Late Neolithic occupation near Bornwird (Province of Friesland)


  • H. Fokkens


(p. 92)

During one of his reconnaissances in the field (in the autumn of 1966), J.K. Boschker (field assistant attached to the Frisian Museum in Leeuwarden) found near Bornwird (fig. 1) a small stone axe, some crudely worked flint artefacts and a few potsherds. The finds were made in upturned soil alongside the planned route of the new Holwerd-Dokkum road that was then under construction. In the course of sinking a trench for the road a sand-outcrop appeared, from which the artefacts originated. During a closer reconnaissance by members of the Biologisch-Archaeologisch Instituut (B.A.I.) in Groningen it became evident, moreover, that in the surface of the sand traces of prehistoric ploughland were visible.

The complex was dated - mainly on the basis of the coarsely tempered potsherds - to the Late Bronze Age (Elzinga, 1966). This dating fitted in well with an observation made by Van Giffen in 1910. During the levelling of the telp of Bornwird, Van Giffen discovered a few urns that must have come from the sandy subsoil of the terp (Van Giffen, 1920). It was notably the discovery of the ploughland that made this complex a unique find for the Netherlands, for here we had the oldest traces of prehistoric agriculture this far north. It was decided to carry out an excavation, that took place in the autumn of the following year (Sep. 4th - Oct. 4th, 1967).

The excavation was carried out by labourers under the supervision of H. Praamstra and K. Klaassens, under the direction of G. Elzinga and H.T. Waterbolk. The excavation provided a great deal of new information. The most noteworthy was the fact that the complex could, on the basis of the decorated pottery, now be dated in the Late Neolithic. Later this relative dating was confirmed by a C14-dating of peat that overlay the old ploughland (GrN-5295: 3930±50 B.P., Vogel & Waterbolk, 1972).

After 1967 Bornwird was regularly mentioned by various authors. The traces of inhabitation were attributed to different archaeological cultures in turn. Elzinga (1967), Waterbolk (1967; 1968) and Van Zeist (1970) ascribed the ploughland and the finds to the PFB ( Protruding foot beaker) culture. In addition Louwe Kooijmans (1974), Lanting and Mook (1977) and Waterbolk (1977) mentioned elements of the VL (Vlaardingen) culture. During a visit to the excavation in 1967 Bakker (pers. comm.) identified a few sherds as originating from the LHV (Late Havelte) phase of the TRB ( Trechterbeker= Funnel beaker) culture. When questioned, the different authors avowed that they had based their statements (i.e. concerning cultural affinity) on their own observations of the 'show pieces' (pottery) or on oral and published communications by other authors. The present article can be regarded as a definitive report of the 1967 excavation, and as such can serve as a basis for discussion and comparison.