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The Skarpsalling Pot, Himmerland

Some of the most beautiful Danish prehistoric objects are made of pottery. In particular, the Stone Age produced beautiful ceramics with beautiful shapes and intricate patterns.

Pottery is an important aid to archaeologists in dating finds. Stone Age pottery has been accurately mapped on the basis of form and decoration. Ceramic vessels can be divided into different styles with different durations. With these styles we can trace the development of pottery and determine the age of various pots.

One of the most famous examples of Stone Age pottery is a vessel that was found in a mound near Skarpsolling in Himmerland. This ornate pot was made around 3200 BC.

Good clay can usually be found on the banks of inland watercourses. To make the clay resistant to fire and heat, it was mixed with granite rubble. When the potter molded the pot, it was constructed of thin "sausages" of clay. The surface was subsequently sanded, after which the vessel could be decorated. In particular, Neolithic pottery was often decorated with beautiful intricate patterns. The patterns were imprinted on the surface of the vessel. Impressive decoration could be made of small sticks, shells, bones or nails. Cords of plant fiber were also used. Later patterns could be filled with a chalky mass that contrasted with the clay. Finally, the pot was fired at 500 to 700 degrees - probably in a fire oven.

During the Neolithic period, the shape and decoration of pots varied over time. These different styles can be divided into groups that can be dated with relative accuracy. Although pottery in prehistoric times was conservative and defined by tradition, it was also sensitive to changes and fashion trends. This is why pottery is an invaluable tool for dating. During the 600-year period (3400-2800 BC), we know a total of seven different stylistic phases.

It is no coincidence that pottery began in earnest at the same time as farming. Farming and animal husbandry meant that people needed pots to store grain and dairy products. Pottery vessels were also in use at the end of the Mesolithic period, but they were a little rougher and less varied. Several types of vessels were made during the Neolithic period. The shapes and decorations must have had both symbolic and practical meaning. Some ceramic vessels are not decorated at all and were probably used in the household for everyday use. The remaining vessels are richly decorated; many of them were placed outside the Neolithic mounds - probably as sacrificial vessels.