Well preserved 5,500 year-old hafted flint axe found in Denmark
Following the recent discoveries of a flint knife with wooden hilt still intact and a series of footprints in the soft mud, an approx. 5,500-year-old flint axe has also emerged from the ground. Complete with its wooden haft, the axe, along with other well preserved artefacts, sheds light on ritual acts of the time.
As part of the archaeological survey ahead of the future Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link, archaeologists from Museum Lolland-Falster observed that the thin-butted axe appears to have been deliberately jammed into what was the seabed off the southern coast of Lolland 5,500 years ago. Axes are among the typical finds from the Neolithic, but in hafted form, they are extremely rare.
“Finding a hafted axe as well preserved as this one is quite amazing. Because of the unique preservation conditions, we have found a lot of organic material during the excavations, including a large number of worked and upright wooden stakes. But we have also found more special artefacts, such as a paddle, two bows and some 14 axe shafts that were uncovered standing upright in what was the water’s edge. When we suddenly realised that we had actually found most of a complete hafted axe, stuck 30 cm down into the seabed, we knew that this was a very special find,” says Søren Anker Sørensen, Archaeologist at Museum Lolland-Falster.
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A different social structure
Axes were important tools, and they played a central role at the introduction of farming, when the majority of the land was covered by dense forests, which had to be cut down for agriculture. The introduction of agriculture was accompanied by a different and more hierarchical social structure where religious/cultic elements were a part of life and death. Cults spread throughout the Neolithic period, and from megalithic tombs, and in bogs and wetlands, you can see signs of extensive burial customs and offering rituals.
The upright items that have been found in the excavation areas east of Rødbyhavn clearly show that the population used the coast as an offering area. The artefacts were deliberately jammed into the natural clay layer as part of a ritual deposit.
The investigations in the area are still ongoing, and Museum Lolland-Falster’s archaeologists hope that in the long term, they will discover more about the ritual area, and perhaps some other interesting sacrificial items will emerge from the soil.
Photo credit: Museum Lolland-Falster