Aktivitetspladser fra Ertebølletid


  • Søren H. Andersen




aktivitetspladser, Ertebølletid


Activity sites from the Ertebølle period
Dyngby III and Sindholt Nord

In order to understand the maritime culture of the Ertebølle period in Denmark (5600-4000 BC), it is necessary to take as many sources as possible into account. In the following, two new aspects of coastal Ertebølle finds, represented by the Dyngby III and Sindholt Nord sites, are described (Figs. 1 and 10).

Dyngby III is located at the foot of a hill bordering an area which in the Stone Age was a small bay connected with Kattegat (Fig. 1). Several small sites have been excavated along this prehistoric coastline – both “Køkkenmøddinger” (shell middens), and coastal sites without any shell deposits; to these can now be added a new type of coastal site, which is the central issue of this article.

The site is rather small (10 m x 10 m), and the culture layers were encapsulated by tufa deposited by fresh water. Charcoal powder, flint debris, and shells from oysters and cockles define the culture layers. No settlement structures were recorded, but the presence of charcoal, burnt flint, and burnt bones indicate the use of fire on the beach.

The find material is very restricted. Apart from worked flint, it comprises just a few potsherds, “pot-boilers”, and small bone splinters. The number of artefacts and the range of types represented are limited (Figs. 4, 5, and 6). The most common artefact types are triangular or discoid flint pieces with irregular scars along the edges (Fig. 7) – types which are rare on other Ertebølle sites. The heavy wear indicates that they were used as hammers on a hard material such as bone or antler, but as there are no artefacts or waste in the find material to support these observations, the explanation for the use and occurrence of these tools at Dyngby III is open to discussion. In addition, the numerous core renovation flakes and blades demonstrate an extensive production of blades on this site.

The absence or near-absence of blade-tools (scrapers and borers, as well as a very low frequency of burins, truncated pieces, transverse arrowheads and flake axes) is striking – both in absolute terms and in relation to the excavated area, as well as in comparison with other Ertebølle sites. Apart from this, a small fragment of an ornamented bone knife was found (Fig. 8).

The artefacts demonstrate that the activities at Dyngby III were very restricted and specialized.

The tool inventory and the few and fragmentary bones clearly distinguish this site from other contemporary and small settlements such as Aggersund (Andersen 1979) and Vængesø, which had a much wider artefact inventory (Andersen 1975b). Unfortunately, the few artefacts and bone splinters offer no clear interpretation as to the exact purpose of visiting this particular location on the coast.

The culture layers also contained a thin scattering of marine molluscs, the dominant species of which are oysters, followed by cockles; other marine species are absent or extremely sparsely represented. The molluscs therefore reflect very selective collecting. In general, the shells lay singly and did not form a continuous horizon. In this respect, the Dyngby III site differs from the “Køkkenmødding” (shell midden) category. However, in some cases the shells formed small “heaps”, which probably reflect isolated disposal incidents (Fig. 9). An analysis of the oyster shells demonstrated that they were from very young oysters (2-3 years), and that they had been collected solely during a short period in late March and early April.

Dyngby III is C-14 dated to 4840-4257 BC. The dating demonstrates that – despite the impression given by the scattered cultural remains – the site reflects a speci­fic, repeated behaviour, most probably a series of very short visits taking place during several centuries of the Ertebølle Culture (as otherwise one would expect a much thicker and more extensive accumulation of waste). Against this background, the limited number of cultural remains and the scattered distribution of the shells seem even more striking.

The lack of settlement structures and the very limited range of tools demonstrate that Dyngby III was not an ordinary settlement, but rather a specialized site with a diffuse distribution of marine molluscs. The preliminary interpretation of the site is that it is a locality where access to good flint and blade production was important, and that the occupants collected marine molluscs during their short stays there in the spring. Dyngby III thus represents a coastal site of a type that has never previously been described in Danish archaeological publications.

In connection with the excavations at Visborg (Fig. 10), the surrounding region was reconnoitred. During this process a very small concentration of flint debris and marine shells was discovered on the eastern slope of a shallow hill, which during the Stone Age had been a peninsula stretching towards a narrow sound connected with Mariager Fjord to the south (Fig. 10).

The Sindholt site had been disturbed by ploughing, and a test excavation proved that no cultural horizon was left in situ. Only flints, some marine shells, and “pot-boilers” were preserved.

All the finds lay on the surface and were later recorded. The area with finds turned out to form an oval (15 x 7 metres), with the most intense occurrence of material situated within an area measuring 10 x 7 metres (Fig. 12).

From the investigation of the Stone Age settlement of Bro (S. H. Andersen 1973), we know that ploughing expands the horizontal distribution, but that the relationship between the objects largely remains unaltered. The distribution on the surface is therefore in a crude sense also represen­tative of the primary distribution of cultural remains.

The Sindholt Nord site is very small. Settlement structures include a fireplace on the prehistoric beach, indicated by a concentration of “pot-boilers”, and higher up the hillside a concentration of shells, measuring 2 x 2 metres, along with a few “pot-boilers” (Fig. 12). The shell concentration was clearly delimited, and it consisted almost exclusively of oyster and cockleshells. The patch of shells was so limited in extent and contained so few shells that it could represent only a single “episode.”

The number of worked flints and artefacts was also very limited (Figs. 13-15) and as in the Dyngby III case, the absence of blade tools (scrapers, borers and trunca­ted blades) was striking. The finds indicate that the production of blades and transverse arrowheads was of importance.

The Sindholt site is dated from the tool inventory and a single C-14 dating to 4775-4625 BC, i.e. the early Ertebølle Culture.

The few finds, the few settlement structures, and the very limited area involved indicate that the Sindholt site represents a single and very short occupation. The site therefore exemplifies a very small coastal settlement unit from the Ertebølle Culture. If this spot had been used repeatedly or continuously over a long span of time, the quantity of debris and of tool types would have been greater, and the shell layer would have been thicker and more extensive. Sindholt would then have incorporated all the different elements which constitute a typical Danish kitchen midden.

The conclusion is that the two sites are unusually small and have a very restricted tool inventory. They thus demonstrate new aspects of the coast-linked activities of the Ertebølle Culture and should be labelled “activity spots” or “find spots” rather than settlements. The two sites have close parallels with the “dinnertime camps” known from ethnographic publications from Australia in particular. It is the restricted artefact inventory which especially distinguishes Dyngby III and Sindholt from other (published) small Ertebølle settlements. At both sites the production of blades seems to have been of major importance, and at Sindholt the repair of broken artefacts was also demonstrated. Dyngby III seems to have been used during a very long period of the Ertebølle Culture, while Sindholt seems to represent only a brief epi­sode, but of the same “specialized” nature. The collecting of marine species took place at both sites, but this activity was limited to oysters and cockles. Sindholt represents a very small kitchen midden, and if the site had been visited several times, it would have developed into a typical kitchen midden, whereas the collecting of molluscs at Dyngby III reflects activity of a much more sporadic character.

Since the article was delivered to the editor (in the summer of 2003), the excavation of Dyngby III has been completed. This has in no way altered the above description of the site and its artefact inventory. However, the few animal bones have been identified, and the following species have been recorded: Pig (Sus sp.), Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), Red deer (Cervus elaphus), Oxen (Bos sp.), Oxen/Elk (Bos sp./Alces alces), Ourochs/Elk (Bos primigenius/Alces alces), Ourochs/Elk/Red deer (Bos/Alces/Cervus). The bones are badly preserved; only the most robust parts of the skeleton are present, and all parts are represented. The bone fragments do not give any information as to the season in which the animals were used.

Søren H. Andersen





Andersen, S. H. (2004). Aktivitetspladser fra Ertebølletid. Kuml, 53(53), 9–43. https://doi.org/10.7146/kuml.v53i53.97366