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
3 Perforated Rössen Keile

3.4 Changing patterns in distribution and contact

The distribution of LBK adzes and Keile illustrate the contacts between farmers and hunter/gatherers. The find of an amber pendant in the well of Kückhoven is an illustration of connections with the Baltic region (Gronenborn 2005, 2010). The wider distribution of Keile as compared to that of the adzes is an indicator for a wider range of these contacts. The higher intensity is the result of a longer time span presumably in combination with increasing contact. There are however additional other contact indicators as well.

Long lasting relations between south and north can be deduced from the distribution of Wommersom quartzite, originating from an outcrop between Tienen and Sint Truiden in Belgium, and exploited from the early Mesolithic onward, especially in the middle and late Mesolithic. Its most northern expansion was just to the north of the rivers Meuse and Rhine (Arora 1979; Van Oorsouw 1993).

We owe other indicators to the closed stratigraphical context and the conditions at the earliest sites in the wetlands of the Rhine/Meuse delta. Long-term relations with the south from the late Mesolithic onwards are revealed there in the acquisition of raw materials, like flint, pyrite, haematite and rock from distant regions far to the south (Louwe Kooijmans 2005, 2006).

Other evidence from the same contexts is, first, a LBK arrow-head at the river dune Polderweg in Hardinxveld-Giessendam, already mentioned in the former paragraph, indicating an very early contact shortly after LBK colonists had settled in South-Limburg in 5300 cal. BC. A second southern link is documented by a relative small number of bone-tempered pottery sherds in phase 2 at the river dune De Bruin in Hardinxveld-Giessendam, dated to the early 5th millennium (Raemaekers 2001). Of these sherds 27 are decorated in techniques and motives characteristic for Blicquy pottery of southern Belgium. They probably belong to a restricted number of vessels. One, undecorated pot with double perforated lugs has no Blicquy but Grossgartach affinities.

The lack of evidence of north-south contacts in the intermediate space will be strictly due to bad preservation.

Rössen Pottery

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Pottery has also been retrieved outside the Rössen culture area, but only in small numbers and its distribution is very limited. Some isolated Rössen pottery finds have been published from Middle Limburg (Bloemers 1972, Brounen 1985), and documentation of amateur collections resulted in more sites, but their number is still very low.[19] Some alleged Rössen pottery sherds found at Aalten, north of the river Rhine, c. 50 km to the west of the Rössen habitation near Duisburg (Schut 1987), appear factually to be Late Bronze Age.[20]

Farther east some imported Rössen vessels have been retrieved at Hüde (Germany), at a distance of c. 40 km to the north of another Rössen habitation centre (Kampffmeyer 1983).

In view of the scarcity of pottery outside Rössen territory we have no alternative than to evaluate the distribution of Keile to find out more about the nature of the contacts between hunter-gatherer communities and early farmers in the Lower Rhine Basin.

Distribution analysis

The occurrence over a wide area of Keile and the distribution pattern indicate that theft and scavenging at abandoned Rössen sites can be excluded as the major process behind the distribution of these artefacts. This leads to the conclusion that farmers must have exchanged their Keile with local groups around the agrarian settlements. We can think of ‘forest products’, raw materials, labour and women as valuable commodities in return. From these groups in close contact with the Rössen farmers the Keile found their way to their hinterland.

The spatial distribution and characteristics of the Keile in the Lower Rhine Basin have been opposed to the model of down-the-line-exchange. In that case there should be an absence of production debris, artefacts should decrease in number and size with distance from the source, the objects should be more fragmented and could have gained a different meaning (Appadurai 1986; Renfrew 1982; Verhart 2000, 2009). The distribution of Keile in the Lower Rhine Basin however, shows none of these aspects. The only trend to be observed is that the Keile outside the Rössen occupation area are a little smaller and more worn.

There is another aspect, which informs us about the background of acquisition. The Keile with secondary hour-glass shaped shaft hole, found outside the Rössen habitation area, in the territory of the hunter-gatherers, show that the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, who had acquired a Keil (or fragment), were not acquainted with the way the primary shaft holes had been made, or maintained their traditional practise of making shaft hole by pecking. This last option is plausible explanation for secondary hourglass-shaped shaft holes made by people living close to the Rössen habitation centres, as demonstrated by the Colmont specimen in southern Limburg (Brounen 1997). They could have had direct access to the farming communities living at a distance of 25 km and could have observed the Rössen technique of drilling with a hollow drill.

The majority of the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers were not in immediate direct contact with the producers of the Keile. These artefacts were distributed from hand to hand over the area occupied by them. Important information how Keile were made was not transferred by the Rössen communities or by groups living close in their neighbourhood.

It is not possible to determine whether the breakage of the artefacts had taken place originally in the Rössen area or at the location were the Keile were found. The new shaft holes were not made in the Rössen technique, with a hollow drill, but with the traditional Mesolithic pecking technique. This implies that Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, who had a Keil in their possession, and were living more to the north, were unaware of how shaft holes had to be made.