Shoe-last adze from Vedrovice and social differentiation during the LBK

This a Shoe-last adze (18 cm long) from Vedrovice / Moravia, found in the 1950ies as a surface stray find.

Shoe-last adzes are typical long, thin, chisel-shaped implements of the LBK in Central Europe, but were in use until the early Middle Neolithic. They differ both in size (3-30 cm) and shape. It is suggested that their main function was for woodworking and ground digging but sometime they were used, at least occasionally, to kill people.

The mass grave found near Talheim in southern Germany dates to approximately 7000 years ago and contains the skeletal remains of 34 individuals from the LBK. These individuals appear to have been the victims of a massacre, based on the presence of numerous lethal head wounds most probably produced by Shoe-last adzes, several arrow wounds, and the placement of all of these individuals in the same burial pit. Regarding the age and sex profile of the cadavers a possible deficit of infants in the age group of below 4 yrs. was suggested by the excavators. One (very speculative) explanation was that they may have been kidnapped by the attackers (Wahl and König 1987).

Shoe-last adzes of the LBK are often associated with burials. Some male burials, for example the famous burial at Schwanfeld, contained a set of microlithic trapezes which seemingly were made solely for deposition in the graves as indicated by the absence of any use wear traces. The shoe-last adze from the Schwanfeld burial equally shows only slight indications of extensive use. The repeated combinations of goods, a shoe-last adze and a set of trapezes during the LBK are interpreted as standard symbols of members of a hunter/warrior association.

At Vedrovice, where this adze was found, some burials contain objects, notably spondylus armlets, which could be interpreted as indicators of a certain social status. It seems that the occurrence of such objects would also indicate a more diverse social differentiation during the LBK, than traditionally thought.

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