6000 years old puzzle
In archaeological excavations, you often find the waste that has
occurred from the working of flint, in the form of a lot of flint
fragments and flakes. During the Fehmarn Belt preliminary survey,
archaeologists from Museum Lolland-Falster found just such a waste
disposal site. Archaeologist Brian Westen has examined two of the
flint pieces closely, and in two cases, he has managed to join them
together into their original shape - an entire flint block.
"When we solve the flint puzzle, we can follow the
flintworker's work process," says Brian Westen, Prehistoric
Archaeologist at Museum Lolland-Falster.
There were no immediate signs of a settlement near the flint
concentration that the archaeologists found in one of the 16 m2
excavation boxes, which were excavated during the summer of 2013.
In all probability, one of our ancestors found some promising flint
blocks and set about knapping them into shape straight away.
Flint block with three chips
"There are only three chipped-off pieces that I have been
able to fit against the large block. I am sure they have brought
the rest back home and used them as tools. From the small block,
they have knocked off nine pieces that I have been able to fiddle
back together. After knocking off the nine pieces, they would have
seen that they could not get any further with this block, so they
just left it there when they went home," says Brian Westen
It only took the Stone Age people a few minutes to create the
puzzle, but it has taken the modern-day archaeologists considerably
longer to piece it back together. "I have spent a total of 2 to
3 hours on this. But I had to leave the work a couple of times to
clear my head," Brian Westen continues.
The fact is that flint is anything but an ordinary puzzle. When
flint lies in the sun, it fades and can become completely white.
This has made the piecing together harder. On the other hand, flint
can have some characteristic patterns that do not disappear in the
sun. The small block has such a pattern. Some fine stripes that
helped piece it back together.
Flint block with nine pieces chipped off; the
stripes are still just visible.
"One block has had quite a lot of sun, and it is very pale.
The nine chips that fit against it, on the other hand, are still
dark. On the face of it, it looks as if they don't belong together
at all," says Brian Westen.
However, according to Brian Westen, a couple of pieces are still
missing before the puzzle can be completed. "There are small
holes in the assembled block, which means that the very tiny chips
are missing. Next time we find a flint concentration, we will need
to use very fine sieves to make sure to extract it all," he
Based on the layers and the depth at which the flint was found,
it is clear that it had its origin in Denmark's first peasant
culture, the funnel beaker culture (ca. 3900-3400 BC). Many
traditions from the Mesolithic Age were carried into this first
period of the Neolithic Age. Flint craftsmanship is one of these,
and thanks to Brian Westen's pottering, we have grown wiser about
the craftsmanship of flintworkers.
Flint-core axe (left) and flake axe (right) -
mounted Drawing: Museum Lolland-Falster.
"I have found something highly unusual. Two of the pieces
have been knocked off with a 90° angle between them. Pieces of this
type can be mistaken for burins, tools that would have had many
different functions, and which can be hard to define. However,
after joining the pieces of flint together, I know that something
that looks like a burin can also be the result of random splits,"
says Brian Westen. "My dream would be to be able to join together a
big block, which had an axe-shaped hole in the middle. This would
provide the ultimate insight into the flintworker's work, and we
would be able to follow the entire working process," Brian