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Stone Age

Palaeolithic Age and Mesolithic Age

The earliest evidence of human life in Schleswig-Holstein originate from the Neanderthal Man (Homo Neandertalensis) and are some 60,000-80,000 years old. The hand axe, scraper and their manufacturing waste such as flint and core off metal strike were found close to Drelsdorf and Schalkholz in the west of Schleswig-Holstein.

Stone Age hunters - with spears and spear catapults 

After the glaciers from the last ice age melted more than 14,000 years ago, large herds of reindeer and wild horses moved to the tundra territory. They were followed by groups belonging to modern humankind (homo sapiens) and developed to become highly specialised hunters of reindeer.

Initially, the so-called Hamburg Culture (12,700-11,900 BC) hunters populated the land, who hunted the reindeer with spears and spear catapults. Their hunting method was stalking moving herds, from which they hunted down individual animals.

The hunters of the so-called Ahrensburg Culture 10,800-9,600 BC) used arrows and bows which, according to present knowledge, they also developed themselves. Apparently, the hunting methods was also changed with the new weapons. The Ahrensburg Culture hunters carried out battues, gaining extensive quantities of prey as proven by the more than 20,000 bone and antler remnants from the Stellmoor site.

From around 9600 BC, the last ice age had passed. With increasing warming, the forest expanded, finally shaping the landscape before / around 7000 BC. In the Mesolithic period (9600 - 4100 BC), the people lived in the rhythm of the seasons by hunting, catching fish and collecting edible plants. They preferred to camp close to water or on lake islands and avoided dense indigenous forests.

Archaeologists discovered hunters’ and and gatherers’ camp grounds from the Mesolithic Age on the banks of a now silted up lake close to Duvensee. People had barked beech and pine trees there in order to produce bark mats, collected and roasted hazelnuts, crafted tools and consumed the prey they brought there. Arrows and bows and harpoons were the most important hunting weapons. Fish were both caught using fish stabbers and fish hooks as well as nets and traps.

Stone Age fishermen - hunting seals

At the end of the Mesolithic Age, people lived at the North Sea and Baltic sea coasts throughout the year. Archaeologists name this period Ertebølle culture (5500-4100 BC), after a site in Denmark. The people from Ertebølle were clever hunters, who captured red deer, wild boar and deer with bows and arrows or spears. Moreover, the sea was tapped as an almost limitless source of nutrition: antler harpoons were used for hunting seals and sea dogs, fish fences, entrapment systems and eel stabbers indicate the great economic importance of fishing.

The important innovations from the Ertebølle culture include clay pots for preparing food. During the late phase around 4100 BC, initial traces of livestock farming and grain farming can be found. However, they played a subordinate role as a basis for nutrition. Imported axes and hatchets made of exotic stone prove the existence of contact and exchange networks with neighbouring peasant cultures in the south.

Neolithic Age - first peasants’ culture

Note: The exhibition area on the Neolithic period is closed until further notice due to renovation work.

Since the mid-5th century, the influence of southern peasant cultures have increased in north German flat country. Initially, this only resulted in a delayed change to the economy and lifestyle. Around 4000 BC, the world of hunters, collectors and fishermen came to a halt.

During the Neolithic Age, mixed cultivation is the elementary provider of food, the old attachment to the natural environment disappears gradually and the learnt lifestyle is relinquished. First metals reach the north as exchange goods or presents, verifying national contacts. High-quality metal strike appears to have been traded to a larger extent.

The oldest cart tracks witness the use of two-wheel carts for transporting loads. The construction of monumental megalithic tombs with burial mounds and huge fixed enclosures, so-called earthworks, demonstrates the significance of being settled. The construction of the megalithic tombs and the depositing of victims appear mostly to have been community tasks. The individual is fully withdrawn from the group. Individual tombs in small burial mounds only dominate towards the middle of the Neolithic Age, in around 2600 BC.

Schleswig-Holstein State Museums
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