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This paper presents the first comprehensive compilation of Late Neolithic (c. 2350 –1700 BC) metal artefacts found in modern-day Schleswig-Holstein. In addition, flint hoards and burials with flint daggers have been examined in order to investigate the meaning of certain objects which are considered to be connected with status.
It has been demonstrated that the area of Schleswig-Holstein was of importance for Late Neolithic and Bronze Age exchange between central Europe and southern Scandinavia. It has also been argued that certain objects had different meanings depending on choice of material, shape, and context. For example, a bronze dagger is recognized as being essentially different than a flint dagger and, even within the objects class of flint daggers, different meanings and functions were present.
Generally, metal objects were deposited in Late Neolithic southern Scandinavian and central European burials infrequently. However, in southwestern Schleswig-Holstein, burials are the predominant context in which early metal objects appear. Late Neolithic flint daggers and Younger Neolithic battle axes share this property. Whereas these objects appear in great numbers as single finds everywhere in the investigation area, their frequency in burial contexts varies greatly between sub-regions of Schleswig-Holstein. In the southwest, they are common components in graves; in the easternmost areas they are almost completely absent in burials. This bipolar situation is very clearly pronounced during the Late Neolithic period in Schleswig-Holstein. A closer look at northeastern Germany and Jutland suggests that similar differences existed in other regions as well, although less conspicuously. The similar distribution patterns of metal artefacts, flint daggers and battle axes furthermore demonstrate that geographically distinctive treatments of Late Neolithic status artefacts can be traced back to the Younger Neolithic. Different land use strategies, moreover, were presumably already established in the Middle Neolithic. This indicates that these differences, which might be linked to distinctive perceptions of the collective and the individual sphere, seemingly derived from Middle Neolithic or even earlier traditions.