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This study investigates and analyses the settlements of
the Funnel Beaker culture (Trichterbecherkultur TRB)
in north-western Germany. The scope of the study was
affected by the project “Requirements , structures and
consequences of settlement and land use in north-western
Germany at the time of the Funnel Beaker and Single
Grave cultures” as part of the DFG Priority Programme
1400, “Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation”.
Geographically, the study mainly covers north-western
Germany and the Netherlands, i.e. the core settlement
area of the Funnel Beaker West Group. In addition,
several smaller regions are also described, where there
were excellent opportunities for archaeological and palaeobotanical
investigations. An analysis of the known
sites and the state of research in the respective regions
soon showed that the basic situation in each region varied
greatly, depending on the researcher and individual
definitions. The only record providing comparable data
sets within one region is that for the small area around
Flögeln, where a thorough surface inspection of the “islands”
of Pleistocene sandy soil (Geest) was carried out.
This revealed that, despite several hundred find spots,
there were only a few where the surface finds indicated
the presence of buried settlement remains with any certainty.
The following therefore concentrates above all on
the settlements with house ground plans and their immediate
In the wide-ranging study area in north-western
Germany, more than 1200 megalithic and flat graves
are known, but only very few house ground plans.
When all the certain and probable houses dating to
the Funnel Beaker period in north-western Germany
and the Netherlands are taken into consideration, i.e.
13 sites, of which 11 belong to the West Group, only
18 houses have been identified with certainty; a few
others must be classified as uncertain. These house
ground plans have often only been presented in short
articles, not always published, and an overall review
has not yet been undertaken.
Emphasis is first placed on the building features,
i.e. the buildings with wall trenches that are a typical
construction design of the Funnel Beaker culture.
A further point, which has hardly been investigated
so far, is the question of the inner structure
of the settlements and comparisons between them.
Also addressed is the question of why so few house
ground plans are known compared with the number
of graves and, consequently, whether and how
the chances of finding more house ground plans can
be increased. The typological models for stone artefacts
and pottery are of great importance in the investigation
of the buildings and their chronology as
well as for the analysis of the inner structure of the
settlements. In addition to several other typological
models, that of Anna Brindley was mainly used
for classification here. While working with this model,
it became apparent that the absolute chronology is
based on relatively few 14C dates, and these are mainly
from the 1980s. More recent 14C dates were therefore
obtained from material found in features with typologically
dated vessels and these were included in an
attempt to improve the overall chronological framework.
First of all, it was noted that the relative chronology
of the Brindley phases, which cover the whole
of the Funnel Beaker culture, was confirmed. At the
same time, it could be seen that the first horizon began
about 50-110 years earlier than previously believed.
Moreover, the durations of the individual horizons
then change. It can be assumed that, thanks to
the larger data base, the new time scale will be closer
to the actual chronology of the changes in the material,
and that Brindley’s chronology is basically correct.
Nevertheless, methodological difficulties and the
small quantity of data in the earlier horizons, make
further research necessary to achieve greater accuracy
in the absolute chronology.
The buildings found in the study area can be divided
into three major categories: buildings with or without wall trenches and special buildings, which include
a possible storehouse, a pit house and a possible cult
The Flögeln-type houses with wall trenches are the
best-known of the structures unique to the Funnel
Beaker West Group and, in this form, are only found
here. They have been reported with either one or two
rooms: the smaller ones always have only one aisle
whereas the larger ones can have two aisles and usually
have an ante area. These longhouses with several
rooms are all very similar and, although of varying
sizes, the ground plans are almost identical. On closer
examination, the relative proportions of the individual
rooms are almost always the same, which is perhaps
a reflection of their different functions. Starting from
the closed side, there first appears to be a very small
room containing a pit, in which several pots had been
deposited. This was very probably a sacred area within
the house. Evidence of a recess in House A in Pennigbüttel,
which was interpreted as a grave, seems to confirm
this. In some cases, there is then a second small
room, followed by a large room that is divided in two
by a wall. This large room will have been the communal
living area. The adjacent ante area has parallels in
the wetland settlement at Hunte, which suggest that
is was used as a working area. Given the similar proportions
of the buildings, it can be assumed that construction
followed a modular design or, at least, that
there was knowledge of a basic blueprint.
The origin of the building design cannot be determined
with certainty: it was probably not a local development
but was influenced, rather, by the Irish/British
area. Buildings of the 5th millennium BC found there
are very similar, or even almost identical, to those
found in north-western Germany, e.g. Flögeln 7617
and Ballyglass. Not only the structure of the buildings
but also the type of settlement, consisting of individual
farmsteads with a maximum of three buildings,
depositions in the houses and a comparable position
in the landscape all resemble the structures of the
West Group. Even though a transfer of the building
design cannot yet be traced seamlessly, strong similarities
clearly point to such influence.
In addition to these houses with wall trenches,
ground plans indicating a traditional post-in-hole
construction are also known at Engter and Lavenstedt:
Engter can be classified as the Mossby type
and Lavenstedt as the Dagstorp II type. Both these
house ground plans have parallels in the Funnel Beaker
North Group. Especially in the case of Lavenstedt,
this is not surprising given the geographical location:
past research has shown that the Elbe-Weser-Triangle
has always been a variable border between the North,
Altmark and West Groups. Nearby are Wittenwater
and Rullstorf, where the only two other Funnel Beaker
house ground plans to the west of the Elbe have been
found so far.
In connection with the houses, the special buildings
should also be mentioned. In Lavenstedt there is
a complex that has been interpreted as a storehouse,
a small, almost rectangular building with just a few
finds from the area in front of it. The cult house in
Hainmühlen, found in the 1960s, must also be considered.
The corner of the building that was excavated,
and had not been destroyed by sand extraction, is
very similar to the Funnel Beaker cult houses found
in Scandinavia. Further investigation of this site is
no longer possible so that an unequivocal attribution
cannot be made. The final special building is pit house
5700 in Flögeln. Here, too, some publications refer to
it as a cult house. A comparison with such features in
Scandinavia, undertaken in the course of the analysis
of the finds and features, did not reveal any great similarity.
Contrary to statements made in certain publications,
there was no trace of fire, other than on some
pottery found inside the building.
As already mentioned, the chronology of most of
the houses can be determined not only by the pottery
finds but also by 14C dates. However, very few finds are
available for the settlements that have buildings with
wall trenches, and there are absolutely no cultural layers.
These have only been found on the sites at Lavenstedt
and Rullstorf. Detailed analyses of the find material
from Rullstorf are not yet available but analyses of
the Lavenstedt material were carried out as part of this
study. Several categories of finds can be summarized,
which define the different areas within the settlements.
First of all, it is noticeable that, in both cases, the finds
were mainly located outside the buildings. At Lavenstedt,
there is a concentration of finds along the long
northern wall of the house, which suggests that waste
was disposed of here. Furthermore, there are concentrations
in the lithic material that can be interpreted
as evidence of working areas or depositions. If only the
significant concentrations are taken into consideration,
and randomly distributed finds ignored, groups
of tools become apparent at various places in the settlement.
Although it is not possible to date these concentrations
with certainty, it seems obvious that they date
to similar periods as there is very little overlapping.
On all the sites where material was found not only
in the context of buildings, the range of finds indicates
settlement activities. Scrapers are clearly the dominant
flint tool. There is only a small portion of decorated
vessels among the pottery material, which is all
very fragmented. As on other Funnel Beaker sites, conical-
rim vessels and baking pans are frequently found,
whereas funnel-rim vessels are rather rare. Flögeln is
the only exception: here the proportion of funnel-rim
vessels is relatively high.