Pitted Ware community, and forced to
change at least the outward appearance of the vessels she made when relocated
to a Battle Axe community. It is of course also possible that the vessel was made
in another location entirely.
Täby 221:2, Öja ps, Södermanland
Battle Axe culture burial. Two beakers, a J-vessel and one “third group” beaker
which Malmer originally designated to his group O of irregular beakers (Fig. 4).
The J beaker was made with fine non-calcareous clay tempered with granite and
grog, which means it fits very well with the Battle Axe craft tradition. The “third
group” beaker was made with coarse clay tempered with granite – which also fits
with the Battle Axe craft of the late Middle Neolithic B when grog became less
frequently used. Though it is interesting to note that the pit decorated vessel has
not been tempered with crushed pottery unlike the J beaker, both are made with
traditional methods. It is possible that the “third group” beaker has less careful
surface treatment, but as it is also somewhat weathered and eroded, this might
be due to taphonomic processes.
The difference in coarseness of clay is also interesting, as most potters tend to
choose clay based on sensory experience. This might suggest that the pots had
a different intended purpose, for which different kinds of clay were considered
optimal, or it may mean that the vessels were made by two different potters.
Since the same kind of beakers can be made with different kinds of clay in South
Sweden (e.g. Brorsson 2003; 2007), there is not much evidence supporting the
theory of different functions: it is not immediately apparent on most finished
More than Meets the Eye
Figure 4. Analysed sherds from two beakers
found in burial 221:2 at Täby. Vessel 1 (type
J) is made of fine clay tempered with crushed
granite and grog. Vessel 3 (pit-decorated) is
made of coarse clay tempered with crushed
granite, no sign of grog. See legend in figure 3.
Photo: Åsa M Larsson
vessels whether they were made with fine or coarse clay. There are some burials
that do contain beakers made with rather different raw materials however, which
would suggest that it was occasionally the tradition to include beakers made
by different potters: perhaps they were heirlooms, or represented different
branches of a kinship group.
Torslunda, Tierp ps, Uppland
Late Pitted Ware culture settlement. A small number of thin walled sherds from
small wide mouthed beakers/bowls were found in connection with late pittedware (F IV) on what was a coastal site at the time (Segerberg 1995). They were
decorated with very thin pieces of cord, as well as pits (Fig. 5). While they
closely resemble battle-axe pottery they also differ from that tradition to some
degree. Similar pottery has been found at the early Late Neolithic site Apalle
in Uppland as well. There were also some sherds that are more typically battleaxe in style: glossy surface treatment and decoration made with whipped cord.
Birgitta Hulthén (2009) and Torbjörn Brorsson (2006) have done thin section
microscopy on sherds of both these types of pottery, as well as some typical
The three pitted-ware sherds were decorated with comb stamp, two had
poriferous ware and one had firm ware. The firm ware sherd was tempered with
granite, whereas one of the poriferous sherds was tempered with bones, and the
second one with a combination of granite and calcite. This latter vessel had also
been made of calcareous clay, unlike any of the others. The two “third group”
beakers were tempered with crushed granite. The battle-axe sherd was tempered
with a combination of granite and grog. There was also a fairly thick-walled
rim sherd, decorated only with pits. It should probably be classified as an F IV
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
Figure 5. Sherds of analysed typical and atypical battle-axe pottery from Torslunda.
All are made with fine, non-calcareous clay. TS 2 is from a coarse beaker-like vessel
undecorated except for pit impressions, tempered with granite and burnt bones. TS 1
and 4 are from small, thin-walled beakers decorated with fine cord and pits, tempered
with granite. TS 5 has a glossy surface decorated with whipped cord, typical dense
thin-walled battle-axe pottery ware. Tempered with granite and grog. See legend in
figure 3. Photo: Åsa M Larsson
pitted-ware sherd as it came from a vessel with no neck or carinated shoulder.
It was tempered with a combination of granite and bones. All of the analysed
sherds were made with fine clay. Two things stand out. Firstly that neither the
“third group” nor battle-axe vessels were tempered with calcareous material,
despite almost all the pitted-ware at this part of the site being heavily poriferous.
Most of the non-poriferous pitted-ware was found a few hundred meters off
on a slightly higher elevation. Secondly, that the “third group” vessels did not
contain grog, despite the fact that the more typical battle-axe beaker did.
To summarise: the “third group” vessels are not made with a coherent technology
with regard to raw materials. They can be made with coarse or fine clay,
calcareous or non-calcareous, and tempered with granite or calcite. What lacks
so far is grog temper in any of these vessels, which is curious. However, since so
few have yet been analysed future analyses may come to a different conclusion.
“Third group” vessels do not represent a specific type of use, as far as we can
tell. Rather, they occur in the very same contexts where we find “typical” battleaxe pottery: burials and settlements, including the younger settlement layers on
Pitted Ware sites. The fact that they are almost exclusively confined to Eastern
Central Sweden, and that they do not appear until at the very end of the Middle
Neolithic and in the early Late Neolithic, suggest that this is more than random
variation. There is also another type of ‘atypical’ battle-axe pottery that also
appears in this region at this time: poriferous beakers.
More than Meets the Eye
Poriferous battle-axe beakers
A defining characteristic of pitted-ware in Eastern Central Sweden is that more
and more of it becomes notably poriferous over time (Larsson 2009c: chp 4).
It appears to some extent in early pitted-ware and by the end of the Middle
Neolithic virtually all pitted-ware of the region is tempered with calcareous
materials (calcite, bones, shells). These grains then tend to disintegrate over
time, leaving large pores in the ware. Battle-axe pottery on the other hand is
hardly ever found with poriferous ware, even on Pitted Ware sites. There are
a few exceptions to this rule however, and at two of these sites thin section
analysis has been performed on such pottery sherds.
Bollbacken, Tortuna ps, Västmanland
Pitted Ware settlement situated on a small island at the time, some 7 km from
Fågelbacken. Six small houses have been identified at the site, including one in
the south-eastern part which was probably used as a mortuary house (Larsson
2009a, 2009c). In addition to the c. 55 kg of pitted-ware found in pits and culture
layers across the site some 70 sherds (500 g) of battle-axe pottery was found
mainly in the northern part, representing 10-15 vessels. Stratigraphically these
sherds cannot be separated from the pitted-ware. Most came from fairly typical
beakers of type G/H/J and also M. The vessel surfaces are mostly diligently
smoothed and glossy, unlike the pitted-ware found here and at other sites. What
was unusual was the fact that 13 of the 70 sherds had poriferous ware (Fig. 6)
(Artursson 1996).
Figure 6. Battle-axe beaker (185921a) from Bollbacken with notably
poriferous ware. This is the result
of calcareous temper which has
dissolved over time, i.e. calcite, burnt
bones or shells. Photo: Åsa M Larsson
Four battle-axe sherds from Bollbacken have been analysed, one of which (type
H/J) was poriferous. One G-beaker was made of medium-coarse clay tempered
with a combination of granite and grog. The way the sherd was broken suggests
that it had been made with coiling technique, rather than the pinching that was
usually employed on these beakers. The other two beakers with firm ware, of
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
type G/H and M, were made of fine clay tempered with granite. The angular
band on the G/H-beaker was rather poorly executed, with lines suddenly ending
and being discontinued. This suggests a decorator not used to planning and
executing this kind of motif, or not particularly concerned with the finer details.
The poriferous beaker was also made with fine clay, but tempered with burnt
bones. Apart from the beaker from Fågelbacken containing a fragment of bone,
this is the only battle-axe beaker shown to be tempered with bones. It is likely that
the other poriferous beaker sherds at Bollbacken also have calcareous temper –
either calcite or bone. Of the 26 sherds of pitted-ware from this site that have
also been analysed, eight were tempered with bone and two with calcite.
Most aspects of the beakers suggest that they were made by potters only
moderately familiar with Battle Axe pottery craft. The use of bone temper,
the poorly executed decoration and the lack of grog temper in three of the
sherds are indications of this. The G-beaker did conform more closely to Battle
Axe pottery traditions, with the use of medium-coarse clay (only used in two
undecorated possible pitted-ware sherds at Bollbacken), tempered with granite
and grog. It also had a rather well made angular band as decoration. However,
the fact that it was broken in a manner suggesting it might have been formed
through coils rather than pinching is also unusual – though not unknown – for
Battle Axe beakers.
The lasting impression is that most, though perhaps not all, of the beakers
found at Bollbacken were made by potters brought up within the Pitted Ware
pottery tradition, attempting to imitate battle-axe beakers. The maker(s) of
the battle-axe beakers found at Bollbacken must have hade more than a mere
superficial familiarity with the pottery craft of the Battle Axe culture. This is
strongly suggested by the fact that the decoration and surface treatment, as
well as the shapes and to some degree the raw materials, conform very well to
the standards of that craft tradition. The potter(s) in question might have been
shown the operational sequence by a Battle Axe potter, perhaps a close relative.
When attempting to make the beakers herself, the potter may then have used
the raw materials, paste and shaping method with which she was familiar in the
first hand.
Tibble, Björklinge ps, Uppland
Late Pitted Ware site with firm and poriferous pitted-ware pottery of Fagervik III
and IV type (Segerberg 1978; Bergh & Segerberg 1993). On the lower elevations
of the slope five sherds of battle-axe pottery were found as well, all of which
were more or less distinctly poriferous (Bergh & Segerberg 1993). Two of these
More than Meets the Eye
sherds were analysed as part of the “third group” pottery project. One belonged
to a small beaker with a neck, a feature that does not really occur on Swedish
battle-axe beakers (Fig. 7: vessel 3). The ware was extremely poriferous and the
decoration in zones marked by horizontal lines across the body is also atypical
for Swedish beakers, though it can be seen on corded-ware beakers and bell
beakers. Another sherd (vessel 4) was decorated with whipped cord, probably in
J-style. The ware was slightly poriferous, though the surface seems to have been
carefully smoothed.
Figure 7. Analysed pottery from the Pitted Ware site Tibble. Vessel 3 is an atypical
battle-axe beaker, in terms of shape, pattern and poriferous ware. Vessel 4 is a more
typical beaker in terms of glossy surface and decoration, but with poriferous ware.
Both are made with coarse/medium-coarse calcareous clay, tempered with calcite
(and bone). Vessel 4 also contained grog. The remaining sherds belong to pitted-ware
pottery. See legend in figure 3. Photo: Åsa M Larsson
The thin section analysis on vessel 3 showed that it was made of coarse calcareous
clay, tempered with a combination of calcite and burnt bones. Vessel 4 was made
with medium-coarse calcareous clay tempered with a combination of granite,
grog and calcite. Three pitted ware sherds, two poriferous and one firm ware,
were analysed as well. Calcareous fine clay was used in the latter, as well as one
with poriferous ware. Medium-coarse non-calcareous clay was used in the other
poriferous vessel. The ones with poriferous ware were tempered with calcite
and bones, whereas the firm one was tempered with granite. In the case of the
battle-axe sherds, they are made with raw materials that seem to suggest both
Pitted Ware craft (calcareous clay and temper), Battle Axe craft tradition (coarse
clay and grog temper). The atypical shape and decoration on vessel 3 can be
explained in several ways. Either the potter was fairly unfamiliar with the way
a proper beaker should look, and/or did not really care, or alternatively it was
meant to be an imitation of a continental tradition of beakers. While coarse clay
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
is never used in pitted-ware in Eastern Central Sweden, it is commonly used
among Pitted Ware potters on Gotland and Öland. Vessel 4 might actually have
been made by a Battle Axe potter, but one that had relocated to a Pitted Ware
community and used their communal calcareous clay source, and added some
crushed calcite in addition to the granite and grog to appease local sensibilities.
There is a lot more to be learnt by looking beneath the surface of the material
culture at our disposal – in this case pottery. Understanding material culture and
change has too often drawn upon stylistic analysis, either through a typological
and evolutionary model, or by viewing style as symbolic text. By focusing less on
the finished product, and more upon the operational sequence of a craft, we can
get a better understanding of practice and agency in prehistoric societies. Craft
is more than mere manufacture in traditional societies. There is no alienation
between the producer, product and consumer. Craft is an inseparable aspect
of society and a primary cause of socialisation of young members into the
community. Teaching is not something separate from everyday activities in most
cases, and it is a powerful tool by which behaviour, mentality, ethics and norms
are embodied in individuals in a way that will influence their actions and choices
for most of their lives. Embodied practice can always be changed, but this often
calls for a conscious effort that is not just a mental exertion but also a physical
one. Likewise, many embodied practices are so routinized in the operational
sequence that people do not perceive them as choices at all unless they are
pointed out by an observer.
Pitted Ware and Battle Axe pottery traditions differ from each other not just in
the choices of raw materials and the way in which to shape a pot, but also in how
to treat the surface, fashion the rim and fire the vessels. This state of affairs lasts
most of the Middle Neolithic B, even if there are some changes and alterations
to the crafts over time. Not until the end of the period do any ‘hybrid’ vessels
appear, despite the fact that the two groups clearly lived relatively close to each
other and had continuous contact with each other. At the second half of the
Middle Neolithic B battle-axe beakers start appearing in small numbers on many
Pitted Ware sites along the east coast of South Sweden. Pit decorated beakers
however, the so-called “third group” pottery, are consistently dated to the very
end of the period, and occur almost exclusively in Eastern Central Sweden. The
exception being Hedningahällan, an aggregation site in Hälsingland with many
different types of pottery.
More than Meets the Eye
The “third group” pottery is not a coherent new type of vessel or craft tradition.
Beakers with pit impressions are found on Battle Axe settlements, in Battle Axe
burials and on Pitted Ware sites together with ‘typical’ battle-axe pottery. There
is no unified way of making these beakers either. Some are made in a way very
consistent with general Battle Axe craft, others seem to combine aspects of
Pitted Ware craft in terms of choice of clay or temper. Some might have been
made by Pitted Ware potters relocated to Battle Axe communities, possibly
because of marriage, trying to master a new technology with more or less
success. Others could have been made by Battle Axe potters moving to a Pitted
Ware community and being expected to use the clay source, temper and paste
as the other potters in the group. Each vessel really has to be interpreted on its
own merits and in its own context, considering the lack of coherent techniques.
The beakers of the Corded Ware culture complex, of which the Battle Axe
culture is a regional version, were probably used as drinking cups in many
cases, possibly for fermented beverages (Sherratt 1997 [1987]; Klassen 2005a;
b, Larsson 2009c:247ff). The practice of ceremonial and ritual drinking has
been and continues to be an important custom in many societies (Hamilakis
1998; Joffe 1998; Jennings et al. 2005; Dietler 2006). A possible reason then for
the appearance of small quantities of battle-axe pottery on Pitted Ware sites in
Sweden could be that the ceremonies and rituals were adopted by Pitted Ware
communities over time. These ceremonies could have been used as a way for
members of both groups to meet and deal with each other under organised
and familiar circumstances. Anthropologically we know that most traditional
societies, and by all means modern societies too, feel that it is necessary to
create rules and ceremonies to guarantee the smooth process of interaction
when there are social or cultural differences (Kan 1989; Wiessner & Tumu 1998;
Arthur 2003; Eves 2004).
The occurrence of both the “third group” beakers and poriferous beakers
could point to the fact that the interactions between the two groups grew
especially intense and intimate in Eastern Central Sweden at the end of the
Middle Neolithic. Exchange of marriage partners occurred more regularly, and
more importantly, old rigid traditions regarding the making and decoration of
beakers were dissolved to a certain extent. It is interesting that the same does not
really apply to the Pitted Ware vessels: they do not contain grog temper nor are
they decorated with cord, whipped cord or tooth stamps. This suggests that the
beakers were used in special contexts by members of the two groups, in a way
the pitted-ware vessels were not.
Åsa M. Larsson & Gunlög Graner
From around 2400/2300 BC both Battle Axe culture and Pitted Ware culture
seem to “disappear” from the archaeological material, to be replaced by a
Late Neolithic culture which has traits from both, though mostly the Battle
Axe culture and its successors on the continent. Pottery now ceases to have a
prominent position both on settlements and in burials, and only rather crude
and simple containers are made. On early Late Neolithic sites “third group”
beakers with cord and pit decoration do occur to some extent, suggesting the
practices involving them are still around for a while longer. But in the second
half of the period we no longer find any small thin walled beakers. It really
seems that pottery in general looses its prominent position in society at this time.
The reasons for this are in all probability multiple and complex, but changes
in the role of pottery in ceremonies, rituals and everyday activities must have
played a part.
The apparent joining of the two groups at this time would also have removed
the role as visual markers these pots probably had before. The social identity of
being a Pitted Ware potter or a Battle Axe potter slowly dissolved by opening up
for alternative ways and traditions. This happened in different ways in different
regions. On Gotland for instance, where there was no established Battle Axe
culture, many late pitted-ware vessels are covered with cord impressions creating
a false “textile” pattern reminiscent of the textile pottery of south Finland and
the Baltic states (Rydh 1937; Meinander 1954; Lavento 2001; Kriiska et al. 2005).
Pitted Ware culture is most strongly established in Eastern Central Sweden, and
seems to continue longer there as well than in Skåne and Blekinge in the south.
This could be one reason why pit decorated beakers appear here and nowhere
More studies are needed of the pottery traditions and crafts in different regions
and periods of the Middle Neolithic. We must remember that the making of
objects was as important, or more important, as the object itself. Crafting
connected people to the present by contributing to everyday life and practices,
and it also connected them to the past by continuing in the footsteps of their
ancestors. We have to stop taking material culture at face value, and probe
beneath the surface.
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Agnieszka Matuszewska
Institute of History and International Relations, Department of Archaeology
Szczecin University, ul. Krakowska 71-79, 71-017 Szczecin, Poland
[email protected]
The Lower Odra Enclave of the Corded
Ware culture
In the Light of Contacts in the Southwestern Baltic Zone
This paper deals with the Late Neolithic Corded Ware culture in the region of
the lower Odra River, covering the area of the Szczecin Lowlands (on the Polish
side) as well as Wkrzańska Primeval Forest and Wkrzańskie Hills (on the German
side). This region – which is so crucial on the prehistorical map of Europe – has
been marginalized by archaeologists for 30 years, and in consequence, it is the
least recognized area in European prehistory. However, the lower Odra group –
which was marked in this area – is an essential and cognitively inspiring element
in the context of the problem of contacts in the Baltic Sea region. Above all,
it pertains primarily to the model of the functioning of this group either as a
closed communicative enclave that is not under any major external influence, or
– as the research indicates – as an element of a wider communicative community.
This element is defined as a circum-Baltic circle of the CWC (Kośko 1988). There
are certain exogenous features, easily interpretable in the lower Odra source
materials, which are characteristic for different areas located primarily in the
south and in the west. At the same time, it is possible to show a number of local
features which to a significant degree have influenced the characteristics and
development of the CWC.
Keywords: Corded Ware Culture, contacts, southwestern Baltic zone
Agnieszka Matuszewska
Short review of the previous conceptions
In the Late Neolithic Period, the southwestern Baltic zone was under the
influence of the Corded Ware Culture. This notion – defined several times in
the subject literature by Polish archaeologists – is limited in the west by the lower
Łaba River Valley, in the south by the central European Lowland Valley, and in
the east by the upper Vistula River Valley. The northern border is marked by the
southwestern Baltic Sea shores. Within the framework of a widely understood
circle of Corded Ware Culture, all the northern groupings connected with this
phenomenon were the subject of scientific research already in the 19th century.
As a result, there were many different suggestions regarding the taxonomical
outlines, and in consequence, complex models of historic interpretation were
formulated. This fact determines the need to trace next stages of the approach
to the problem of a “northern ecumene” of the Corded Ware Culture and the
“Lower Odra group” against a background of this “northern ecumene” of
the corded circle. However, it should be noted at the very beginning that the
conditions of research in the particular regions are very varied. There are a few
reasons for such conditions, the key reason probably being the uneven state of
recognition of the source materials connected with the CWC. The next problem
is the discrepancy between the different approaches to the phenomenon under
discussion. This discrepancy results from the different scientific centres in these
particular regions.
I am particularly interested in the region on the lower Odra River, which have
been of interest to German explorers for many years. The explorers’ interest in
this subject is dated from the end of the 19th century. Here, at the mouth of the
Odra River, A. Göetze distinguished in 1891 the local group of Corded Ware
Culture, which genetically would have been connected with central Germany
(Göetze 1891). Successive systematic investigations connected with the Corded
Ware Culture issue were undertaken here by E. Sprockoff in the 20th century
(Sprockoff 1925; 1926). As for the origin of the “Lower Odra” of the Corded
Ware Culture, Sprockoff completely agreed with the opinions of A. Göetze,
underlining the specific, local features of the discussed cultural entity.
The Lower Odra Enclave of the Corded Ware Culture
It is not possible to omit the for our consideration highly significant book by R.
Schroeder, a monograph presenting the phenomenon (Schroeder 1951). This
researcher distinguished the so-called “wkrzańska group of the Corded Ware Culture”,
which origin, as he saw it, was the result of influences of many elements at the
predominant role of the Single Grave Culture from northwest Europe. At the
same time, however, he assigned a number of determinants of this group such
as a) the beaker with an S-profile decorated with an engraving or impressed with
a cord rafter ornament or plastic ornament only; b) the beaker-shaped pottery
with two or four handles and an S-profile decorated similarly to beakers; c) stone
axes of a C1a type; d) single flat graves with loose stone enclosures.
In 1972, K. Siuchniński undertook the effort of a taxonomic-chronological
arrangement of the materials of the Corded Ware Culture from West Pomerania
(Siuchniński 1972). He claimed that the analysed area had not been subject to
penetration of groups connected with the oldest (the pan-European) horizon of
the Corded Ware Culture. According to Siuchniński, the Corded Ware Culture
from West Pomerania had developed at the transition between the Neolithic
and the Bronze Age. The “Lower Odra” groups would have been one of the
component parts of “beaker groups” of the Corded Ware Culture on the central
European Lowland.
In 1979, in the collective work The Prehistoric of Poland, J. Machnik summed up
the knowledge about the Corded Ware Culture in the Polish area (Machnik
1979). Machnik assigned the “Lower Odra group” to the “beaker circle” of the
Corded Ware, also including northern Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark.
However, according to J. Machnik, this group carries a number of local features,
and its separation and development took place in the period of forming the
local groups of the Corded Ware Culture in different regions. The distinction
of the “Lower Odra group” would first have been manifested in ceramics and
graves constructions.
Agnieszka Matuszewska
The next group of research postulates that continued this trend of reflections
over the Corded Ware Culture problems in West Pomerania is described in
a book published in 1983 – a result from a scientific symposium in Słupsk
(Malinowski 1983). Here, T. Wiślański expressed the opinion that materials of
the Corded Ware Culture from the western and central Pomerania area show
strong similarities with the German Lowlands and Denmark, creating an “integral
part Northern / corded beaker province” (Wiślański 1983). He also underlined the
relationships between the Corded Ware and Funnel Beaker Cultures, visible e.g.
in the pottery technology, in some vessel forms as well as in ornamentation.
J. Machnik also participated in this discussion, questioning some opinions
expressed several years earlier by K. Siuchniński (Machnik 1983). He claimed
that the area of western Pomerania in the Late Neolithic was intensely penetrated
by a population from the Corded Ware Culture from the beginning of the
culture’s existence. According to Machnik, the material sources of the Corded
Ware Culture have left characteristical traces in the whole seaside zone from the
Netherlands to Estonia. Keeping the two-phase division of the “Lower Odra
group”, as proposed by many researchers in this area, he noticed influences in
the earlier phase of the comb-pitted culture, and in the later phase he found
elements of different groups of the Corded Ware Culture from other Polish
areas (e.g. from the Upper Odra River, Upper Łużyce and Silesia).
Several years later, the “Wkrzańska group” was defined by A. Kośko as the
southeast border of the latest phase of the Single Grave Culture (Kośko 1988).
At the same time, Kośko created the concept called the circumbaltic circle of Corded
Ware Culture, as a special community of communication, rooted in the Mesolithic.
The last concept (by J. Czebreszuk) referred to a wider perspective, from the
Late Neolithic to the beginning of the Bronze Age in the southwestern Baltic
zone, and originated in the circle of archaeologists from Poznań University
(Czebreszuk 1996; 2001). This zone would have to stay in range of the so called
“Single Grave Culture package”. This package would first of all modify burying
behaviours and every regional change that depended on “quiet” features which
were clearly related to the Single Grave Culture.
The Lower Odra Enclave of the Corded Ware Culture
The taxonomy of the Corded Ware Culture on the Lower
I am particularly interested in the region on the Lower Odra River (fig 1),
which covers the area of the Szczecin Lowlands (on the Polish side) as well as
Wkrzańska Primeval Forest and Wkrzańskie Hills (on the German side). This
region – which is so crucial on the prehistorical map of Europe – has been
marginalised by archaeologists for 30 years and consequently belongs to the ones
poorly recognised on the archaeological map of Europe. Whereas the “Lower
Odra group” is clearly seen in this region - in the context of the problem of
contacts in the Baltic Sea region – the group appears to be an extremely essential
element and a source of inspiration.
Figure 1. Map showing the areas covered in the present paper (grey hatched areas).
Scale 1: 1 000 000.
Agnieszka Matuszewska
Here, I would like to show the taxonomy of the CWC in the Lower Odra region,
in other words to present which archaeological features are characteristic of
the CWC. The primary taxonomical features are connected with stationary
and mobile objects. Within a framework of the stationary objects, graves with
additional stone constructions such as stone enclosures, coffins or stone packing
should be mentioned (fig 2). However, among these, level graves were dominant;
although we also know cases where the accompanying element was a mound.
Moreover, there are many level graves. However, features related to this category
should also include instances where a stone construction originally existed and
was later destroyed. If we analyse features such as the laying fold of a grave and
its equipment, we should note some facts. All information in relation to late
burials suggests a relative homogeneity (a shrunken position). Most often, one
or two pottery shards were deposited in the grave, often accompanying a stone
axe or flint axe. Furthermore, we know some graves with very rich equipment,
such as several vessels and stone or flint tools.
From a perspective of mobile sources, the Lower Odra CWC-characterised
features are mainly connected with pottery and stone and flint staff. Within a
framework of macromorphology of the vessels connected with the analysed
culture, we should mention the shape of all sets (fig 3, fig 4). The category which
most often appears is S-profile beakers. In addition, we can mention funnel
beakers, amphoras, pots, bowls and – less numerous – mugs, jugs and amphoras
without ears. The almost complete absence of straightwall beakers which are
identified with influences from the SGC circle is noteworthy. Elements of
micromorphology that are most often associated with the CWC at the mouth
of Odra include pottery (fig 5). The observable ornamentation is rich and
complex. (fig 6). Apart from the simple motifs generally associated with the
CWC (simple engraved lines, horizontal cord impression, the so-called fish-bone
motif), we also see a development in the engraving technique, cord impression
and knurling technique. Ceramics production is predominately based on a very
small or average coarse-grained mineral admixture. It is worth noting the almost
complete absence of fat coarse-grained admixtures and the frequent utilisation
The Lower Odra Enclave of the Corded Ware Culture
Figure 2. Examples of graves with the
additional stone construction. a) Dębogóra;
b) Melzow, Jagen 11; c) Melzow, Jagen 4.
After Archive of the National Museum in
Szczecin (a); von Hagen 1915 (b, c).
Agnieszka Matuszewska
Figure 3. Division of the “Lower Odra group” pottery into macromorphological groups.
a) amphoras; b) mugs and jugs; c) amphoras without ears; d) bowls.
The Lower Odra Enclave of the Corded Ware Culture
Figure 4. Division of the “Lower Odra group” pottery into macromorphological
groups. a) pots; b) beakers.
Agnieszka Matuszewska
Figure 5. Examples of pottery providing in hand. a) Ramin; b) Żelisawiec, c) Schönow;
d) Kasekow; e) Kolin 13.
The Lower Odra Enclave of the Corded Ware Culture
Figure 6. Selection of pottery ornamentation.
Agnieszka Matuszewska
Figure 7. Selection of battle axes (K and
“wkrzański” type). a) Chełm Gryficki; b)
Pasewalk; c) & d) Gartz; e) Schmagerow;
f) Rothenklempenow; g) Grünz.
The Lower Odra Enclave of the Corded Ware Culture
Figure 8. Examples of grave goods with flint daggers. a) Duchowo; b) SzczecinPodjuchy 2.
of pink breakstone and mika. To summarize the features connected with stone
products, namely with their single category, battle axes, we have to study their
local type (wkrzański type) and their forms referring to type K e.g. to P. V. Glob
(Glob 1944), which often appear in a degenerate form (fig 7). For flint sources,
I have noticed the presence of four-side axes with thick bottom and mainly
convex surfaces or one convex surface and a blank second surface. Among the
flint arrowheads, the slender heart-shape forms predominate. In conclusion,
I would like to note the presence in the Lower Odra CWC materials of flint
daggers, the appearance of which in the discussed region we should definitely
connect with “corded” communities (fig 8).
Agnieszka Matuszewska
The Lower Odra CWC and SGC communities
Regarding ceramics and other elements of inventory, as well as certain burial rules
are concerned, the “Lower Odra group” of CWC and the SGC communities
from Jutland, Szlezwik-Holsztyn and Mecklenburg connect many parallel
features. On this level, many forms were omitted which were common for the
whole South Baltic zone, and which will be discussed separately. Regarding
pottery, this includes forms such as funnel beakers, vases, bowls and pots. The
difference in the discussed regions is their varying occurrence intensity (for
example, there is an absence of funnel beakers in Mecklenburg). However, it
seems that the chronological position of this particular form within the analysed
areas is approximate. In Jutland and Szlezwik-Holsztyn, funnel beakers were
registered in all phases of the SGC; however, the largest intensity was in the
earliest stage (phase 1a i 1b). Over Lower Odra, it is possible to identify funnel
beakers with CWC1 and CWC2. The forms included in the vase categories in
Jutland and Mecklenburg are connected with the latest period of SGC (phase 3b
in Jutland, specimens with a knurling technique in Mecklenburg). Similar (late)
chronology includes forms of the “Lower Odra group”. Bowls in Jutland are
identified with phases from 2a to 3a, whereas in Mecklenburg, they appear quite
early (the beginning of FG II). In the “Lower Odra group”, they are connected
with the proto-Bronze influence phenomenon (phase 3a i 3b); however, we know
of single specimens from CWC 2. The last category, pots, is included for the
decadent phases of SGC through Danish and German research. In the material
that I have analysed, using inventories of CWC3a in 3b phases, the pots, similar
to bowls, also appear earlier (CWC 2). A small frequency (an almost complete
absence) of a form of Lower Odra straightwall beakers is interesting in the
CWC inventories. In the area of Jutland, Szlezwik-Holsztyn and Mecklenburg,
this form has an unequivocally late chronology, not many Lower Odra objects
have a similar position (for example Plöwen).
When studying the remaining elements of the inventory, we should note the
absence of a register of features that would be diagnostic only for the SGC and
the “Lower Odra group”. In this context, we should only pay attention to flint
The Lower Odra Enclave of the Corded Ware Culture
heart-shaped arrows, known beyond the Lower Odra-area from the Mecklenburg
SGC. Among the forms of graves known from the “Lower Odra group”, a
miscellaneous version of stone constructions such as graves with stone packing,
graves beneath paving and secondary graves within megalithic constructions
seem to be of great importance for the problems under discussion. We should
attribute a particular position to small stone coffins, which appear only in the
discussed regions in the South Baltic zone. When graves are analysed, it is
possible to ascertain the problem of chronological position. In the “Lower Odra
group” and the SGC, it is approximate. Graves have occurred in all phases of
the discussed cultural units. We are faced with a different situation considering
graves beneath stone paving. In Jutland, they are connected with the FBC and the
transitional period between the FBC and the SGC. Their chronological position
above Lower Odra definitely seems late. They are noted most strongly in the
latest (third) phase of the local CWC. We meet a similar situation in the case of
secondary graves in megalithic constructions. In the SGC, they are connected
with the oldest phases; in the material sources in the Lower Odra region, their
longer chronology is suggested. Chronological and quantitative differences are
also observed on the analysis of the surfaces of stone battle-axes. In the area of
Jutland and Szlezwik-Holsztyn, the sequence of development of the discussed
category is simple and there is no doubt of the chronology (from the oldest
A-beakers to the youngest K and L type). The situation in the Lower Odra
area is in many ways analogous to that in Mecklenburg. We should mention the
uneven occurrence of individual types and the survival of some of the types
(e.g. the A type) until the latest phases of the CWC.
Coherence of the Lower Odra CWC communities with
Wielkopolsko-Kujawska Lowland
The register of features, which is possible to interpret as an indicator of coherence
of the CWC “Lower Odra group” with communities from Wielkopolska-Kujawy
Lowland, include ceramic sources from a range of macromorphology (two part
funnel beakers, vases, bowls) and of micromorphology (suppling pottery in
Agnieszka Matuszewska
a vessel). We should attribute a special position in this context to mugs, jugs,
amphoras without ears and amphoras. In the South Baltic zone, these forms
(excluding one specimen, an amphora from Mecklenburg) are only registered in
the Lower Odra, Wielkopolska and Kujawy areas. In all the mentioned regions,
their chronological position is also similar. They are generally recognised as a
phenomenon of received proto-Bronze features by CWC communities, such as
the Protounietyce Culture (PUC) and the Bell Beakers (BB). When describing
non-pottery equipment, we cannot omit the problem of the distribution of
battle-axes, especially the wkrzański type, which is characteristical of the Lower
Odra region. In addition to Mecklenburg, they also appear in Wielkopolska and
Kujawy. Regarding burials, we should mention the common graves forms such
as stone packed graves and graves beneath stone paving. In the Lower Odra
area, those types have a long chronology (stone packed graves), or it is possible
to identify them with a definite time partition (graves beneath stone paving).
In the area of Wielkopolska-Kujawy Lowland, stone packed graves and graves
beneath stone paving, can, on the basis of equipment, be associated with phases
CWC 3 and CWC 4 according to J. Czebreszuk (Czebreszuk 1996). A grave from
Żerniki 27, for which we have two radiocarbon dates (95.4% probability - 28702520 BC, 2880-2610 BC; Czebreszuk 2001: 216, tab. 4), has the earliest position.
CWC in the entire South Baltic zone
When analysing the position and coherence of the group of the Lower Odra
CWC in the entire South Baltic zone, we have to indicate certain features that
are common for them. Such features include pottery forms such as beakers and
amphoras of A-type, S-profile beakers, straightwall beakers, pots and pottery of
the WLT type. Considering other elements of the CWC inventory, it is necessary
to mention the stone battle-axes (of A-type) and the presence of flint axes as a
grave equipment element. In addition, we should mention level graves without
any protection. The degree of repeatability of these elements in the individual
regions as well as their chronological position is obviously different. Regarding
the range of coherence between the Lower Odra CWC and other groups from
the individual regions discussed above, it seems that it shows a maximum of
The Lower Odra Enclave of the Corded Ware Culture
common features with Mecklenburg, Wielkopolska and Kujawy. However,
exogenous features were adopted during its development were subjected to a
selective reception. In the initial phase of development, the “Lower Odra group”
featured “western orientation” and it is clear that they played a considerable
role in the sphere of distribution of features on the west-east axis. A certain
change is observed in the later phase. The still existing reception of western
elements (late SGC, BB) is currently studied regarding their contacts with the
south. Our analysis of contacts between CWC societies from the Lower Odra
and the southeast Baltic zone indicates that the hypothesis about their limited
scale is most likely.
Using the scheme presented in figure 9, we can observe that in a majority of
the discussed regions, the CWC appears about 2900/2850 BC. It is difficult
to comment on this problem with reference to the Lower Odra, Wielkopolska
and Ziemia Lubuska areas. The turning point of the appearance of the first
“corded” elements has been established through radiocarbon designations from
neighbouring fields. However, it is possible to risk the statement that this turning
point is no later than about 2800 BC. It is interesting to draw the chronological
relationships of the CWC from the southeast Baltic area. CWC features appear
in this region about 2850 BC and they last until 2550 BC. This length of time is
brief enough in comparison with the chronology of the entire Baltic zone. In
the South Baltic zone, the Przymorska culture (PC) has the longest chronology.
It starts near 3200/3100 BC. With regard to the taxonomic position, the material
identified with the discussed unit (e.g. Machnik 1997), we have to connect the
earliest period with the southeastern GAC group. Elements of PC survived
until 2100/2050 BC. The problem of the end of the CWC in the entire Baltic
zone is a thought provoking question. In a southwestern part of the Baltic zone
connected with SGC, this moment is dated to 2300/2200 BC. A decidedly longer
chronology of this phenomenon can be observed in Kujawy, where the decline
of the local CWC is dated to about 2000 BC. CWC features survive the longest
on Lower Odra, in Wielkopolska and Ziemia Lubuska, i.e. until 1950/1900? BC.
Agnieszka Matuszewska
Figure 9. The chronology of cultural phenomena connected with the Corded Ware
Culture in the South Baltic are (Jutlandia, Szlezwik-Holsztyn After Hübner 2005; Kujawy After Czebreszuk & Szmyt 2001).
About 2900/2850 BC in the south Baltic zone, the first representatives of the
CWC appear. The oldest dating we have at present is for a territory which is
identified with the SGC (Jutland, Szlezwik-Holsztyn, and Mecklenburg) and
with Kujawy. The appearance of the CWC on Lower Odra had undoubtedly an
exogenous character and was connected with the oldest all-European Horizon
of CWC. It should be associated with the migration of small groups of people
(from western Europe - Mecklenburg). Limited sources linked to it suggest
a small population potential of newcomers. The area of their penetration is
principally concentrated to an area on the west part of Odra. From the field of
today’s Poland we can only mention a small settlement from Szczecin-Mścięcino
The Lower Odra Enclave of the Corded Ware Culture
and stray finds of pottery and A-type stone axes. The Lower Odra region in this
period presented only one of elements of the wider ecumene penetrated by the
mobile CWC communities. One aspect of their presence on the archaeological
surface is the scarcity of grave objects. It seems that in this period, they founded
small settlements of a transitory character.
We did not record any reliable chronological premises indicating the decline of
CWC 1. The material aspects characteristic for this group are registered in the
context of a “transitional” group between CWC 1 and 2 (Duchowo?) or CWC
2. They could indicate a poly-linear co-existence of communities of the panEuropean horizon with later communities. However, in this case I would rather
accept another variant. This presupposes a relocation of small populations from
the SGC circle, linked with the subsequent taxonomical-chronological units –
CWC 2.
The features tied to CWC 2 forms a continuation between certain local patterns
connected between FBC/GAC and the CWC A-horizon. It is difficult to
precisely establish the moment of appearance of objects generally identified
with the central German territories, i.e. the faceted stone battle-axes. At present,
we can hypothetically connect it with CWC 2. The role of “transmitter” was
fulfilled in this particular case by the Brandenburg region, where these objects
appear at the end of phase FG I (Fundgruppe I; Jacobs 1991). In the course
of time, we can observe a process of gradual decrease of “assimilability” of
supraregional traits. The ecumene, occupied until now, was extended, particularly
in an easterly direction. We can state that communities connected with the CWC
gradually occupied the territories of the FBC communities. It seems that the
latter were pushed northwards (to the fields north of Szczecin, Wolin Island?),
and southwards (Cedynia), regions that were less attractive from an ecological
aspect. The role that CWC 2 communities played in initiating this process is
unclear. A local group identified with CWC 2 seems to have stimulated the
transformation process. C. 2500/2400 BC is the prime period of the Lower
Odra CWC.
Agnieszka Matuszewska
Important changes followed about 2400/2300 BC, in the period identified with
the beginning of CWC 3. On Lower Odra, we observe a dualism of development
of local CWC-groups that is difficult to explain. A stage of cultural stability and a
spatial expansion of Lower Odra CWC communities exist in this period together
with a simultaneous phenomenon of the adaptation of proto-Bronze features.
The dynamics of this process is clearly visible. CWC communities were included
in all changes taking place in the wider area (e.g. Kujawy and Wielkopolska). This
process is difficult to understand and interpret. It is possible that there was a
slow breakdown of agricultural economy, and consequently a crisis in the FBC
circle. Another hypothesis admits the probability that the CWC had more direct
contacts with the local population that facilitated assimilation and naturalisation
in the local environment. In the first phase identified with CWC 3a, we observe
the phenomenon of the “Lower Odra group” (or only some part connected
with them?) “closure” on the standards from outside (especially from the late
SGC circle and central Germany). The need for a link with the genetic area dies
out. This phenomenon is especially visible in comparison with neighbouring
areas, particularly Wielkopolska and Kujawy. In Wielkopolska, we discern links
with central Germany (Pospieszny 2007, s. 118), whereas Kujawy has been put
under the Jutland-Mecklenburg SGC influence. Cultural development of CWC
features in this period is a stabilisation expressed e.g. in a growing settlement
ecumene. The settlement structure is considerably condensed. Mobility is
partially limited. This rather homogenous cultural system does not show any
traits of differentiation or symptoms of disintegration. Regarding pottery
(especially in 3b phase), we see features that are generally recognised as specific
for the area (complicated engraving motifs, suppling pottery in hands). Other
aspects worth mentioning are the production of battle-axes of a wkrzański type
on a mass scale. This phenomenon is hard to explain at the present. It seems that
in this period, the basic meaning must be intraregional contacts.
About 2300 BC, we have observed the phenomenon of an adaptation of
Late Neolithic features from the west (BB) and proto-Bronze features from
the south (PUC); in this case, the southern factor was predominant. “Corded
The Lower Odra Enclave of the Corded Ware Culture
communities” took an active part in the proto-Bronze acculturation process and
were included in the process of dynamic changes, presenting a basic cultural
substratum of these changes. The adaptation of the new standards had a selective
character and had been limited to a selected category of material sources. At
this time, we must interpret the cultural status of BB on the Lower Odra in the
“cultural package” category, selected elements of which always appear in CWC
material sources context. We agree with J. Machnik, who supports the presumed
infiltration of the Baltic zone by CWC by communities of BB, which showed
strong connections with the local “corded” character (Machnik 1978, s. 126).
Within the analysed area, features identified with BB enrich an assortment of
“corded” features as well as undergo local transformations (ornament of the
Gurtband type).
A key issue is the relationship between the CWC and the UC. I would suggest
that after their contact with the CWC community, they took over certain
standards, although retaining their cultural identity. Simultaneously we can
observe a continuous development of the CWC tradition.
This article came into being thanks to grant KBN nr 1 H01H 047 27.
Agnieszka Matuszewska
Czebreszuk J. 1996. Społeczności Kujaw w początkach epoki brązu. Poznań.
Czebreszuk J. 2001. Schyłek neolitu i początki epoki brązu w strefie południowozachodniobałtyckiej (III i początki II tys. przed Chr.). Poznań.
Glob P. V. 1944. Studier over den jyske enkeltgravskultur, Aarbořger for Nordisk
Oldkyndoghed og Historie. 1944.
Göetze A. 1891. Die Gefässformen und Ornamente der neolithischen, schnurverzierten
Keramik im Flussgebiete der Saale. Jena.
Hübner E. 2005. Jungneolithische Gräber auf der Jütischen Halbinsel. Typologische und
chronologische Studien zur Einzelgrabkultur. København.
Jacobs J. 1991. Die Einzelgabkultur in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Beiträge zur Ur- und
Frühgeschichte Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Bd. 24. Schwerin.
Kośko A. 1988. Rozwój kulturowy społeczeństw Kujaw w okresach późnego
neolitu oraz w interstadium epok neolitu i brązu w aspekcie recepcji
egzogennych wzorców kulturotwórczych. In: Cofta-Broniewska, A. (ed)
Kontakty pradziejowych społeczeństw Kujaw z innymi ludami Europy. pp 145-183.
Machnik, J. 1979. Krąg kultur ceramiki sznurowej. In: Hensel, W. & Wiślański,
T. (eds) Prahistoria Ziem Polskich, t. II, Neolit. pp 337-411. Wrocław-WarszawaKraków-Gdańsk.
Machnik, J. 1983. Problem kontynuacji i dyskontynuacji kulturowej na przełomie
neolitu i epoki brązu na terenie Pomorza Zachodniego i Pomorza Środkowego.
In: Malinowski, T. (ed) Problemy epoki kamienia na Pomorzu. pp 201-204. Słupsk.
Machnik, J. 1997. “Rzucewo Culture” and the Early Horizon of the Corded
Ware. In: Król, D. (ed) The Built Environment of Coast Areas During the Stone Age.
pp 128-134. Gdańsk.
Malinowski T. (ed) 1983. Problemy epoki kamienia na Pomorzu. Słupsk.
Pospieszny Ł. 2007. Groby kultury ceramiki sznurowej w Wielkopolsce i na
Kujawach. Exam Paper. Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu:
Instytut Prahistorii.
Schroeder R. 1951. Die Nordgruppe der Oderschnurkeramik. Vorgeschichtliche
Forschungen. Heft. 14. Berlin.
The Lower Odra Enclave of the Corded Ware Culture
Siuchniński K. 1972. Klasyfikacja czasowo-przestrzenna kultur neolitycznych na Pomorzu
Zachodnim. Część II. Opracowanie analityczne. Szczecin.
Sprockhoff E. 1925. Zur Oderschnurkeramik. Studien zur vorgeschichtlichen
Archäologie. Leipzig.
Sprockhoff E. 1926. Die kulturen der jüngeren Steinzeit in der Mark Brandenburg.
Wiślański T. 1983. Rola Pomorza w młodszej epoce kamienia. In: Malinowski, T.
(ed) Problemy epoki kamienia na Pomorzu. pp 41-59. Słupsk.
Marcin Szydlowski
Department of Archaeology, Szczecin University
ul. Krakowska 71-79, 71-017 Szczecin, Poland
[email protected]
The Valley of the Central Obra River
In the Light of Long-Distance Exchange Contacts with the Baltic
Area in the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age
This article presents the Kościan Group (Únětice culture) along the route of the
long-distance contacts between Moravia and the Baltic Zone (the Lower Odra
river-basin) in the Early Bronze Age. The Kościan region possessed numerous
features, which contributed to the emergence of the route along which people
travelled carrying new cultural patterns (the discoveries in Łęki Małe, Bruszczewo
and Kokorzyn; further exceptionally geographical conditions).
Keywords: Neolithic/Early Bronze Age, Obra River, Únětice culture
Marcin Szydlowski
This paper will attempt to outline the structure of long-distance contacts of
the Kościan group (KG) belonging to the Únětice culture (UC), and more
specifically to distinguish the characteristics of their most probable directions
of long-distance exchange, on the basis of diagnostic features.
The Kościan group
The discoveries of the cemetery in Łęki Małe and the settlement in Bruszczewo
were extremely significant events in the history of the research on the UC in
Poland. The results of the research carried out at the sites (as well as the attempts
to identify the long-distance trade exchange routes running across that area)
resulted later in the distinguishing of another UC group – the Kościan group.
Z. Pieczyński had already postulated such a new group, based on the cultural
distinction of that area (Pieczyński 1970: 268ff). However, the Kościan group,
in the chronological sense discussed below, appeared in the literature for the first
time in 1979 (Kośko 1979). Kośko regarded the KG as an important factor that
played a significant transitory role between the north (Kujavia) and Lower Silesia
and Germany (Kośko 1979).
The Kościan group is regarded as a peripheral UC group, manifesting its
distinctiveness especially in the classical stage. The KG community was strongly
hierarchical, as evidenced by the rich burials in Łęki Małe. As a hypothesis it has
even been suggested that they were of a protodynastic character, which may be
proved by their linear arrangement and the find of an object that functioned as
an insignia (halberds). The KG was considered to play a key role in the circulation
of bronze objects from the west to the east, and of bronze from the north to
the south (Romańska 2000).
The KG occupied an area of south-west Great Poland (fig 1). In physicalgeographical terms, these are the regions of the Kościan Plain, the valley of the
central Obra River and a part of the Sława and Krzywin Lakelands (Krygowski
The Walley of the Central Obra River
Figure 1. Map of the study area and its location in south-west Great Poland.
Long-distance exchange
The course of the hypothetical directions of exchange, which are discussed
below, is determined on the basis of archaeological sources displaying exogenous
features. These are mostly pottery and minor metals, and to a smaller extent
amber and lithics.
Pottery vessels
Concerning long-distance contacts, the following types of pottery vessels are
most important: bowls, cups, pots, storage vessels and amphorae. Among the
bowls, the most significant is the find from Kokorzyn (fig 2). It was originally
identified with the Corded Ware culture (Waga 1931); later it was recognised by J.
Machnik as an exemplification of the so-called Dobre type (Machnik 1967, 1978:
9ff). The bowl had four plastic pellets below the rim; the surface colour was
dark brown. Analogies may be found in Silesia – in the form of the finds from
Przecławice, district of Wrocław, and from Wrocław-Oporów (Sarnowska 1969:
Marcin Szydlowski
Figure 2. A bowl from Kokorzyn (from the collection of the Archaeological Museum in
Poznań – further: AMP).
283f) as well as from Kujavia in the material from the cemetery in Bożejewice
(Dobre type) (Kośko 1991; Cofta-Broniewska & Kośko 2002). From Bohemia,
this type of vessel is known from Plotistě (Filip 1966: Plate 15), Moravská Nová
Ves – Hrušky (Stuchlík & Stuchlíková 1996: fig 22) and from the Saale River
valley near Merseburg (Zich 1996: plate 61) and the Lower Odra Basin River
(Matuszewska & Szydłowski 2007).
Special attention should be given to a specimen found in the barrow mound IV,
a pottery vessel with the richest kind of engraved ornamentation indicating an
early-Únětice origin – horizontal grooves and triangles are commonly associated
with the oldest UC horizon (fig 3). This find has analogies in the form of a
vessel from Grzegorzowo, district of Strzelin, which is similarly decorated with
horizontal grooves and a “hanging-triangle” motif (Sarnowska 1969: 261).
Vessels of similar decoration and shape were also found at the cemeteries in
Marszowice and in Kuyavia (Bożejewice). In Bohemia, analogous forms have
been found for example in Pňow (Bartelheim 1998); vessels with the same
morphology, but undecorated, are known also from graves in Mergendorf,
Riesa (Billig 1958) and on the lower Oder (e.g. Babin, Barnisław) (Matuszewska,
Szydłowski 2007).
The Walley of the Central Obra River
Figure 3. A cup from barrow IV from Łęki Małe (from the collection of AMP).
In the discussed area, amber is represented mainly by grave finds: from Przysieka
Polska in the form of a perforated amber disc; similar objects have also been
recorded in Brusy and Szczecin-Płonia (Bukowski 2002). At Łęki Małe, amber
beads were found in burial mounds 1 and 2, and in burial mound 3, one large
amber bead measured over 5 cm in diameter. Another amber bead was found in
Bruszczewo during the excavations in the 2005 season.
Marcin Szydlowski
Figure 4. Directions of exchange and cultural influences during a) the PrtoÚnětice stage, b) the classical stage and c) the final stage of the Únětice culture.
The Walley of the Central Obra River
Exchange directions
The above mentioned brief characteristics of the resource material concerning
the spatial context of its occurrence may be a helpful premise in the analysis of
potential exchange directions.
In the time of the Proto-Únětice culture (fig 4a), the main direction of the
population and new cultural pattern inflow could have been from the central
Danube, along the river arteries and the Morava and the Elbe to the area of
Rudawy, to the north along the Nysa Kłodzka and the Ślęża. They probably
reached Kuyavia along two “ways”: along the Oder to Głogów and further to
the north through the Kościan region (Kokorzyn) or up that river to the Pyrzyce
region, along the rivers of Warta and Noteć (Skrzatusz i Śmiardowo Krajeńskie)
towards Kuyavia (Szydłowski 2003; 2004).
During the crystallisation period of the classical UC (fig 4b), the direction of
exchange had a parallel dimension. On the basis of a stronger concentration of
the classical Únětice resources at the confluence of the Nysa Łużycka and the
Oder, as well as in the vicinity of Głogów, we may suggest that the crossings of
the rivers were located here, as well as local trade exchange centres. Thus, the
route ran almost parallel from Saxony to the river mouth of Nysa Łużycka, and
then towards Głogów, and further crossing the Obra River near Kościan towards
Kujavia. Here, a resilient Early Bronze Age exchange centre was located, which
probably linked “the South” with the Baltic coast – an area where succinite
was acquired. The Elbe and the Oder also functioned as signposts directing the
“ways” of exchange. The first was an axis of cultural circulation with the area
of central Bohemia and Moravia during the classical UC period; while the Oder
was an artery along which classical Únětice bronzes could be spread to the north
of the UC reach.
During the final period of the UC (fig 4c), next to the exchange route that most
probably still existed within the parallel system, a southeastern direction was
becoming increasingly important. The so-called Mad’arovce-Věteřov patterns
Marcin Szydlowski
were transmitted along the Morava, the Elbe to Saxony, and along the Oder,
through Głubczyce Upland (Nowa Cerkwia, Jędrychowice) to Lower Silesia and
further from Głogów to the north through the Kościan region (Bruszczewo).
One of the directions could have been the lower Warta basin, as indicated by a
fortified site from that period discovered in Słopanów (Szydłowski 2003).
Therefore, we can state that the area of Elba and the Saale basins was a dominant
UC centre, especially in the northern part of the area. It also influenced the area
north of the high-density UC range.
The Kościan region possessed numerous features, which contributed to the
emergence of the route, along which people travelled carrying new cultural
patterns. According to M. Dobrowolska, there are many factors and conditions
(Dobrowolska 1974: 91ff; Brencz 1996) contributing to the cultural scenery: e.g.
geographical conditions. The Obra with its minor tributaries and wide periodic
pools created favourable conditions for travelling and the transportation of large
amounts of goods in winter, when its comparatively shallow and wide-spread
waters froze (Bartkowski 1953: 77ff; Kurnatowski 1963: 181ff, 1968: 183ff,
1992: 15ff, 1994: 33ff; Wędzki 1987), as evidenced by animal bones processed
into ice skates (Silska 2001). The geographical factor is considered superior in
terms of the influence on the human activity in the surrounding environment.
The way it was perceived was important to the spatial organisation of the area
penetrated by a given group. Another significant element was the economiccultural conditions; in order for a route to emerge, there must be a certain group
of people with strong economic foundations, producing high value products
to offer something valuable to the neighbouring settlements – one example is
the metallurgist’s workshop from Bruszczewo. Social and political factors are
equally important; first of all creating social-political structures able to direct
that field of activity, to profit from it and to develop that economic branch.
The linear arrangement of the barrows in Łęki Małe could suggest a significant
stratification in the community inhabiting the central Obra basin in the early
The Walley of the Central Obra River
period of the Bronze Age (Czebreszuk 2001). The route, once formed, stays
in the social consciousness for a long time and plays a significant role in that
community, and was cultivated generation after generation, as proved by J.
Burszta in his ethnographic research (Burszta 1966: 651ff; Nowakowski &
Rączkowski 2002: 247ff).
It should be emphasised that to a very slight degree, the existing research allows
for a comparison of the “Proto-Únětice” materials. Only in the classical stage
can comparative analyses be carried out, however, and only within the sphere
of grave wares. On the other hand, for the post-classical stage, only settlement
material has been recorded. Based on the available material, numerous similarities
were noticed – hence that area was included to the UC occurrence area – as well
as many differences. The KG has some exogenous features, on the basis of
which we can definitely identify it as an important exchange point on the map
of the long-distance exchange contacts in the Early Bronze Age.
Marcin Szydlowski
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