Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 4-1 (October 2012)Leo Verhart: Contact in stone: adzes, Keile and Spitzhauen in the Lower Rhine Basin1
4 Spitzhauen

4.3 Dating

There is no reliable dating evidence for the Spitzhauen in the Lower Rhine Basin. Most artefacts are isolated finds without any context (Hulst & Verlinde 1979). The few alleged associations are unreliable. There is for instance a specimen from Deldenerbroek, reported to have been found with an unspecified axe, but unfortunately the axe has been lost. Two specimens, supposed to have been found beneath a thick layer of peat, lack exact find locations.

Half a Spitzhaue from Den Ham (Hulst & Verlinde 1979, O1), with an exceptional broadening at the shaft hole, is a type known from Sweden and Germany and is supposed to have been used there from the Early Mesolithic onward (Degn Johansson 2000; Gramsch 1973). The date is based on a find in Sandarna, which however appears not to originate from the Early Mesolithic level, but from a younger, Late Mesolithic layer containing Neolithic admixture as well (Alin & Niklassson 1934; Nordqvist 2000). Some German specimens too appear to have a younger (Late Mesolithic) date (Gramsch 1973, 28). The number of finds in Denmark is restricted.[24]

Special attention has to be given to the alleged Spitzhauen from Hohe Viecheln, Germany (Schuldt 1961, 103, Taf. 39, 40a, 99b-c). These implements have been found in a peat layer dated to the Late Boreal (c. 7200 cal BC), which mean that they would be the oldest known. It concerns however merely two natural pieces of rock, showing unfinished hourglass-shaped perforations, and both lacking traces of pecking. The third fragment shows a complete hourglass-shaped perforation, but has an irregular pointed outline without traces of pecking. These fragments are regarded as rough outs, broken during production. It is however questionable whether these fragment are rough outs.[25] Any fragments of Spitzhauen with pecking traces are lacking at other Boreal sites. The occurrence of stones with an irregular outline and hourglass-shaped perforation at other Mesolithic sites, like St. Oedenrode (Heesters 1971), are in favour to classify the Hohen Viecheln finds into this category.

The technique of making an hourglass-shaped hole in a natural pebble by means of pecking has been developed in early stage of the Mesolithic. Early, well-dated examples are three fragments of Geröllkeule (‘mace heads’) from Friesack, one of a finished and two of unfinished specimens, from early Boreal layers, c. 8000 cal BC. From a younger layer, dating from the Early Atlantic, c. 7000 cal BC, comes a complete one with preserved wooden haft (Gramsch 1987, 85; 2000). The lower limit for this technique seems therefore to be near this time. There are some open Mesolithic associations in the Netherlands, and recently a specimen has been found in a pit with human cremation remains on the submerged dune of Beverwaard-Tramremise near Rotterdam, well dated to c. 7100 cal BC (Zijl et al. 2010, 24, 32). An upper limit is given by several fragments from Swifterbant site S3 (c. 4000 cal BC).[26]

The south-eastern part of the province of Groningen consists of large scale peat bog reclamation. The area had been covered with peat from the Middle Atlantic onward. On the now recovered old coversand surface a large number of Early and Middle Mesolithic sites have been traced and excavated. The period of human activity has reliably been dated to the period 7500-6300 cal BC on the basis of 34 14C dates. Four Geröllkeulen have been found in this district, but no Spitzhauen at all (Groenendijk 1993, 47). Their absence may be viewed as significant in spite of the low numbers and to imply an origin of the specific artefact type after 6300 cal BC.[27]

The development of the Spitzhaue seems altogether to be rather late in the development of stone artefacts with hourglass-shaped shaft holes, probably to be dated after the Middle Atlantic, i.e. after c. 6000 cal BC.