An unexpected find
The fragment seen from the outside of the
original pot. Plant fibre remnants can be seen in the hole.
Exciting finds at archaeological excavations are usually made in
the actual excavation situation, when working with an excavator or
a spade reveals artefacts are revealed under the ploughing layer.
However, once in a while, interesting discoveries are also made
later in the finds handling process. This was the case with a
pottery fragment, which at first during the excavation looked like
most of the other fragments. But when later it was washed clean of
soil, it was revealed that not only did it have a finely drilled
hole, it also contained plant fibre remnants, which were attached
to the hole.
A drilled hole
The appearance of finds during excavations is interesting in
itself, but things get really exciting when the finds contribute to
greater understanding by increasing our insight into the function
that the object would have had, and thereby into the needs of
prehistoric man. The special find with the drilled hole and
attached plant fibres facilitates a greater insight into the use of
pottery in prehistoric villages. Drilled holes in pottery from
antiquity is not an unknown phenomenon, but finding organic
material attached in them is.
Some of the earliest pottery?
The find context indicates that the fragment stems from the
early Neolithic period (in Danish, TN1), i.e. the earliest stage of
the Neolithic Age during which agriculture first gained ground in
Denmark. Several examples of pottery with drilled holes are known
from this period, including from the Åmose bog in western Zealand.
Most often, the holes are located just beneath the rim, and they
are usually interpreted as decoration holes, while others are
placed lower down on the belly and are interpreted as rivet holes,
whose function has been to keep a cracked vessel together with
cord. As the fragment in question is not located near the rim of
the pot, it was therefore obvious to believe that it stemmed from a
riveted pot, and that the plant parts were remnants from
An examination of the fragment's edges showed that these had been
polished. It is possible that this wear was the result of later
depositing in the wetland after the pot had been smashed and
discarded, as the fragment could have drifted around and been
waterworn. However, the surrounding finds of flint and pottery from
the find site showed that the polished edges only applied to this
The polishing would therefore have taken place earlier, before the
fragment was discarded, and the fragment with the drilled hole
would probably have served a function in its present form and not
as a part of a riveted pot.
The fragment seen from inside of the original
pot. Plant fibres are jammed into the hole..
The question is: What was the fragment used for? The fragment
has only been drilled into from the outside, and the plant fibres
protrude from the drilled hole as five separate stalks, which are
jammed into the inside of the fragment where the hole is
significantly narrower than on the outside. Maybe they were plaited
into a piece of string? Further investigations, such as wood dating
and radiocarbon dating, as well as finds of more similar fragments
may contribute to solving this little pottery mystery.