Stone Age farmers


A country is born

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People began domesticating animals and farming the land in Denmark after the practice spread from the Middle East and throughout Europe. The population of Denmark was growing, and the people had begun to settle even before the Neolithic Age. People created permanent settlements along the coasts and cleared woodland for pastures and small fields.
The Neolithic Age was firmly established within 500 years after it began in 3950 BC. More and more woodlands were being cleared to plant grains or for grazing animals, and people stopped their seasonal migrations. The Neolithic Age lasted until 1700 BC, when the introduction of metal and new technologies began to have such an enormous influence on the way people lived that it ushered in a new era – the Bronze Age.
Despite lasting only 2,500 years, the Neolithic Age saw many changes in the way life was lived. Archaeologists use these changes to define three distinct phases: the Funnel Beaker Culture, which was the first Neolithic culture; the Single Grave Culture, which is characterised by new burial traditions; and finally the Dagger period, which marked the transition to the Bronze Age.

Technology – a Stone Age invention
The Neolithic period saw the development of many of the things we take for granted today, such as the wheel. The oldest wheels ever found in Denmark were made of oak and came from a Single Grave-era wagon or cart.
The introduction of grain farming brought with it the primitive ard plough. Instead of turning the soil like a plough, an ard just loosens the top layer of dirt in order to make sowing possible. The oldest known ard dates from the Bronze Age, but evidence of ard use has been dated as far back as the Neolithic Age.
Some of the technologies developed during the Neolithic Age form the basis of tools we use today. Others were continuously refined until they disappeared with the Neolithic Age. Tools made from flint and other types of stone – high-tech during the Stone Age – couldn't compete with Bronze Age advancements. Building technology advanced during the Neolithic Age as well, and, thanks to their engineering skills and knowledge of building materials, we can still explore barrows and passage graves constructed by Neolithic people. The oldest surviving form of architecture, passage graves are complex constructions made up of more than just the stone chambers. The graves had stone roofs, drainage ditches, birch bark and flint stone barriers that prevented animals from getting in and damaging the structure. The advanced techniques needed to build the tombs were quickly forgotten, and later generations re-opening them for new burials did not know how to seal them properly. After no more than 400 years, the know-how had been completely lost.

Funnel Beaker Culture
The earliest period of the Neolithic Age takes its name from the clay vessels with funnel-shaped tops that were characteristic of the period. Other tools commonly used include the flint axes that helped clear woodlands. The Funnel Beaker Culture transformed forests to fields – primarily for barley – and pastures where sheep, goats and cows grazed.
Settlements were made up of solidly built wooden buildings, each between 10 and 20 metres long. The first settlements were established along the coasts, but they gradually spread inland to lake shores and along streams. Settlements grew and agriculture became increasingly intensive.
During the first 500 years of the Neolithic Age, a stable, sustainable society was established. Surplus resources were used on such projects as building large graves – barrows and passage graves. The graves were also important in the ancestral worship cults of the day. Using massive stones and following complex rituals when building the tombs underscored that the people were settled and belonged to a specific area.
These common beliefs played a major role in the Funnel Beaker Culture, which is evidenced by the large gathering places where people are believed to have held important annual ceremonies. These centrally located gathering places, surrounded by fences and trenches, played an important role in consolidating social structures.

Modest burial mounds
By clearing woodlands, the Funnel Beaker people changed the landscape. The new landscape had room for new ideas about life and death. This period is also known as the Single Grave Culture because the dead began to be laid to rest individually in small earthen mounds. The deceased were laid on their sides, as if sleeping. Mounds were expanded in order to make room for more burials. Some mounds contained chambers and wooden coffins. Despite the name, more than one person was often buried in a grave. The practice of multiple burials, however, has only been recorded in South and Mid-Jutland. In other parts of the country, barrows and passage graves were repeatedly used for burials, or the dead were laid to rest in a stone coffin inside a burial mound.
We know little about the settlements from this period. But it is known that settlements became smaller and were more spread out in a landscape where fields were quickly replacing woodlands. Domesticated animals were playing a more important role in agriculture. The increasing distance between settlements and the wide variation in burial practices indicates that people's way of life varied from region to region.

Dagger Period
The last period of the Neolithic Age foreshadows the arrival of the Bronze Age. Flint daggers created during this period were modelled after metal daggers fashioned further south in Europe. The presence of daggers is typical for the late Neolithic Age, and they are found across the country. Burial practices became more varied than in earlier periods. The passage graves of the Funnel Beaker People and the barrows of the Single Grave Culture were reused, but large chambered stone tombs with room for multiple burials appeared during this period. Houses now measured between 30 and 45 metres, and provided shelter for animals as well as humans. The primary crop remained barley, but spelt began making inroads during the period.
During the late Neolithic period, the arrival of the first metals – copper daggers and gold jewellery – heralded the approach of the Bronze Age from the south.