Banded Ware pottery in the Elsloo museum

The pretty village of Elsloo in Limburg stands on a steep ridge 70 metres above the River Maas and the Juliana Canal. It lays claim to be the oldest farming village in the Netherlands, first settled between 4,700 and 4,300 BC by Neolithic people of the Linear Pottery Culture.

Location of Elsloo on the River Maas and the Dutch-Belgian border.             © Google maps
 

They are thought to have arrived here from the North Balkans, migrating westward along fertile Loess soils and creating settlements close to rivers along the way. They raised crops such as emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, peas and lentils, and also kept livestock such as goats, sheep, cows and pigs. Elsloo was their most westerly outpost.

At that time Elsloo was surrounded by dense forests and the new inhabitants felled trees to build their houses. These were 9 metres long and 5 metres wide, with walls insulated with clay dug out of pits. These pits were then used as refuse holes and have provided archaeologists with valuable sources of information.

Excavations since the early 1960’s have unearthed the remains of farmhouses and objects including axes, arrowheads, scrapers, knives and grinding stones, as well as the distinctive pottery. The term “Linear Band Ware” derives from the pottery’s decorative technique of depicting bands containing figures. Pottery found in Elsloo includes simple cups, bowls, vases, and jugs, both with and without handles. Some of these are displayed, together with other items of local historical importance, in a small but fascinating museum in the 17th century Schippershuis.

Elsloo Streekmuseum in the 17th century Schippershuis
Banded Ware pottery in the Elsloo museum

Another important find in Elsloo was a Neolithic burial site containing 113 individual graves. Some of these had been used for inhumations and some for cremated remains. One of the most fascinating exhibits in the museum is the soil profile of a corpse found in one of the graves. The shadowy silhouette of the human figure was preserved in the earth long after the body itself had completely decomposed. The corpse was buried in a foetus position, on its side with the legs drawn up.

Shadowy outline of a corpse preserved in the soil, on display in the museum
Outline of the corpse with the head, body and legs highlighted

The photo below shows how the body would originally have been placed in the grave

Another example of a burial in a foetal position © Wolfgang Sauber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32575663

Click here to read another article (in Dutch) on this website about the Elsloo museum: https://www.hunebednieuwscafe.nl/2019/04/streekmuseum-elsloo/

Text and most photos                    Alun Harvey

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