Mesolitiske bosættelser ved Gudenåsystemets søer og åer


  • Karen Rysgaard
  • Kaj Fredsgaard Rasmussen
  • Felix Riede



mesolitiske bosættelser, Gudenåsystemet


Mesolithic settlements by the lakes and watercourses of the Gudenå system

In the late 19th and early 20th century, several amateur archaeologists collected considerable quantities of archaeological artefacts from a large number of Stone Age settlements in Jutland, especially along the upper reaches of the river Gudenå at Tørring. In the 1930s, these activities were made more systematic, and supplemented by field-walking, minor excavations and collection along the major river and lake systems by archaeologist Therkel Mathiassen. The collective results of these investigations were published as Gudenaa-Kulturen (The Gudenå culture) in 1937. On the basis of comparative studies involving the Mesolithic cultures of eastern Denmark, S.H. ­Andersen and N. Sterum (1971) argued that the localities containing artefacts from the Gudenå culture actually represented mixed assemblages and were therefore of little scientific value. Their conclusion has, in many ways, had a deterrent effect on the last five decades of research into Mesolithic inland settlements in Jutland.

Since 2011, six Mesolithic localities have been excavated within Museum Silkeborg’s archaeological jurisdiction:

Holm Mølle was encountered by excavation on the planned route of a high-voltage power cable (figs. 2-4). Excavation revealed a c. 30 m2 area containing worked flint together with a small charcoal-rich hollow surrounded by oval greyish features. In and around this presumed hearth lay a quantity of white-burnt flint and charred hazelnut shells.

Sølund comprised a bleached sand layer containing finds that covered an area of c. 1500 m2 and yielded exclusively flint from the Maglemose culture (figs. 5-6). At the base of this sand layer, thin charcoal layers were observed, which contained burnt flint and charred hazelnut shells. The site is of considerable extent compared to other excavated coeval localities in central Jutland.

Sølyst. Excavation revealed about 500 m2 of flint-containing cultural layers that – with the aid of microliths – were dated to the Maglemose culture (figs. 7-8). The layers were more complex than first rea­lised, and the presence of several springs had led to the formation of extensive peat cover, which sealed finds-rich layers up to 50 cm in thickness.

Sørkelvej proved to be an extensive stratified cultural layer, with distinct layers containing tools from, respectively, the Maglemose and Kongemose cultures, cut through by later features, including a Neolithic pit (figs. 10-11). This is the first time that a stratigraphic sequence has been demonstrated at an inland site in central Jutland, where material from the Maglemose culture is directly overlain by material from the Kongemose culture.

Sørkelvej II. Adjustments to the project at Sørkelvej resulted in further investigations in the area, leading to the discovery, beneath extensive peat layers, of a minor flint concentration around a small charcoal-rich patch (figs. 12-13). The flint assemblage is dated to the Maglemose culture.

Kirkebjerggård III. At the edge of a small wetland area, occasional flint concentrations were encountered in association with an earlier vegetation surface in the bog (fig. 14). The finds, some of which are made from frost-shattered flint, include several scrapers, a core borer, a hammerstone and two pressure flakers/fabricators.

With time, the results of these new investigations can hopefully contribute significantly to a better understanding of the Mesolithic record in Jutland, as well as counteracting some of the reluctance to deal with the sites here, after the so-called Gudenå culture was discredited and dismissed in 1971.

The 90 localities recorded in total within Museum Silkeborg’s archaeological jurisdiction are very largely represented by surface collections. In general, they are situated in the immediate vicinity of watercourses and lakes. The major local­ities all lie by open water, in the form of lake and river systems, and presumably reflect repeated occupations over time. A few sites are though situated on higher ground, between 70 and 530 m from the nearest watercourse or wetland area.

The recently excavated sites open up new perspectives for further investigation of Mesolithic inland settlements and the possibility of encountering in situ structures and even stratigraphy. It seems therefore likely that there is excellent potential for productive investigation of several other “old” sites that have been more or less dismissed as mixed surface assemblages.

The recently excavated Mesolithic sites confirm the picture formed earlier with respect to a classic location in the immediate vicinity of the lakes and rivers of the Gudenå system. The preliminary findings suggest that the major localities lie by lakes or largewatercourses, while the smaller localities, representing a single brief occupation, are generally found further inland. It is remarkable that, despite shifting climatic conditions, people in the Stone Age repeatedly returned to the same localities by lakes and rivers. We can possibly perceive these sites as “enduring places” that, in addition to their ecological-economic value, also had cultural significance.

The major localities appear to be the products of numerous individual events, some of which overlap horizontally and have thereby resulted in relatively significant quantities of finds distributed over extensive areas at these sites.

The artefact assemblages dating from the Maglemose culture can, with time, contribute to identification of the Jutlandic flint inventory and yield important information on the exploitation of the Jutland interior – also with respect to resources located further away from the major watercourses and lakes.

Despite the fact that the stratigraphy at Sørkelvej appears to support a cultural devel­opment – reflected in the microliths – that follows the established eastern Danish sequence, this development has not been elucidated satisfactorily in the Jutland record. In northern Germany, sites from the Kongemose culture are virtually absent, and much now suggests that core elements of the Kongemose culture are not of local origin, but arrived here from the east. Furthermore, around 6400 BC, a marked change took place in the hydrology of Denmark, which can be linked to the so-called “8.2 kiloyear event”. The latter affected the weather, climate and environment in the northern hemisphere. These climatic changes took place more or less simultaneously with the massive Storegga tsunami, which directly affected Mesolithic settlements in for example Norway and the British Isles. Its effect has also been demonstrated recently in Denmark, despite the fact that the majority of the coastline affected at that time now lies submerged beneath the sea. Significant changes can be traced in the settlement patterns and the material culture of this period in several areas of northern Europe, when climatic and environmental events, together with possible migrations and changes in the contact network of the time, led to innovation in and transformation of the tool inventories. It is striking in this respect that none of the newly-discovered sites has an absolute date later than 6400-6200 BC, the time when coastal localities become common in the Danish archaeological record. Even though there are many uncertain factors involved, this could possibly reflect a shift in settlement strategy, from a fundamentally inland orientation to a subsequent coastal orientation. The data foundation is still too slight for absolute conclusions to be drawn with respect to the internal versus external developmental influences, and how these relate to for example the chronological developments at the Stone Age localities. The long-term aim is to be able to place recently excavated sites in a broader national and international (northern European) context and use them to formulate new archaeological and environmental working hypotheses for future investigations in the region.

Karen Rysgaard
Kaj Fredsgaard Rasmussen
Silkeborg Museum

Felix Riede
Aarhus Universitet
Institut for Kultur og Samfund
Afdeling for Arkæologi






Rysgaard, K., Rasmussen, K. F., & Riede, F. (2016). Mesolitiske bosættelser ved Gudenåsystemets søer og åer. Kuml, 65(65), 55–80.