Period: The Neolithic (c. 5000 BC)
Researcher: Anne Reichert, Ettlingen-Bruchhausen, Germany
Contact: Anne Reichert, Storchenweg 1, D-76275 Ettlingen-Bruchhausen, Germany
Project titel: Reconstruction of the bucket of Erklenz-Kückhoven II
Researcher: Anne Reichert, Archaeologist
Year: 2008 and 2009
At Erklenz-Kückhoven by the river Rhine in Germany an extremely rare well from the Stone Age has been found. Inside the well a number of containers made of wood and bark were found - among them was a bucket made of a folded piece of limebark and beautifully tied together with cords of limesbast. This unique bucket was reconstructed in the summer of 2007, in order to find out how a waterbucket was produced in the Stone Age and how durable it was.
But the experiment went wrong! The bark cracked when the shaping of the bucket began and the limebast fraid and broke. The Stone Age people apparently had a much better knowledge about the treatment of limebark then modern researchers, but fortunately we may learn a lot from our mistakes and may now ask a lot of new, exiting questions.
What went wrong? Which technique should be applied when sewing in bark? How should the bast be treated in order to produce the exquisitely made web that holds the bucket together. Maybe the bark was too thick? Maybe the tree was too old? Maybe it is only possible to make barkbuckets in the spring when the bark is full of sap? Maybe the bark should be softened by soaking?
The Researcher's Conclusions for 2009:
In order to test whether sesonality is important in the production of the Lime bark bucket, Anne Reichert returned to the Land of Legends to rekonstruct the bucket in 2009 - this time in May. The bark that was used was from young trees which had grown in shady conditions. Once again it was attempted to bend the bark in when it was fresh, 24 hours old, kept in an airtight container, and soaked. But again it was impossible to bend the bark without creating fractures in the hard outer bark. However in the winter of 2009 Anne Reichert had succeeded in bending and sowing a piece of lime bark, but in a smaller scale then the original bucket - without creating any fractures. This indicates that the season for harvesting the bark is decisive, even though we did not manage to find the right season in this series of experiments in the Land of Legends in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Reference number HAF 06/08
Researcher's conclusion for 2008
In 2008 it was again attempted to reconstruct the barkbucket. The limebark was harvested in May, but proved to be to thick to be bent across the fibres, even when fresh. The experiment was continued in August, when the bark was completely dry. It was attempted to help ease the bending by steaming and boiling the bark. Unfortunately this had no effect and the bark still broke in the process. Then, it was attempted to use bark from a freshly felled limetree, but again it was impossible to bend the bark.
However Anne Reichert succeed in bending the bark and producing a reconstruction of the bucket at a later date. The bark for this reconstruction was also harvested in May and bent immediately after. But it remains to be said, that the this successful reconstruction, was considerably smaller than the original. It remains to be settled, how a full size reconstruction can be made. The experiment will therefore continue in 2009
Reference number HAF 06/08
Project title: Reconstruction of the Erkelenz-Kückhoven bucket I, followed by experiments with scooping up water.
A very fortunate discovery was made in a Neolithic well in 1991. Due to permanent wet conditions without oxygen the oak-wood of the square box-frame had been preserved very well. The box-frame could via dendrochronology be dated to 5090 BC. Besides many smaller objects of wood, bark, and plant fibres, several objects made of bark were found and one of the best preserved objects was a bucket made from the bark of a young lime-tree.
This is the bucket that should have been reconstructed during the experiment. With the reconstructed bucket further experiments were planned, of course scooping water out of a well. It would also have been interesting to see if it was better to keep the bucket dry when not in use or to keep it in water to prevent it from breaking.
But the experiment failed. The prepared pieces of lime-bark were split and therefore not suitable for containing water. Besides they were partially broken on the outside while they were bent. The lime-bast had been in the water too long so that it was brittle and unsuitable to twine strong cords and ropes for the bucket which should have been used to scoop water out of a well.
So in this case, no clear water was ever scooped from the well.
Reference number: HAF 07/07