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Duvensee reloaded – New research on Mesolithic bark mats, fire pits and microliths

Dr. Harald Lübke

The reconstruction of an early Mesolithic landscape in northern Germany

The Duvensee bog in the Lauenburg district of south-eastern Schleswig-Holstein is one of the most important Stone Age landscapes in northern Europe, because of its well-preserved early Mesolithic sites.
Following the discovery of the first find-spots in 1923 and archaeological investigations by Gustav Schwantes and Karl Gripp in the 1920s and Herrmann Schwabedissen in 1946, further research into the Mesolithic sites was initiated in the 1960s by Klaus Bokelmann.

Duvensee, old map

In the following decades, an intensive prospection and excavation programme led to the discovery of other Mesolithic and Neolithic sites on small islands or peninsulas on the western shore of the early Holocene lake. Their excellent state of preservation, with structures such as fireplaces, specialized hazelnut-roasting facilities, bark mats, and flint-knapping debris, allowed a detailed investigation of the spatial organization of prehistoric hunter-gatherer camp sites, even if the Duvensee sites represent perhaps only a brief specialized component of the annual cycle of economic land use.

Duvensee, excavation

These studies, which have long been a research focus of the Schleswig-Holstein State Archaeological Museum, are now being resumed under the auspices of the ZBSA, in close coordination with the excavator Klaus Bokelmann, the State Archaeological Museum (Archäologische Landesmuseum Schloss Gottorf) and the State Archaeological Department (Archäologisches Landesamt Schleswig-Holstein), as part of an interdisciplinary research project.

One of the goals is a comprehensive reconstruction of the early Holocene landscape evolution of the former lake. The western shore, which was already silting up at the onset of the Preboreal, is the focus of geoarchaeological and paleobotanical studies, because this is where most known Stone Age sites are. The location of Mesolithic sites was to a great extent dictated by the position of the former lake shore, so accurate knowledge of the spatial distribution of open lake areas is fundamentally important for an assessment of local and regional settlement pattern.

Duvensee, excavation site 11

In parallel, existing excavation records, augmented by geological, paleobotanical and archaeological data sets, are being integrated using a Geographic Information System (GIS). The latest sites to be investigated, in particular, were subject to a very detailed excavation technique, with spits a maximum of 2–4cm thick and three-dimensional surveying of all finds. Just from the final site, platform 11, there are 120 excavation plans, which are now all scanned and digitized. The goal is to create a GIS-based 3D model of the platform, which can then be used for further intra-site analyses of the finds. In the longer term, radiocarbon, palaeoenvironmental and geoarchaeological results and data from the other Duvensee sites can be integrated into this 3D model.

Duvensee, digital excavation plan