A perforated shoe-last adze from the early/ middle Neolithic in South Germany

A perforated shoe-last adze from the early/ middle Neolithic in South Germany (25 x 7 x 3 cm).

D.C.M. Raemaekers recently reviewed the early to middle Neolithic perforated axes in Germany and the Netherlands.   In German literature the search for a collective name for the two types of perforated artifacts leads to the term of durchlochte Keile (perforated wedges), while a Dutch or English equivalent is lacking. Raemaekers proposes to speak of two types. “These are the perforated broad (durchlochte Breitkeil) and the perforated shoe-last. The generic term for this artifact group is then perforated wedges (durchlochte Keile). The most striking difference between the two types of wedges is the cross-section. Perforated broad wedges have a square cross-section, often with rounded corners, while perforated shoe-last adzes have a clear D-shaped cross-section”.

The earliest known perforated shoe-last adze has been found as hoard within a settlement of the Linear Pottery culture at Dölzig (Quitta, 1955).  During the LBK in central Europe perforated shoe-last adze were always present in small quantities.  A large number of perforated wedges are found in graves from the Hinkelstein group (5050-5000 cal. BC).  Perforated shoe-last adzes are the dominant type in the Hinkelstein group. In Western Central Europe, the Grossgartach group and the Rössen culture succeed the Hinkelstein group and yielded predominantly perforated broad wedges.

The Stichbandkeramik appears simultaneously with Hinkelstein, Grossgartach, Rössen and Bischheim in the eastern part of Central Europe. All these entities yielded  perforated wedges, of both types.  In the Gatersleben group, which follows on the Rössen and Stichbandkeramik, only perforated broad wedges have been found. Only single finds of perforated shoe-last adze (imports) are known from the Swifterband and Ertebölle “cultures”.

Little is known about the use of Early Neolithic perforated wedges. They have been interpreted as weapons but also as ploughshares and as woodworking tools. Anyhow few experiments concerning the function of perforated wedges have been carried out . Most of these experiments suggest that the perforated wedge proved itself to be a versatile woodworking tool, well capable of performing multiple tasks. According to these interpretations it was used like an axe to cut down trees and as a hammer to drive small wooden pegs into a stem.


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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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