Monday, April 13, 2009

The Ertebølle Culture
Kitchen Midden/ Køkkenmødding


Ertebølle Hoved is an ab. 500 m long and up to 20 m high coastal bank with layers of moler and ashes, and it is situated in a very beautiful nature area about 17-18 km southwest of Løgstør - close to the village Ertebølle. From the top of Ertebølle Hoved is an unique view across Limfjorden to Salling, Mors, Fur and Livø. Ertebølle Hoved is a very welknown fishing place; many sea trouts have been caught here. In the cliff is a big colony of sand martins. There are exciting geological formations with layers of volcanic ashes and moler and travelling rocks from Norway and Sweden and possibilites of finding fossils of plants and animals in the ashes and moler. Of the kitchen midden are only weak traces ab. 2 km to the south, but an exhibition gives an interesting introduction to the history.

A view to Vitskøl Kloster

Ertebølle on the coast, a view to Salling

Ertebølle gave name to Ertebøllekulturen, which is the international denominator of the coastal cultures in the early part of Jægerstenalderen. It is due to that the National Museum in the 1890s excavated a giant kitchen midden at Ertebølle, consisting of oyster- and scallop/ cockleshells which revealed that people lived at this place in the early part of Jægerstenalderen. The kitchen midden is from the period 5200-4200 b.c. and represents a southern Scandinavian Stone Age culture.Findings of bones etc. suggest that some of the large settlements were residences all the year round, while the lesser settlements were seasonal. In Denmark settlements from this cultural period are common on the islands and coasts of Limfjorden and along Jutland's east coast. But it was Ertebølle which gave the name to this era.

Kitchen middens may have a thickness of several meters and a stretching of several hundred meters. From the beginning they consisted of small shell heaps growing higher and higher. Among the shells were trash from housekeeping, animal bones, tools, etc. They did not live like poor people at the settlements. Their daily food was rich in nutrients. An informative finding was a clay-pot with the burnt crusts of fish. The fish were put unskinned into the pot. It was not possible to determine the plant parts, but the pot has probably contained a fish soup with herbs, it was somewhat like the Stone Ages people's bouillabaisse. Another clay-pot contained a porridge consisting of fermented blood and flour, made of seed and hazelnuts. These and other examples were an insight to a food culture, where cooking the food did secure that the nutrients in seed, fruit, roots and vegetables were exploited, and at the same time that it maintained the juice and the fat in a good soup.

Ertebølle Hoved

The hunting people who lived in the period after ab. 6.800 b.c. is named Kongemosejægerne after a settlement in the western part of Zealand. The hunting people from ab. 5400 bc is named Ertebøllejægerne after the famous kitchen midden Ertebølle south of Løgstør at Limfjorden. The various names do not refer to immigration, since there was a population continuity of the hunting tribes. The names are just archaeological names of the various tool-traditions, which succeeded one another during Jægerstenalderen - and which made it easier to confirm the archeaological findings.

The hunting people lived in settlements at the coast, generally all year round. Here was the richest flora and the richest food supply. Large areas of fx North Jutland, North Funen and North Zealand were flooded by water and divided in islands, numerous inlets and low-watered lands. The most important food was the food from the sea. Human bones were examined, showing that fish and sea mammals were the large part of the food in Jægerstenalderen. A seasonal movement of the settlements did undoubtedly take place. There seem to have existed some specialized settlements with season-hunting for seal and furred animals, fx in East Jutland at Ringkloster (Skanderborg), where the settlement was used during several centuries, mainly inhabited in winter season.

There are only weak traces of the kitchen midden

At the coast was brushwood of alder, willow, hazel and hawthorn; ivory and honeysuckle twisted around bushes and trees. Mistletoe was common. The animal life in the settlement was marked by an almost endless richness in variation. There were large amounts of fish, there were seals, dolphins, porpoises and killers in the salt waters and the inlets. Furthermore a large amount of birds, both resident and migrating birds. The hunting included aurochs, red deer, wild boar, elk and furring animals like otter and pine marten, in the sea they were hunting for fish, sea mammals and sea birds. The hunting in the hinterland gave a large bag of important raw materials and valuable meat. People at the coast might also have had a contact to inland settlements.

The climate was mild, subtropical. The mildness of the climate had also an influence on the conditions between the land and the sea. The ocean continued to rise, caused by the melting down of ice at the poles. (Since the ocean reached its maximum in the Atlantic period it has sunk ab. 3 m during the next 7000 years caused by a general fall in temperature). The rise of the water was not regular. Since the hunting people's settlements mostly were placed in connection to water, the water level was of great importance. The settlements were moved to keep pace with the coast advance or return. The population grew and grew, which increased the need for food; it weighed heavily on the resources, and in the end it became a necessity to find a permanent solution. And the agriculture came to ab. 4000 b.c.

The changed conditions between land and sea gave the archeologists great possibilities for studying the settlements at the coasts. They were mostly situated in small quiet inlet areas and inner low-lands. In the northern part of Denmark in North Jutland the kitchen middens are found in raised land. In the southern part of Denmark the kitchen middens are below water.

Mini-museum in front and a large Stenalder Center behind the trees.

A mini-museum close to the cliff describes about the kitchen midden and the geology of the area. A few hundred meters from here is the exhibition of the Stenaldercenter which describes the nature in and around Ertebølle ab. 6-7000 years ago and how people lived, furthermore are several archaeological findings etc. A reconstructed settlement gives examples of how the huts from that period might have looked, and the visitors can see how flint was made into axes and other tools, and they can participate in activities like archery and skin tanning etc.

Gyldendal og Politikens Danmarkshistorie 1988, Bind 1. "I begyndelsen", af Jørgen Jensen.
Bodil og Heino Døygaard: "Se dit Land Danmark". Skarv. Høst og Søn. 1996
Politikens store Danmarksbog, af Søren Olsen, 2003

photo 9. April 2009: grethe bachmann

1 comment:

david santos said...

Really beautiful picturs! Very cool!
Have a nice week!