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

5 Concluding remarks

The possible imitation of Keile and the locally made shaft holes in broken ones provide clues for the type of contact. The term contact is widely used in archaeology, but the actual meaning, tenor and implications are rarely pursued in any depth. How often have Breitkeile not been considered expressions of contact reflecting the adoption of cultural elements and transmission of information which would result in the shift to a new, read agrarian, economy? The distribution of Keile and a number of connected observations demonstrate that this needs some elucidation.

The use of a new and foreign artefact does not necessarily imply that in cases of direct or indirect contact there is also a flow of information allowing transfer of knowledge in other domains. Several ethnographical examples are known that demonstrate the exact opposite (Verhart 2000). Repair of shaft holes in broken Keile in a Mesolithic technology is an archaeological example.

Keile with secondary hourglass-shaped shaft holes found close the Rössen habitation area could be the result of maintenance of traditional practises by local groups of hunter-gatherers, which indicates a rather closed and restricted attitude towards new ideas and developments.

The Keile with secondary hourglass-shaped shaft holes found farther away can be the result of limited and indirect contact between hunter-gatherers and farmers of the Rössen culture.

In both cases this has implications for the conceptualisation of the transition from hunting and gathering to an agrarian lifestyle. Hunter-gatherers may have been familiar with agrarian communities in the direct or more distant vicinity. This does however not mean that they adopted and familiarised themselves immediately with the knowledge on agriculture and animal husbandry. Growing new and unknown crops requires knowledge and experience, even at a small scale. The soil used for crops needs to be suitable, the sowing seeds need to be planted at the right time and in the right way, the growing crop needs care and attention and needs to be harvested at the right moment. Livestock, too, needs to be handled with knowledge and experience, albeit probably to a somewhat lesser degree. Familiarising that knowledge in the beginning assumes a very direct contact in order to gain experience.

Gender aspects will be an issue here as well. Whereas in the first contact situations the men will play a prominent part, women will be increasingly integrated in a continuation of those contacts (Louwe Kooijmans 2010; Price & Brown 1985; Price & Gebauer 1995; Verhart 2000). In general they will be the ones mastering pottery production and crop cultivation. The experience in gathering wild edible plants and roots they have gained in their traditional hunter-gatherer society will have been a major advantage in obtaining that new knowledge and transfer to regions farther away.

The acquisition of LBK adzes and Rössen Keile is only the beginning of a lengthy transformation process from hunter-gatherer to farmer, being step by step documented in the Holocene sedimentation districts in the west and north of the Netherlands.


Leo Verhart

Limburgs Museum, Venlo