The Single Grave Culture and the Emergence of a New Ideology

A facetted Battle Axe, found in Mecklenburg in the late 19th century (an item from the former Axel Guttmann collection)

The Single Grave Culture (ca. 2900–2450/2350 cal. BC) belongs to the Corded Ware cultures of central, eastern and northern Europe, which were closely related. The pottery was decorated with cord impressions in a common style and the stone battle axe was a invariable part of man’s equipment as found in the graves.

The single grave period was once suggested to represent a sudden break in the development of the Neolithic societies in Northern Europe. Anyhow, during the last years, several lines of evidence support a continuity between Corded Ware Culture andFunnel Beaker Culture in Scandinavia, Northern amd Middle Germany and in the Netherlands, suggesting that these culture may not intrusive in these regions. Paleogenetic data from 2013 heavily contradict to this view (

Any how, the funeral practices of the Single Grave Culture are in sharp contrast to the preceding Neolithic with its monumental community graves within a Megalithic tradition. They are focused on the individual and not on the community and on the atributes of patriachal force and power in a burial system that is centered around a dichtomy between man and woman.

The new funerary practice consists mainly of single inhumation burials in contracted positions. Female burials are usually placed on the left side, orientated with the head in the east. For male burials the typical orientation is to the west, with the body placed on the right side. All burials of both sexes face to the south. Male and female burials are accompanied by different funeral artifacts. Male burial assemblages usually include weapons such as battle-axes or mace heads, while woman graves often contain necklaces and domestic objects.

Excavations have revealed that some children’s burials are also accompanied by stone tools or weapons, which may well be anticipating their social roles as adults. Because other male child burials of do not include any of these artifacts, it could be argued that this group of sub-adult male burials may represent socially favored individuals of some sort.

Suggested Reading:

Jungneolithische Gräber auf der Jütischen Halbinsel. Typologische und chronologische Studien zur Einzelgrabkultur. 3 Bände, Kartenmappe und CD (by

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome!

About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University.

Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.

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One Response to The Single Grave Culture and the Emergence of a New Ideology

  1. Pingback: Battle Axe from the Corded Ware Culture of Middle Europe and the genetic Background of Neolithic cultural Change | Aggsbach's Paleolithic Blog

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