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Om meer ideeën op te doen voor de kano die op dit moment gereconstrueerd wordt in Vlaardingen, zijn Leo, Kirsti en Caroline op donderdag 15 juli naar het Huis van Hilde geweest om daar de kano van de Wieringermeer te bekijken. We mochten er met ons neus bovenop, en met behulp van een bouwlamp hadden we goed zicht op de kano. Hij is gemaakt uit een rechte eik met weinig zijtakken: op de resterende 7,32 meter zijn slechts twee (kleine) knoesten gevonden! Dat betekent dat de boom in een hoog dicht bos heeft gestaan. Bij het maken is het spint verwijderd en de bodem volgt de jaarringen (U-vormig).
De dikte van de bodem varieert tussen 2 en 5 cm, en op het dunste deel is kennelijk een scheur ontstaan: hier werd over een lengte van circa 2 m met minimaal 12 paar gaten (1×2 cm, ovaal gesleten in de lengte-richting) een reparatie uitgevoerd.
Aan de voorkant zit de grootste knoest en hier is een gat gemaakt van 3,5 x 2,5 cm, waarschijnlijk om de kano vast te leggen. De achterkant is teveel beschadigd om iets over de vorm te kunnen zeggen. Het geheel is sterk platgedrukt, zodat het ook moeilijk is om de diameter van de boom vast te stellen. Het platste deel van de bodem lijkt circa 40 cm breed, en het breedste (platgedrukte) deel is 65 cm. De boord lijkt in het middendeel van de kano nergens aanwezig, dus de diameter van de boom zal minimaal 60 cm in diameter zijn geweest. Alleen bij de punt is mogelijk een stuk boord aanwezig van 2 cm dik. Ongeveer in het midden zitten twee ribben (‘wrangen’), de grootste is 12-17 cm breed en 7 cm hoog. Tegen de bodem aan zijn nog inkapsporen van een bijl te zien. Het midden van de bovenkant is gesleten. De tweede, kleine knoest, zit in deze rib. Op slechts 50 cm naar achter is een tweede, lage rib aanwezig, van 1,7 cm hoog en 3,5-5 cm breed. De kleinere afmetingen komen niet door slijtage, die lijkt nauwelijks aanwezig.
De plaatsing van twee ribben zo dicht op elkaar en met zulke verschillende afmetingen lijkt ons een experiment waard! Wat kun je ermee? Zit je op de hoge met je voeten tegen de lage aan? Het is ook opvallend dat bij deze kano twee ribben zijn aangebracht, terwijl er geen torsie te verwachten is door de zeer rechte draad van de boom. In het museum is boven de onderzochte kano ook de IJzertijd kano van Uitgeest uitgestald, die ongeveer dezelfde lengte heeft en ook van een rechte eik is gemaakt. Deze heeft alleen een rib helemaal achteraan, wat een voetensteun lijkt te zijn (zitten op de verdikte achterkant).
De binnenkant van de kano van Wieringermeer is sterk gesleten en matig geconserveerd. Er is niet meer goed vast te stellen hoe de afwerking was, maar op de twee minst gesleten plekken lijkt met sterk strijklicht een diagonale afwerking in vrij brede banen aanwezig. Volgens het filmpje is de boot gedateerd met 14C op ruim 3000 jaar oud. Omdat het spint is verwijderd is de boot minimaal enkele tot vele tientallen jaren jonger. Meer informatie is opgevraagd bij Laura Koehler van de RCE, die de conservering gedaan heeft. We hopen op foto’s van de toen nog beter geconserveerde bodem!
 Opgegraven in 2XXX door RAAP olv Cathalijne Kruidhof, geconserveerd in Lelystad door RCE.
On the 11th and the 25th of July, hide-working experiments were conducted at Masamuda, Vlaardingen. The goal was simple: obtain a processed animal skin. The method, however, resembled prehistoric hide-working processes.
After a short introduction on hide-working given by Diederik Pomstra, the animal hides – in this case, red deer and fallow deer – were stretched onto a wooden frame (fig. 1). At this stage, these rawhides were already fleshed which resulted in dry, hard and stiff animal skins. To grain (i.e. removing the hair) these hides, the outer layers of the skin are removed (fig. 2). These are the epidermis (or outer skin) and grain level. During this stage of dry-scraping, the removal happens with flint scrapers that were resharpened from time to time by Diederik (fig. 3). The scrapers – hafted in wooden shafts – used for the hides of the fallow deer were not used to scrape the hides of the red deer and vice versa.
After removing the hairs and the grain layer, the hides were soaked in water. Then, they are wrung out and they are kept overnight in a mixture of oil and eggs. This process of squeezing and soaking continues until the hides are saturated with the oily mixture. Then, they were wrung, pulled and stretched to keep the fibres moving, resulting in a soft and dry animal hide. To keep it soft, the final step to make buckskin is to smoke it. Therefore, the hide is stitched up and turned into a pouch with one (temporarily) open end at the bottom and kept over a fire fueled by ‘punky’ (partially rotted wood). The smoking process resulted in a beautiful amber coloured buckskin.
This labour-intensive and time-consuming activity gives us insights into the difference between the duration of occupation of coastal dune sites and levee sites, which are considered to be permanently occupied sites and seasonal extraction camps respectively. Questions concerning habitation patterns particularly apply to sites such as Hekelingen III (van Gijn 1990, 132). While neither the evidence for woodworking or hafting nor the evidence for bone-tool manufacturing was conclusive about the character of the site, flint-use might give us a clue about its habitation patterns (van Gijn 1990, 132). For example, it is generally assumed that labour-intensive and time-consuming activities such as graining animal skins took place at base camps or permanent settlements. Removing the hair leaves specific micro-wear traces on the flint tools used. The presence and appearance of these traces on the experimental flint scrapers provide us with insights into the use of flint scrapers, which can then be linked to settlement patterns.
However, former experiments failed to explain the use-wear traces found on the scrapers. As more research is needed, these experiments are a first step to reveal the habitation patterns from use-wear traces.
Gijn, A.L. van, 1990. Functional differentiation of Late Neolithic settlements in the Dutch coastal area. In: Gräslund, B.B. (eds) The interpretative possibilities of microwear studies. Uppsala: Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis, 77-87.
We are making good progress with shaping the dugout’s bottom. However, although chopping the wood is perfectly possible with the big flint axes, it does take a lot of time and above all energy, especially when it is hot! Splitting the wood and removing thick slices goes much faster and is far easier. This is the tactic we have been following. To successfully split the wood it is important to follow the grain and to have a trunk that is free of knots. In the past people must have carefully selected the wood, as the prehistoric canoes that we examined are largely free of knots. Trees are more likely to be free of these when growing in quite a dense forest where side branches would die off quickly, assuring a long stem without branches (and hence without knots). Luckily our oak is (so far…) free of knots.
An alternative way of making wooden wedges
Splitting has speeded up the process considerably, using wooden wedges. Every 40-50 cm a groove is made in the trunk, using an axe (see a picture in the blog of June 23d). With a chisel or adze a shallow incision is then made at the bottom of this groove, into which the wooden wedges can be hammered, using a wooden billet. A few hits and an entire slice of wood comes loose. Unfortunately, the wooden wedges break quickly after a few times of use and in the past we then re-sharpened them. We noticed that the slices of wood we take off the tree are almost a wedge already, but need reworking to give them a sharp edge. This is almost impossible with a flint axe. I therefore made, before splitting off the slice of wood, a tapering edge on one end, using a flint axe. Doing so while the slice is still attached to the trunk is very quick and easy. When the slice is split off, you end up with a nice sharp edge on its tapering end. You then split the slice in three and you have three perfectly sharp wedges! A very economical and fast way of continuing to produce effective wooden wedges!
By Leo Wolterbeek
By: Lasse van den Dikkenberg
This post will deal with Buren axes, flint axes which were imported during the Vlaardingen Culture period (3400-2500 BC). The post is based on an experiment conducted by Diederik Pomstra whom reconstructed several Buren axes. These axes were then re-used as a source of flint for the creation of smaller objects. Our aim was to gain more insight into the re-use of Buren axes as a raw material source.
Nearly everything the people from the Vlaardingen Culture used was produced locally. The most striking exception to this rule are the so called Buren axes. Flint raw material sources are scarce in the wetland areas of the Vlaardingen Culture and especially large nodules are hard to come by. In Belgium and the southern Netherlands flint is abundant and several Neolithic flint mines in the area produced large quantities of raw material. Flint from these areas was transported over large distances, even before the Vlaardingen Culture period. By this time people in the wetland areas of the Western Netherlands stopped producing their own axes. All axes they used were thus imported from other regions. The vast majority of axes we find in the Vlaardingen Culture area are so called “Buren axes” which are characterised by their oval cross-section. Their abundance in this area initially led scholars to call them “Vlaardingen axes” even though it was later realised that they were not produced by Vlaardingen people (Bakker 2006, 263; Van Regteren Altena et al. 1962, 240).
These axes were mainly produced by the southern neighbours of the Vlaardingen people, the Stein
group. The two groups are closely related but they are thought to represent slightly different traditions. The Stein people exploited the Neolithic flint mines where they dug-up large flint nodules which were enclosed in layers of limestone. The nodules were flaked into roughouts in locations near the flint mines. These roughouts were then transported to nearby villages where they were ground into their final shape. These polished axes were then often transported to other areas and groups (Bakker 2006, 263).
Flaking flint axes
For our experiment Diederik Pomstra created three flint axes. The first step was to select suitable large flint nodules. The nodules had to be big, but they were also selected to be not too large as flaking them into the right size would mean a lot of extra work. For one axe we used Rijkcholt flint, which was also used in prehistory for Buren axes. For the other axes we used northern flint from Northern Germany and Denmark as we still had some large nodules of this material. The axes were flaked in a bifacial manner. This is one of the oldest and most common flaking techniques. It was already used over a million years ago to produce Palaeolithic handaxes and the technique remained in use well into the Bronze Age for the production of daggers and arrowheads. Bifaces have more or less oval cross-sections which allow you to strike large flakes from the surface.
The method is very efficient and relatively easy, especially when compared to the production sequence of rectangular axes, which were used by the contemporary Funnel Beaker Culture in the Northern Netherlands. Diederik Pomstra, being an experienced knapper, was able to flake a Buren axe in about twenty minutes. Which I thought was surprisingly quick.
Grounding Buren axes
But flaking is only the first step in the creation of these axes. Most time was spend on grounding the axes. If done by hand, this would take a full day for a single axe. Compared to flaking the grounding work is fairly easy. It is not surprising that, even though the axes were flaked near the flint mines, the grounding of the axes took place in a wider area. If one person would spend time flaking axes for an entire day several people would be needed to ground all the axes in order to keep up the pace.
Hafting and using axes
After grounding the flint axes were usually hafted into a wooden shaft. Two parts of wooden axe shafts were found at the site Hazendonk so we know quite well how these axes could have been hafted. It is unclear if Vlaardingen people imported hafted axes or if they only imported the flint axe. It seems most likely that people were able to produce their own axe hafts as the raw material for these was locally available.
Occasionally the flint axe was hafted first into a piece of antler before being hafted in the wooden shaft. The antler serves to lessen the impact shock, thereby protecting the flint from breakage.
These axes were presumably mainly used in woodworking. They would have been used to construct houses, tools and dugout canoes.
Axes as flint sources
Because flint was scarce in the Vlaardingen area people had to make do with the limited resources they had access to. The imported flint axes were much larger in size than the flint nodules which people could collect locally. At some point these axes fell into disuse, presumably because they broke or because they became too small to keep up resharpening them. Rather than being discarded, these axes were frequently re-used as a source of flint for new objects. This re-use of axes was by no means incidental. Approximately 10-20% of all flint on Vlaardingen sites consist of axe fragments (Van Gijn and Bakker 2005, 295). The axes or broken fragments were flaked into flakes which were either used directly or which were then shaped into other kinds of objects such as scrapers or borers. These objects can be recognised as being axe fragments because of the ground and polished surface of the axes. However, it is unclear to what extend flaking these axes into smaller objects will also produce flakes where the ground and polished surface of the axes is no longer visible. This is an important variable. For example: if only half of the flakes from polished axes are recognisable as axe fragments that would mean that 20-40% (rather than 10-20%) of the flint on Vlaardingen sites consists of axe fragments. Furthermore, it is also unclear how many flakes and blanks for other objects can be struck from a single axe. Can one axe produce two scrapers? Or can a single axe be used to create dozens of scrapers?
Setting-up the experiment
For the experiment Diederik Pomstra created three flint axes. Buren axes vary in length between 15 and 25 cm (Bakker 2006, 257). We chose to create rather short axes between 16 and 17,5 cm. This scenario presumably most closely resembled axes which were used, then ground repeatedly (shortening them), which led to them being re-used as a source of flint for other objects. In two instances we decided to break the axes into halves using a bipolar technique. By doing this we were able to replicate an end-shock fracture (which occurs when a flint axe breaks in the shaft during heavy work). The third axe was kept whole to simulate an ideal scenario in which a whole axes was re-used as a source of flint.
Conducting the experiment
We conducted the experiment in Masamuda during the National (and European) Archaeology Days. The flint knapping was done by Diederik Pomstra. We used a plastic sheet to collect all the flint particles during the knapping process. We soon realised that there were many possible reduction sequences one could envision. It was for example quite possible to turn the axe halves into blade cores. But there is no evidence for the use of blade cores in the Vlaardingen Culture. Hence we decided to focus on the production of flakes.
For one axe half we decided to more or less reconstruct the reduction sequence which would result in cores similar to the axe cores from Den Haag Wateringse Binnentuinen (see figure 7). Here it was clear that the cores were worked either from the butt to the centre or from the cutting edge to the centre. The end shock platform was largely left intact. This was seen as an odd choice by Diederik Pomstra who thought the end-shock fracture actually provided a very suitable platform to begin a reduction sequence. We attempted to follow the reduction sequence as visible from these cores. This meant that flakes were struck from the butt end or cutting edge and from the sides of the axe alternately. We aimed to produce large flakes in the process as these would be most suitable for the creation of tools such as scrapers, strike-a-lights and borers.
For one axe we decided not to stop at the moment when we reached a core which resembled those from Den Haag Wateringse Binnentuinen. It was quite clear that from these cores more suitable flakes could have been struck. Therefore we decided to continue reducing the axe until no suitable flakes could be struck anymore. Here our aim was to have a maximum yield in terms of suitable flakes.
The results of the experiment still have to be analysed but already some things became apparent. The broken axes could have efficiently be turned into blade cores but there are no archaeological indications that the Vlaardingen People used axes as blade cores. This further confirms the notion that these people were presumably not familiar with blade technologies, since they didn’t use these even when the raw material sources were well suited for this.
We haven’t counted the flakes yet but we can roughly estimate that between 20-50 suitable flakes could be struck from a single axe. By contrast the small locally available rolled nodules of flint can be used generally to create two blanks, using a bipolar technique. It is thus clear that these axes, even in a worn and broken state, provided a superior source of quality flint. The experiments give us an insight into the choices people made when selecting raw material and when working with these materials.
The next step will be to determine to what extend these flakes are still recognisable as axe fragments. If some of these flakes are not recognisable as axe fragments that would mean that a larger percentage of flakes from the archaeological record would have been part of axes. Extrapolating those results can help us to better assess the importance of flint axes as raw material sources in the Vlaardingen Culture.
Bakker, J.A., 2006. The Buren Axe and the Cigar Chisel: striking export products from the West European flint mines – associations and distribution along their northern fringe, in: G. Körlin and G. Weisgerber (eds.), Stone Age – Mining Age, Bochum (Veröffentlichungen aus dem Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum 148 (Der Anschnitt: Beiheft 19)) 247-275.
Gijn, A.L. van and J.A. Bakker 2005. Hunebedbouwers en steurvissers Midden-Neolithicum B: trechterbekercultuur en Vlaardingen-groep, in: L. P. Louwe Kooijmans, P. W. Van der Broeke, H. Fokkens and A. L. Van Gijn (eds.), Nederland in de Prehistorie, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 281-306.
Gijn, A.L. van and L.P. Louwe Kooijmans, 2005. De eerste boeren: synthese, in: L. P. Louwe Kooijmans, P. W. Van der Broeke, H. Fokkens and A. L. Van Gijn (eds.), Nederland in de Prehistorie, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 337-353.
Houkes, R., A. Verbaas and R. Mullaart, 2017. Vuursteen, in: P.A.J. Stokkel, E.E.B. Bulten (red.), De Wateringse Binnentuinen Gemeente Den Haag, Een Vlaardingennederzetting in het Wateringse Veld, Haagse Oudheidkundige Publicatie 20. Den Haag: Afdeling Archeologie & Natuur- en Milieueducatie Dienst Stadsbeheer, 163-204.
Regteren Altena, J.F. van, J.A. Bakker, A.T. Clason, W. Glasbergen, W. Groenman-van Waateringe and L.J. Pons, 1962. The Vlaardingen Culture (III), Helinium 2, 215-243.
The major project for 2021 is the making of a dugout canoe. A few weeks ago a huge 6,5 meter long oak trunk was delivered at the Vlaardingen house. Over the summer volunteers of the Masamuda center will turn this trunk into a canoe with which we will explore the waters around Vlaardingen.
A literature search by Caroline Vermeeren and Kirsti Hänninen showed that Quercus was regularly used in the Neolithic for making canoes. More importantly, a canoe fragment of oak had been found at the Hazendonk, a site with Vlaardingen levels. Diederik Pomstra made several polished flint axes of the Buren type, which were documented microscopically before being put to use. This way we would be able to follow the development of the wear traces on such a newly made axe.
The past two weekends Masamuda volunteers were taught how to use a flint axe, something that requires a bit of practice, but everyone got the knack of it quite quickly. They were also instructed how to document the progress of their work, tool use time, and how to make casts of the tool’s edges so that we could keep track of tool biographies. Supervision is by Leo Wolterbeek, who is a very experienced canoe maker.
We are starting with the bottom of the canoe, removing the sapwood. To do so, V-shaped slots were axed at regular intervals into the wood. After that a groove was made by means of an antler chisel and a wooden hammer. Wooden wedges were subsequently hammered into these grooves. This way large sections of the sapwood could be removed. This went surprisingly fast and they were able to remove large chunks of the bark and sapwood. A start was made with finishing the surface of the bottom, something that will require a bit more care and attention as it is quite easy to go too deep. We will keep you posted of the progress!
Gathered around the trunk a discussion started as to where and how this activity could have taken place and how Kelvin Wilson should visualize it in his illustration. What was the nearest place where such big oaks could have grown in the 3d millennium BC? Certainly not in the Rhine/Meuse delta, more likely in the higher-lying sandy regions to the east. As it is impossible to move around such a big heavy trunk before it was turned into a canoe, we concluded that some people must have left the delta on an expedition of several weeks to find oak trees of this size and make the dugout at the spot of the tree felling.
When would be a likely time for such an expedition, one that would not conflict with other activities in the yearly seasonal round? Who would have joined such an expedition? How did they live in such an encampment, what kind of structure may they have had for the weeks that it probably took to finish the dugout? Could they, in the meantime, have collected food sources to take back to the delta such as acorns? Those were the kind of questions we raised and which we will explore further in the coming months. Let us know what you think!! We would be very happy to receive your input!
This past weekend the National Archaeology Days took place, with lots of archaeological activities and presentations across the Netherlands. Obviously an excellent occasion to draw attention to our new project and the various experiments we are conducting.
The most important eye catcher was of course the experimental dugout canoe that we are starting to make (see our longer blog on this topic). Under the watchful eye of our two experienced woodworkers and boat makers, the Masamuda volunteers attacked a large oak tree with polished flint axes. Using these axes, antler adzes and wooden wedges they started to remove the sapwood, splitting off large slices of what will become the outside of the dugout’s hull.
Other activities included grinding acorns into flour and using polished flint axes as cores. We also showed information about the objectives of the project and naturally we demonstrated replicas of all kinds of typical Neolithic artefacts. The children were very intrigued by all these objects that they could touch and were curious about their function. Even the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, made a short article about our activities.
Over the two days we received many visitors: scouts, Leiden University alumni, Vlaardingen locals and many dog walkers. Maybe we even have attracted a few new Masamuda volunteers.
In 2016 the first experimental structure at the Masamuda Archaeological Educational Centre (https://www.masamuda.nl) in Vlaardingen near Rotterdam was built, a collaboration between Leiden University and Masamuda (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVkIeMAB6cU&t=29s ). It was based on a house plan from the Late Neolithic Vlaardingen culture. Since then local volunteers have carried out different activities around this structure and Leiden students and staff did scientific experiments on the terrain.
Now it is time to turn the page and move forward: the house has to be put to life!