Denmark , 3900 - 1700 BCE

What we know about the Neolithic period in the area of modern Denmark comes primarily from mortuary contexts. The daggers and axes on display are just some examples of the diverse nature of the stone and flint industry, and are believed to function as both practical tools and prestige items.

Flint Daggers

The Danish daggers on display here were designed as flint renderings of bronze weapons imported from England. The increasing definition between the handle and blade imitates the form of a metal dagger, while the flint-knapping technique of ‘stitching’ – a series of zig-zags along the handle – mimics the appearance of leather grips.

Example of Stitching

It is likely that these daggers were placed in graves as commemorative offerings rather than used on a daily basis. There is little sign of wear on the blades or handles of these daggers, and in many cases, the handles have been worked into sharp edges. The dagger handles may have been wrapped in skins or another material, making them more comfortable to hold, but there is no surviving evidence of this practice.

Polished Flint Tools

The flint industry was of great importance in the early Danish Neolithic. These axes and adzes served a variety of practical functions: they could be used for forest clearing, tilling soil, and (in the case of smaller tools) more specialized carpentry. The larger axes, which took a great deal of time and skill to manufacture, also had ceremonial and symbolic value. The presence or absence of wear-marks on the stone helps us to differentiate between axes used for practical purposes and axes used strictly as prestige goods.

One possible method of hafting a flint axe

Flint axes were made by chipping a core with hammer stones, then grinding and polishing the resulting flint ‘blank’ with rough stones, such as sandstones. The axe-heads were then hafted onto large handles of wood or antler.

Ground Stone Axes

Copper was extremely rare in Denmark, so metal weaponry was imitated in prestige items such as these socketed stone axes. These axes were designed as almost exact replicas of bronze battle axes observed in the nearby British Isles and Central Europe.

These implements are referred to as ‘battle axes’ and the culture associated with them the ‘Battle-Axe Culture’. Battle-Axe culture is thought to reflect a wave of immigration from the south into the Danish peninsula. As their name indicates, these axes are thought to be weapons of war as opposed to simple tools or prestige items. However, the practice of socketing, though suitable for metal weapons, weakens stone, and may have limited the usefulness of these axes.