CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

Cluster B: “Complex Foragers”

Cluster Chronology
The projects of the B-cluster analyse transformation processes of specialized forager societies. These will be studied in particular in connection with the settlement history of Northern Germany over a period of about 10,000 years (15,000-5,000 BCE). An important point of discussion in these projects will be the interrelationship between behavioural changes of the hunter-gatherer groups studied and fluctuations of varying intensity in climate and changes in the environment during this period.

Cluster B is divided in two sub-projects (B1, B2). Providing research about transformation in Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene populations, it is part of research focus 2, “Transformations of socio-economic formations”.

B1: Pioneers of the North: Transitions and Transformations in Northern Europe Evidenced by High-Resolution Data Sets

B2: Transitions of Specialized Foragers

Cluster B concentrates on complex foragers experiencing change that leads to very different results, although starting from rather similar social points

In the Late Pleistocene and the Early Holocene, marked changes of behaviour among human groups are noted. In Northern Europe, the transition from the archaeologically defined phase of the Late Palaeolithic to that of the Mesolithic marks a transition from specialised, highly-mobile big game hunters to broad-spectrum, complex forest hunter-gatherers and semi-sedentary coastal fisher-hunter-gatherers. These transformations express multiple drastic and threatening challenges to habits and routines of behaviour that are detectable at different scales and affect different components of society and everyday life (e.g. subsistence strategies). Complex hunter-gatherers are low-population communities totally relying on the availability of natural resources, but potentially very flexible in their mobility and coping strategies. The mobility type of these groups can change significantly as shown by the two projects in cluster B.

The Late Palaeolithic in central Northern Europe was at least occasionally characterised by extensive, possibly seasonally induced migratory movements of hunter-gatherer groups, whereas in the Mesolithic, mobility was rather limited to established areas

This is more than just a difference of residential and logistic mobility. The territoriality was transformed to a large degree, an observation that is going to be analysed by the distribution of sites, the seasonality and duration of settlements indicated by the faunal and vegetation records, and by the variability and more precisely similarities in the material culture. Apart from the factor of a changing climate, it is conceivable that more complex processes and an interplay of several factors on different sectors of society must be taken into account to explain and understand such transformations. Changes of climate and the landscape were most significant during the Final Palaeolithic. Instability was the rule to which people adapted from open park tundra landscapes to light forests, coastal landscapes, and inland forested landscapes characterized by a myriad of small lakes and crosscutting streams – thus best exploited by the waterways. However, also with the onset of more stable climates in the Early Holocene, the landscape was constantly transforming, to a degree to which hunter-gatherers had to react/adapt. In fact, with increasing territoriality we may ask if they were more vulnerable to small, sensitive changes in their environment.

The main objective of cluster B is to study and compare processes, triggers and components of the aforementioned social transformations, including coping strategies associated with climatic and environmental stress, the role of innovative behaviour, and changes in subsistence strategies and social interactions.

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