This hafted bifacial dagger is from a lake-dwelling site on Lake Neuchâtel at Concise, Switzerland. It is likely from the extensive site of Concise-sous-Colachoz, a World Heritage-listed site dating from the Middle Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age, ca. 4000-6500 BP.
This bifacial knife is considered a ‘dagger’ in European terminology, referring to a pointed tool with cutting edges on both margins. The earliest European bifacial flint daggers are stemmed, lanceolate, and side-notched examples from northern and central Italy, many made from southern Alpine flint. These early daggers are small, with most measuring between ca. 5-10 cm long. They emerged in the Late Neolithic by about 5600 BP, and are also found in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Small bifacial daggers continued to be manufactured well into the Copper Age in Italy, with larger, expertly-made ‘prestige’ daggers interred with the famous burials at Remedello cemetery, ca. 5000 BP. A small hafted bifacial stone dagger was carried by Ötzi, who died while crossing the Alps in ca. 5230 BP. Bifacial stone daggers overlap chronologically with daggers made on indirect percussion blades, a technology that originated in northwestern Greece and spread to production centres in Syria, Sardinia, Bulgaria, France, and Portugal.
The stone part of the knife in this model is bifacially flaked primarily using a pecussion technique, and it appears to have been heavily used and perhaps resharpened. The flaking is less-refined than that seen on many daggers from this region. The biface was inserted into a slot in the end of an antler handle.
The artefact is in the Michigan State University Museum, Archaeology Teaching Collection, catalogue no. 2002.21.47.
Stone tools with preserved in antler handles or sleeves are frequently found in submerged Neolithic ‘Lake Dweller’ villages, where organic tools and parts of tools are preserved in anaerobic environments. The use of antler at these sites fluctuated with the availability of red deer, which tended to be over-hunted when food was scarce. About 50% of antler use was connected with the manufacture of sleeves for axes during the Horgen and Corded Ware periods.
‘Lake Dweller’ archaeology refers to submerged remains of houses and artefacts in the near-shore environments of high-altitude Alpine lakes in an arc from France to Slovenia, including Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Italy. The lakeside dwellings dated from the Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Early Iron Age, ca. 2800-6500 BP. These settlements were built on the marshy areas near the edges of the lakes, but contrary to previous thought, the structures were probably not built over the water. Extensive platforms of logs, piles, and rock were necessary to provide a stable surface for construction on the boggy ground. Many of the villages were surrounded by defensive palisades built of vertical posts. The inhabitants farmed the lakeshore environments and engaged in extensive hunting and gathering. The houses were rebuilt regularly as the foundations settled and water levels changed. Most of the sites are now completely submerged due to rising water levels, and the waterlogged environment has led to excellent organic artefact preservation. Artefacts recovered from these sites include large numbers of everyday tools and objects, yielding great insight into the life ways of the people living in Europe during this period. The lake dwellings were abandoned in northern areas during the Bell Beaker period and Early Bronze Age (ca. 4100-4500 BP) and again in the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2200-2500 BP). The abandonment was probably caused by rising lake levels flooding the productive agricultural strip along the lakeshores, and when water levels dropped again, the sites were reoccupied.
Local fishermen were familiar with the extensive remains of piles in the lakes from at least the 1820s. But in 1854 the low water level in Lake Zurich allowed the construction of a new harbour, and the digging exposed the archaeological remains associated with these piles. Similar discoveries were made on other lakes and this attracted public interest and antiquity dealers, and the artefacts were widely disseminated to collections and museums around the world. These 19th century discoveries had far-reaching social impacts in Switzerland, as the deep histories recorded in these sites forged a common cultural identity. In 2011, 111 pile dwelling sites across the Alpine region were placed under a single UNESCO World Heritage listing.