Tidlig neolitiske anlæg ved Tolstrup


  • Torsten Madsen


Tolstrup, anlæg


Early Neolithic structures at Tolstrup near Løgstør  

In 1965, excavation revealed Early Neolithic structures of the Funnel Beaker culture at the village of Tolstrup, not far east of Løgstør in North Jutland. The site was situated about 250 m due east of the village at a height of about 10 m above sea level with a view westwards over a now dry arm of the Lim Fjord. The excavation was conducted by Aalborg Historical Museum.

The excavated area was dominated by 10 large and up to 1.8 m deep modem excavations (fig. 1). Five of these contained a total of ten large stones with a maximum dimension of 1.2-1.5 m. The other five excavations contained splinters of large stones. The relative position of the stones suggest that they are the remains of a NW-SE oriented long barrow. The width of the structure must have been 6-7 m. One end is at the south-eastern end of the excavation area, and the other end somewhere northwest of it.

Within the circumference of the barrow, but also in tongues extending outside it, was a 10-15 cm thick layer of brown soil containing some flint and much pottery. Enclosed by this layer were the remains of four separate structures, three of which lay within the area bounded by the stones, while the fourth lay outside, to the south-west. Of these structures, no. III (fig. I) must be a grave constructed in connection with the barrow, while no. IV, which is most probably also a grave judging by its pottery and position, must be older than both grave III and the barrow. I and II are both layers of red-burnt clay. II contained a couple of entire clay vessels, an axe, an amber head and a transverse arrowhead, which would suggest a grave. Other circumstances, for example the culture soil mentioned, rather suggest a settlement layer of some kind, which is supported by the supposition that the structure is considerably older than grave III and the barrow.

Structure I (fig. I, I). A 1.5 X 1.2 m patch of clay, 2-6 cm thick, with a red-burnt surface. Immediately above the clay were a number of particles of charcoal. No artefacts were found in connection with this clay.

Structure II (fig. I, II). A 15 cm thick layer of clay measuring 2.5-3.0 X 2.0- 3.0 m, with local patches burnt red. Embedded in the clay and in the vicinity were the remains of 5 Early Neolithic A vessels, a pointed-butted flint axe, a transverse arrowhead and a little amber.

Structure III (fig. l, III). A heap of stones measuring 4.0 X 2.5 m, partly disturbed by the plough, and probably constituting the disturbed remains of an inhumation grave. The heap was oriented parallel to the barrow and lay close to its south­western side. At the north-west end of the pile was a pit measuring 0.6 X 0.4 m, with a depth of 25 cm, and less than a metre south-west of this was another pit, outside the pile, more or less in line with the south-western stones, measuring 1.0 X 0. 7 m and with a depth of 25 cm. In and around the two pits were the sherds of 8 originally entire vessels and the remains of a number of other vessels of which only a few sherds were present. This pottery should on stylistic evidence be placed in a very late part of the Early Neolithic. Between the stones in the centre and the eastern end of the pile were a number of amber beads.

Structure IV (fig. I, IV). A collection of large stones measuring 2.0 X 1.5 m between which were the remains of an undecorated lugged flask. Immediately east of this were a number of sherds of an undecorated lugged pot. This structure no doubt represented a disturbed inhumation grave.

On account of the almost total devastation by digging and ploughing, it was not possible to establish stratigraphical continuity between the various structures. The relative dating is based on the pottery, which indicates structure II (and with this no doubt also structure I) as the oldest, followed by grave IV, with grave III as the youngest. Of these only grave III can have any connection with the long barrow, since we would not expect to find grave IV lying outside if it had already existed when this grave was constructed.

Pottery: The pottery temper consists as is common in Funnel Beaker pottery, of crushed granite and feldspar in quite large amounts and sometimes rather large pieces. Three sherds from a lid formed an exception, being tempered with organic additives only. During conservation the structural build-up of the vessels could in most cases be observed (the oblique lie of the day strips due to the hammering out and smoothing of the outside) and is marked on the vessel profiles.

In connection with structure II, 5 pots were found (fig. 3:1-4 and fig. 4:1)(position marked fig. 2, no. 1-5): 3 funnel beakers, 1 funnel bowl and l pot of uncertain shape.

At the western end of grave III were the remains of 8 vessels and a clay lid. 7 vessels were funnel beakers (fig. 4:2,3 and 5, fig. 5:1-2 and fig. 6:1-2)(position marked fig. 2, no. 6-8 and 10-13) ,and one was a lugged beaker (fig. 4:4)(position marked fig. 2, no. 9). The clay lid (fig. 7 :4) (marked fig. 2, no. 14) has the edge decorated with oblique stick or bone impressions.

Between the stones marking grave IV were the remains of an undecorated lugged beaker with rounded base (fig. 7:1)(marked fig. 2, no. 15) and east of the grave were the remains of an undecorated lugged pot (fig. 7 :3)(marked fig. 2, no. 16).

Apart from these better-represented vessels, a minimum of 62 different vessels were represented by one or a few sherds each, this figure being based on the rim sherds alone.

20 vessels have undecorated, unthickened rims. Sherds in undisturbed position are marked fig. 8 no. 1.

14 vessels had a thickened rim, undecorated or decorated with simple stab­marks (fig. 9:1-10). Sherds of this kind in undisturbed position are marked fig. 8 no. 2.

13 vessels had the part below the rim and in some cases the entire neck decorated with stamp ornaments (fig. 10:3, 4, 9, 11, 12, 16 and fig. 11:1, 3, 4, 6). Sherds of this kind in undisturbed position are marked fig. 8 no. 3.

20 vessels had a rim and neck ornament of cord impressions, stab-and-drag or channels (fig. 10:1-2, 5-8, 13-17 and fig. 12:1). Undisturbed sherds are mar­ked fig. 8 no. 4.

The decorated base sherds stem from a minimum of 25 vessels. 11 vessels probably all had a zonal belly ornament (fig. 13: 10-11, 15-21). Undisturbed sherds are marked fig. 8 no. 5.

13 sherds exhibit vertical belly-striping (fig. 13: 2-9, 12, 14). Undisturbed specimens are marked fig. 8 no. 6.

Amber: Embedded in the clay of structure II were three pieces of amber from one or more amber beads, the shape of which can no longer be ascertained.

In the eastern part of grave III were a number of whole and fragmentary amber beads. The centre of their distribution is marked fig. 2 no. 18. The pre­served beads are cylindrical (fig. 14:1-8), triangular prism-shaped (fig. 14:9-12), plate-shaped (fig. 14:13) and disc-shaped (fig. 14:14).

Flint: Flint was recovered both in undisturbed layers and in the plough soil

Above, and around the structures. It presents a homogeneous picture.

There are 57 entirely unused chips, 15 being regular blades.

16 chips, including 4 blades (fig. 15:1) have the side edges more or less damaged, apparently from use. 10 blades are cutting implements with re­touch of various kinds (fig. 15:2-5). 1 lateral burin was found (fig. 16:1).

There are 14 scrapers with a deliberately formed scraping edge. 9 of these are end scrapers (fig. 16:2 and 4), while 4 should be described as round scrapers (fig. 16:3 and 5). 18 pieces show the marks of sporadic use as scrapers.

A solitary transverse arrowhead was found embedded in the clay of structure II (fig. 2 no. 20). This piece was unfortunately later lost.

Of 11 flake axes, 4 are surface-chipped (fig. 17 :4), 6 edge-chipped (fig. 17 :1-2) and 1 entirely atypical. 3 of the axes are of Havnelev type with percussion bulb in one corner of the edge (fig. 17 :2). Undisturbed axes were concentrated just east of structure II (centre marked fig. 2 no. 21).

Of 7 borers 2 were fashioned on flakes (fig. 15:6) and 5 on cores.

12 specimens are indeterminate, triangular, narrow rectangular or lanceolate, bi­laterally surface-chipped pieces (fig. 17 :3, 5-6). The working part seems in all cases to be one end, which can be shaped like a strong, sharp beak (fig. 17 :3), form a rounded arc (fig. 17 :6 slightly damaged) or constitute a straight almost chisel-shaped transverse edge (fig. 17 :5).

3 fragmented two-sided pointed-butted axes were found, the best-preserved of which lay embedded in the red-burnt clay of structure Il, partly in the big excavation south of the structure (fig. 18; fig. 2 no. 22).

The five vessels in connection with structure II must be referred to the Early Neolithic A phase with close parallels in Vårby (7), Store Valby (8) and Muldbjerg (9). The identification is supported by the pointed-butted axe, which is also part of the A-finds at Muldbjerg (10), Oxie (11) and especially Vårby (12). The function of the red-burnt clay is uncertain. Its reference to the A-phase seems certain, but whether we have here a settlement structure or a grave structure cannot be established with certainty. The culture layer with its content of flint implements, which must also be connected with the A-phase, speaks for the former. The entire A-vessels, the amber, transverse arrowhead and solitary pointed-butted axe embedded in the red-burnt clay suggest the latter. If the structure is taken for a grave, the culture layer may be explained with reference to similar finds in chamberless long barrows in England, and Kujavic graves in Poland (13).  

The entire vessels in grave III are, apart from the lugged flask, stylistically very homogeneous. Direct parallels to this pottery cannot be indicated yet; closest comes a big funnel beaker found in the Emmelev bog (14), and an ornamental parallel is found in a small funnel beaker from the Paderup bog (15). The shape of several of the vessels approaches a B-form, but in all 7 cases the decoration refers them clearly to the C-phase of the North Jutland non-Megalithic and Megalithic groups (16-19). The eighth vessel in grave III, the lugged beaker, clearly belongs to the non-Megalithic North Jutland group.

The importance of the 8 vessels, which must be referred to the same context, lies in the hybrid Megalithic and non-Megalithic style (20) they exhibit.

The undecorated lugged beaker in grave IV approaches B-shape (21). The C­forms in North Jutland are, however, very archaic (22) and without knowing the ceramic assemblage to which the lugged beaker once belonged, it cannot be determined to which group it should be referred.

Examination of fig. 8, in which neck and belly pots of unentire vessels are marked according to decoration, shows a clear concentration around four centres: 1) in and around grave III with extensions to the north and east, 2) near structure II, 3) indistinctly at grave IV and 4) 3 m east of grave IV.

It is natural to suppose that the individual groups of sherds have a connection with the respective structures, and examination of the content also shows that undecorated rims and rims with finger impressions, stab-marks and/or thickening dominate around structure II and grave IV - the two early structures - while rims with stamp ornament, cord impressions, channeling and stab-and-drag dominate around grave III. The last categories of rims dominate also in the fourth group of sherds, but this cannot be linked directly to any structure.

It is clear that with the intense activity which has occurred at the site, the individual concentrations of sherds cannot be regarded as closed. We have to reckon with a certain dispersal and overlap in the strata. The presence of sherds with stamp ornament, cord impressions, channeling and stab-and-drag in the group near structure II does not mean that these are coeval with it. The same applies to the undecorated rims, and rims with finger impressions, stab-marks and/or thickening at grave III.

A Chi2 test on the rim sherds from the four concentrations, where the undecorated sherds and sherds with finger impressions, stab-marks and/or rim thickening have been conceived of as one group, and the sherds with stamped ornament and cord impressions, channeling and stab-and-drag as another, shows the probability that the concentrations around structure II and grave III derive from the same population to be less than 1 %, while the probability that the concentrations around grave III and IV derive from the same population is less than 2.5 %.

The circumstances at Tolstrup as well as dating on stylistic evidence show us then, that events at the site can be referred to several phases. The oldest parts are structure II and probably also structure I. These structures are rectangular layers of clay, whose red-burnt surface with charcoal and sand possibly testifies to some kind of burned wooden construction above. The entire pots, the amber head, the transverse arrowhead and the axe embedded in the clay of structure II suggest a grave, whereas the copious flint and some of the sherd material, which must no doubt also be understood in connection with the two structures, rather suggest settlement structures of some kind or other. On the evidence of the pottery and partly of the flint, both structures should be referred to the A­phase.

Grave IV follows at a somewhat later stage. This is probably an inhumation grave without a barrow, which is quite a common structure (25). Whether the position of the grave is fortuitous or whether knowledge of the presence of structures I and II has played a part is uncertain, but since the long barrow was placed at an even later date at the same spot, it is most probable that it was deliberate.

It cannot be established with accuracy when the long barrow was built, since grave III - acentrally placed - is hardly the primary grave. Grave III itself, which must be regarded either as a devastated inhumation grave or as what is left of a megalithic grave, must be dated on the evidence of the style of some of the pottery to the period immediately around the transition between Early and Middle Neolithic. This is underlined particularly by the rounded bottom with cardial decoration and the engraved pendant hatched triangles of the sherds illustrated in fig. 13, 15, 19. The last-named must without doubt be linked with corresponding pendant hatched triangles and chevron bands of cord impressions, as known in a very late Megalithic C and very early Middle Neolithic context in South Jutland and Funen (26).

The context in which the artefacts of grave III were found is in itself remarkable. While the amber beads were dispersed over what must have been the floor of the grave chamber, this is not the case with the pottery. Not only was this mainly concentrated at the western end of the grave with quite considerable amounts lying outside, especially to the south, but sherds from the same vessels were found in two separate, undisturbed pits. This means that the pots, if they have ever stood at different spots in the grave, must have been collected after they had broken and been placed at the western end of the grave - mainly in the two pits. Where many sherds are preserved and where we can be reasonably certain that the missing pieces are due to secondary disturbance, this is a reasonable solution, but in those cases where we have only extremely few, often well preserved sherds left of a vessel, the case is rather different. When we, as in a couple of instances, find a single rim sherd in one of the pits and nowhere find other sherds of the same vessel, it is tempting to assume that the other sherds from the vessel were systematically removed from the area after the pot had broken. But the structure is so devastated that any assumption must be guesswork. Another question which we cannot solve immediately is whether - with reference to the many different vessels - burial occurred over a long period of time. In spite of the homogeneity of the pottery ornamentation this does not seem to be an unreasonable assumption.

Torsten Madsen





Madsen, T. (1973). Tidlig neolitiske anlæg ved Tolstrup. Kuml, 23(23), 121–154. Hentet fra https://tidsskrift.dk/kuml/article/view/97019