Triangular Point from the Michaelsberg (Michelsberg Culture)

This is a flat triangular point found at the Michaelsberg at Untergrombach.

The Michelsberg culture is named after the Michaelsberg, a hill at Untergrombach, Baden-Würtenberg; Germany. The site was first discovered in 1884 and excavated by K. Schumacher from 1888-1889 and later by A. Bonnet from 1896-1999. It turned out to be a hilltop village or earthwork partly surrounded with a ditch.

Michelsberg sites are now known from the Middle Rhine, Northern and Central France, Belgium, Central Germany and the Czech Republic. C-14 dates put the beginning of this complex to 4.3 k.a. cal BC and the demise of the Michelsberg culture around 3.5 k.a. cal BC. The Michelsberg complex may be the product of a population influx in areas that were first cultivated by the LBK-culture and several characteristics are in strong opposition to their Neolithic forerunners:

  • During the Michelsberg complex, people continued with a farming way of life. Cattle predominate, followed by pig and sheep/goat. Evidence of domesticated horses is also reported. Domesticated Emmer and Einkorn as well as Barley lentils and peas were consumed. Solid houses, in contrast to the LBK and Rössen cultures, remain rather rare and are not well understood.
  • Characteristic Ceramics: In contrast to the older Neolithic, Michelsberg pottery is largely undecorated. Jens Lüning divided in 1968 the pottery into five successive phases  (MK I – V). These phases are thought to be chronologically sensitive and are still in use with only minor modifications. The most characteristic item is the slender “tulip beaker,” which evolves from a funnel beaker-like pot into a tulip blossom-shape with a large funnel-like rim and small bulbous body during Phase IV/V.
  • Numerous earthworks on the borders of lakes, hill tops and along river valleys such as at Calden in Germany, measure from ca. 5/10-100 ha and are clearly a new phenomena allthough there are forerunners during the LBK and at Cerny. These constructions are encircled by palisades and interrupted by earth bridges (cause ways). Some of these causeways exhibit traces of complex wooden entrance structures. The earthworks suggest a greater emphasis on the corporate identity than in previous cultures (Louwe Kooijmans). Raetzel Fabian (2002) interpreted such large constructions as nodes in a communication network. Overall they are interpreted as sites with a ritual function.
  • In contrast to the earlier Neolithic, the dead were disposed in pits, single and multiple buried in flexed  position, however in Belgium, two sites, one in Bosvoorde and the other in Ottenburg, in the Walloon province of Brabant, traces of cremation and sepulchres in caverns bedevils the general picture.
  • Around 4300/4200 cal BC the Michelsberg culture introduced deep mining for flint, needed to produce various tools. Such flint mines (quarries) occur at Spiennes, Mesvin and Rijckholt-St. Geertruid in Belgium and were traded all over Europe. Flint production may have taken on an “industrial characteristic,” that is, the mines were exploited by a specialized group of miners who controlled access to the quarries (Louwe Kooijmans). However, De Grooth (1998) negates this interpretation based on the settlement analysis around the quarry of Rijkholt-Sint Geertruid in Limburg, Netherland and proposes that access to the mines was unrestricted to several nearby communities in a 30 km radius. Indeed traits of a social stratification during the Michelsberg culture are virtually absent and therefore Michelsberg seems to be just “another Neolithic” .

Some typical ceramics are to be found here:

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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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