Tragtbægerkulturens slutfase. Nye C-14 dateringer


  • Karsten Davidsen




New C14 datings of the final phase of the Funnel Beaker culture

C14 datings from four settlement pits containing pottery of the latest phase of the Danish Funnel Beaker culture, MN.V (St. Valby phase), are presented. These suggest that the end of the Funnel Beaker culture lies between 2200 and 2100 B.C., i.e. a little later than previously recognized. All the previous C14 datings of late Funnel Beaker culture have been made on oak charcoal from stone packing graves (9-10) and the nature of the tested material can explain the slightly earlier dates.

Of methodical interest are the datings of various samples from a pit measuring 1.75 X 1.20 m, with a depth of 0.80 m. at V. Årup in North Jutland (1). A charcoal sample was unconvincingly early (2500 ± 100 B. C.). Somewhat later were two shell samples (2400 ± 100 B.C. and 2340 ± 100 B.C.), while the animal bones are clearly placed as the most recent material (2210 ± 100 B.C. and 2150 ± 100 B.C.). This spread is hardly due to the presence of several phases of settlement, since the pottery (fig. 1) is perfectly uniform. It belongs to a local North Jutland group, which retains the pointed base in storage vessels in MN.V as a conservative feature (2-3).

It must be assumed that animal bones give the best dating, since they represent the remains of meals and must derive from animals killed shortly before the pit was filled in. The somewhat earlier date derived from the shells may be due to a certain amount of empty shells having been carried to the settlement with the intensive collection of shellfish. The charcoal holds even greater possibilities of error. It may have been in the topsoil for a long period and ended up in the pit by chance, just as the dating can be considerably affected if the sample derives from the inner parts of a massive tree trunk.

It must be concluded that animal bones are the most reliable test material which can be obtained from settlement pits. The C14 dating from Kornerup Pit 30, Zealand (7), was also made on bones (2140 ± 100 B.C.) and agrees well with the bone datings from V. Årup. C14 dating has also been performed on charcoal from settlement pits at Lidsø on Lolland (6) and Dorthealund, in East Jutland (5).

Sølager, layer IV, is possibly coeval with MN.V (8), but the stratum also contains traces of Pitted Ware settlement.

11 Single Grave finds from Jutland have so far been dated by the C14 method. These datings are compared with the late Funnel Beaker datings in fig. 3. According to this scheme, MN.V is coeval with the Bottom Grave period (11-14), but older than the Younger Ground Grave period (16-19) and Upper Grave period (20-21). At the moment the material is too small to permit a sure correlation of the phases of the two cultures, but it can be established that there is no chronological contact between MN.V and Late Neolithic.

Hereby one of the basic assumptions of the chronological system laid down by C.J. Becker in 1954 no longer applies (22). It was the demonstration of the St. Valby phase in that year which gave rise to the supposition that the Funnel Beaker culture had been active in the formation of the Late Neolithic (23-24). The latest investigations (25) do not suggest, however, that there is unequivocal typological contact between MN.V and Late Neolithic.

It is therefore also necessary to discuss the other assumptions on which the chronological system is based. The employment of the Pitted Ware culture as a chronological horizon (26) gives an approximate fixation of the beginning of the Single Grave culture in relation to the Funnel Beaker culture, but not of its end. The younger Pitted Ware culture is firmly dated in relation to the Single Grave culture by means of three single-graves in Jutland with C points (28). These finds belong to the Bottom Grave period and early Ground Grave period.

The dating of the Pitted Ware culture to MN.III-IV (32) has hitherto been based on the heavy thick-butted axes (29-31). This method must be described as uncertain, since the new material has shown that there are distinct regional differences in axe development within the Funnel Beaker culture in MN.V. In this period Lindø axes do not occur in Jutland, whereas this type is represented with 35 % in the Zealand MN.V settlements. It cannot be ruled out therefore, that the Lindø axe was predominant within the Pitted Ware culture in a phase corresponding chronologically to MN.V.

A surer foundation is to be found in the youngest double-edged battle-axes, which are characterized by a neck ridge and often have a spade-shaped edge end. This type is known in certain MN.V context (35) and seems both in Norway (36) and in Sweden (37) to belong to the Pitted Ware culture.

The distribution of MN.V pottery in Jutland (fig. 4)(43) is restricted to those regions where there are few or no early Single Grave finds. An exception is the pottery found in the bogs of Tarp (fig. 2)(44) and Klosterlund (45). The distribution maps suggest that the Single Grave culture in Denmark was borne by a new, immigrant folk, which settled in those regions which had been most thinly populated since Early Neolithic times. At the moment the end of the Funnel Beaker culture can best be dated to the Ground Grave period, simultaneous with the maximum extension of the Single Grave culture.

In Jutland, the relation between the Funnel Beaker and Battle-axe cultures is quite different from that obtaining in the rest of South Scandinavia, where the two cultures coincide in their distribution. This difference should probably be explained in purely chronological terms. On the Danish islands early Single Grave (Bottom Grave) finds cannot be demonstrated and in South Sweden the latest Funnel Beaker culture is absent (MN.V and partly IV). In these areas there is thus no overlap of note between the two cultures.

Postscriptum. C14 dates of two period V pits from Dorthealund have provided the dates 2270 ± 100 B.C. for pit E and 2590 ± 100 and 2600 ± 100 for pit N. The analyzed wood from pit N is oak that may be about 300 years old.

Karsten Davidsen





Davidsen, K. (1973). Tragtbægerkulturens slutfase. Nye C-14 dateringer. Kuml, 23(23), 165–178. Hentet fra