CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

Phase 1 - Research activities 2016-2020


F2: Socio-environmental Transformations and Interdependencies



Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Hans Rudolf Bork, Dr. Walter Dörfler
Staff: Priv.-Doz. Stefan Dreibrodt, Dr. Ingo Feeser, Marco Zanon
 

 

Near- und on-site investigations in context of Neolithic settlement sites in Schleswig-Holstein

In the surroundings of the Neolithic settlement sites, e.g. Oldenburg-Dannau LA77, Bad Oldesloe-Wolkenwehe LA154 and Brodersby-Schönhagen LA107, palaeoenvironmental research was carried out. This included prospection and coring of near-site archives as well as multi-proxy analyses of suitable sediment cores. On the one hand, this helps to reconstruct the relationship of local settlement activity and environmental change. On the other hand, the interpretation of near-site profiles in comparison with results from regional off-site profiles allows the disentanglement of local and regional human activities. In the case of Oldenburg-Dannau LA77 several sediment cores (DAN 1-4 and SED 35, Fig.1) from the vicinity of the archaeological site have been analysed. Among others it could be shown that the abandonment of the settlement coincided with distinct local environmental changes, i.e. the isolation of the site from the surrounding mainland by increasing water level (Fig. 2).

Digital elevation model of the site Oldenburg-Dannau LA77
Fig. 1. Digital elevation model of the site Oldenburg-Dannau LA77 with areas excavated between 2009 – 2012 indicated (white) and the location of the pollenanalytically investigated profiles (red). DEM ©LVermGeo SH (after Brozio 2016)

Reconstructed palaeohydrological and sedimentological dynamics in the profiles DAN 1–3 and SED35, Oldenburg-Dannau LA 77
Fig. 2. Reconstructed palaeohydrological and sedimentological dynamics in the profiles DAN 1–3 and SED35, Oldenburg-Dannau LA 77, in comparison with the local sea level curve for the western Baltic Sea.

Near- and on-site investigations in context of a Bronze Age cemetery in Schleswig-Holstein

In the context of archaeological excavations on the Bronze Age burial mound group of Mang de Bargen (see subproject D3) palaeoenvironmental investigations have been carried out. The investigation of soil profiles in the excavation area enabled the identification and dating of buried paleo soil horizons and colluvial deposits. The agricultural use of the area since the late Neolithic could thus be proven, as well as soil erosion due to intensive local arable farming activities during the Iron Age.

In June 2017, coring in a wet depression just north of the archaeological site was carried out (Fig. 3&4) with the aim of recovering a sediment sequence for near-site investigations. These studies allow the reconstruction of the local environmental history and can be directly compared with the results of the archaeological investigations.

In addition to radiocarbon dating (AMS 14C dating), tephrochronological analyses were carried out to date the deposits. The latter is based on the identification of volcanic ash particles, so-called cryptotephra layers, of past volcanic eruptions - in this case the eruptions of Hekla 3 and 4 on Iceland. The identification of such volcanic events enables a high resolution and precise synchronisation with other environmental archives. According to the results the profile "MDB 1" covers the period from the Late Neolithic to Iron Age times, i.e. approx. 3200 BC to 500 AD (cf. Fig. 5).

The palynological and sedimentological analyses completed at the end of 2019 allowed the reconstruction of local human activities, including soil erosion and qualitative and quantitative land-use changes. Among others, the results indicate a fundamental change in land-use strategies during the Older Bronze Age (beginning of Per.III). This includes an intensification of arable activity leading to increased soil erosion and a shift from predominantly woodland to open grassland pasture associated with in at around 1200 BC.

Coring in the vicinity of the archaeological site Mang de Bargen near Bornhöved, Schleswig-Holstein
Fig. 3. 

Coring in the vicinity of the archaeological site Mang de Bargen near Bornhöved, Schleswig-Holstein
Fig. 4. 

Figs. 3.-4. Coring in the vicinity of the archaeological site Mang de Bargen near Bornhöved, Schleswig-Holstein. (photos: I. Feeser)

Near-site pollen profile MDB1  Mang de Bargen
Fig. 5. Near-site pollen profile MDB1  Mang de Bargen. Selected pollen taxa, non-pollen palynomorphs and records of micro-charcoal and silt particles are shown. (graphic: I. Feeser)

Preliminary investigations in the vicinity of a Bronze Age settlement near Dobbin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Accompanying archaeological investigations of a Bronze Age settlement near Dobbin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (cf. subproject D3), near- and on-site analyses are planned for the coming years (2019-2021). In order to identify suitable archives in the vicinity of the archaeological site, prospection corings were carried out in October 2019 (Fig. 6-8). Up to 6 m thick Holocene deposits were found in a peatland northwest of the excavation area. A coring campaign is planned for summer 2020 to get core sequences for detailed pollen analysis and sedimentological investigations.

Sediment prospection with gouge corer and sub-sampling for preliminary pollen analyses in a peatland close to the Bronze Age settlement near Dobbertin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
Fig. 6. 

Sediment prospection with gouge corer and sub-sampling for preliminary pollen analyses in a peatland close to the Bronze Age settlement near Dobbertin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
Fig. 7. 

Sediment prospection with gouge corer and sub-sampling for preliminary pollen analyses in a peatland close to the Bronze Age settlement near Dobbertin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
Fig. 8.

Figs. 6-8. Sediment prospection with gouge corer and sub-sampling for preliminary pollen analyses in a peatland close to the Bronze Age settlement near Dobbertin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. (photos: T. Pape)

Human environmental impact and population dynamics during the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Northern Germany and adjacent areas

In addition to palaeoenvironmental investigations of near-site archives in the context of archaeological excavations, a further focus of subproject F2 is the multi-proxy analysis of annually laminated lake sediments (so-called off-site archives). The comparison of these precisely dated and high-resolution analyses allows, among other things, the identification of the human influence on the environment on different spatial scales. Synchronous parallel developments in several off-site archives hereby indicate large-scale phenomena of supra-regional importance. The comparison of pollen analytical results of two lakes - the Belauer See in Schleswig-Holstein and the Woseriner See in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern - reveals synchronous variations of land-use intensity during the Neolithic and Bronze Age in northern Germany. A supra-regional comparison with independent results on erosion history and human activity based on 14C sum calibrations suggests that these over-regional variations in land-use intensity are related to changes in population density. "Boom" phases, i.e. sections with indications of strongly increasing population densities, are therefore to be assumed for the periods between approx. 4000 – 3500, 3000 – 2900, 2200 – 2100, 1450 – 1300 and 1000 – 750 cal. BC. Strongly decreasing population densities, so-called "bust" phases, were reconstructed for the periods between approx. 3200 – 3000, 2400 – 2300, 1650 – 1500 and 1200 – 1100 cal. BC (Fig. 9, Feeser et al. 2019)

The integration of these results into archaeological research on socio-economic transformations of subprojects C2 and D3 allowed insights into the connection between population dynamics and cultural change during the Neolithic (Brozio et al. 2019) and the Bronze Age (Kneisel et al. 2019) in Schleswig-Holstein.

Widening the regional scope and including additional pollen data from adjacent regions - a task which will be continued in the 2nd project phase - reveals similar but also contrary developments in different regions (Fig. 10). In the second CRC phase this approach of using proxies of human environmental impact for reconstructing population development on a supra-regional scale will be further evaluated and developed.

Comparison of different proxies for land-use intensity and population density for Denmark and Northern Germany
Fig. 9. Comparison of different proxies for land-use intensity and population density for Denmark and Northern Germany. Above: degree of human environmental impact as derived from pollen data; middle: land-use and soil erosion intensity; below: sum calibration of archaeological 14C data. Vertical bars mark postulated "boom" (green) and "bust" (red) phases in the supra-regional population development. (from Feeser et al. 2019)

Results of a combined PCA of pollen data from selected pollen profiles
Fig. 10. Results of a combined PCA of pollen data (incl. the 20 most common terrestrial pollen taxa) from selected pollen profiles (original publication indicated; chronologies have been partly re-evaluated). Spectra scores on the first PCA axis are interpreted to reflect land-use intensity or human environmental impact respectively. (graphic: I Feeser)

Environmental transformation during the Mesolithic in Schleswig-Holstein

A further objective of the F2 subproject is to provide an environmental background for the study of Early Holocene hunter-gatherer societies in northern Germany. This task is primarily accomplished through the study of two sites: Duvensee and Poggensee.

Duvensee is currently a drained wetland and is the location of multiple Mesolithic seasonal camps. The ongoing analysis aim at understanding the evolution of local basin dynamics during the Early Holocene, and are carried out in close connection with subprojects B2 and G2. The primary goal of this cooperation consists in producing a local landscape biography, in order to unravel hunter-gatherer settlement strategies across an evolving lakeside environment. Yet the results of the Duvensee project extend well past the limits of the wetland. More importantly, they serve as a testing ground to develop minimally invasive techniques for the acquisition of large-scale stratigraphic data. In this context, the lithological and geochemical data supplied by the F2 subproject, as well as the expertise behind them, serve as instruments to calibrate the interpretation of surface geophysical records.

Poggensee is a small water body, probably originating from a Lateglacial kettle hole. The most prominent characteristic of the Poggensee basin is its annually laminated Early Holocene sedimentary sequence. The combination of varve chronology and radiocarbon dating provides a solid chronological support for pollen and geochemical data, allowing a precise contextualization of past ecosystem transformations. The accuracy of the Poggensee palaeoecological record serves as a basis to determine timing and intensity of species response to Early Holocene climatic fluctuations, extreme events (i.e. volcanic eruptions) and competition dynamics. The result is a fine landscape evolution narrative, describing the onset of potentially challenging environmental downturns, or changes in resource availability that might have impacted Early Holocene populations.

Geological overview and basin lithology of Lake Duvensee based on the results of the coring campaign 2016/17 (blue area)
Fig. 11. Geological overview (source: Geologische Übersichtskarte 1:200.000) and basin lithology of Lake Duvensee based on the results of the coring campaign 2016/17 (blue area). (graphic: M. Zanon)

Raft with coring platform on Lake Poggensee
Fig. 12. Raft with coring platform on Lake Poggensee. (photo: I. Feeser)

Volcanic glass shards of the early Holocene Saksunarvatn tephra layer from Lake Poggensee
Fig. 13. Volcanic glass shards of the early Holocene Saksunarvatn tephra layer from Lake Poggensee. (photo: M. Zanon)

Sedimentology, Geoarchaeology, Geomorphology and Soil Science

The microscopical analysis of annually laminated lake sediments in thin sections allows to reconstruction of a lakes response to environmental changes in an extremely precise temporal resolution. Exact dating and contextual reconstruction of the sedimentation processes enable unprecentended insights into environmental strains prehistoric communities were exposed (climate, weather, volcanic eruptions) to as well as into the local impact of prehistoric people on their environment (erosion, reforestation, eutrophication-). Examples within the scope of the CRC 1266 are the environmental responses to large volcanic eruptions (Laacher See eruption, Saksunarvatn eruption- Nahe paleolake, Poggensee, Woseriner See), the high resolution reconstruction of early Holocene climate and its potential effects on Mesolithic communities (Poggensee in cooperation with subproject B2) or the comparative analysis of local and regional environmental history during the Bronze Age at Mang de Bargen and Lake Belau (in cooperation with subproject D3).

Experimental archaeology as a copious part of geoarchaeological work is conducted considering questions of the numerous burned houses of the Chalcolithic Tripyllian megasite Maidanetske in central Ukraine in cooperation with subproject D1. How hot were these fires? And, were there differences in burning conditions between different types of houses? Are the main questions to be solved in ongoing laboratory experimnets in the Geoarchology working groups of the CRC 1266. To reconstruct the formation, filling, and postdepositional processes of prehistoric archaeological contexts is a main aim of intensive geoarchaeological research at Bornhöved (northern Germany; in cooperation with subproject D3) and Vráble (Slovakia; in cooperation with subproject C2).

Impacts of early human economy on soils are often focussed on soil erosion. Thus, the reconstruction of soil erosion in the surroundings of sites in Mang der Bargen (northern Germany; in cooperation with subproject D3), Vráble (Slovakia; in cooperation with subproject C2) and Maidanetske (Ukraine; in cooperation with subproject D1) are an intergrative part of geomorphological support in the frame of the CRC 1266. The impact of prehistoric economy on soil formation processes is less often in the focus of geoarchaeological work. The deciphering of conditions and processes that led to the onset of Chernozem formation in the surroundings of Maidanetske in the Ukraine is a focus of pedolgical investigations in the CRC 1266.

Profile of a burnt house buried under Chernozem
Fig. 14. Profile of a burnt house buried under Chernozem. (photo: S. Dreibrodt)

Remnants of a burnt house buried under Chernozem
Fig. 15. Remnants of a burnt house buried under Chernozem. (photo: S. Dreibrodt)

Basic material of Löss (site Maidanestke, Ukraine)
Fig. 16. Basic material of Löss (site Maidanestke, Ukraine), tempered with Einkorn straw and spelt, for the experimental production of daub. (photo: S. Dreibrodt)

Unburnt bricklets of daub waiting to become burnt under different conditions
Fig. 17. Unburnt bricklets of daub waiting to become burnt under different conditions (temperature, burning time, oxygen access). (photo: S. Dreibrodt)

Burnt bricklets exposed to different temperatures, burning times and oxygen access
Fig. 18. Burnt bricklets exposed to different temperatures, burning times and oxygen access. (photo: S. Dreibrodt)

Annually laminated lake sediments
Fig. 19. Annually laminated lake sediments (Mid-Holocene). (photo: S. Dreibrodt)

Annually laminated lake sediments
Fig. 20. Annually laminated lake sediments (modern). (photo: S. Dreibrodt)

Thin sections of annually laminated lake sediments
Fig. 21. Thin sections of annually laminated lake sediments (Mid-Holocene). (photo: S. Dreibrodt)

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