CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

D2: Third Millennium Transformations of social and economic Practices in the German Lower Mountain Range


Dating model (KDE) for 37 inhumations in the Wartberg gallery grave of Altendorf

Fig. 1: Dating model (KDE) for 37 inhumations in the Wartberg gallery grave of Altendorf. Additional admixture event in the gallery grave of Niedertiefenbach of the aDNA-based western component 14.85+/-2.82 generations before the inhumation phase.

The first phase suggested three major transformations which are archaeologically not yet very well understood, and which will potentially add a substantial degree of nuance to the current migration debates, which focus too much on the transition to Corded Ware burials after 2900 BCE and their connection to the eastern European steppes. We found (1) the significance of population admixtures with a western European signature taking place around 3800 BCE, probably connected to the Michelsberg and enclosure phenomena, as a constituting event forming the Neolithic communities of the Middle Mountain areas. We found (2) a marked break in the burial ritual around 3100 BCE, ending the inhumation in two gallery graves, a phenomenon also known from Northern Germany (see C1), and (3) the renewed use of gallery graves around 2600 BCE. In order to further explore these newly detected transformations, we will, in phase 2, address the following research questions:

  • In what ways is the population admixture event detected in Niedertiefenbach and dated to 3800 BCE connected to the emergence and boom of enclosures in Central Europe, and
  • Does the expansion of the enclosure and Michelsberg phenomena represent a process of secondary Neolithic colonisation?
  • How do Central German Younger Neolithic enclosures (Borgentreich - Eißen, Wabern - Uttershausen) relate to their western counterparts, especially in Southwest Germany?
  • Is the short inhumation phase in Altendorf, with its marked end around 3100 BCE, an individual event or can we find comparable evidence from gallery graves in neighbouring regions, e.g. in Westphalia and Northern Germany?
  • In what ways are activity patterns in gallery graves and single grave burials connected to the settlement evidence during the 4th and 3rd millennium?
  • Do changes in burial rituals and settlement patterns correspond to changes in subsistence practices?
  • To what degree does the beginning of the second inhumation phase of Altendorf at ca. 2600 BCE represent a wider social phenomenon? Can we link this event to the appearance of Bell Beaker and the consolidation of Corded Ware (e.g. in Warburg - Menne, Wabern - Uttershausen)?


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