CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

Research activities 2020-2024

F1: Climate Constraints of Western Mediterranean Socio-environmental Transformation and Potential Implications for Central Europe


For the recent funding period the F1 Subproject has defined two main aims. The first one is to deepen and enhance the study on the southern Iberian Peninsula. While during the first phase, the archaeological focus was on the reconstruction of population dynamics on a larger scale (i.e. the entire Iberian Peninsula), the second phase will be devoted to understand how the 4.2 event affected societies at the southern Iberian Peninsula in more detail. Therefore, the study on material culture and ideology will be intensified. In addition to this, we are working closely with our Portuguese partners and colleagues within the CRC1266 in order to obtain an accurate genomic history of this region during the prehistoric periods. This will allow us to ascertain what diseases were around and whether they could have played a role for the end of the Copper Age. Furthermore, this aDNA study will also provide a profile that will allows us to know whether there were rapid phases of migration into the region. 

Concerning the palaeoclimatological part of the subproject, one aim is to tackle the badly known marine reservoir ages, which hinder the comparison of the marine-based palaeoclimatological data and the archaeological data in southern Iberia. Overall, we aim to widen the temporal scope of our study including the Iberian Late Neolithic to Bronze Age periods. With this approach, we want to study the relationship of the discovered changes, transformations, and variability associated with the 4.2 event to the overall developments of the preceding and succeeding periods. This will be based again on the collection of new archaeological and palaeoclimatological data, but also on continuing and intensification of the literature review.

The second aim is to also widen the spatial scope, which will be extended from the Iberian Peninsula to modern France. Archaeological and palaeoclimatological analysis in this area will be focused on literature review in first place. Key aspects are data on population dynamics from the archaeological side and precipitation and temperature reconstructions from the palaeoclimatological part. However, the aim is to get access to palaeoclimatic archives from the Gulf of Lions/ Rhone delta area as well.

News from the archaeological part

In the Southwest of the Iberian Peninsula, there is a correspondence of the 4.2 event with the end of the Copper Age. This process was a slow one, but it entailed the absolute disappearance of one of the most characteristic types of site of the Neolithic and Copper Age, the ditched enclosures, and their material culture. Our aim is to obtain a closer look at these sites during their end-phase to see what changed in terms of practices and ideologies.

In 2020, some work was conducted in Portugal to gather information on the pottery and idols associated to the Copper Age and ditched-enclosures. During the 2021, we are planning fieldwork at the site of Perdigões, where we will be excavating one of the main ditches in order to assess the several phases of occupation of the site.

Luftbild Perdigões

Figure 1 – Aerial view of Perdigões and woodhenge structure at its centre. Perdigões is one of the largest ditched-enclosures of the Iberian Peninsula and it has been excavated for the last 20 years. Its occupation spans over 1000 years. Although it contains elements associated to domestic contexts, such as grinding stones, it also features many funerary structures, which makes a unique type of site, akin to a gathering place or a sanctuary, where people would meet regularly.

News from the palaeoclimatological part

In the beginning of 2021, a Spanish collaboration partner send us sediment samples from the Algarve area. These samples are now screened for datable components of marine and terrestrial origin. It is planned to extensively date the samples and to gather knowledge about the marine reservoir age and its temporal development during the last ca. 5000 years in the region. This will help us to clarify the link of our own marine-based palaeoclimatic data with terrestrial-based reconstructions and further with the archaeological record. 

Becher mit Probe eines Sedimentkerns

Figure 2 – Sample from the Algarve sediment cores containing a charcoal fragment and marine bivalve shells. The dating of both materials from the same sample enables us to quantify the age offset also known as marine reservoir effect.

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