During several periods of the Neolithic, be it the Michelsberger or Vlaardingen period, flint tools to cut cereals are absent in the archaeological record. Could this absence be due to the fact that people cut cereals with other tools?
To answer this question an experiment was made in summer 2022 to cut cereals with other tools that the usual flint sickles of the Neolithic.
Sickles were made with shell inserts of oysters and freshwater mussels among others. They were then tested by cutting typical cereal types of the Neolithic.
These were einkorn wheat (Triticum monococcum), emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum), barley (Hordeum vulgare) and bread wheat (Triticum aestivum).
After hours of harvesting, the results were clear. Harvesting with other materials than flint is possible. Not only could cereal stems be cut off easily, but also the harvesting speed was similar to sickles made with flint inserts. This could indicate that in neolithic periods where flint sickles are absent, tools made from other materials, as shells, were used.
Significant use-wear traces were also visible on the different shell inserts. Be it dents, edge rounding, polish or striations, these traces showed how much the shells were worn off during the harvest.
Text: Marc-Philipp Häg