Funnelbeaker culture

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Europe in ca. 4000-3500 BC
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Ca 3500 BC map of Europe showing an approximation of the Funnelbeaker culture in green, and a number of important contemporary cultures, see Vinca, Yamna, Rössen culture (as LBK), Lengyel and Tripolie for details
The Funnelbeaker, or TRB or (German) Trichterbecher culture (ca 4000 BC2700 BC) is the principal north central European megalithic culture of late Neolithic Europe.


Predecessor and successor cultures

The Funnelbeaker culture is preceded by the Ertebølle culture which is named after a Danish village. This predecessor culture was partly neolithic but still primarily hunter-gatherer. The successor culture was the Corded Ware culture and the overlapping Globular Amphora culture.


The TRB ranges from the Elbe catchment in Germany and Bohemia with a western extension into the Netherlands, to southern Scandinavia (Denmark up to Uppland in Sweden and the Oslofjord in Norway) to the Vistula catchment in Poland.

Variants of the Funnelbeaker culture in or near the Elbe catchment area include the Tiefstich pottery group in northern Germany as well as the cultures of the Baalberge group (TRB-MES II and III; MES = Mittelelbe-Saale), the Salzmünde and Walternienburg and Bernburg (all TRB-MES IV) whose centres were in Saxony-Anhalt.

Migration patterns

It is supposedly the first developed farming culture of southern Scandinavia, but opinions are divided on whether it was introduced by migration or not. After WWII, the consensus among Scandinavian scholars became that it had spread peacefully by cultural diffusion into Scandinavia and that the indigenous population, of the Ertebølle and Lihult cultures, spontaneously had adopted agriculture due to environmental changes. However, today the opinion is again changing and more scholars agree that there was immigration. Oddly, it was later pushed south from the Mälaren basin, and from the east, by a hunter and gatherer culture called the Pitted Ware culture (the debate on whether it was by demic diffusion or cultural diffusion mirrors the arrival of the Funnelbeaker culture). Still, it is richly represented in Denmark and southwestern Sweden (i.e. Bohuslän, Västergötland and Skåne). The contact between the agricultural immigrants from the south and indigeous populations as well as UralicFinno-Ugric immigrants from the east have left clear genetic markers typical to Scandinavia.[1] .


With the exception of some inland settlements such as Alvastra pile-dwelling, the settlements are located near those of the previous Ertebølle culture on the coast. It was characterised by one family daubed houses ca 12 m x 6 m. It was dominated by animal husbandry of sheep, cattle, pigs and goats, but there was also hunting and fishing. Primitive wheat and barley was grown on small patches that were fast depleted, due to which the population frequently moved small distances. There was also mining (e.g. in the Malmö region) and collection of flintstone, which was traded into regions lacking the stone, such as the Scandinavian hinterland. The culture imported copper from Central Europe, especially daggers and axes.

Religion and graves

The houses were centered around a monumental grave, a symbol of social cohesion. Burial practices were varied, depending on region and changed over time. Inhumation seems to have been the rule. The oldest graves consisted of wooden chambered cairns inside long barrows, but later in the form of passage graves and dolmens. Originally, the structures were probably covered within a heap of dirt and the entrance was blocked by a stone. The Funnelbeaker culture marks the appearance of megalithic tombs at the coasts of the Baltic and of the North sea, an example of which are the Sieben Steinhäuser in northern Germany. The megalithic structures of Ireland, France and Portugal are somewhat older and have been connected to earlier archeological cultures of those areas. The graves were probably not intended for every member of the settlement but only for an elite. At graves the people sacrificed ceramic vessels that probably contained food, and axes and other flint objects.

Axes and vessels were also deposed in streams and lakes near the farmlands, and virtually all Sweden's 10 000 flint axes that have been found from this culture were probably sacrificed in water.

They also constructed large cult centres surrounded by pales, earthworks and moats. The largest one is found at Sarup on Fyn. It comprises 85,000 m² and is estimated to have taken 8000 workdays. Another cult centre at Stävie near Lund comprises 30,000 m².


The culture is named for its characteristic ceramics, beakers and amphorae with funnel-shaped tops, which were probably used for drinking. One find assigned to the Funnelbeaker culture is the Bronocice pot, which shows the oldest known depiction of a wheeled vehicle (here, a 2-axled, 4-wheeled wagon). The pot dates to approximately 4000 BC. The technology was flint-based, of which the deposits found in Belgium and on the island of Rügen as well as deposits in the Kraków area were important.

The culture used Battle Axes which were stone versions of Central Europe's copper axes. The early versions were multi-angled, and the later are called double-edged, although one of the edges is more rounded.

Ethnicity and language

Little can be said about its ethnic or linguistic roots. In the context of the Kurgan hypothesis, the culture is seen as non-Indo-European, representing the culture of what Marija Gimbutas termed Old Europe (see Yamna culture). On the other hand, Dutch publications mention mixed burials and propose a quick and smooth internal change to Corded Ware within two generations occurring about 2900 BC in Dutch and Danish TRB territory, probably preluded by economic, cultural and religious changes in East Germany, and call the migrationist view of steppe intrusions introducing Indo European languages obsolete[2] (at least in this part of the world). This would make a case to an Indo-European identity of TRB.


The Funnelbeaker culture is believed to be the origin of the gene allowing adults of Northern European descent to digest lactose. In the area formerly inhabited by this culture, prevalence of the gene is virtually universal.[3]



1. ^ European Journal of Human Genetics - Different genetic components in the Norwegian population revealed by the analysis of mtDNA and Y chromosome polymorphisms, Giuseppe Passarino1 et al [1]
2. ^ Pre- & protohistorie van de lage landen, onder redactie van J.H.F. Bloemers & T. van Dorp 1991. De Haan/Open Universiteit. ISBN 90 269 4448 9, NUGI 644
3. ^ Milk allergy "caused by Stone Age gene" - Telegraph Media Group Limited, 27/02/2007 [2]
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    Ertebølle culture (ca 5300 BC-3950 BC) is the name of a hunter-gatherer and fisher culture dating to the end of the Mesolithic period. The culture was concentrated in Southern Scandinavia, but genetically linked to strongly related cultures in Northern Germany and the Northern
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    Neolithic[1] or "New" Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology that is traditionally the last part of the Stone Age. The Neolithic era follows the terminal Holocene Epipalaeolithic
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    Globular Amphora Culture, German Kugelamphoren, ca. 3400-2800 BC, is an archaeological culture overlapping the central area occupied by the Corded Ware culture. Somewhat to the south and west, it was bordered by the Baden culture. To the northeast was the Narva culture.
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    Origin Barania Góra, Beskidy
    Mouth Gdańsk Bay, Baltic Sea
    Basin countries Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia
    Length 1,047 km (651 mi)
    Source elevation 1,106 m (3,629 ft)

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    Mazurek Dąbrowskiego   (Polish)
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    Origin Upper Franconia (Bavaria)
    Mouth Elbe
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    Length 413 km (257 mi)
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    Bernburg is a town in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, capital of the district of Salzlandkreis. It is situated on the river Saale, approx. 30 km downstream from Halle. The town is dominated by its huge Renaissance castle featuring a museum as well as a popular, recently updated bear pit in
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    Time zone CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)
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    The Nøstvet culture (ca 6200 BC-3200 BC) and the Lihult culture are two very similar mesolithic cultures in Scandinavian prehistory derived from the earlier Fosna-Hensbacka cultures, but the culture is so shifting that it is rather a tradition
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    Location Sweden
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    Basin countries Sweden

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    Pitted Ware culture (ca 3200 BC– ca 2300 BC) was a neolithic Hunter-gatherer culture in southern Scandinavia, mainly along the coasts of Svealand, Götaland, Åland, north-eastern Denmark and southern Norway.
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