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2014 | 62 | 5-70
Article title

Obrządek pogrzebowy łowców-zbieraczy epoki kamienia w południowej Skandynawii i na Niżu Środkowoeuropejskim

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EN
Burial practices of hunter-gatherers in the Stone Age of Southern Scandinavia and the Middle European Plain
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PL
Abstracts
EN
The paper discusses various aspects of burial practices of hunter-gatherers in the Stone Age, namely the Mesolithic and the Paraneolithic, in Southern Scandinavia and on the Middle European Plain, i.e. Polish and German Plains. The various aspects of the practices are analysed in regional and chronological perspective. Altogether, 58 sites were identified in Southern Scandinavia and on the Middle European Plain (fig. 1). 199 graves and 243 individuals (burials) come from there. The total number of sites containing graves in Scandinavia and the in the examined area of the Plain is similar, but in Scandinavia they concentrate on the opposite shores of Zealand and Scania (fig. 1) and in Poland and Germany they are scattered around the whole area of the Plain (fig. 1). In Poland and Germany, single graves are usually discovered (75 % of the sites). Burial grounds are less frequent there (25%, fig. 1, table 1) . In Scandinavia, there are much more burial sites (40%) and they are larger, for this reason the number of graves is much higher (158) than in Germany and Poland (41). Burial grounds (complexes of at least 2 graves) are relatively frequent, they were discovered at a total of 19 sites (33%), most of them, however, contain only from two to five graves (table 1). Large and medium-sized burial grounds are known only from Scandinavia. Three burial grounds can be counted among the large-sized (Skateholm I – 57 graves, Skateholm II – 20 graves and Vedbćk Bøgebakken – 19 graves), and four – among the medium-sized burial grounds, containing 6-9 graves (Gøngehusvej, Nederst, Nivĺ and Tĺgerup) (fig. 1, table 1). Burial grounds mainly date from the middle and late Mesolithic. Mszano in Poland is the only burial ground where all the graves date from the early Mesolithic (table 1). In Scandinavia, most burials were discovered within or in the vicinity of settlements (73% of the sites, fig. 2). In Germany, there are less than 40% of such sites and in Poland only about 30% (fig. 2). It is interesting, however, that these trends are opposite in the early Mesolithic, because graves in Scandinavia are situated outside the settlement context then, while in Poland and Germany, in contrast, they are located within campsites (table 9). Grave constructions and possible remains of burial containers are rarely recorded (fig. 3). In Denmark, stone constructions (fig. 4), while in Sweden and Poland (Mszano) wooden ones were mainly used. A boat burial discovered in Møllegabet in Denmark is a unique find (table 9). Tree bark, and probably also animal skins were used to wrap the body of the deceased (fig. 3). Remains of bark were discovered in Mszana, Poland (three graves) and at two sites in Denmark: Korsør Nor and Møllegabet (table 9). Various types of organic supports are also known from Scandinavia (fig. 3) – probably wooden in three graves (Gøngehusvej, fig. 5) and a swan wing in one grave (grave 6 in Bøgebakken, table 9). Deer antlers were found in several graves in Scandinavia, which were placed both under the body and next to it – by the legs or behind the back (fig. 3, table 9). Such an arrangement may suggest that the antlers were a kind of “a catafalque” or “a surround” (fig. 4). The swan wing and the deer antlers can also be regarded as grave goods of a symbolic meaning. Orientation of skeletons towards cardinal directions in Scandinavia is different from the orientation in Poland and Germany (fig. 6a). On the Plains, the dead were laid with head to the north or north-east. There are no clear trends in Scandinavia, but the burials were oriented with head mainly to the west, north or south, and rarely to the east. However, it must be added that the orientation may de different even on adjacent burial sites (Skateholm I and II, fig. 6b). In this context it appears that there were very large regional, and even local, differences in this respect. Primary inhumation burials, i.e. laid in anatomical position, dominate in the Mesolithic and the Paraneolithic (circa 80%, fig. 7a). But other kinds of burials are also known (fig. 7a-b), such as for example secondary and partial burials (8%), which were the result of transferring the remains from temporary burials. Cremation was also used, it represents 9% of all burials. Water burials belong to exceptional kinds of disposal of human remains. They are known from two Scandinavian sites – Koelbjerg in Denmark and Stora Mosse in Sweden, and they date back to the early Mesolithic. Both discoveries were treated as drowning victims, but they could equally well be burials which consisted in tipping the bodies into the water. The bodies were probably weighted, because in both cases the bones were lying close together. A boat burial from Møllegabet may be some kind of analogy. Empty graves constitute a separate category (4%). There are no human bones in them, but other attributes such as grave goods and traces of ochre testify to the burial rituals. At least some of them were cenotaphs, but the total disintegration of skeletons should be also taken into account in some cases (table 9). The positioning of primary burials is very diverse, still the supine position dominates (variant 1 – 56%, fig. 8). It should be stressed, however, that this tendency is typical mainly of Scandinavia. Rarely, the dead were laid on their back with the legs arranged in different ways (9%, fig. 8) – with straddled or pulled up legs (variant 2), with legs crouched aside (variant 4) or with legs folded up to the chest (variant 3). The latter variant has occurred only once, at the site in Dręstwo in Poland (table 9). The prone position is also unique, it is known only from the grave 33 from Skateholm I in Sweden (fig. 9a). About 19% of the bodies were lying on their side, in a flexed position (variant 7) or with slightly angled legs (variant 6, fig. 9b). Such burials have been found throughout the area under consideration (fig. 8). Burials in a sitting position (variant 8) account for 15% of burials (fig. 8) and are in three varieties – with straight legs, with one leg slightly angled and with both legs angled. Such burials are quite common in Sweden (20%), but have not been discovered in Denmark. On the Polish and German Plains, the burials in a sitting position are almost as numerous as those in the supine position. The burial from Janisławice is the only documented burial in a sitting position from Poland (Chmielewska 1954). Admittedly, the burial from Woźna Wieś was described as a sitting burial, but mainly due to the fact that the skull fragments were lying higher than the other bones (Sulgostowska 1990). However, the remains from the grave from Woźna Wieś are strongly divided, they are chaotically arranged and the skeleton is incomplete – for example, there are no shinbones (Sulgostowska 1990). It is hard to assume that these specific bones decomposed, and smaller bones, such as ribs and phalanges, have remained. It should therefore be concluded that it is a secondary burial, in which the bones of the skull have been deposited above the rest of the bones. Also the grave 4 from Mszano was suggested to be a sitting burial. That was concluded only from the shape of the burial pit, as no human bones were found there (Marciniak 2001: 102-104). The pit was divided by barren sand into two parts, one of which was dug deeper. On this basis, it was suggested that the shallower pit had been a seat, and the legs of the deceased had been put into the deeper one (Marciniak 1993: 11; 2001: 102-104, 120-121). In my opinion, it would be much easier to assume that two burial pits were situated there. In any case, either a type of the burial, a position, or the age of the buried individual (or individuals?) cannot be determined. It is worth noting that the burials in the supine position with legs crouched aside (variant 4) and on the side with slightly angled legs (variant 6), come from collective graves in more than half of the cases (fig. 10). Such arrangement resulted from turning the deceased in the direction of other individuals buried in the same grave (fig. 9b). 17 secondary burials (8%) have been discovered. They can be divided into two types. Burials of bones from different parts of a skeleton are the first type (8 individuals), and partial burials of single bones, mainly sole skulls, are the second type (9 individuals, table 2). Accidental discoveries from sites in Brajniki, Łojewo and Konne in Poland have been classified under the latter type. At the first two – skulls, and in Konne – a human mandible were discovered. Those remains were accompanied by grave goods, mainly tooth necklaces and ochre, which suggests intentional burials. During the subsequent archaeological prospecting in Konne, a small piece of a skull was found (Szymczak, Zalewski 1980), and small fragments of humeri were discovered in Brajniki (Bohnsack 1939-1940). In both cases, it is not known, however, whether they come from the same individuals as the skulls. On account of the good state of preservation of the skulls and the presence of the bone goods, it is hard to assume that the rest of the skeletons disintegrated or that the postcranial bones had been unnoticed by discoverers, especially as they found even small pieces of grave goods. Therefore, they are interpreted as partial burials. Partial burials of sole skulls are also known from evident graves (Pierkunowo, grave 2, Schmöckwitz, grave 2, Skateholm, grave 64, table 2). Secondary burials of most part of the skeleton are the second type. Like the partial burials, they have been found throughout the area. It should be noted, however, that they also never are fully complete (table 2, 9). Sometimes, there is a lack of small bones such as phalanges there, which could disintegrate or be lost during the transfer of the remains from a temporary burial. However, there is often a lack of large bones, e.g. a skull or long bones (table 2, fig. 11). This suggests that the skeleton was divided and its pieces were laid in different places. I scored a deposit of human bones found in one of the features in Krępnica (Poland) among secondary burials. The human bones were strongly fragmented into more than a thousand small pieces there, and were mixed with numerous flint artefacts (Masojć 2011: 148, fig.5). Because of the context of the finding and the kind of the deposit, the excavator has not explicitly interpreted this finding as a burial (Masojć 2011: 148). In my opinion, this discovery can be regarded as a specific secondary burial. In the same context – in a settlement and in the area of a flint concentration – human remains were found at two other sites in Poland – in Pomorsko and Wieliszew (table 9). Grave goods have been discovered in secondary burials in Poland and Germany, but have not been found in Scandinavia (table 2). Amongst secondary burials, the most are male burials, some are child burials, and female burials are the rarest (table 2). Some cases are known of primary burials which were disturbed already in the Stone Age (table 2). They were not disturbed with the aim of robbing, as the grave goods remained, but rather for rituals reasons. Only specific bones, usually large and characteristic, were taken from graves (fig. 12B, 13, 14). Apart from that, burials could also be disturbed in the course of adding the subsequent deceased to the grave (e.g. Gross Fredenwalde, Skateholm grave 63, fig. 12a). This practice applied rather to adults, both female and male (table 2). 21 cremation burials from 16 graves were discovered in the examined area (table 3). This kind of burial rites was already known from the early Mesolithic, as evidenced by the burial from Hamelev in Jutland and the graves from Mszano in Poland, dated to the Boreal period (table 9). The largest number of cremation burials is known from the middle Mesolithic. Cremation burials in Scandinavia usually comes from burial grounds where the inhumation was practised in parallel (Skateholm I, II, Vedbćk Bøgebakken, Vedbćk Boldbaner, Nivĺ, table 9). The only one cremation burial known from Germany is the burial from Coswig. And from Poland, apart from the above-mentioned grave in Mszano, there are two more burials – from Wieliszew and Pomorsko (table 3). Both the remains from Pomorsko (a child) and Wieliszew (a male skull) were interpreted not as burials, but as the traces of cannibalistic practices (Kobusiewicz, Kabaciński 1991, Wiercińska, Szlachetko 1977). However, burnt bones (particularly very strongly burnt), and even the presence of a single trace of a cut on the frontal bone (Wieliszew), are not proof of cannibalism. So, I have counted those two findings among cremation burials, especially as the bones formed distinct concentrations in both cases (Kobusiewicz, Kabaciński 1991: fig. 4, Więckowska 1985: 73). The burial from Pomorsko was probably equipped with a flint blade and burnt Cervidae remains, and the burial from Wieliszew could be equipped with flint tools. Deceased adults of both sexes as well as children were cremated (table 3). Burnt remains of only one individual were usually put into a burial pit. Two individuals were only in the grave No. 2 in Mszano and five individuals – in Gøngehusvej (grave N, fig. 15). Cremation burials are mostly secondary burials, i.e. the cremation took place outside the burial pit, where only selected burnt human remains were placed (table 3). Most of these secondary deposits have formed small, round clusters, which may indicate that the remains were placed in the grave in a container (fig. 15, table 3). Primary cremation burials, i.e. those where the cremation took place directly inside the burial pit, are known only from Mszano in Poland. In the cremation burials, the grave goods can be both burnt (at least 4 graves) and not burnt (7 graves). That implies that the goods could be either placed to be burnt on the funeral pyre or placed directly in the grave during the burial of human bones (table 3). In the Mesolithic, most of the graves contained remains of only one individual (fig. 16). Collective burials accounted for only 15%, most of them are graves containing two individuals. The double graves are either graves of a child and an adult (mainly a woman, fig. 17), or of two adults, usually of different sexes (table 4). The exceptions are one grave of two women (Dragsholm, fig.14) and two graves of two men (graves 63 and X from Skateholm, fig. 18). There is only one known grave of two children (Skateholm II, grave XII). There are only a few graves with a larger number of the dead (3-8 individuals), (fig. 16, table 9). Most of the examples come from Denmark (Koed, Strøby Egede, grave N from Gøngehusvej, grave 19 from Bøgebakken, fig. 19, 20), and only one from Germany (Gross Fredenwalde). The dead from collective graves were usually treated equally, both in terms of orientation, the type of burial rite – cremation or inhumation – and grave goods – all or nobody (table 4, 9). Differences most often concern the mutual arrangement of the bodies in the burial pit (table 4, fig. 9b, 14, 18, 20). In the case of the graves containing two individuals, the dead were usually laid side by side (at least 14 graves), and only exceptionally one person entirely or partially above another – a child above a woman, a woman with her legs above a man (table 4, fig. 14, 12a). In ten graves, the dead were lying exactly in the same position, usually in the supine position, although there are two cases known where both individuals were buried on their side or in the sitting position (table 4). The grave 63 from Skateholm I is an interesting example. There, two men were lying on their side, one by one, but the man at the front was lying with his face turned toward the man lying behind him. The different way of arrangement of the dead is known from at least seven double graves (table 4). One person usually lies in the supine position, and the other is turned toward the first individual, lying on the side or in the supine position with the legs crouched aside or straddled (table 4, fig. 9b, 14). The grave X from Skateholm II is an exceptional example. Two men, one next to another, were interred there. One of them was lying in the supine position and the other was in the sitting position. They were inversely oriented and their faces were turned one to another (fig. 18). In the case of mass graves, not only the arrangement of each individual, but also the way of their turning (or not) toward each other. Women were usually turned toward men lying with them, and a younger woman was turned toward an older one (fig. 9B, 14). Additionally, three women were laid at the left side of men – in Nivĺ and Skateholm, and two at the right side – in Nymölla and Tĺgerup (table 4, fig. 9b). Thus, it seems that age and sex of the dead were the diversity factor. The mutual arrangement and the way of turning of two individuals toward each other reflect family, emotional and social relationship between them. Ochre was present in 107 graves (54%). It is particularly typical of the graves from Poland (76%) and to a lesser extend from Germany and Denmark (65% and 63%). It is most rarely found in Sweden (45%). The presence of ochre rather does not show an association with the sex of the dead (fig. 21), especially in Scandinavia (circa 50% of burials of each sex). In the case of burials from Poland and Germany, the difference is more distinct (75% of female burials, 60% of male burials), but it may result due to too small sample of female burials. Ochre is more often present in child burials than in burials of adults (84% to 54%, fig. 21). Ochre usually covers the entire child burials, and in burials of adults it rather concentrates in a specific place on the skeleton (table 5). In Scandinavia, ochre was placed mainly near the head or the hips, more rarely near the chest and the limbs. In Poland, by contrast, it was placed near the head, the hips, the head or the legs of the deceased, everywhere with similar frequency. What is important, the presence of ochre near the pelvis is noticed in female graves twice as often as in male graves (14 to 7, table 5), which is consistent with frequent occurrence of waist ornaments in female graves. Traces of ochre are found in such specific places (fig. 4, 14, 17, 19, 25, table 5) and generally on/near the bones, so they are probably connected with colouring of specific parts and items of clothing (belts, headgear) or possibly with colouring of a container of the body (mainly in case of small children). In general, about 60% of the burials was equipped. The adults were equipped slightly more often than children (61% to 49%, fig. 22), which concerns mainly the Polish and German Plains (78% to 38%). Amongst the grave goods, the most frequent are flint tools – 58% of burials, ornaments – 42%, and animal bones – circa 40%. Bone artefacts are less frequent – 25%, and stone artefacts – 8%, fossils and untreated stones – 9% are sporadic (table 6). There is a relationship between the selected categories of the grave goods and the sex of the deceased (table 7). Women were equipped mainly with ornaments (64%), while men mainly with flint artefacts (64%). This tendency is typical mainly of Scandinavia. In Poland and Germany, ornaments are present to the same extent both in female and male graves. In child burials, either flints (57%) or ornaments (circa 40%) are found, other categories of grave goods are rare. As regards flint artefacts, mainly blades were placed in graves (70% of burials equipped with flint artefacts) and the principle applies throughout the area under consideration (table 6). It is interesting that, at least in Scandinavia, the blades were usually placed at the waist of the deceased (18 burials). Such position is more frequent in male than in female burials (10 to 2 burials, fig. 4, 20) and can be also found in child burials (table 8, fig. 17, 23). Microliths and flint flakes are relatively frequent grave goods (circa 20% each, table 6). Microliths are typical mainly of burials from Germany (50%), while flakes – for burials from Sweden (circa 40%). Flakes were placed mainly at the feet of the deceased, and microliths near the legs and the head (table 8). Cores as well as end-scrapers and side-scrapers are an exceptional kind of grave goods, known almost exclusively from Poland and Germany (table 6). Stone and flint axes were found altogether in 18 burials (table 6), of which 9 were male, two female and two child burials (table 7). One axe was usually placed in a grave, but what is interesting is that nearly 1/3 of axe-equipped burials were equipped with two or three axes. Flint axes are known mainly from Denmark (8 burials) and stone axes – from Sweden (5 burials). Few findings of stone axes in graves come also from Germany (Bad Dürrenberg) and Poland (Prabuty). In Prabuty, apart from the cylindrical axe, a stone club with a hole was also found (table 9). Other stone artefacts are rare findings (table 6). Stone plates are known from Sweden, and flakes from Poland (Dręstwo, grave 1, table 9). Animal teeth were the most common category of ornaments (85% of burials equipped with ornaments, table 6). These were mainly red deer and wild boar teeth, chiefly incisors. Moose and aurochs teeth are slightly rarer (fig. 24). Roe deer and horse incisors as well as canine teeth of predators: bears, seals, the canids and the mustelids are also rare. In the case of the ungulates, almost exclusively incisors were used. Ornaments made from wild boar tusks and, very rarely, red deer fangs are also noticed (Janisławice, Gross Fredenwalde, Bad Dürrenberg, grave 8 from Bøgebakken). Untreated animal bones (e.g. roe deer hooves, birds’ beaks), amber, shell or bone beads, stone plates and fossils were also used as ornaments (table 6). Bone pins were used as female head ornaments (table 8, fig. 20, 25). Clay balls and imitations of deer fangs were discovered in one grave near the skull (Gross Fredenwalde, table 9). Ornaments were usually found at the pelvis, the head or near the chest (table 8, fig. 14, 17, 19, 25, 26). Ornaments placed at the waist are typical of female burials and rare in male burials (12 to 4, table 8). Various bone tools and weapons were also placed in graves (table 6). As regards weapons, there were mainly axes made from red deer antlers, bone blades, slotted points and daggers. A harpoon (from Skateholm II, grave IV) and an axe made from wild boar tusk (from Janisławice) are unique findings and they both were found in male graves (table 7, 8). Axes and slotted points are more common in male graves, but there are some exceptions to this (Barum, Bad Dürrenberg, table 9). As regards bone tools, awls (5 graves) and retouchers (4 graves, table 6) belong to more common tools. Bone pins, apart from the above-mentioned head ornaments, were found in two other graves. Artefacts made from wild boar tusks, possibly knives, were found in Janisławice and Bad Duerrenberg. A chisel is known only from a grave in Barum, and a haft/frame made from antlers comes from one grave in Tĺgerup (grave 4). A quiver for microliths, made from the long bone of a crane, which was found in a burial of a woman with a newborn infant in Bad Dürrenberg (table 6, 9), is also a unique finding. Animal bones are also a diverse category of grave goods, both in terms of species and anatomy (table 6, 9). Fish bones were among the most common kind of bones used as grave goods (54% of bone-equipped graves) and were found mainly in Sweden. As regards the ungulates, red deer bones (27%), roe deer bones (18%) and wild boar bones (14%) predominate. Red deer and roe deer bones has been found throughout the examined area, and wild boar bones only in Sweden and Germany. From the ungulates, only horse bones (Woźna Wieś) and elk bones (Tĺgerup) have been also identified as unique findings. Bones of predators discovered in graves belong to seven different species (table 6). A large part of them has been identified only in Sweden and those were the bones of: porpoise, seal, bear, wolf, otter, marten and wildcat. Marten and wildcat bones are also known only from Denmark. Beaver bones belong also to unique findings (table 6 and 9). They are known only from Germany and Poland (Bad Dürrenberg, Janisławice). Bones of different species of birds (12,5% of the graves equipped with animal bones), turtle carapaces, snake vertebrae and mollusc shells have been also found in graves (table 6). Animal bones should be considered in two categories – i.e. as consumption remains and as bones from non-consumption parts of skeletons – skulls, mandibles, antlers, hooves, phalanges etc. (fig. 28, table 6, 9). Fish were main kind of food deposited in graves or consumed just before the death. They were found even in the abdominal area. Apart from them, also some part of bones of the ungulates were deposited as food. A large part of the remains of the ungulates, especially of red deer and roe deer, had clearly a symbolic meaning. Nearly all bones of birds, beavers and predators had also a symbolic importance, with a few exception of a porpoise and a seal. Animals were also deposited together with people in burials, which is known only from Scania and Zealand. A roe deer was placed in one grave (Gřngehusvej), and dogs – in six graves (Skateholm, table 6). In three graves, the dogs were placed at the feet of the dead (fig. 18, 27). Considering the fact that the dogs were also interred in separate graves and sometimes richly equipped (Kannegard Nielsen, Brinch Petersen 1993; Larsson 1983-84; 1988; Peterson 2007), they should not be treated as grave goods or offerings, but rather as additional individuals in the graves, closely emotionally connected with the specific dead. Summary and Discussion On the basis of the above analysis, it can be concluded that in the Mesolithic and the Paraneolithic, burial rites were very strongly differentiated in almost all noticeable aspects. Even so, some regional tendencies can be pointed out. However, they do not defined clear boundaries, but have a higher or lower intensity in a specific region. What is interesting is that the noticed differences did not always exist in opposition between Scandinavia and the Middle European Plain, but also between Denmark and Sweden as well as between Polish and Germany. On the other hand, despite the existence of a number of regional tendencies, there are sometimes significant differences between graves from the same burial ground or two adjacent ones, additionally dated to the same period. All burials from the Polish Plain do not differ substantially from the basic tendencies in the funeral rite in Germany and Scandinavia. The burial from Janisławice, for which the closest analogy is the grave from Bad Dürrenberg in Saxony, is an interesting example of this. In both cases, these are sitting burials, equipped similarly and very richly. Among the grave goods, there were among other things: mollusc shells, beaver bones, an exceptionally large number of microliths, ornaments made from aurochs and red deer teeth, including deer fangs, and a large set of artefacts made from wild boar tusks. Differences in the funeral rite essentially seem to have no connection with the chronology. It is worth noting that in the early Mesolithic, when there are only a few graves, almost every one of the graves is different. Separate burials are different, both in terms of their location and the position of the deceased. From the early Mesolithic, there are water burials, crematory burials and secondary burials known, and primary burials represent many variations of positions of the dead – in the supine position, on the side and in the sitting position. Taking into account that these graves are the oldest known burials of the native population of hunters on the Central European Plain and in Scandinavia, it can be assumed that various forms of funeral practices were originally used. This did not necessarily result from different origins of the population. For the differences in the funeral rites are visible even at the same burial ground, where the dead belonged to the same community. It is also important that it is not until the late Mesolithic, when the unification of the funeral rites, at least in Scandinavia, has been noted. The presence of secondary and partial burials (mainly burials of same skulls) and cases of disturbances of graves and removal of some particular bones from the graves already in the Stone Age, testify to the fact that multi-step burial rituals were also practised in the Mesolithic. Apart from that, cremation rites were practised in parallel with inhumation burials during all the Mesolithic period, although most of the cremation burials comes from the middle Mesolithic. Mesolithic and Paraneolithic graves of hunters usually contain one burial, but there are also collective graves. Most often, these are double burials, usually of a woman and a child or a woman and a man. Graves of a man with a child, of two adults of the same sex or of two children are less common. The arrangement of the dead in the collective graves is diverse, both in terms of their position and the mutual relation, i.e. the way of turning of their bodies or faces toward each other. Women were usually turned toward men, and a younger woman was turned toward an older one. Additionally, at least in Zealand, women were laid at the left side of men. So, the mutual arrangement of adults in grave could depend on their sex and age, and could express a higher social position of men and older people. On the other hand, the way of turning of two individuals toward each other and their positions, at least in some cases – e.g. a woman with a newborn infant, a man and a woman with their faces turned one to another – could reflect emotional or family relationship between them. It should also be noted that there are practically no evidences that any of the individuals in a collective grave was “central”, i.e. treated in a different, “better” way than the others. It is significant that in the only grave where three people were interred, that was a little child who was laid in the centre, and two adults – a woman and a man, were laid on both sides of the child. It is worth adding that it was the man who was probably killed (grave 19 from Břgebakken). Grave goods, found in circa 60% of the graves, are characterized by a wide diversity with regard to their amount and kind. Some of the pieces of the grave goods seem to have a relationship with the sex of the deceased. Blunt weapon (axes), slotted points and a harpoon as well as blades placed at the waist are primarily male grave goods. What is interesting is that bone daggers and smooth blades as well as flint microliths are rather not connected with the sex of the deceased. Ornaments are typical female category of grave goods, mainly those at the waist as well as bone pins as ornaments of the head. Children, including even newborn infants, were equipped similarly to adults, i.e. with flint artefacts, including blades, microliths and axes, and with ornaments. It can be therefore assumed that the type of grave goods reflected the sex of the child. It should be noted, however, that either the type of the grave goods cannot be treated in advance as an indication of the sex of the deceased, or the richness of the grave goods cannot be treated as a reflection of the social status. As examples, richly equipped child burials and female burials with typically “male” grave goods may be mentioned. Additionally, a distinctive, decorated axe-hammer made from deer antlers from Skateholm II – an attribute of a “leader”, as might be supposed – was laid in a separate dog grave! (Larsson 1988: 147-149; Larsson 1989: 376). This implies that emotional and family reasons could also decide on the grave goods and on the arrangement of the dead in a collective (as well as in a single?) grave. Burials of newborn infants are a good example of that. In their case, the arrangement of the body (e.g. on a swan wing) and particularly rich grave goods seem to be rather an expression of despair after the loss of a child than an indication of the child’s high status. Animal remains in graves had probably a completely different significance than other pieces of grave goods. At least half of them had an evident symbolic meaning. These are mainly mandibles, skulls and phalanges of predators as well as beaks, legs endings and wings of birds. Moreover, this also applies to the bones of the ungulates and marine mammals, which were basic food (red deer, roe deer, wild boar and seal). These animals are also represented by skulls, mandibles, antlers, hooves and phalanges, that is non-consumption parts. The fact that the most characteristic elements of a given species were put in the grave may suggest that they were a manifestation of the presence on the animal, which was probably the attribute of a person, a family or a clan. Dog burials, found in the same graves where humans were buried, should be treated differently. Their positions in graves suggest that they should be treated as next, equal “individuals”, not as sacrifices to the dead humans. In conclusion, it should be pointed out that in principle all the burials, both from the early Mesolithic and from large burial grounds from the late Mesolithic, are only few (selected?) representatives of the community of hunters. The key to their selection is not known, and yet it could be varied locally. It is therefore difficult to indicate why some of the dead were interred in the sitting position and others were lying; who and for what reason was a subject of multi-step burials; why some were cremated on a funeral pyre and others were buried in water. It is also worth noting that partial burials, cremation burials and water burials are not only of completely different nature, but also they can be practically archaeologically imperceptible. It is significant that two water burials and one indistinct cremation burial are the oldest burial in Scandinavia, and an untypical secondary burial with very strongly fragmented bones mixed with numerous flint artefacts is the oldest burial on the Polish Plain. It is therefore possible that burial rites of this type were widely practiced then, and that is why classical graves, particularly from the early Mesolithic, have been so rarely recorded.
Year
Volume
62
Pages
5-70
Physical description
Dates
published
2014
Contributors
  • Instytut Archeologii, Uniwersytet Warszawski
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Publication order reference
Identifiers
ISSN
0079-7138
YADDA identifier
bwmeta1.element.desklight-114c2a4e-7fb4-44fe-9b60-458d9127ba56
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