CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

Phase 1 - Research activities 2016-2020

B1: Pioneers of the North: Transitions and Transformations in Northern Europe Evidenced by High-Resolution Datasets (ca. 15000–9500 BCE)

Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Berit Valentin Eriksen
Staff: Dr. Sonja Grimm, Sascha Krüger

Research agenda

Fig. 1. At Ahrenshöft 73, two overlying archaeological horizons that yielded material of an early settlement phase of Northern Germany after the last glacial maximum. These artefacts were attributed to the so-called Hamburgian and are approximately 14,450 years old. The different making of the lithic artefacts allows a distinction of two different groups: the classic Hamburgian and the Havelte Group. The change from classic Hamburgian to the Havelte group is a transformation that will be studied in project B1.

This project concentrates on cultural and socio-economic transformations in mobile hunter-gatherer groups during their colonisation of Northern Europe in the Final Palaeolithic period, as they were confronted with different and changing environmental conditions. To this end, well-preserved sites from Northern Germany and Scandinavia are studied with regard to the archaeological remains and connected environmental records. Thus, the dynamics of technological developments, subsistence strategies, mobility patterns and local and regional interaction networks will be examined and contextualised with changes in the environment.

Investigation area
Fig. 2. Five regions with well-known sites were selected to be studied in more detail and / or for which older results shall be synthesised with new data and results during the first phase of the CRC. In addition, we are searching for further find regions that contain high-resolution archives based on the palaeo-site database of Schleswig-Holstein made at the ZBSA in cooperation with the ALSH.


In general, triggers, components, and rhythms of transformations seem to differ throughout the Lateglacial in the south-western Baltic region. To secure a well-founded data basis we have worked intensely to successfully optimise the GIS supported Palaeodatabase containing all known Upper and Late Palaeolithic sites in Schleswig-Holstein, which is operational now as an analytical tool (cf. Hamer et al., 2019). Furthermore, with the palaeo-lake Nahe, we found a first-class, high-resolution environmental archive encompassing the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene in Schleswig-Holstein. In collaboration with subproject B2, we developed the Open Access “EPHA – European Prehistoric and Historic Atlas” to help us identify relevant landscape changes over time and a flint recording scheme that will facilitate quantitative and to some degree also qualitative comparisons of assemblages from the Late Palaeolithic and the Early Mesolithic.

In more detail we found the following:

Transformation phase 1 (T1)

  • Re-analysis of the stratigraphic sequence from Lake Bølling led to an improved clarification of nomenclature and characterisation of the initial phase of the Lateglacial Interstadial (Krüger and Damrath, 2019).
  • Analysis of the laminated sequence from palaeo-lake Nahe yielded high-resolution environmental datasets for precise attribution of human presence (Dreibrodt et al., in press; Krüger, accepted).

Transformation phase 2 (T2)

  • Comparative technological analysis of lithic material resulted in the hypothesis that the change from Havelte Group to early Federmesser-Gruppen (FMG) represented replacement rather than transformation (Burau, 2019).
  • The almost identical chronological position of sites from both groups and differences in landscape use by classic Hamburgian, Havelte Group, and FMG suggest change of palaeo-environmental conditions or subsistence or pioneers settling into the new landscape as alternative or additional triggers of transformation.

Transformation phase 3 (T3)

  • Excavation at Tyrsted provided an exceptional opportunity to precisely date the Brommean technocomplex and improve knowledge of its environmental conditions and osseous technology.
  • The multi-proxy sequence from palaeo-lake Nahe yielded two chronological marker horizons (i.e. micro-tephra layers) which encompass this transformation and provide a more precise characterisation of environmental conditions of late FMG and early Ahrensburgian (Krüger and van den Bogaard, submitted; Krüger et al., accepted). One of these tephras was the Laacher See tephra, which has been confirmed for the first time in Schleswig-Holstein.

Transformation phase 4 (T4)

  • Critical analysis of 14C dates in collaboration with subproject B2: The transformation from Ahrensburgian to Early Mesolithic occurred at the end of the Preboreal Oscillation in the North and not at the onset of the Preboreal as previously thought (Grimm et al., in press).
  • Technological and spatial analysis of two adjacent Ahrensburgian concentrations indicates common methods and techniques of lithic production but varying intentions (Hinrichs, in press).
  • New protocols of dating wooden material have been applied to wooden arrowshafts that probably originate from the Ahrensburgian horizon in Stellmoor together with subproject G1 (Meadows et al., 2018).

Reserach activities

As our main research objectives relate to the socio-environmental transformations during the Late Pleistocene recolonization process of Northern Europe, we began our research in the south-western Baltic region where we had identified five main archaeological areas that we wanted to study in different work packages (WP):

  • Ahrensburg Tunnel Valley (WP1),
  • Lieth Moor area (WP2),
  • Itzstedt Lake area (WP4),
  • Alt Duvenstedt (WP5), and
  • Ahrenshöft (WP6).

To these we hoped to add further areas with the help of predictive modelling that is fed by a database of Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene sites in Schleswig-Holstein (henceforth: Palaeodatabase, WP3). Due to unexpected finds during a preventive excavation in late 2016, we could identify another interesting area near Horsens / DK that we also began to further investigate (WP8). This newly added area is located within the Weichselian moraines and, hence, completed the representation of our research areas across the main geological formations in the south-western Baltic region. Finally, we wish to synthesise our results (WP7) to help us better understand the four major transformation phases (T1-4) that were already known from the archaeological material from the study area.

FIG2017-1 Radiokarbon (grauem) und techno-typologisch datiertes (blauem) Material in den verschiedenen Untersuchungsregionen des Teilprojekts B1 in Bezug auf die Transformationsphasen (T1-4), die ungefähre Vegetationsentwicklung, die allgemeine Klimaentwicklung des Nordatlantiks, wiedergegeben durch die Entwicklung der Sauerstoffisotopenkurve aus einem grönländischen Eiskern, und die archäologische Kulturentwicklung im südwestlichen Ostseeraum.
Presence of radiocarbon dated (grey) and techno-typologically dated (blue) material in the different study regions of sub-project B1 in relation to the transformation phases (T1-4), the approximate vegetation development, the general climate development of the North Atlantic region as indicated by the oxygen isotope curve from a Greenland ice-core, and the archaeological cultural development in the south-western Baltic region.

WP1 (Ahrensburg Tunnel Valley): In accordance with our proposal, we meanwhile prepared the digital analysis of this region by collecting further information for a 3D reconstruction and incorporating them in a Geographical Information System (GIS). Besides geological data, detailed archaeological information as published by Rust (1958) and Tromnau (1974) from the Teltwisch and Borneck sites have been added into the GIS. Some of the archaeological information from this area still needs revision and has to be updated to modern archaeological techno-typological analytical practices.

A 3D area model is created with the help of this information. It will help to show the geomorphological changes of the landscape on a sub-regional level, not just in this study area but also in the Lieth Moor area, the Itzstedt Lake area, and in Ahrenshöft. These changes were still ongoing during the Late Pleistocene and people in the Final Palaeolithic had to adapt to them. We can only consider transformations of the socio-environmental interaction when knowing more about these changes and their internal chronology. Yet, the interpolations of the 3D information cannot be performed as straight forwardly as previously expected due to the various geological problems. The spatial significance of this data is on sub-regional levels with very different hypotheses depending on their chronological relevance. For example, the stratigraphic data from the Ahrensburg Tunnel Valley must be further differentiated to fit our purpose of creating syntheses for different periods represented in this area. Based on this data collection, a first discussion about human use of this landscape and the transformations between the periods can then be accomplished.

WP2 (Lieth Moor area): For the Lieth Moor area, we have also created a GIS based on the thus far known data collections from archaeology as well as from geology. In September 2017, we could join the Archaeological State Agency Schleswig-Holstein (ALSH) in a pre-construction survey in this area where some test trenches were cut with a mechanical digger. During this campaign, we extracted several sediment sequences with a modified Livingston piston corer (“Usinger Bohrer”) in order to receive a detailed palaeoenvironmental record. These efforts impressively showed that the geological formation in this area is highly complex and organic material poorly preserved. This was equally visible from the collected, partially contradicting geological data. The complex results made it clear that, prior to further field surveys, we need to discuss the available information with geological experts (Kay Krienke, Geological Survey SH/ LLUR, Alf Grube, Geological Survey HH). Based on this discussion, we may be able to also reflect the development of this find area and the use of it by hunter-gatherer groups of the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene. In fact, based on a survey of all archaeological reports from Klein Nordende, Elmshorn, Tornesch, Heidgraben, and Seeth-Ekholt recorded in the ALSH records, the richness of this area becomes apparent with some 75 findspots from the Stone Ages of which at least 40 assemblages could be attributed to the Palaeolithic or Mesolithic period. We also began reviewing some of the Final Palaeolithic assemblages to understand in more detail possible transformations in the use of the lithic materials as well as the use of different locations over time.

WP3 (Palaeodatabase): We successfully worked on the connection of the Palaeodatabase to the database of the ALSH, enabling us to locate the known sites precisely and to then look for new promising sites in collaboration with sub-project A2. We also occasionally went to the field to test a few sites in Schleswig-Holstein as well as Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for their potential in answering questions about human environmental interactions. Also in this WP we can subsume the work on legacy data from the late Hartmut Usinger that Sascha Krüger used to establish a first overview of the palynological record available to inform us about the Late Pleistocene in Schleswig-Holstein. A first result was the identification of a promising coring spot in the Itzstedt Lake area (see below).

FIG2017-2 Fotos von einigen der Feldarbeiten 2017. Oben links: Bohrgerät (modifizierter Livingston-Kolbenkernbohrer, der sogenannte
Photos of some of the field work 2017. Top left: Coring equipment (modified Livingston piston corer i.e. “Usinger Bohrer”) in Lieth Moor area, please note the already re-filling test trench in the lower right corner (photo: S. Krüger). Top right: Tobias Burau and Sascha Krüger testing for organic sediments with a Pürckhauer corer at Dätgen (photo: S. B. Grimm). Lower right: Morten Fischer Mortensen explaining the Tyrsted kettlehole profile to visiting colleagues from Schleswig  (photo: S. B. Grimm). Lower left: Tobias Burau, Jan Weber, and Sascha Krüger coring in the Rönne valley near Lake Itzstedt with an “Usinger Bohrer” (photo: S. B. Grimm).

WP4 (Itzstedt Lake area): Near Lake Itzstedt, our current work focused on retrieving sediment cores for palaeoenvironmental analyses from a Lateglacial lake that was located in the upper valley of the Rönne. In October 2017, the Natural Protection Authority finally allowed us to drill two 16m long cores from a point where Hartmut Usinger located Lateglacial laminated sediments. This field campaign was performed in collaboration with Jan Weber (E1) and the analyses of the sediment cores will be performed in a close collaboration with the geochemistry from E1 and the palynological and sedimentological expertise of sub-project F2 (Stefan Dreibrodt). Hamburgian and Ahrensburgian sites are known from this area and in a situation comparable to the Stellmoor site in the Ahrensburg Tunnel Valley. Previous excavations uncovered faunal material, in particular reindeer, from the littoral areas of the lake from which these sediment cores were taken. We therefore hope to establish a good correlation of the environmental and the archaeological data. In particular, Sascha Krüger aims to understand the human use of the landscape by using charcoal analysis on this sequence allowing him to discuss questions about the human-environmental interactions.

WP7 (Synthesis): Together with Vesa Arponen (A1), Sonja B. Grimm already approached questions relating to a meta-level of our project: How do we have to imagine the colonisation process? What do we already know? How did we come to know this? And what do we need to close the gaps of what we do not know yet? Preliminary results were presented at the EAA meeting in Maastricht and a publication is in preparation.

Studying our material, we are constantly alternating between the analyses of the data from a single collection/site and the comparison with the regional record to the record across Schleswig-Holstein, the south-western Baltic region, or Northern Europe. By this comparison, we are crossing different scales at which change can work and we are reflecting on what large scale changes could mean for a single group as well as how the changes can spread from a single person across a whole society. For this we also collaborate closely with B2 to establish a joint lithic analytical approach that will enable us in the future to compare our material more directly. With this type of direct comparison it will be possible in the future to show the small steps that lead to the major transformation from Palaeolithic to Mesolithic societies in more detail.

WP8 (Horsens area): Sascha Krüger participated in the excavation in Tyrsted and extracted some sediment cores for palaeoenvironmental studies with Morten Fischer Mortensen from the National Museum of Denmark with whom we will collaborate in this region. Furthermore, the Horsens Museum will be a collaboration partner in this area. Together with the geophysics sub-project (G2), we analysed the kettlehole area in the vicinity of the Tyrsted excavation.

Our team in 2017 included Prof. Dr. Berit V. Eriksen (PI), Dr. Sonja B. Grimm (Post-Doc), Sascha Krüger M.A. (PhD-student), Dr. Mara-Julia Weber (ZBSA), Katja Winkler M.A. (research assistant), Benjamin Serbe M.A. (student then research assistant), Tobias Burau B.Sc. (student assistant).

Research activity 2018

In 2018 we continued research in several of our work packages (WP) to relate our results from our study areas in the south-western Baltic region to the socio-environmental transformations during the Late Pleistocene (re-)colonisation process of Northern Europe. The meanwhile six main archaeological areas (Ahrensburg Tunnel Valley, Lieth Moor, Lake Itzstedt, Alt Duvenstedt, Ahrenshöft, Horsens) and a database of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites in Schleswig-Holstein (Palaeodatabase) provided further evidence to qualify the four previously identified transformation periods (T1-4).

Therefore, we engage in on-going discussions about how to understand pioneers and transformation, but also about the Lateglacial nomenclature that will be incorporated in many of our publications and help making them concise.

WP1 (Ahrensburg Tunnel valley): Based on Early Holocene radiocarbon results of sub-project B2 from the Borneck site, we decided to review the Ahrensburgian material from this site using a spatial and technological approach. This resulted in a M.A. thesis (Moiken Hinrichs) that has been submitted in April 2019.

WP2 (Lieth Moor area): We created different distribution maps of the Final Palaeolithic sites in this area to help us understand the development in this area. The review of some of the archaeological material attributed to the Federmesser-Gruppen (FMG in Fig.1) has formed part of a M.A. thesis that has been submitted in February 2019 (Tobias Burau).

FIG2018-1 Verteilung prähistorischer und historischer Fundorte in der Region des Liether Moors in Bezug auf die mögliche Ausdehnung eines spätpleistozänen Sees (Karte: ZBSA-GIS/ B. Serbe).
Distribution of prehistoric and historic sites in the Lieth Moor area in relation to the potential extent of a Late Pleistocene lake (map: ZBSA-GIS/ B. Serbe).

WP3 (Palaeodatabase) This WP has taken more time than originally intended as the database needed to be intensively reviewed (see WP 7). This delayed the collaboration with A2 on the distribution of archaeological sites and predictive modelling towards the end of the year. However, the collaboration was further expanded towards testing the usability of the Final Palaeolithic record in a concept of cultural distance as a marker for interaction. As the predictive models were not yet available, we examined several sites that we were made aware of by colleagues or by our previous results, and we evaluated them regarding their palaeoenvironmental and archaeological potential. The former was mostly a disqualifying parameter. We also revisited archaeological material from museums’ collections that will help reviewing the Palaeodatabase. In this context, we also had many fruitful discussions and meetings with MfA staff to clarify possibilities to submit information to the archaeological (find) database of Schleswig-Holstein (ADSH).

WP4 (Itzstedt Lake area) Sascha Krüger’s palynological analysis of the sediment core taken in this study area last year is still on-going. Besides some interesting peaks in the charcoal content, he also could already identify two tephra layers in the Early Holocene and the Dryas 3 part. Jan Weber (E1) used the twin core to conduct XRF-scans and retrieve samples for geochemical analyses, in particular searching for wax lipids. The results of the latter analysis are going to be compared to the palynological results to test how much they are in agreement and to increase our understanding of the Late Pleistocene vegetation development by this combination of analytical techniques. In collaboration with G1 we also could date some macro-plant material that will help building an age-depth model for this sequence. Preliminary results were presented at the Lunch Time Seminar series in winter term 2018/19. Further details about the archaeological material from the nearby sites were collected from ALSH reports.

WP5 (Alt Duvenstedt) The oldest Federmesser-Gruppen material was analysed in collaboration with a colleague from the CNRS in Nanterre.

WP6 (Ahrenshöft) The find database of this site was supplemented with the finds from sieving and was made ready to be analysed using GIS-methods. Further technological analyses of the lithic material contributed in comparison with later periods to the M.A. thesis of Tobias Burau.

WP7 (Synthesis) An article synthesising our current knowledge about the Ahrensburgian in the south-western Baltic area is in preparation. Therefore, we collected all sites of this technocomplex known thus far from Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, and Denmark. Preliminary maps showed that there might be some falsely labelled assemblages in the Palaeodatabase / ALSH database. Consequently, we met with Sönke Hartz (MfA) and Ingo Clausen (ALSH) to discuss all questionable Ahrensburgian assemblages. During this meeting, the necessity of further meetings about the other technocomplexes in the near future became evident.

Looking in more detail at some areas already indicated that the distribution of sites cannot be explained randomly and that in particular Ahrensburgian sites are placed relatively even across the Schleswig-Holstein. In contrast, the Lieth Moor area, but also the Ahrensburg Tunnel Valley data, suggest that the Federmesser-Gruppen sites are placed at different locations suggesting a significant change in the use of the environment between those two groups. Yet, this impression needs to be tested by data comparisons and geostatistics. One approach is in collaboration with A2 on this. Provided with the geographic and chronological information about sites by us, Daniel Knitter and Wolfgang Hamer (both A2) could begin to model the human settlement in Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark in our periods of interest. First results showed that we have to further refine our approaches if we wish this comparison of the results to the today known landscape to be meaningful. This is mainly due to the very scarce distribution of our record in space and time.

WP8 (Horsens area) Further surveys in Tyrsted and Gedved were made with our collaboration partners from the Horsens Museum, the National Museum of Denmark and the sub-project G2. Palaeoenvironmental and archaeological analyses on material from the Tyrsted are on-going. Sub-project F4 conducted a molecular biological analysis of the reindeer material from this site and Berit V. Eriksen will analyse the lithic material from this context.

FIG2018-1 Verteilung prähistorischer und historischer Fundorte in der Region des Liether Moors in Bezug auf die mögliche Ausdehnung eines spätpleistozänen Sees (Karte: ZBSA-GIS/ B. Serbe).
Sascha Krüger (B1) helping Erica Corradini (G2) relating her electro-magnetic  measurements to the stratigraphic sequence in Tyrsted (photo: T. Burau).

What we have learned about our transformation phases thus far:

T1 (classic Hamburgian-Havelte Group) This transformation represents the first appearance of humans after the Last Glacial Maximum and their pioneer movement into the south-western Baltic region. Here we could particularly add some palaeoenvironmental work. Sascha Krüger has submitted his first manuscript about the sequence from Lake Bølling trying to clarify the nomenclature and characteristics of this earliest part of the Lateglacial Interstadial in this region. Furthermore, this period is also present in the sediment sequence from the Lake Itzstedt region where Hamburgian archaeological material was also found nearby the coring site. This combination makes a detailed search for a human signal worthwhile.

T2 (Havelte Group-Federmesser-Gruppen-Brommean?) This period reflects a first diversity in the record for which different hypotheses exist. A technological comparison of Havelte Group and Federmesser-Gruppen lithic material resulted in a M.A thesis (Tobias Burau). There the author argued that this process might be no transformation at all but rather a replacement as no transition between the two concepts was visible. Furthermore, the available radiocarbon dates for the studied assemblages indicated an almost co-existence of the different technological concepts. The question arising from this result concerns the relationship of the different technocomplexes with different environmental settings. Here the previously collected information from the legacy of Hartmut Usinger will make further clarifications possible.

T3 (Federmesser-Gruppen-Brommean-Ahrensburgian) This period reflects a second period of strong diversification in the archaeological record of the south-western Baltic. Again the research question concerns the influence of environments that are in the state of changing. Preliminary results from analysing an early Ahrensburgian assemblage in comparison with differently dated Federmesser-Gruppen inventories point out a possible techno-economic development that was previously disregarded. However, what this observation means and how valid it is remains to be tested in more detailed analyses. Also our work on the material from the Horsens region will help to further identify and contextualise the changes in this period.

T4 (Ahrensburgian-Early Mesolithic) Per recommendation of the initial DFG evaluation we have put more focus on the final transformation period that forms a bridge to the sub-project B2, and so we have collaborated with this sub-project on several occasions. In particular, we developed a flint registration system in close collaboration that will allow quantitative but also to some degree qualitative comparisons of the different inventories in the future. Two Ahrensburgian inventories from a site where Mesolithic material was found nearby (see WP1) are already analysed using this system. Besides this typo-technological registration of the material, refitting of the artefacts was carried out to also understand the spatial organisation of this site. The results have just been submitted in a M.A. thesis (Moiken Hinrichs). We also submitted an article on the timing and environmental context of this transformation in northern Germany together with B2. The development of the environment during this period will also be further informed by the sediment core from the Lake Itzstedt region that will be correlated across this period with the Poggensee sequence (F2). In our additional collaboration with A2, we will also focus on this transformation period and already discussed a possible expansion of our general collaboration on site distributions from the Mesolithic. In 2019, the thus far known changes as well as continuities across this period will be assembled in a joint EAA presentation and will help us to further examine this important transformation.

FIG2018-3 Von M. Hinrichs zusammengesetztes Feuersteinmaterial aus Borneck-Nord. Der Komplex umfasst zwei Kerne und einige Grundformen, die Abbausequenzen der Ahrensburger Kultur widerspiegeln (Foto: Stiftung Staatliche Museen Schleswig-Holstein Schloss Gottorf/ C. Dannenberg).
Lithic material from Borneck northern concentration refitted by M. Hinrichs. The complex includes two cores and some blanks representing Ahrensburgian reduction sequences (photo: Schleswig-Holstein State Museums Foundation Schloss Gottorf/ C. Dannenberg).

Our team in 2018 included PD Dr. habil. Berit V. Eriksen (PI), Dr. Sonja B. Grimm (Post-Doc), Sascha Krüger M.A. (PhD-student), Dr. Mara-Julia Weber (ZBSA), Katja Winkler M.A./Dr. des. (research assistant then research associate), Benjamin Serbe M.A. (research assistant), Tobias Burau B.Sc. (student assistant), Moiken Hinrichs B.A. (student assistant).

Research activities 2019

In 2019 we continued our research in five of our main archaeological areas (Ahrensburg Tunnel Valley, Lieth Moor, Lake Itzstedt, Ahrenshöft, Horsens) and on our database of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites in Schleswig-Holstein (Palaeodatabase). These work packages provided further evidence to relate the results from the south-western Baltic region to the socio-environmental transformations during the Late Pleistocene (re-)colonisation process of Northern Europe.

Ahrensburg Tunnel valley

Further reindeer material from Stellmoor has been radiocarbon dated and also tested for aDNA in collaboration with Ben Krause-Kyora (F4). The results will be compared to the Tyrsted material as well as further reindeer populations to understand the expansion of reindeer into Scandinavia.

Moiken Hinrichs handed in her M.A. thesis about the Ahrensburgian concentrations (North and East) at the Borneck site (Ahrensburg LA 76). This site had been excavated in the late 1940s by Alfred Rust and was among the first where he recorded the spatial distribution of the artefacts. Hinrichs conducted a detailed technological analysis in comparison with this (low-resolution) spatial information. Yet, the material seemed relatively undisturbed and scattered only over small areas that very partially overlapped with Rust’s suggested tents. Also based on reports from the shortly after excavated Poggenwisch site, Hinrichs strongly doubted those tents. The refitting showed no strong connections between the two assemblages (Fig. 1), although their technological approach seemed similar. The overall impression of the assemblages still appeared different but indications for a chronological difference could not be found. Hinrichs concluded that the material from the whole excavated area (including the so-called Federmesser-Gruppen tent) should be analysed together as some mixing may have occurred that might slightly change the picture again.

The eastern excavation area of the Borneck site (Ahrensburg LA 76)
Fig. 6. The eastern excavation area of the Borneck site (Ahrensburg LA 76) with refitting lines within the Ahrensburgian assemblages that were not found within the same or directly adjacent squaremetres (majority) or connecting the assemblages.

Lieth Moor area

Tobias Burau also submitted his M.Sc. thesis in early 2019. He studied the transformation from the Havelte Group to the Federmesser-Gruppen based mainly on material from the Saalian moraines. He particularly focused on the lower horizon in the CR area of Klein Nordende LA 37 that was attributed to the early Federmesser-Gruppen but also compared material from Schalkholz LA 65 (early? Federmesser-Gruppen) and Ahrenshöft LA 58D (late Havelte Group). He could present the technological approach of the group in Klein Nordende and show that despite the generally similar raw material supply and their chronological similarity, this approach was significantly different from the concept that the flintknappers at Ahrenshöft LA 58D have used. Hence, these assemblages seem to belong to two different traditions. Furthermore, based on results from Sascha Krüger, he pointed at a biome border between the sites, with an already developing light birch forest in Klein Nordende, whereas in Ahrenshöft still a tundra-like environment prevailed. Without additional analyses to understand the variability within the Federmesser-Gruppen, Burau could not finally decide whether this reflects a very rapid adaptation of the people previously producing Havelte Group material or the immigration of people with different technological traditions into northern Germany.


Katja Winkler worked further on correcting and supplementing Final Palaeolithic assemblages in the Palaeodatabase based on literature and archive research. Additionally, she entered data about the artefacts found at the sites. This work was continued by Moiken Hinrichs in summer for the newly defined sites from the Ahrensburg Tunnel valley.

Based on the previously available data from the Palaeodatabase, we began a more intensive collaboration with colleagues from the CRC 1266 modelling project A2, last year. The first result is an article about predictive modelling based on hypothesis of hunter-gatherer behaviour (Hamer et al. 2019). We show that second order parameter might be of importance for identifying likely sites with hunter-gatherer archaeology and that our hypothesis about reindeer-hunting communities are relatively solid, whereas our knowledge about material from the more forested periods remains too little developed.

Furthermore, on a Workshop in Cologne Oliver Nakoinz presented preliminary results of our collaboration on testing the usability of the Final Palaeolithic record in a concept of cultural distance as a marker for interaction. These results need further discussion, especially in the light of source criticism.

Itzstedt Lake area

During his in depth analysis of the sediment core from palaeolake Nahe, Sascha Krüger identified a third crypto-tephra. Besides the Early Holocene Saksurnavatn and the Vedde Ash from the mid-Younger Dryas, he also identified the Laacher See tephra, one of the most important Lateglacial chronomarkers, in the late Allerød. This in addition to 12 radiocarbon dates and the laminated parts, this tephra layer further helped to refine the age-depth model.


The already mentioned M.Sc. thesis of Tobias Burau also included a comparative analysis of a selection of blanks from the LA 58D site in Ahrenshöft (see above).


After we prepared distribution maps of Ahrensburgian sites and findspots in the south-western Baltic area last year, we produced comparable maps for the Hamburgian (Fig. 7) and the Federmesser-Gruppen sites this year for a presentation at the EAA in Bern. Again, first drafts of these maps showed that there were still some falsely labelled assemblages in the Palaeodatabase (see above). This time we corrected the Hamburgian entries in the Palaeodatabase but realised that the Federmesser-Gruppen material will need further consideration. Especially, as we could not distinguish between early and late Federmesser-Gruppen. We hope that the PhD project of Tobias Burau that he started in 2019 (funded by ZBSA core finances) will shed some light also on the chronology of the Federmesser-Gruppen.

Distribution of Hamburgian and Federmesser-Gruppen sites in northern Germany and Denmark
Fig. 7. Distribution of Hamburgian and Federmesser-Gruppen sites in northern Germany and Denmark. (map: ZBSA-GIS/ B. Serbe)

In total, this was a year of presenting (synthetic) results: At the annual meeting of the Workgroup Mesolithic held in Tübingen our project was very well represented with Moiken Hinrichs and Tobias Burau presenting their Master theses and Sonja B. Grimm giving a summarising talk “On the distribution of lithic artefacts from the Lateglacial in excavation areas in northern Germany”. Shortly after she presented about the Ahrensburgian distribution in session 1 “Transformation of social space in forager societies” that was organised by her and Daniel Groß (Subproject B2) at the CRC 1266 / GSHDL Workshop in Kiel. At the same conference, Berit Valentin Eriksen, Mara-Julia Weber and Sonja B. Grimm organised a session about “Transformation as a human response to climate and environmental change?” on behalf of the UISPP commission “The Final Palaeolithic of Northern Eurasia”. Furthermore, Sonja B. Grimm presented at a Workshop of the Société Préhistorique Française and the Hugo Obermaier Society held in Strasbourg about transformations and migration of knowledge in the Late Palaeolithic and Mesolithic in Northern Europe; a presentation she had made together with Mara-Julia Weber, Daniel Groß (B2), and Sandra Söderlind (GSHDL). Again with Daniel Groß, subproject B1 presented results about the Palaeolithic to Mesolithic transition in northern Germany, identifying this as a more gradual process in the archaeological record than it is usually considered.

Horsens area

Markus Wild, who has finished his PhD about Hamburgian osseous technology in northern Germany and Denmark this year, used his expertise to study the reindeer antler material from the kettlehole in Tyrsted.

Research activities 2019

In early 2020, our database of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites from Schleswig-Holstein was transferred from an Access to a PostgreSQL database. This will facilitate collaborative work on and with this database in the future. We further discussed new collaborative project ideas with members of F6, F4, A1, and A2 and prepared our collaborative work with G2 for phase 2. With the Covid-19 lock-down we focused on writing manuscripts that will certainly contribute to our results in the next half-year.

Finally, despite the world-wide pandemic outbreak, our project finished the first phase of the CRC with a big success story: our PhD student, Sascha Krüger, has handed in his cumulative dissertation on time and defended it very successfully in mid-May. His first, co-authored article about the legacy data of Hartmut Usinger from Lake Bølling was already published online in 2019 (Krüger and Damrath, 2020). In this article he and his co-author could re-create the mathematical basis on which Usinger had calculated the Betula nana proportion among the birch pollen and he could further identify and discuss the source of confusion with Iversen’s definition of the term Bølling. In the remaining four papers, Sascha Krüger has focused on the results from the palaeo-lake Nahe sequence. Here he could identify three crypto-tephras (Saksurnavatn Ash, Vedde Ash, and Laacher See tephra; Krüger and van den Bogaard, submitted) that helped him to develop a reliable time-depth model (Dreibrodt et al., in press). The Laacher See tephra is thereby identified for the first time in Schleswig-Holstein. This high-resolution chronology combined with a comprehensive palynological analysis (Krüger et al., accepted) allowed him to establish a detailed environmental history of the Late Pleistocene in Schleswig-Holstein. Furthermore, the full palynological study including charcoal particles made it possible to trace indications of human-environmental interactions in the catchment of the palaeo-lake Nahe (Krüger, accepted). He submitted the remaining papers in late 2019 and early 2020. Three were already accepted for publication or in press by the end of June 2020.

New Publications