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Examination and dating of Mesolithic antler head-dresses

Markus Wild MA, Dr. John Meadows, Dr. Martin Street (MONREPOS, RGZM)


fig. 1: Interpretation of an antler frontlet with longitudinal split antlers as head-dress (drawing and idea: M. Wild, ZBSA/T. Paterson).


The main issue of the project is the synthetic re-examination of the group of so-called “antler frontlets” that have been compared to the finds of perforated red deer skulls at Star Carr (near Scarborough, England). The term “antler head-dress” is applied only to red deer skulls which were worked in a specific way (longitudinally split antlers, perforated back, high degree of anthropological modificatied parts of the skull/antler etc.).

Work so far was able to show that these objects offer opportunities to investigate social structures at the Pleistocene/Holocene transition. Another aim of the present work is to establish antler head-dresses as a formal research object/category.



fig. 2: Sites with antler head-dresses in the northern European Lowlands (GIS: M. Wild, ZBSA).

In order to achieve this aim, the antler-head-dress phenomenon –known from finds at the sites Star Carr (North Yorkshire/GB), Bedburg-Königshoven (Lkr. Rhein-Erft-Kreis/D), Hohen Viecheln (Lkr. Nordwestmecklenburg/D) und Berlin-Biesdorf (Berlin/D) – will be put into a more precise chronological framework. While the artefacts of Bedburg-Könighoven and Star Carr were found in a stratigraphical position securely dated to the Middle to Late Preboreal, no information is available for the antler head-dresses of Hohen Viecheln and Berlin-Biesdorf. Thus, these will be dated directly.

An improved knowledge of the relative dates of single artefacts as well as the absolute chronology of the antler-head-dress phenomenon in the Early Mesolithic can help to provide a more profound idea of the function of these objects. Furthermore, it should help to ignite more debates on cultural and social issues. 



- Clark 1954, J.G.F. Clark, Excavations at Star Carr (Cambridge 1954).

- Dark et al. 2006, P. Dark/T.F.G. Higham/R. Jacobi/T.C. Lord, New Radiocarbon Accelerator Dates on Artefacts from the Early Mesolithic Site of Star Carr, North Yorkshire. Archaeometry 48, 2006, 185–200.

- Reinbacher 1956, E. Reinbacher, Eine vorgeschichtliche Hirschmaske aus Berlin-Biesdorf. Ausgr. u. Funde 1, 1956, 147-151.

- Schuldt 1961, E. Schuldt, Ein mittelsteinzeitlicher Wohnplatz in Mecklenburg. Schr. Sektion Vor- u. Frühgesch. 10 (Berlin 1961).

- Street et al. 1994, M. Street/M. Baales/B. Weninger, Absolute Chronologie des späten Paläolithikums und des Frühmesolithikums im nördlichen Rheinland. Arch. Korrbl. 24, 1994, 1–28.

- Street and Wild 2015, M. Street/M. Wild, Technological aspects of two Mesolithic red deer 'antler frontlets' from the German Rhineland. In: N. Ashton/C. Harris (eds.), No Stone Unturned. Papers in Honour of Roger Jacobi. Lithic Studies Society Occasional Paper 9 (2015) 209–219.

 - Street and Wild 2014, M. Street/M. Wild, Schamanen vor 11000 Jahren? Die "Geweihmasken" von Bedburg-Königshoven. In: LandesMuseum Bonn (ed.), Eiszeitjäger. Leben im Paradies - Europa vor 15.000 Jahren (Mainz 2014) 274–287.

 - Wild 2014, M. Wild, Funktionelle Analyse an zwei perforierten Hirschschädeln vom frühmesolithischen Fundplatz Bedburg-Königshoven [unpubl. M.A.-These Univ. Mainz 2014].



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