Consequences of Farming in Southern Scandinavia

views updated


Before the advent of agriculture, hunter-gatherers settled southern Scandinavia, during the later sixth millennia and the fifth millennia b.c. They are known in the archaeological literature as the Ertebo⁄lle culture—Ertebo⁄lle being one of the large shell middens (kokkenmodding in Danish) on the Limfjord in northern Jutland. In cultural terms, such hunter-gatherer communities occupied a substantial area of northern Europe: in Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg, and as far east as the Polish Baltic coast, although the shell middens seem to be confined to Danish fjords. Research in southern Scandinavia during the last quarter of the twentieth century onward has vastly altered the picture of these communities. They are now seen as economically and technologically resourceful, engaged in elaborate social processes leading to the enhancement of the individual's social standing, and possessing a clear vision of their place within the natural and cultural world and within a social and economic sphere that included people with a vastly different lifestyle—the Neolithic farmers.


The Ertebo⁄lle communities lived inland as well as along the extensive coastlines, exploiting very rich natural environments; a mixture of hunting of game, fishing, seal hunting, and gathering of plants and sea mollusks often enabled year-round settlement. The Ertebo⁄lle hunter-gatherers were skilled craftspeople with a rich tool kit manufactured in flint, stone, and antler, and individuals adorned themselves with jewelry made of animal teeth, shell beads, and amber. Some of these materials, through form and decoration, indicate geographically discrete styles, suggesting regional groups in need of expressions of social, spiritual, and economic identities. At least some groups buried their dead in cemeteries: those from Skateholm in Scania and Vedbæk on Zealand provide evidence of complex burial rituals expressed in the position of the dead, the choice of grave goods, and the accompanying burial ceremonies. This evidence has vastly expanded modern understanding of the Late Mesolithic hunter-gatherers' view of the world and their relationship with nature and with other contemporary groups.

More significantly, these hunter-gatherers did not live in isolation and were more than aware of developments farther south, where the early so-called Danubian farmers were establishing themselves from the mid-sixth millennium b.c. on the fertile loess soils of central Europe. Discoveries of items of an exotic as well as a quotidian nature that derive from the Danubian sphere speak vividly of trading links and exchanges between the Ertebo⁄lle hunter-gatherers and the southerly farmers. There is little doubt that ceramic technology, so enthusiastically adopted by the Ertebo⁄lle communities around 4700 b.c., derived from the south. Perforated Danubian axes (Schuhleistenkeile), made of hard crystalline rocks unavailable in the north, were very attractive to hunter-gatherers, and discoveries of such axes in Ertebo⁄lle graves and from votive deposits indicate that possession of such exotic tools was prestigious and enhanced the status of those who could procure them. Gifts of domesticated animals and caches of cereals featured in these transactions, and there is no doubt that the southern Scandinavian hunter-gatherers were familiar with agricultural foodstuffs and practices.

All these items demonstrate trade and exchange links between communities with different lifestyles; return gifts offered by the hunter-gatherers could have been equally attractive, comprising flint, bone, and antler tools; perishable commodities, such as foodstuffs (plant, protein, and honey); salt; skins and furs; and even laborers and marriage partners. Thus the issue of why the southern Scandinavian hunter-gatherers did not engage in agricultural pursuits until the very end of the fifth millennium b.c., and even then continued with the traditional economies side by side, remains one of the great debates of southern Scandinavian archaeology.


The adoption of agriculture was part of a much wider process of transition from hunting and gathering to farming across the whole of the North European Plain. From a purely geographical point of view, southern Scandinavia—that is, the area from the Danish border with Schleswig-Holstein in the south to central Sweden in the north—was one of the last regions in which agriculture was established. Different groups took up the Neolithic elements at varied rates and in differing combinations. It is reasonable to assume that at least five hundred years separated the first indigenous attempts at farming on the southern fringes of the North European Plain and the final appearance of farming in southern Scandinavia.

The idea of large-scale colonization by farmers migrating from the south is no longer supported, and it generally is accepted that hunter-gatherers themselves adopted agriculture. There is, however, little consensus on the precise nature of this process. Scholars working within an economic paradigm argue that it was only a dramatic change in the climate—to drier and warmer conditions—that forced the hunter-gatherers to engage in agriculture. Some researchers have viewed the adoption of farming as the result of a dramatic depletion of natural resources, for example, of seasonal staples such as oysters, whereas others suggest that the effects of climatic change on soil conditions permitted cereal growing to be taken up more fully. In either scenario the change is seen as swift, taking place at some time between 4100 and 3900 b.c.

In contrast to this economically oriented view, social processes also have featured prominently in discussion of the transition. The Swedish scholar Kristina Jennbert has long espoused the idea of a "fertile gift"—the slow and gradual introduction of cereals and domesticated animals into the hunter-gatherer milieu. This idea finds support in Denmark, suggesting that the process may have been more gradual than originally envisaged. Excavations at Visborg on the Mariager Fjord in northern Jutland have brought to light a coastal kitchen midden that dates to the final Ertebo⁄lle and the earliest Funnel Beaker culture (also known as Trichterbecher or TRB culture and Tragtbægerkultur in Danish). Here, during the early TRB period, game hunting, fishing, seal hunting, and fowling continued, but alongside these traditional pursuits, a few domesticates—cattle and pigs—were kept, and small quantities of crops were grown. The signs of a similar process of transition have been noted in the Store Åmose bog on western Zealand. Here technological changes in the manufacture of flint tools are seen as a slow and gradual process spanning the Late Mesolithic and the Early Neolithic, even though the appearance of polished flint axes is rather sudden.

While the debate on the mechanics of the transition remains firmly embedded within the specific paradigms espoused by individual scholars, the change ultimately must be seen as a complex process. The uniqueness of it, in southern Scandinavia and elsewhere on the North European Plain, lies in the active participation of the indigenous hunter-gatherers, who modified and transformed the central European "Neolithic package" in response to their own needs and thus created an entirely singular Neolithic culture—the so-called Tragtbægerkultur.


The adoption of farming had a profound impact on southern Scandinavian communities. In terms of chronology, the Funnel Beaker culture—so named after its characteristic funnel-necked pot known in German as Trichterrandbecher (fig. 1)—traditionally is divided in Scandinavian chronology into two major horizons: the Early Neolithic (EN I and II: 4100/4000–3400 b.c.) and the Middle Neolithic (MN I–V: 3300–2800/2700 b.c.). Each of these horizons has been refined on the basis of distinctive ceramic styles, which, in general, find support in other dating evidence.

Not surprisingly, there was a considerable degree of continuity with the preceding Mesolithic, but many aspects of everyday life were given a new content and symbolism, not just through novel economy but also, even more significantly, in the transformations in all cultural, social, and ideological spheres. By way of illustrating some of these phenomena, one may consider aspects of settlement, industrial development, and ceremonial activities, all of which demonstrate the originality and profundity of this historically momentous process.

Funnel Beaker Settlement and Land Use. The early farmers in southern Scandinavia had a strong preference for lighter soils, locating their settlements in hilly landscapes interspersed with bogs, marshes, and stretches of open water. Such topography emphasized the importance of both the dry higher ground and the low-lying wetter landscape; it also ensured ecological diversity with a combination of forest, meadow, and arable land offering ideal conditions for early agriculture. The only reliable evidence of agricultural activities comes from the presence of cereal crops and bones of domesticated animals on settlement sites. It was the Danish palaeobotanist J. Iversen who, in the 1940s, first recognized the possibility of interpreting the influence of humans on the natural environment through the study of pollen records. Subsequent research in this field, using pollen from bog deposits and from old land surfaces preserved beneath the burial mounds, has led to an understanding of the type and extent of anthropogenic activities of the early farmers. While there are regional variations, pollen analyses from various localities in Scania, eastern Denmark, and northern Jutland show that, during the EN, open lime or birch forests were maintained for small-scale cereal cultivation and intensive grazing of cattle and pig. In the MN, coppiced hazel woodlands were used for permanent cereal growing, with repeated burnings for the improvement of grazing.

While cereals of various types (wheat and, later, barley) and domesticated animals (cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats) began to contribute more to the overall economy, many of the hunting and fishing stations established during the Ertebo⁄lle continued to be used by the Funnel Beaker farmers. In the Store Åmose, farmers still made use of the earlier hunting and fishing locations. The small island of Hesselo⁄ north of Zealand was popular during the winter months with seal hunters. So⁄lager, by the Roskilde Fjord, may have been the hunting outpost for those living at Havnelev, 3 kilometers farther inland, and was used to catch birds that migrated in the winter. The old kitchen middens continued to be occupied: at Norsminde, eastern Jutland, and at Bjo⁄rnsholm and Visborg, northern Jutland, there is evidence of farming settlements just outside the midden zone, suggesting that permanent occupation was possible along the coast.

Initially settlements appear to have been small. This finding may reflect the preservation conditions rather than the original size, because many are found preserved under the earthen long barrows. Numerous sites, including the famous Barkær site on Djursland Peninsula that once was thought to be a classic Danubian-style longhouse, have been reinterpreted convincingly as long barrows placed upon early TRB settlements. The actual settlement structures are difficult to decipher: light buildings of unclear construction noted at Mosegården and Lindebjerg and D-shaped houses postulated elsewhere (Hanstedgård and possibly Troldebjerg). Only when the Funnel Beaker culture became fully established, from the MN onward, do larger sites appear. (The late settlement at Spodsbjerg on Langeland, for example, apparently extended over 300,000 square meters.) As if in exact opposition to the early Funnel Beaker settlement pattern, many of these later settlements had been located upon abandoned ceremonial causewayed enclosures. This phenomenon is well recognized, but initially it led to some difficulties in interpretation, evoking concepts of fortified settlements for which there is no evidence. House structures become clear only toward the end of the TRB, with some of the best-preserved examples being on the island of Bornholm.

The settlement of this island is a remarkable testimony to the navigational skills of the Neolithic farmers. The 37-kilometer-wide strait separating the island from the Swedish mainland is known for very strong currents and changing winds, and the crossing must have been one of the most hazardous enterprises of that time. Excavations on the southern part of the island, at Limensgård and Gro⁄dbygård, have brought to light remarkable remains of several long rectangular Funnel Beaker houses, up to 22 meters in length, revealing sophisticated architecture based on complex arrangements of central and side posts supporting the roofs of the structures.

Flint and Ceramic Industries. One of the consequences of the introduction of farming to southern Scandinavia was the development of a new kind of industry catering to the needs of farmers, that is, mining for flint and mass production of tools—most important, axes. Whereas small implements, such as knife blades, scrapers, sickles, and even arrowheads, usually could be made from abundantly available surface flint, the manufacture of axes for forest clearance and woodworking required good-quality flint in large nodules. The chalky cliffs of the eastern Danish islands, as well as chalky deposits in southern Scania and northern Jutland, provided deeply placed primary flint deposits that were exploited by means of surface extraction as well as deep-shaft mining.

The northern flint mines at Ålborg, Bjerre, Hov, and Kvarnby as well as the numerous quarries and workshops from eastern Denmark provide details of the extraction and production processes. These activities clearly were carried out by specialists with expert knowledge of mining techniques, flint properties, and tool manufacture. The flint nodules were subject to on-the-spot quality control: one of the Kvarnby shafts had on its floor about three hundred roughly worked nodules that had been tested and rejected. Similarly abandoned axe preforms also have been found near workshops along the eastern shores. Hoards of axe blanks indicate that axes normally left the mines as blanks, to be worked and traded elsewhere, although workshops outside the shafts at Kvarnby show that at least some tools were finished and even hafted on the spot.

Experiments in axe manufacture conducted by Danish archaeologists show that an individual craftsperson must have had a precise notion of what the finished product should look like and that the production of a rough-out (the initial rough form, with a few hammerings only to give it a shape, from which an axe would be made) could have been accomplished in about ten minutes. Further knapping for about two hours was needed to produce a well-proportioned axe, but the polishing, which ultimately is responsible for the aesthetics and the excellent working quality of the Scandinavian Funnel Beaker axes, was the truly time-consuming process, taking from six to thirty hours of work.

The enormous scale of these industrial activities is difficult to imagine. Not only were the axe manufacturing centers able to satisfy the seemingly continuous demand for axes as tools, used both locally and for long-distance exchange with communities in the western part of the North European Plain, but they also produced a surplus that became an important social resource employed in a variety of votive and ceremonial contexts. Just like the pottery, an essential everyday tool, such as the flint axe, also was considered an important social resource with symbolic prestige, used in complex intercommunal exchanges and freely disposed of in waterlogged locations, at megalithic tombs, and in causewayed enclosures.

Pottery is the most common find in all Funnel Beaker contexts. The manufacture and use of ceramic vessels were very important. Nonetheless, the strongly decorative character of Funnel Beaker pottery means that it features in the archaeological literature more as a tool for the construction of elaborate typochronologies than as a significant element of the material culture, enlightening archaeologists as to its role in the quotidian and ceremonial spheres of activity. In everyday life clay vessels were used for storing and cooking food. While the late Ertebo⁄lle hunter-gatherers were keen ceramic makers, the Funnel Beaker vessels are technologically greatly improved. The tempering was increased to withstand high temperatures and to prolong the life span of the pot as a cooking vessel, and there was a wider range of forms and decoration. In the early Funnel Beaker, bowls generally were used in the mixing and serving of food, whereas beakers were used as cooking pots—staining on their exterior walls clearly reveals foodstuffs that boiled over. Later the beakers were replaced by a variety of bowls, hanging vessels, and simple, virtually undecorated bucket shapes. Throughout the Funnel Beaker, flat clay disks also were used in culinary activities; the name "baking plates" may well reflect their function.

Apart from household activities, from the very beginning pottery was employed in a wide range of contexts extending well beyond the domestic arena. It seems that some of the most expertly made and beautifully decorated vessels, such as the so-called pedestal bowls, were produced deliberately for display and use in ceremonies and rituals. Thus pots, together with other objects, were deposited in bogs and at the edges of lakes. They were manufactured and disposed of at ceremonial enclosures and also played a significant role in the funerary ritual, as grave goods and in ceremonies that involved wasteful and extravagant destruction of pottery (doubtless containing food offerings) outside ancestral tombs.

The Ritual and Ceremonial Landscape. Through their agricultural practices, the farmers did alter the natural environment around them: forests were cut to create land suitable for crop fields, meadow pastures, and settlements. Their most powerful and lasting legacy, however, was achieved not so much through agricultural practices but rather through the creation of a rich ceremonial landscape—a theatrical setting for social interaction and for the expression of rituals on a scale never before encountered in Scandinavia. The most dramatic aspect of this ceremonial landscape manifests in the presence of burial monuments and enclosures. Less tangibly, but no less significantly, votive offerings of pottery and hoards of flint axes and other goods are witness to the heavily ritualized consumption of commodities, suggestive of an ever growing competitive nature among the Scandinavian farmers.

Votive offerings placed at lake edges, deep in the marshy and boggy areas, and in other watery locations, seem to have been made by the late Ertebo⁄lle hunter-gatherers, perhaps symbolically linking the natural and the cultural worlds in which they lived. The Scandinavian farmers continued these traditions, on a greatly intensified level, with peak activity between 3500 and 2950 b.c. The hundreds of flint axe hoards, disposed of in wet environments in close proximity to settlements and tombs, underscore the scale of the flint industry, which was capable of sustaining not just the economic but also the ritual demand for axes. They also emphasize the social significance of agriculturally marginal land. This importance of watery places is particularly well documented on the Danish islands, where the bog deposits make ritual use of ceramics, foodstuffs, and, occasionally, even human sacrifices.

The excellent records for peat extraction in the Store Åmose bog on Zealand, going as far back as the 1870s, provide a fascinating source of information on the bog pots and associated deposits. Unlike the goods seen in funerary contexts, the vast majority of vessels represent the most common domestic category, the beaker. At least some were used for cooking before their deposition; traces of fish have been identified, and wooden spoons sometimes are found inside the pots. In their classic form, these votive offerings—in addition to flint axes—comprise various combinations of pots with amber jewelry and domesticated and wild animals. Complete skeletons of domesticated cattle, with remains of sheep, goat, deer, birds, and fish, are some of the exceptional finds that have come to light from Store Åmose. Human sacrifices also were part of these lakeside rituals, and at least some of the Neolithic bodies found in bogs represent individuals who met with violent death by arrow, strangulation, or drowning through being weighted down with stones. What guided people to dispose of material goods, animals, and humans in lakes and rivers is not known, but such practices demonstrate that material culture was an important symbolic resource used in mediation between humans and their natural environment.

The megalithic tombs of southern Scandinavia are dramatic, monumental structures, and their prominence in the archaeological record is such that, until the late 1930s, it was not uncommon to refer to the Funnel Beaker culture, both here and in Germany, as the "megalithic culture." New discoveries and theoretical approaches to Neolithic burial, however, have altered the perception of the "megaliths" in relation to other forms of contemporary burials. Megaliths now are regarded as only one of the many expressions of monumental burial that have become an accepted feature of the Neolithic of northwestern Europe. Scandinavian research at the end of the twentieth century has contributed significantly to the recognition of this phenomenon.

Thus the earliest burial chambers of the Scandinavian Neolithic, dated from c. 4100/3900 b.c., were constructed in timber. Some of these so-called flat graves remained without any elaborate superstructure, as, for example, at Dragsholm on west Zealand; others at one stage or another were enveloped in massive earthen mounds. While these barrows, their graves, and associated structures display a range of different forms that reflect the local customs and preferences of individual communities, the tradition offers a background against which the megalithic chamber may be seen as a stone version of an already popular grave form.

From the middle of the nineteenth century, the stone-built tombs—the so-called megaliths—inspired Scandinavian scholars. Sven Nilsson was among the first to concern himself seriously with the Scandinavian megaliths, and he was followed by another Swede, Oscar Montelius. While the latter is remembered primarily for his typologies of the Scandinavian Bronze Age, he also was the first to present a typology of the southern Scandinavian megaliths. Since then many typochronological schemes have been presented to account for the development of this phenomenon. While many types have been proposed, in principle, there are two basic categories: the dolmen (stendysse) and the passage grave (jættestue), each with a variety of forms. The construction of dolmens began toward the end of the EN (Fuchsberg phase), soon after 3700 b.c., while passage graves do not contain materials that are older than the MN Ib (Klintebakke phase), dating to 3300 b.c.

Hand in hand with the elaborateness and complexity of megalithic architecture goes the refinement of the funerary ritual. The earliest dolmens appear to have contained single inhumations accompanied by few grave goods, but the majority of tombs display a different ritual. In contrast to timber chambers, the accessibility of the stone-built chambers permitted repeated use of the interior, and in some cases, remains from as many as two hundred individuals have been found. In the interior, piles of bones with skulls carefully placed on top were described by nineteenth-century archaeologists as chaotic. The selection, manipulation, and arrangement of human remains—thus active engagement with ancestral bones—were socially significant to the users of the tombs. Associated rituals are expressed most dramatically in the deliberate placement and subsequent destruction of pottery by the entrances to the tombs.

The tombs, which most likely operated on a local, village level, were complemented in the wider landscape by ceremonial enclosures devoted to communal activities for scattered populations. These sites are endowed with their own architectural identity, which seems to have arisen as a cumulative effect of numerous ceremonial acts: cutting and recutting ditches, piling up banks, and erecting palisades. The activities involve deposition of materials that cannot be considered normal domestic refuse. Burned cereal grain and animal remains in the form of skulls of cattle, sheep, pigs, and dogs are suggestive of feasting. Depositions of selected items, such as flint axes, weapons, ceramics, and ornaments as well as partial human remains in the ditches are reminiscent of votive activities performed at waterlogged locations.

The distribution of votive river and lake places, the megalithic tombs, and the causewayed enclosures within the range of .5 to 2 kilometers from settlements—as well as the distribution of artifacts at and between these locations—implies transport, communication, and physical movement. Thus another consequence of the Neolithic in southern Scandinavia was the creation of transport and communication routes, some of which were used over many millennia. The old medieval Haervay-Heerweg route, from Viborg in northern Jutland to Hamburg (Germany) and beyond, has been shown to have originated in the TRB period, with the megaliths its oldest markers and with the Neolithic flint axes manufactured at Bjerre and Hov the earliest goods to have traveled along it.


The end of the Funnel Beaker culture in southern Scandinavia some time between 2900 and 2700 b.c. was, like its origins, a complex process; it is poorly documented in the archaeological record, and its interpretation remains largely intuitive. In global terms the TRB culture was followed by another massive, pan-European phenomenon, the largely pastoral Corded Ware culture. In Denmark, the Corded Ware is referred to as the Single Grave culture (Enkeltgravskultur) because single graves are the most diagnostic type of site. In Sweden it is known as the Battle-Axe culture (Stridsyxekultur) after the profusion of this type of stone weapon. This situation in southern Scandinavia is complicated further by the presence of another cultural complex, the Pitted Ware culture—named after the characteristic decoration of ceramics with deep, pit-like impressions.

The relationship between the Pitted Ware culture, found mainly in southeastern Sweden and northeastern Denmark, and the Funnel Beaker culture is unclear. The chronological position of Pitted Ware culture—emerging in the archaeological record toward the later part of the Funnel Beaker culture and contemporary with the early stages of the Corded Ware culture—as well as the fact that it was based largely on hunting and gathering pose serious problems of interpretation. The Pitted Ware culture generally has been thought of as one of the numerous groups in the circum-Baltic region that continued the traditional foraging way of life. With the exception of ceramics, its material culture seems to have been geared toward hunting and fishing activities. Nonetheless, investigation of sites in Scania and northeastern Jutland shows that such groups, in some regions at least, were familiar with cereal crops and domesticated animals, even if they themselves were not actively engaged in agricultural production.

Against the background of the available evidence, it is difficult to imagine that in the shadow of the dynamic agricultural communities of the Funnel Beaker populations continued to exist that by and large followed the traditional hunting and gathering way of life. Scholarly opinions tend toward the view that at the end of the Funnel Beaker culture some communities, living in proximity to coasts and estuaries, simply may have returned to a greater reliance on hunting, fishing, and gathering. This could have been caused by a combination of factors, including environmental, economic, and ideological changes within the TRB itself. In most areas of southern Scandinavia this process of change resulted in the emergence of the pastorally oriented Corded Ware culture, whereas around the southern Kattegat zone, for a time at least, some communities seem to have faced this transitional time by returning to the rich natural resources available there.

Although in the past fanciful notions of horse-mounted eastern warriors were evoked to explain the appearance of the Corded Ware culture in Europe, it now seems that a local, if regionally diversified, emergence is a more appropriate working concept. Indeed there is sufficient evidence to show a degree of continuity from the late Funnel Beaker culture to the subsequent Corded Ware culture and to demonstrate that the process of social and economic change, which ultimately led to the emergence of the Corded Ware culture over much of southern Scandinavia, can be perceived within the later Funnel Beaker culture. The settlement and economy of the Corded Ware were rooted in the preceding period, although there are some regional differences. Thus in eastern Denmark and Scania, there is little evidence for change in land use, and on Bornholm and the southern Danish islands, settlement continued more or less uninterrupted on sites previously occupied by the Funnel Beaker culture. Initially at least the extant megalithic tombs in this region offered convenient burial places, since many Corded Ware burials can be identified as late additions.

The exploitation, in the later Funnel Beaker culture, of secondary animal products, such as milk and wool, began to change the overall role of cattle and sheep, leading to an increase in the sizes of herds, which, in turn, led to a demand for larger expanses of grazing land. There was a gradual opening of the landscape in eastern Denmark, but the clearest evidence for this process comes from western Jutland. There, analyses of old land surfaces preserved under Single Grave barrows have shown not only a progressive uptake of new landscapes at the time of the transition but also a conversion of vast areas into permanent pastures.

With reference to the basic material culture of the Corded Ware, elements such as beakers, amphorae, the use of cord in decoration, thick-butted flint axes, and indeed weapons in the form of the battle-axe were already familiar types, although they clearly acquired different social significance. Indeed, within the social sphere of the later Funnel Beaker culture, one may point to the progressive shift toward recognition of the individual through the increased presence of small, single graves. This is most dramatically illustrated by the so-called stone-packing grave cemeteries from western Jutland, where Corded Ware barrows with individual graves are found in large numbers (fig. 2). Moreover the emphasis on tools and weapons, rather than ceramics, in the ceremonial and funerary activities of the Corded Ware also may be said to have begun within the Funnel Beaker culture. Toward the end of the TRB, deposits in waterlogged environments and offerings in front of megalithic tombs and in association with other forms of burial—particularly the stone-packing graves—consist predominantly of stone and flint tools and weapons, with ceramics no longer fulfilling an important communicative role.

Thus irrespective of the wider, pan-European processes of cultural change toward the end of the third millennium b.c., the developments in southern Scandinavia demonstrate that it was local traditions, rather than extraneous ideas, that shaped the cultural patterns for the next millennium.


The Early Neolithic of northern Europe, in its Funnel Beaker cultural manifestation, is a consequence of extensive and prolonged contacts between the indigenous hunter-gatherers and the more southerly farmers. The southern Scandinavian hunter-gatherers played an important role in this historically significant process. While intellectual orthodoxies see the Neolithic economy as leading to social and ideological changes, the evidence from southern Scandinavia and from other regions of the North European Plain indicates that there the change in subsistence and diet may not have been the prime mover.

The archaeological record indicates that, whereas the proportion of domesticated foodstuffs was increasing steadily if slowly, the principal changes originated in the sphere of ideology and social relations. It was here that the dynamic and competitive nature of the late hunter-gatherer communities found a path for expressing new social, religious, and undoubtedly, political needs. This ultimately led to the emergence of an entirely singular vision of themselves and the world around them—the world of the northern European Neolithic farmers. This new world, however, was never static. It possessed its own energy, which was able to sustain new initiatives for more than a millennium and which, in its turn, contributed to subsequent cultural patterns across the whole of southern Scandinavia.

See alsoThe Mesolithic of Northern Europe (vol. 1, part2); Sarup (vol. 1, part 3); Corded Ware from East to West (vol. 1, part 4).


Andersen, So⁄ren H. "Bjo⁄rnsholm: A Stratified Kokkenmodding on the Central Limfjord, North Jutland." Journal of Danish Archaeology 10 (1991): 59–96.

——. "Norsminde: A Kokkenmodding with Late Mesolithic and Early Neolithic Occupation." Journal of Danish Archaeology 8 (1989): 13–40.

Bonsall, C., M. G. Macklin, D. E. Anderson, and R. W. Payton. "Climate Change and the Adoption of Agriculture in North-western Europe." European Journal of Archaeology 5, no. 1 (2002): 9–23.

Bradley, Richard. The Passage of Arms: An ArchaeologicalAnalysis of Prehistoric Hoards and Votive Deposits. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 1998. (Explains new developments and covers well the interpretation of the southern Scandinavian Neolithic votive deposits from watery environments.)

Fischer, Anders. "Trade in Danubian Shaft-Hole Axes and the Introduction of Neolithic Economy in Denmark." Journal of Danish Archaeology 1 (1982): 7–12.

Fischer, Anders, and Kristian Kristiansen, eds. The Neolithisation of Denmark: 150 Years of Debate. Sheffield, U.K.: J. R. Collis Publications, 2002. (The fascinating debate on the transition from hunting-gathering to farming, as expressed in Danish literature in the second half of the nineteenth century and the twentieth century, has been translated into English.)

Hvass, Steen, and Birger Storgaard, eds. Digging into thePast: 25 Years of Archaeology in Denmark. Copenhagen, Denmark: Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries, 1993. (A comprehensive survey of Danish prehistoric research of the last quarter of the twentieth century; new discoveries are brought together by specialists, with theoretical ideas and interpretations.)

Jennbert, K. "'From the Inside': A Contribution to the Debate about the Introduction of Agriculture in Southern Scandinavia." In Harvesting the Sea, Farming the Forest: The Emergence of Neolithic Societies in the Baltic Region. Edited by Marek Zvelebil, Lucyna Domańska, and Robin Dennell, pp. 31–35. Sheffield, U.K.: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998.

Koch, Eva. Neolithic Bog Pots from Zealand, Mon, Lolland, and Falster. Copenhagen, Denmark: Kongelige Nordiske Oldskriftselskab, 1998. (Excellent study of the Neolithic pots deposited in bogs and lakes on the island of Zealand and recovered, more than four thousand years later, through peat extraction. Good information on associated finds and a full catalog.)

Madsen, A. P. Gravhoje og Gravfund fra Stenalderen I Danmark: Fyen og Jylland. Copenhagen, Denmark: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 1900.

Midgley, Magdalena S. Funnel Beaker Culture: The FirstFarmers of the North European Plain. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1992. (The only general survey of the entire Funnel Beaker culture available in English.)

Pedersen, L. "7000 Years of Fishing: Stationary Fishing Structures in the Mesolithic and Afterwards." In Man and Sea in the Mesolithic: Coastal Settlement above and below Present Sea Level. Edited by A. Fischer, pp. 75–86. Oxbow Monograph, no. 53. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 1995.

Rudebeck, E. "Flintmining in Sweden during the Neolithic Period: New Evidence from Kvarnby–S. Sallerup Area." In The Human Uses of Flint and Chert. Edited by G. de Sieveking and M. H. Newcomer, pp. 151–157. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Skaarup, Jo⁄rgen. Yngre Stenalder på oerne syd for Fyn [The Neolithic on the islands south of Fyn]. Rudko⁄bing, Denmark: Langelands Museum, 1985. (Complete catalog of Funnel Beaker finds from the southern Danish islands, in Danish with English summaries.)

Stafford, Michael. From Forager to Farmer in Flint: A LithicAnalaysis of the Prehistoric Transition to Agriculture inSouthern Scandinavia. Århus, Denmark: Århus University Press, 1999.

Tilley, Christopher. An Ethnography of the Neolithic: EarlyPrehistoric Societies in Southern Scandinavia. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Zvelebil, M., and P. Rowley-Conwy. "Transition to Farming in Northern Europe: A Hunter-Gatherer Perspective." Norwegian Archaeological Review 17, no. 2 (1984): 104–128.

Magdalena S. Midgley

About this article

Consequences of Farming in Southern Scandinavia

Updated About content Print Article Share Article