Single Grave culture

The Single Grave culture (German: Einzelgrabkultur) was a Chalcolithic culture which flourished on the western North European Plain from ca. 2,800 BC to 2,200 BC.[1] It is characterized by the practice of single burial, the deceased usually being accompanied by a battle-axe, amber beads, and pottery vessels.[2] The Single Grave culture was a local variant of the Corded Ware culture, and appears to have emerged as a result of a migration of peoples from the Pontic-Caspian steppe. It was succeeded by the Bell Beaker culture, which appears to have been ultimately derived from the Single Grave culture.

Single Grave culture
Single Grave culture.jpg
Geographical rangeWestern North European Plain
Datesca. 2,800–2,200 BC[1]
Preceded byCorded Ware culture, Funnelbeaker culture, Pitted Ware culture
Followed byBell Beaker culture



The Single Grave culture was an offshoot of the Corded Ware culture, which was itself an offshoot of the Yamnaya culture of the Pontic-Caspian steppe. On the western North European Plain, the Single Grave culture replaced the earlier Funnelbeaker culture.[3]


The Single Grave culture came to encompass the western part of the European Plain. In Denmark, Single Grave sites are concentrated in Jylland, where its appearance is accompanied by large-scale forest clearance and an expansion of animal husbandry, particularly cattle. In eastern Denmark, the Single Grave culture, the Pitted Ware culture, and the Funnelbeaker culture appear to have co-existed for some time.[4] It maintained close connections to other cultures of the Corded Ware horizon.


The Single Grave culture was succeeded by the Bell Beaker culture. The Bell Beaker culture is thought to have been derived from the Protruding-Foot Beaker culture (PFB), which was a variant of the Single Grave culture.[5]


The term Single Grave culture was first introduced by the Danish archaeologist Andreas Peter Madsen in the late 1800s. He found Single Graves to be quite different from the already known dolmens, long barrows and passage graves.

In 1898, Danish archaeologist Sophus Müller was first to present a migration-hypothesis stating that previously known dolmens, long barrows, passage graves and newly discovered single graves may represent two completely different groups of people, stating "Single graves are traces of new, from the south coming tribes".[6]


Protruding-Foot Beaker culture (PFB), subset of the Single Grave culture.


The Single Grave culture is known chiefly from its burial mounds. Thousands of such mounds have been discovered.[7] These are typically low, circular earthen mounds. Originally, the mounds were surrounded by a circle of split timbers. In low mounds, grave would contain one, or even two, plank coffins. Each coffin contained a single individual. Occasionally, new graves and mounds would be added on top of previous ones. Males were typically buried with battle axes, large amber discs and flint tools. Females were buried with amber necklaces made of small beads. Both genders were buried with a ceramic beaker. This probably contained some form of fermented beverage, possibly beer. The standardized burial practices of the single grave culture have been interpreted as evidence of equality of the sexes in Single Grave society.[3]


The Single Grave people were engaged in animal husbandry, particularly the raising of cattle. They also engaged in agriculture, with barley as the main crop.


The Single Grave people produced pottery with cord impressions similar to those of other cultures of the Corded Ware horizon. The cultural emphasis on drinking equipment already characteristic of the early indigenous Funnelbeaker culture, synthesized with newly arrived Corded Ware traditions. Especially in the west (Scandinavia and northern Germany), the drinking vessels have a protruding foot and define the Protruding-Foot Beaker culture (PFB) as a subset of the Single Grave culture.[8]


In a genetic study published in Nature in June 2015, the remains of a Single Grave male buried in Kyndeløse, Denmark c. 2850 BC-2500 was examined. He was determined to be a carrier of the paternal haplogroup R1a1a1 and the maternal haplogroup J1c4.[9][10] Like other people of the Corded Ware horizon, he notably carried Western Steppe Herder (WSH) ancestry.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Frei 2019.
  2. ^ Davidsen 1978, p. 10.
  3. ^ a b Price 2015, pp. 161-169.
  4. ^ Price 2015, p. 160.
  5. ^ Fokkens 1998, p. 105.
  6. ^ Trigger 1989, pp. 155-156.
  7. ^ "The Single Grave Culture". National Museum of Denmark. Retrieved February 3, 2020. Cite has empty unknown parameters: |subscription= and |registration= (help)
  8. ^ Fagan et al. 1996, pp. 89, 217.
  9. ^ Allentoft et al. 2015, Supplementary Information, pp. 40-42, Supplementary Table 9, RISE61.
  10. ^ Mathieson et al. 2018, Supplementary Table 1, Row 352, RISE61.
  11. ^ Malmström et al. 2019, p. 6.