Neolithic pottery, © Museum Hameln

 

The Neolithic

Pottery

Bad Pyrmont/Holzhausen, Duderstadt

People have used ceramic vessels since the Neolithic Age. Clay occurs naturally almost everywhere. It is prepared and shaped by hand. Decorations are carved or engraved into leather-hard clay. Following drying, the vessels are hardened in an open pit-fire or in special furnaces. 

These vessels are used for cooking, eating and drinking.  Their outer form reveals how they were used. The spherical bowl is used as crockery, as a measure of capacity or for transporting sharpening stones.  Liquids and supplies are stored in the globe-amphora. 

Items on loan: Landesmuseum Hannover 

Cross cutter

Hamelin/Ohrberg

Though sharpened arrows made of wood could cause deadly wounds, arrows in the Stone Age were often fitted with flint tips.  Neolithic cross cutters are trapezoidal in shape. The longest of the unworked edges acts as a knife-sharp “tip”.  Practice shots fired at animal corpses have shown that such tips possess very high driving force. 

 

Spindle whorl

unknown

The hand spindle is the first tool with which fibres were processed.  The spindle whorl is used as a weight. It is set into oscillation with the shaft. The wool stripe running through the fingers is thus turned into thread. This can then be processed into textiles.

 

Flint hammer stone

Hamelin/Ohrberg

The surface of the flint reveals how it was used. Characteristic areas with pits from beating demonstrate that used core stones were frequently re-used as hammer stones, for example. Due to their hardness and sharp edges, they were also ideally suited to the sharpening of blunt grindstones and the shaping of rock implements by pecking.  Lighting fires by striking flint and pyrite against each other similarly leaves behind characteristic traces of pinning.

 

Swine and horse jawbones

Hamelin/Tündern

Animal bones are often found at excavated settlements. They belong to cattle, pigs, sheep and goats.  These animals were bred.  Wild animals, such as wild swine and cows, were seldom hunted any longer. Bones of fur animals are sometimes found: badger, otter, marten etc. There is also evidence of fishing: pike, perch, eel and tench enhanced nutrition.  Dogs were an important accompaniment for humans – and sometimes also supplied meat.  There is only evidence of horse breeding at the end of the Neolithic period.

Neolithic stone axes and arrow heads, © Museum Hameln

 

Flint weapons

Emmerthal/Bessinghausen, Rinteln/Koverden estate, Hamelin/Basberg, Hamelin/Finkenborn, Hamelin/Ohrberg, Extertal/Rott bei Rinteln

A Neolithic era weapon was made especially sharp by so-called retouching.  The triangular fragment was struck with a sharp piece of horn so that the edge became even thinner.   The blank was turned from one side to another. Its symmetry was thus retained until the correct size was reached. Then the reverse end of the tip was transformed into a tongue by retouching. The edges had to be blunt here, so that they did not cut the fastening.

The greatest disadvantage of stone tips was their brittleness. They weighed more than tips made of wood, horn or bone, but due to their small size and thus lower air resistance, were also more accurate.

The great hardness and sharpness of the blades also made them usable as stab weapons. 

 

Stone axes

Emmerthal/Lüntorf, Hamelin/Afferde, Coppenbrügge 1932, Emmerthal/Welsede 1938, Hamelin

In the Neolithic Age, men carried such stone axes, as demonstrated by findings from tombs.    They were used like axes to fell trees. In this way, space for crop cultivation and living could be created.  However, stone axes could also serve as a status symbol.

 

Central German bevelled axe

Emmerthal/Latferde

This axe is noteworthy due to the unconventional working of its surface. It is not smoothed as usual, but has polished bevels. Such axes were predominantly made from a soft shale naturally occurring in Thuringia. 

There was therefore contact over many hundreds of kilometres: Gifts and return gifts were exchanged, boosting the reputation of the donor. 

 

Point-butted axe blade

Hamelin/Tündern

The blade consists of eclogite mined in the Italian Alps. The transport to the Weser mountain region alone was expensive. The striking, dark green blade is instantly recognisable.  Due to its high value, it would not have been used for wood processing, despite its hardness. Its possession could be seen as a sign of distinction.

 

Pebble mace fragment

Emmerthal/Lüntorf

This mace is rather special. A Mesolithic-period tool shape has been processed with Neolithic technology: In the Middle Stone Age, virtually unprocessed pebbles were shaped into maces by making an hourglass-shaped hole in them.  Only the last millimetres were pierced using a drill and sand.   In the Neolithic period, maces were polished into shape.  A type of drill cone was then ground out of them using a hollow drill.

The function of such maces is not quite clear. Possibly they act as weights for digging sticks used to work the land.

 

Wealth and influence

Emmerthal/Esperde, Hamelin 1835, Salzhemmendorf/Ockensen, Hamelin/Brick Factory in Rese around 1900

These devices were for the most part made from non-local materials. They originated from a time when the first agriculture existed alongside hunter-gatherer groups. If they are found and not dug up, it is not always clear how they were used. 

It is difficult to decipher what purpose these implements served. Not all the blades are honed, so they were not used for work.  These impressive specimens certainly served as status symbols.