Nielsen(2020): Late Neolithic Stenildgård Grave (Jutish Beakers)

Miscellanea Archaeology & Prehistory Nielsen(2020): Late Neolithic Stenildgård Grave (Jutish Beakers)

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    Carlos Quiles

      Open access paper Late Neolithic Stenildgård Grave: Re-excavated, re-analysed and re-interpreted, by Nielsen et al. Acta Archaeologica (2020) 9(1):121-146.

      Interesting excerpts:


      Since 1933, the site has generally been dated by the presence of diagnostic artefacts, such as the two pottery vessels, the tip fragment of a dagger and the hollow-based arrowhead. These elements are all datable to the Late Neolithic Period LN I. During the re-excavation, a second dagger fragment was recovered, as well as an intact bifacial hollow-based arrowhead and a tip fragment of yet another arrowhead, all fire-crazed. It is uncertain whether the new dagger fragment is from the same piece as the fragment discovered in 1933.

      Strontium Isotope analysis

      all environmental baseline samples from the Vesthimmerland region yielded strontium isotope ratios that are below 87Sr/86Sr = 0.710. However, the strontium isotope analyses of the human samples KM113, KM214, KM215 and KM216 yielded all values above 87Sr/86Sr = 0.711, which shows that the ratios of these samples clearly deviate from the Vesthimmerland baseline (Fig. 16a).

      The values suggest that the individual, or individuals, from the grave which we conducted strontium isotope analyses of, were not local. The question, then, is whether the archaeological context can provide some indications of which geographical regions might be potential candidates for the provenance of the individual(s) buried at the site.

      Comparison of strontium isotope analyses from environmental samples from Europe shows that some areas have similar values to the ones yielded by the human samples from the Stenildgård grave. Some of these areas include for example parts of Poland, <strong>southern Sweden</strong>, parts of Germany, and the United Kingdom (including Wales).


      Top: Strontium isotope ranges from surface waters from Denmark. After Frei et al. 2020.

      Bottom: The strontium isotope ranges based on analyses from topsoils from Europe. After Hoogewerff et al. 2019.

      The relationship to Beaker cultures

      The chronological framework indicates that western Europe’s ‘Maritime Bell Beaker Cultures’ are contemporary with the ‘Over-Grave Phase’ of the Single Grave Culture. The northern Jutish (or Juttish) Beaker group has been dated to the two first thirds of Late Neolithic I, and it is contemporary with the Veluwe Style and the Epi-Maritime Beakers of western Europe, the middle Beaker Phase of the British Isles, and Early Bronze Age of in some parts of central Europe. These cultural groups have all been dated to between 2350 and 2050 BC. This means that no classic (Maritime) Bell Beaker Phase developed in Jutland or on the Danish islands.

      Northern Jutish and other Jutish pottery vessels are all characterised by features typical of Veluwe/Epi-Maritime beakers, and they display features commonly encountered within the original Bell Beaker Culture, whereas features from the straight-walled vessels of the Single Grave Culture also survive. Helle Vandkilde (2005, 2) has summarised that ‘today it is becoming widely accepted that a material culture of Bell Beaker derivation characterized north-western Denmark in the late third millennium BC’. Present consensus suggests that Jutland (in particular the peninsula’s north-western region) are characterised by notable international currents and the Danish islands only to a lesser or small degree. The stimulus seems to originate from the north-western European coastal areas.

      I will leave the discussion of archaeological similarities between this structure and the Wales one to people who might be interested. Suffice to say, from my perspective as a non-archaeologist, that to argue – based on strontium isotopes – for the direct provenance of LN I individuals of Jutland from Wales (instead of southern Sweden) because of an apparently similar building structure that could potentially be dated a couple hundred years later or earlier, and that might have many unattested intermediate equivalent structures from a similar tradition throughout Northern Europe is…not a very firm hypothesis. But a cool one, sure, if one thinks about Beowulf.

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