Corded Ceramic Culture

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Corded ceramics
Age : End Neolithic or Chalcolithic
Absolutely : 2800 to 2200 BC Chr.

about Rhine to Dnepr

Amphorae and beakers with string decoration, faceted axes

Typical corded ceramics, which gave the culture its name, from a grave in Kötzschen , Saxony-Anhalt. It is created by geometrically pressing strings into the semi-hardened clay. Museum for Pre- and Protohistory Berlin .
Spread of Corded Ware ( English Corded Ware )

As Corded Ware culture (fachsprachlich short Corded Ware or SK ; better culture with cord ceramics , outdated and battle ax-culture ) is collectively referred to a culture of the Chalcolithic period at the transition from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age . The corded ceramics are named after the characteristic vessel decoration, in which circumferential groove patterns were impressed into the clay with a cord ; other common features are burial customs and battle axes . Dates for Central Europe range from approx. 2800 to 2200 BC. Chr. Cultures with Corded Ware extend into the North Central European lowlands and the southern Baltic Sea area, where they research for historical reasons also single grave culture , further north Bootaxtkultur be mentioned.

Research history

The Schnurkeramik (SK) was set up by Friedrich Klopfleisch as an independent group opposite the older Bandkeramik (1883/84) and named after the typical decoration. Alfred Götze defined an older and a younger level as early as 1891. Götze, however, also counted Rössen ceramics as string ceramics, which he put at the end of this culture. In Bohemia L. Pic (1899) considered the SK to be at the same time as the band ceramics. Overall, he considered the SK to be older than the band ceramics. He was in contrast to Otto Tischler in Königsberg , who had already put the SK in 1883 at the end of the Neolithic. In 1898 Karl Schumacher was able to use the stratigraphy of south German pile dwelling settlements to show that cord ceramics were to be placed at the end of the Neolithic and the transition to the Bronze Age .

The chronology of Cord Pottery has long been the subject of heated debate, both for the Cord Pottery phenomenon as a whole and, especially, for the various regional groups. Based on the Central German material, Manfred Hein, for example, developed a three-stage chronology (cord ceramics Ia and Ib, according to Walternienburg-Bernburg and parallel with foster life and spherical amphora culture ; cord ceramics II and III parallel with Schönfeld and followed by bell beakers and individual grave culture ). He saw the Central German group as the last offshoot of the funnel beaker culture , which also corresponded to the general research opinion, and dealt intensively with the problematic relationship (temporally and culturally) between Schnurkeramik, bell beaker and Aunjetitz culture ; however, its chronology was not widely accepted and its extensive collection of material and detailed statistical analysis for chronological and cultural-historical questions has largely been forgotten today.


The area of ​​distribution of the corded ceramics extended temporarily from Switzerland and Central Europe via southern Scandinavia to central Russia . The Scandinavian group that left ax-shaped artifacts of unknown use is called the boat ax culture . A branch between the Baltic States and the Upper Volga is the Fatyanovo culture . In Denmark, the spread of the oldest type of battle ax points to a concentration in central Jutland, from where the Danish islands were later reached.


Corded ceramics can be divided into three supraregional groups that form a more or less homogeneous unit.

  • The southern group includes Alsace, southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Hesse, Saxony, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt.
  • The northern group is to be equated with the stand-up cup, single grave and lagoon culture. It occurs in western and northern Germany, in the Netherlands, Denmark, southern Sweden, in the coastal area of ​​Poland, in East Prussia and the Baltic States.
  • The third group, which is very different from the first, can be located in Eastern Europe.


Corded ceramic battle axes, Linz Castle Museum


Individual burials in a crouched position under burial mounds are typical ; d. H. the dead were buried on their side with their legs drawn up. A consistent "bipolar burial method" is characteristic of corded ceramics. This means that opposite burials were common for men and women. The dead of Central European Corded Ceramics are mostly in the east-west axis, with the women on the left with their heads facing east, the men on the right with their heads facing west. The so-called "direction of view" is south. In Eastern Central Europe ( Lesser Poland ) and Eastern Europe ( Ukraine ), on the other hand, the dominant dead position is the north-south axis, the "viewing direction" is east. Here, too, the principle applies that women were always buried on the left and men on the right in a crouched position.

Deviations from the sex-differentiated burial practice have rarely been described and may be due to incorrect gender determination. The traditional determination based on anatomical features of the skull and skeleton is relatively unreliable because of the overlap of gender-specific features, although it is still standard in archeology today . In 2011 this was the basis of a media-effective interpreted grave of the SK from Prague, where the body of the supposedly male sex was buried with the head in the east. Provided that enough aDNA is still preserved, only the sex diagnosis of the DNA offers a reliable instrument of determination.

Grave goods

The differently elaborate furnishings of the grave goods indicate a social differentiation that began as early as the early Neolithic . Typical for men's graves is the addition of a battle ax, a cup and / or an amphora. The canonization of grave goods is greatest in the early phase of corded ceramics, which is why this was previously referred to as the "unit horizon" or "A horizon". Instead of a battle ax, women's graves usually contain jewelry. In addition to cups and amphorae, cups and bowls are also used as vessel shapes. Pieces of jewelry or daggers made of copper are also found in the graves of the later cord ceramists .


In addition to the specially raised burial mounds, there are also subsequent burials in megalithic systems . In central Germany, reburial in large stone graves of the Walternienburg-Bernburg culture (e.g. Schneiderberg near Baalberge ) and in graves of the spherical amphora culture (e.g. Pohlsberg near Latdorf ) has been proven. In addition, parts of older grave systems were used as secondary installations, such as the menhir from Schafstädt in a ceramic stone box.

Ceramic remnants from the damp settlement around the Kleiner Hafner on the building site of the Opéra car park in Zurich

Settlements and material culture

The lack of settlement finds initially suggested a nomadic way of life and economy of its owners. To this day, settlements are underrepresented compared to burial grounds, although it is now clear that the corded ceramics method does not differ from other late and end neolithic cultures. For some years now, more and more settlement finds (including house floor plans, well finds) and indications of the economic method (grains, imprints of crops in ceramic vessels, bone finds, plows, carts of cattle, disc wheels, etc.) have shown that the wearers of the corded ceramics were sedentary and engaged in arable farming and cattle breeding .

Origin and Indo-European Ethnicity

Andrew Sherratt (1977), on behalf of many other researchers of his time, saw the origin of SK more as an autochthonous development through social changes such as the formation of a new prestige goods system. Today, following the interpretations of Marija Gimbutas , it is assumed that there are strong influences or even immigration from the Eastern European steppes (see Kurgan culture ). The earliest dating of corded ceramic graves in Central Europe dates back to the 29th century from Malopolska. Results from Eastern Europe have not yet been adequately evaluated.

Wolfgang Haak u. a. (2015) found that the DNA of members of the Cord Ceramic Culture, in contrast to its predecessors, is 75 percent identical to that of members of the Yamnaja culture . They concluded that it was in the 3rd millennium BC. There was a massive immigration from the southern Russian steppe areas to Central Europe.



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  • Andrew Sherratt: Cups that cheer. In: Economy and society in prehistoric Europe: changing perspectives. Princeton University Press, Princeton 1997.
  • Christian Strahm : The dynamics of the cord ceramic development in Switzerland and in southwest Germany. In: The Continental European Groups of Corded Pottery Culture. Cord Ceramics Symposium Praha-Stirin 1990. Praehistorica 19. Univerzita Karlova, Prague 1992, ISBN 80-7066-527-0 , pp. 163-177.
  • Roland R. Wiermann: The cup cultures in Hessen. Bell Beaker - Cord Ceramic - Giant Beaker. Leidorf, Rahden 2004, ISBN 3-89646-792-1 .


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Web links

Commons : Corded Ceramic  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Martin Furholt: Absolute Chronology and the Origin of Cord Ceramics. In: , December 16, 2003 (PDF; 5.2 MB)
  2. Miroslav Buchvaldek, Christian Strahm: The continental European groups of culture with cord ceramics. Corded Ceramic Symposium 1990 . In: Praehistorica . tape XIX . Univerzita Karlova, Praha 1992.
  3. Hein 1981, 1985, 1987, 1991.
  4. Manfred Hein: Investigations on the culture of cord ceramics in Central Germany . In: Saarbrücker contributions to antiquity . tape 50 . Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH, Bonn 1987.
  5. ^ A b Jo Sofaer: The Body as Material Culture: A Theoretical Osteoarchaeology. Cambridge University Press, 2006
  6. Shaman or transsexual? Mysterious grave from the Copper Age. Radio Praha website, accessed on November 13, 2012
  7. Almut Bick: The Stone Age . Theiss WissenKompakt, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-8062-1996-6 .
  8. D. Hecht: The settlement system of cord ceramics in southern Central Europe. A study of a neglected genus in the transition from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. ( Online )
  9. Wolfgang Haak, Iosif Lazaridis a. a .: Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages ​​in Europe. In: Nature. 522, 2015, p. 207, doi : 10.1038 / nature14317 .