Tag Archive for: Vlaardingen

Figure 1. Scheme with the metapodium technique (Van Gijn 1990, 109).

In the Vlaardingen Culture period (3400-2500 BCE) tools were made from a wide range of materials such as flint, wood, bone, and antler. Bone tools were often made using the ‘metapodium technique’. This technique was especially useful when making awls or chisels. Metapodia are long, sturdy, bones in the lower parts of the legs of animals such as deer and cattle. These bones have natural grooves running centrally along the length of the bone (see figure 1). Using a flint tool people deepened these grooves by carving the bone up and down the shaft. After this the distal end of the bone was sawn-off with another flint tool. Next, the bone was split in halves along the deepened grooves in the center of the bone. These halves served as blanks. Using a grinding stone people could either turn these into a chisel by grinding a chisel-shaped flat edge on one end, or they could grind them into a pointed end to make an awl.

Figure 1. Scheme with the metapodium technique (Van Gijn 1990, 109).

Figure 1. Scheme with the metapodium technique (Van Gijn 1990, 109).

In a recent study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, we were able to demonstrate that this technique was only widely applied when deer bone was widely available (Van den Dikkenberg and Van Gijn 2024). In the study we combined the results of our micro-wear analysis with previously published zooarchaeological studies. Since the Mesolithic (when people were still hunter gatherers) people preferred to use deer bones for the production of these tools. During the Vlaardingen Culture period people began to rely more on cereal cultivation and cattle herding. The metapodium technique was still widely applied on sites where deer was frequently hunted, but it could be observed that this technique was uncommon on sites where people relied mostly on cattle herding. It is interesting to note that even though subsistence strategies radically changed during the Neolithic, in which people increasingly relied on agriculture, deer still maintained an important position in these societies.


Van den Dikkenberg, L., and A.L. van Gijn, 2024. Deer ghosts: Invisible bone tools from the Vlaardingen Culture (3400–2500 BCE), bone-working, toolkits, and cultural preferences. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 56 (Special Issue Tracing Social Dynamics” Proceedings of the 3rd Association of Archaeological Wear and Residue Analysts (AWRANA) Meeting (Barcelona 2022)). 104569. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2024.104569

Van Gijn, A.L., 1990. The wear and tear of flint. Principles of functional analysis applied to Dutch Neolithic assemblages 22.

This month the Dutch government installed a 15 cent deposit on tin cans to encourage people to recycle their cans. Recycling is however not a recent invention, it has been around since early prehistory. During the Vlaardingen Culture phase (3400-2500 BC) flint axes were often recycled to make other tools such as scrapers and flint borers. To better understand the recycling of these axes we conducted several experiments with reconstructed flint axes. The experiments were now published in the journal Lithic Technology.

Flake core from Vlaardingen Arij Koplaan (trench 17), made from a recycled flint axe. The flakes struck from these kind of cores were used to make a wide variety of tools including borers, scrapers and strike-a-lights.

Based on our experiments we concluded that importance of recycled flint axes in this period was so far underestimated. We now estimate that on some sites up to 40% of all the flint originally came from broken/reused flint axes.

The article was published open access and it can be downloaded via this link.
Also read our previous blog about the setup of the experiments.

Launching the dugout on September the 16th

On 16 September, the dugout – or boat made from a hollowed log – was launched at Natsec, a canoe club near the Vlaardingen cultuurhuis (figure 1). The making of the dugout, which is part of the research project Putting Life into Late Neolithic houses, started in June 2021 and lasted through July 2022. Starting from an oak tree, it took the volunteers of Masamuda 30.433 minutes, or 507 hours, or more than 21 entire days to finish the dugout. During those 507 working hours, the volunteers performed no less than 516 experiments with various tools and had to register every experiment on paper (figure 2).

Figure 1: Launching the dugout on 16 September 2022.


Figure 2: Erwin, Ellen and Leo filling in the paperwork on 26 June 2021.

The volunteers, of which the majority had no previous experience in making a dugout, worked exclusively with a Neolithic toolkit. Such a prehistoric toolkit consists of axes and adzes, wedges made of antler, chisels of antler or bone, and flint scrapers. In addition to the dugout, they also made paddles from ash tree.

The Putting Life team wishes to thank the volunteers for their effort, endeavor and dedication in making the dugout.