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Crafting axes, producing meaning. Neolithic axe depositions in the northern Netherlands

  • Karsten Wentink

Abstract

This paper deals with Dutch flint axe depositions associated with the Middle Neolithic Funnelbeaker Culture (Trichterbecher Kultur – TRB). Large flint axes were acquired as finished products from southern Scandinavia and were deposited in specific, waterlogged places in the landscape. The application of new empirical research techniques has revealed unexpected patterns of use and treatment of these axes. Moreover, contextual analysis shows significant differences in terms of size and wear patterns compared with axes retrieved from megalithic tombs. The evidence strongly suggests that the observed differences may have been linked to completely different use-lives between the two classes of axes. Drawing on ethnographic analogy, it will be argued that the large flint axes deposited in natural places in the landscape became animated with special powers through the act of production. Given the highly ritualized treatment that accompanied their exchange, they must have played an important role in TRB cosmology.

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