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16 November 2012
Up the fjord without a paddle

Three paddles made out of ash wood, dating to the Ertebolle culture in the Stone Age, were recently found in Horsens Fjord, Denmark.
     One of them only had the handle intact, and on the second, around two thirds of the blade was preserved. Cuts on the surface indicate the blade may also have been used as a chopping board, for cutting off the heads of fish. Whereas one blade was heart-shaped, the other was almost shaped like a spade. These exact types are known from several Western Denmark Ertebolle settlements.
     The third paddle was preserved in its full 103 centimetre length, of which the remaining half blade accounts for 21 centimetres. The paddle has been dated to around 4,700-4,540 BCE, the Middle period of the Ertebolle culture.
     The archaeologists found traces of paint, which has previously mainly been found on paddles from Tybrind Vig, on the island of Funen. The motifs of the painted designs on the paddles found in Horsens Fjord are not quite identical, but the composition is similar. Patterned paddles from the Ertebolle culture are very uncommon. A few years ago, a paddle was found in a kitchen midden at Flynderhage in Norsminde Fjord. The decoration on this paddle is reminiscent of that on one of the paddles from Horsens Fjord.
     The best-known patterned paddle blades are those found in Tybrind Vig, where four out of the 13 paddle fragments that were found had different decorations, shown to contain ochre-bearing black paint. This indicates that the original colour may have been reddish brown.
     Seeing the same decoration on paddles from Horsens Fjord and Norsminde Fjord, it seems likely that they denote some sort of affiliation between the populations by the two fjords.
     There are clear differences, in terms of both motif and technique, between the paddles found in Horsens Fjord and Tybrind Vig. Here, a highly different patterning with other designs indicates that we’re talking about a different tribe.

Edited from ScienceNordic (12 November 2012)

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