A Touch of Pitted Ware


So I spent the day on Gålö, happily digging & sieving a square meter on a Middle Neolithic shore site 25 meters above current sea level that my friend Roger found two years ago. I haven’t dug that period since 1993 when I spent almost the entire fieldwork season on the classic Bollbacken site outside Västerås. (I did however write a paper about another site of the era in the early 00s.) Today I found knapped quartz and basalt and granite (!) and a lot of small potsherds, one of which has the Pitted Ware culture’s signature pits and comb-stamp decoration. Mattias found the best pottery: three decorated rim sherds that fit together, shown above. And there were burnt seal phalanges that will allow radiocarbon dating.

It was kind of fun to hear these guys, hardcore Mesolithic scholars who are used to digging potteryless sites at 70 m a.s.l., talk with wonderment about how much fun potsherds can be.

On our way back to the cars through the woods we heard a crossbill. Or so I was told.

Quartz flakes, 4500 years old.

In order to understand lithics, you need to learn knapping.

Mattias found a piece of low-grade quartz down by the current seashore.

Quartz flakes, 2 minutes old, and hammer stone with characteristic impact damage.


  1. #1 Kevin
    September 3, 2009

    Oh that is awesome, I was just reading up on Pitted Ware from your earlier post and here is a perfect example. How did they relate the pottery in the picture two days ago to pitted ware without the decoration?

  2. #2 ArchAsa
    September 3, 2009

    Hey! I can clearly see evidence of manufacturing fake artefacts on these pix!! I always suspected it…

    Seriously though, this is a nice site and it is probably dated to the end of the Middle Neolithic which is interesting. Around this time the seal hunting settlements in eastern Sweden became first more extreme (outer archipelago), then more rare. Sometime during the beginning of the Late Neolithic they disappear completely – we think. It is still a very poorly researched period so sites like these are important to fill in the blanks. Here’s hoping for some good C14-dates on those bones.

    P.S. Even udecorated pitted-ware pottery can be quite distinct as it is often very poriferous due to having been tempered with calcareous materials which have disintegrated over the years. Hardly any other prehistoric culture in Sweden used temper like this.

  3. #3 Martin R
    September 3, 2009

    Another answer to your question, Kevin, is that if you find Stone Age sites with abundant pottery on certain levels above the sea on the east coast of Sweden’s southern third, then they always turn out to belong to the PWC. Nobody else ever had that weird dump-pottery-on-shore behaviour. And the pots are big muthas, vats really, probably used to render fat out of seal blubber.

  4. #4 Maulwurf
    September 3, 2009

    Did you leave your fake quartz flakes on the shore to confuse future prospectors?

  5. #5 Martin R
    September 4, 2009

    Oh, no, they are quite genuine. They are archaeological proof that quartz knapping reappeared around AD 2000. It’ll be easy to date the quartz scatter since Mattias did the knapping down by today’s sea shore. (-;

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