Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 1-1 (May 2009)Leendert P. Louwe Kooijmans: The agency factor in the process of Neolithisation – a Dutch case study1

9 Material culture

As only Schipluiden yielded a certain quantity of artefacts made of organic material, a comparative assessment of the material culture will necessarily be limited to pottery and stone artefacts.


Fig. 17 Geographical differentiation of the pottery at sites of the Hazendonk group along a transect from the coast to the surroundings of Nijmegen. Note that the high line decoration score of Rijswijk is insignificant in view of the low overall decoration %.

All the sites produced the same simple type of pottery that is characteristic of the Hazendonk group. The simple pots have straight walls, with or without a low inverted rim, made of coils connected via H joints, tempered mainly with crushed quartz and decorated with fields of spatula, fingertip and fingernail impressions or with vertical lines, without motifs. The pottery assemblages of the Delfland sites show few differences, which are moreover much less pronounced than the differences with respect to pottery produced at sites further east, in the river area (fig. 17; see also Raemaekers 1999 and id. in Ball & Van den Broeke 2007). The use of shell as temper is – not surprisingly – a distinct characteristic of the coastal area, as is the use of vegetable matter. Crushed stone, in particular quartz, was on the contrary used mainly in the river area. At the coast, this form of tempering became dominant only in the course of the occupation period. In the east, sand was also used to temper the clay. Wall decoration in the form of vertical lines was common at all the sites in the river area, but rare at the coast. A third distinguishing feature in the east is a rough outer wall created by smearing lumps of clay over it (Schlickrauhung). Such pots, with a turned-down rim (a Tupfenleist), are related to the Vorratsgefässe of the Michelsberg culture. In addition, Hazendonk assemblages in the river area comprise thin-walled, smooth or polished bowls and dishes whose source of inspiration is still unclear. The carinated profiles resemble those of the Grimston bowls in England. So the typological relations are more complex than a simple Hazendonk-Michelsberg gradient (Louwe Kooijmans 2005, 2006b).

The interregional differences show that the Delfland potters had a certain independent status that allowed them to make their own technical and stylistic choices within a general earthenware concept. The pots produced at the individual Delfland sites however differ only little from one another. The Rijswijk assemblage has a conspicuously low percentage of decoration whereas Schipluiden stands out for the use of line decoration (only one sherd with line decoration was found at Rijswijk!). Such differences may reflect limited contacts with the east, differentiated according to site.

This pottery style is combined with a bipartite flint tradition: in addition to a simple flake industry based on relatively small river pebbles, the sites’ occupants used a toolkit made of flint imported from a distant source that bears a close resemblance to the toolkit of the Michelsberg culture, comprising triangular points, Spitzklinge, sturdy scrapers and borers. These tools were used for specific tasks, in particular harvesting cereal, making fire and manufacturing beads. They had a special meaning for the people (Van Gijn 2008). We also see the production of the first flint axes. There do not seem to be any fundamental differences between the sites, implying that the occupants all had access to the flint sources in the chalk zone in the south of the province of Limburg, Hainault and Pas de Calais. This ‘imported flint’ amounted to between 7.5 % (Schipluiden) and 10.6 % (Wateringen) of the total amount of flint used. The scores for the different sources vary quite a bit from one site to another, which could mean that each local group had its own contact area, though it should be added that it is difficult to distinguish between the different types of flint.

At all the sites, and also at Hazendonk, the main types of stone used were sandstone, quartz and quartzites, whose sources are hard to identify. The percentages of igneous and metamorphic rocks (other than quartzite) were remarkably high at Schipluiden and Ypenburg, and differ very little from one another in the worked stone finds (21 and 23%). Noteworthy finds are small nodules of pyrite, which – like one of the flint types – may have been collected along the coastal cliffs of Boulogne-sur-Mer, where they are still to be found today (pers. comm. K. van Oorde). An alternative is a source in the Ardennes.

Jet and amber beads were made in Delfland. Jet bead blanks found at Schipluiden and Wateringen show that the beads were produced at the sites themselves, implying an innovation. No such beads are known from the Late Mesolithic anywhere in the Netherlands – including Hardinxveld – but they are known from the Swifterbant culture. Jet was relatively prominently represented at Schipluiden, amber at Ypenburg, in particular in the burials, and this is an important difference between these two sites. Like the pyrite and one of the flint types, the jet probably came from the coast near Boulogne-sur-Mer, or it may have been washed up on beaches further north. Small pieces of amber could probably be picked up along the North Sea beach to the north of Delfland.

It would seem that the occupants of the Delfland sites maintained contacts in several directions to obtain materials that were not to be found in their own region: with the east specifically for stone, with the chalk areas in the south of Belgium for high-quality flint, and with the coast of Pas-de-Calais also for pyrite and jet. On the one hand this indicates continuation of the lines of contact that had existed for more than two thousand years, ever since the Late Mesolithic; on the other the individual local Hazendonk communities of Delfland seem to have had contacts with different areas.