Tybrind Vig, instruction
Start at the wall directly to the left. Continue on the opposite wall, then move counterclockwise through the room.
The map shows the location of the remains, and the box contains short facts about it.
Facts about the find
FIND: Stone Age settlement.
PERIOD: About 7,000 years ago, Mesolithic Age.
LOCATION: Tybrind Vig, Island of Funen, Denmark.
EVENT: Settlement gradually submerged by the sea.
Stone Age submerged
At the bottom of a Danish bay lie the remains of a settlement from the Middle Stone Age. It is amazingly well preserved and bears witness to life and death on the Baltic coast. Back then, 7,000 years ago, the area was dry land. A group of people lived here by a protected lagoon. They fished, hunted, collected clams, seeds and plants. They made tools, ceramics and fabrics, and they had boats.
The elevated sea levels then slowly drowned the settlement. It was covered by layers of sediment and plants. An oxygen-poor, cold and protected environment was created with unusually good conditions for preservation. When archaeologists began to investigate the settlement in the late 1970s, they found many objects made from materials like wood and plant fibres – objects that on land would have degraded and disappeared a long time ago.
When the sediment disappears. Image to the left.
Tybrind Vig was one of the first Stone Age settlements to be excavated underwater. Today, maritime archaeologists work mainly on protecting the site. Environmental change is altering the seabed. The remains, which have been preserved so amazingly well for several thousands of years, are now rapidly eroding and decaying.
People and the sea. Long wall.
The people of Tybrind Vig fished both in the lagoon’s shallow waters and out at sea. Traces of fishing activity remain near the land, such as hooks, and leisters still standing upright in the mud. Logboats lay at the shore, and the layers of waste include fish bones that indicate that people also fished further out to sea.
With logboats, people could travel along the coasts and cross larger bays. They could move from one settlement to another, travel to meeting places and trade goods. These boats contain the remains of hearths. Fire might have been used as a source of heat, for cooking, and to attract prey when fishing at night.
A test trip with a newly made log boat of the same type as the boats in Tybrind Vig. Film without sound and text.
In the exhibit
Leister, head and prong
A leister is a kind of spear, often a trident. The prongs at the spearhead help to hold the fish in place once it is impaled. Bones from both eel and flatfish have been found at the settlement, fish that are preferably caught with leisters.
Fishing hooks of bone
Although their shape is similar to modern-day tools, Stone Age hooks were made of bone or antler. Beyond the shoreline of the settlement, there are plenty of damaged hooks, probably broken during fishing.
Life by the lagoon
The people of Tybrind Vig moved between different settlements. As far as we know there are no remains of housing, but there is plenty of refuse. Among the food waste are bones from fish, seals, deer and wild boar. Fruit pits, clam shells, hazelnuts and seeds indicate that the people made use of most of what was edible in the area.
Traces of craftsmanship can be seen in materials like antlers, bones, wood and fibrous plant material called bast. Some of Europe’s oldest fabric fragments come from this area. The people from this period are also the first in southern Scandinavia to produce pottery, including vessels of different sizes.
In the exhibit
Pottery fragment with food scraps
This vessel shard still shows traces of dried food remains, which can reveal what food the vessel once contained. An analysis of shards at the site showed that one day, 7,000 years ago, someone served boiled cod with herbs in Tybrind Vig.
The marks on these bones show that the animals fur was what was sought after. The bones were found in pile on the seabed, evidence that the carcasses were discarded and thrown into the sea after the skins were taken.
Fabric and rope
Made of bast, possibly part of a garment or bag. These fragments are around 7,000 years old and thus among the oldest in Europe. They have been preserved thanks to the protected environment of the bay.
Animal bones with traces of butchering
Bone finds come from many different species, but the most common animals to eat were fish, red deer, roe deer and boar. The diversity of species, the plant remains, and the various hunting and fishing tools – the people by the lagoon had a varied diet.
This ceramic vessel is an oil lamp. It was filled with fuel, a wick was placed inside, and then the vessel could function as a mobile light source. The fuel consisted of fat extracted from the blubber of seals, porpoises and other marine mammals.
Several wooden paddles have been found, some with carved geometric patterns filled in with pigment. Perhaps the patterns were primarily decorative, but they might also have had a symbolic meaning, such as a mark of affinity to a specific group.
Short wall, interactive station
- Dip the brush in a pattern
- Touch the paddel with the brush
The young woman and the infant
In 1979, an exposed cranium was discovered at the settlement. It turned out to be part of a grave that held a young woman and a tiny infant. They lay on their backs in a shallow, slightly short pit, and the child’s body was placed diagonally over the woman’s chest. A thoughtful arrangement, suggesting that the people around them cared about them.
Some people who spent part of their lives in the settlement also came to rest here. Later, another double grave was found, most likely belonging to a larger burial site.
The woman was between 14 and 16 when she died. A girl by our standards, but at the time more of an adult than a child. The infant lived no more than three months. We do not know if the woman and the infant were related.
Testimony of the bones
Skeletal remains indicate that the woman was 146 cm (4’8″) tall, and that she suffered from a prolonged and surely painful gum infection. The infant’s skeleton bears traces of long-term illness, perhaps an infectious disease.