Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 3-1 (November 2011)Wietske Prummel; Hülya Halici; Annemieke Verbaas: The bone and antler tools from the Wijnaldum-Tjitsma terp 1

1 Introduction

Wijnaldum-Tjitsma is one of a row of seven terpen,[2] situated in the former salt marsh area of northern Westergo (fig. 1). The area is rich in metal finds from the Early Middle Ages, especially the Merovingian period (Heidinga 1999). During the large-scale excavations at the Wijnaldum-Tjitsma terp in 1991-1993 (Besteman et al. 1999) a large number of bone and antler tools, production waste and unfinished tools came to light. They give information on the production, use and possible import of bone and antler tools at the site in the Roman (AD 175-300/350), Migration (AD 425-550), Merovingian (AD 550-750), Carolingian (AD 750-850) and Ottonian (AD 850-900/950) periods. The terp was not in use for about 75 years between the Roman and the Migration period (Gerrets & De Koning 1999).


Figure 1 The location of Westergo within the Netherlands and palaeographic map of Westergo in the Early Middle Ages (1. Is the Wijnanldum-Tjitsma terp). Westergo was a large area of unembanked salt marshes in the present province of Friesland. The many terp sites from this period attest to the area’s suitability for habitation. Red dots refer to present villages (after fig. 4 in Heidinga 1997 ).

The famous gold disc-on-bow brooch found at the Wijnaldum-Tjitsma terp, made c. AD 630 in the cloisonné technique, is an indication of the inhabitants’ high status (Heidinga 1997; Schoneveld & Zijlstra 1999; Nijboer & Van Reekum 1999). Intensive bronze, silver and gold working has been attested in the Merovingian period, perhaps by itinerant metal workers (Schoneveld & Zijlstra 1999; Nijboer & Van Reekum 1999). Glass beads were used and made on site during the Merovingian and Carolingian periods and glass vessels were bought by inhabitants in Merovingian times (Sablerolles 1999a; 1999b). These finds are indicators of high status.

It appears that all inhabitants enjoyed a high status, although the houses and other buildings at Wijnaldum-Tjitsma are comparable to those at other terpen. Rather than via architecture, high status was apparently expressed via personal belongings and other small objects (Gerrets & De Koning 1999).

Previous studies on bone and antler tools from terpen have mainly dealt with undated finds from non-archaeological diggings (Roes 1963; Kramer & Prummel 2000) or from excavations in which the tools were not dated (Reichstein 1991; Struckmeyer in press). The study of the substantial tool assemblage from Wijnaldum-Tjitsma is important because most of the tools are dated and the context of most of the tools is known, allowing a diachronous and contextual study.

The bone and antler tools from Wijnaldum-Tjitsma will be compared with those from recent excavations at other terpen in the provinces of Friesland and Groningen to establish whether the use of bone and antler tools at Wijnaldum-Tjitsma is representative for the terpen in general, or - in view of the supposed higher status inhabitants – exceptional. Wijnaldum-Tjitsma differs from other terpen in that it has a much higher volume of bone and antler tools in the migration and later periods (table 1).