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Danish Late Mesolithic or Early Neolithic Period Goat Skull Fragment

Danish Late Mesolithic or Early Neolithic Period Goat Skull Fragment

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The Ertebølle culture c. 5400-3950 BC or Funnelbeaker culture, c. 4100-2800 BC, Denmark

Fascinating late Mesolithic or early Neolithic period goat (Capra hircus) skull frontlet/ fragment are peat bog found artefact from Denmark. Cut marks made by flint tools. The Ertebølle (also known as Ertebolle or Ellerbek) culture was a Mesolithic culture that flourished in the area around the Limfjord in Northern Jutland from around 5400 to 3950 BC and was replaced the earlier Maglemosian (9000-6400 BC) and Kongemosen culture (6400-5400 BC). The Ertebølle population settled on headlands, near or on beaches, islands and along rivers and bays away from the dense forests. The Ertebølle people mainly lived from fishing, hunting, and gathering.

The Ertebølle hunters most visible remnants are the huge shell heaps that are called kitchen middens, which primarily consist of shells of oysters, picked up from that time colossal oyster beds in the many shallow fjords and straits. The Ertebølle people were masters of inland waters, which they traversed in paddled dugouts. The flint industry evolved a high and unified standard with small and flake axes, adzes, knives, burins, chisels, scrapers, blades and arrow heads. However, tools of many materials were in use, such as wood prongs and points, antler parts, and carved bone tools. Pottery was manufactured from native clays tempered with sand, crushed stone and organic material. The pots was built by coiling and fired in a bonfire kiln or the open bed of hot coals. The Ertebølle culture is also known for its unique burial customs, which included cremation and the placement of objects in graves. Shortly after 4100 BC the Ertebølle began to expand along the Baltic coast at least as for as Rugen. Shortly thereafter it was replaced by the Funnelbeaker culture.

The Funnelbeaker culture (c. 4100 - 2800 BC) marks the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry in Denmark, but there were also hunting and fishing. The kitchen middens from the Ertebølle period continued to grow well into the Neolithic period, indicating that some of the old hunters continued their traditional life as hunters and gatherers without regard to the new times. Wooded areas were partly cleared, burnt and replaced with fields of agricultural crops (primitive einkorn, emmer, dwarf wheat and barley). Pigs, cattle, sheep and goats appeared as domesticated animals. People lived in long houses and buried their dead in megalith tombs such as dolmens and passage graves. 

Skull fragment are in good condition. Age-related wear, chip and fractures. Traces of peat bog. Lovely deep dark brown, almost black patina. Fragment is treated with a surface-protecting beeswax layer. Size approx. 19,5cm x 10.8cm x 15,5cm.

Provenance: private collection from Denmark.

References and further reading:

Europe's First Farmers – T. Douglas Price, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Cambridge University Press, 2000 ( sample/9780521662031ws.pdf)

Inland Ertebølle Culture: the importance of aquatic resources and the freshwater reservoir effect in radiocarbon dates from pottery food crusts, Bente Philippsen & John Meadows, Internet Archaeology (doi:10.11141/ia.37.9)

The introduction of ceramics in the Ertebølle Culture, Karen Poulsen, Danish Journal of Archaeology, 2013 2, 146–163. (

Organic residue analysis of Early Neolithic ‘bog pots’ from Denmark demonstrates the processing of wild and domestic foodstuffs, Harry K. Robson, Hayley Saul, Valerie J. Steele, John Meadows, Poul Otto Nielsen, Anders Fischer, Carl P. Heron & Oliver E. Craig, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Volume 36, 2021. (

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