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Upper Palaeolithic osseous industries of Northwestern Europe

Markus Wild MA

Titre français : Les industries osseuses du Paléolithique supérieur en Europe du Nord-Ouest
Deutscher Titel: Jungpaläolithische Knochenindustrien Nordwesteuropas

Around 13,000 BC, a few thousand years after the retreat of the Scandinavian glacial ice shield, the late Pleniglacial  saw the first settlement of anatomical modern humans in northern Central Europe (Grimm and Weber, 2008). After finds of stone tools near Hamburg, Gustav Schwantes determined this cultural stage as the Hamburgian (Schwantes, 1932). Likewise, its typological connection to the Magdalenian – a pan-European culture of the oldest part of the Stone Age (Palaeolithic) – was immediately recognized (cf. ‘I send you the ‘north-west German Magdalenian’ with a happy Whitsun greeting (oha!)’ (Alfred Rust in Schwantes, 1937, translation from Weber, 2012)). To understand the exact relationship of the Magdalenian and the Hamburgian, different explanations have been considered: The Hamburgian as a regional (Rust, 1937) or seasonal variant of the Magdalenian (Sturdy, 1975) or as a development from the Magdalenian combined with an adaptation to a new environment (Djindjian, 1988). Finally, also a reactionary Hamburgian influence of the latest Magdalenian facies was discussed (Schmider, 1979). However, research has so far focused on typology, style, environment and particularly on lithic industries, while other methods were not applied nearly as exhaustively.

This PhD-project contributes to the focal question of the relationship of the Hamburgian and the contemporary Final Magdalenian. It is doing so by characterising the osseous industry (bone and antler tool typology and technology) of the Hamburgian in the context of the Final Magdalenian using a technological approach on a syn- and diachronic level as well as scientific methods. The technological approach on lithic remains derives from ethnographic thoughts (cf. Mauss, 1936; Leroi-Gourhan, 1964) and developed particularly in the USA, Scandinavia and France and was applied almost exclusively on Palaeolithic assemblages. In France rich faunal assemblages, especially from the Magdalenian, led to the application of the technological approach to osseous (bone, antler, dentine, shells etc.) artefacts (e.g. Averbouh, 2000; Goutas, 2004; Malgarini, 2014; Christensen, 2015). Paris still is the centre of attention for the study of the “technologie osseuse”: Precise descriptions of technological stigmata are supplemented by experimentation and use-wear analysis. This methodological toolkit leads to an understanding of the exact actions, motions, abilities, solutions, errors and thus, the skills of individual agents as well as the traditions and concepts, techniques, methods and thus the actual knowledge of the different social groups. Besides these low- and medium range perspectives, the distinction of different operational steps in the production of tools (cf. chaîne opératoire) and the composition of assemblages will help to distinguish different types of sites (e.g. kill sites, strategic hunting sites, base camps) and illuminate the group organization (families vs. specialized hunter-groups and pioneers) on a higher plane. Closely embedded in this comparative approach is an exact chronological knowledge of the sites under consideration to understand their syn- or diachronic positon: Sampling strategies include Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (Lebon et al., 2016) and %N-tests (Brock, Higham and Ramsey, 2010) of micro samples for quantitative and qualitative collagen determination, and further radiocarbon dating of promising samples using different pretreatment protocols (e.g. Bruhn et al., 2001) and laboratories (Brussels, Kiel, Groningen).

Archaeological cultures at the beginning of the Lateglacial in Northwestern Europe

Archaeological cultures at the beginning of the Lateglacial in Northwestern Europe

The few Hamburgian sites with organic preservation unearthed so far (Meiendorf/D (Rust, 1937), Stellmoor/D (Rust, 1943), Poggenwisch/D (Rust, 1958), Slotseng/DK (Mortensen et al., 2014)) and the only direct dated Hamburgian single finds (Køge Bugt/DK (Vang Petersen and Johansen, 1991)) date to the first part of the Lateglacial (GI-1e (Björck et al., 1998)) between 12,700 and 12,100 BC (see Fischer and Tauber, 1986; Grimm and Weber, 2008) and are the main corpus of this study. Within this time slice the Magdalenian consists mainly of small and scattered networks all across Europe. In contrast, the Paris Basin is characterized by a larger concentration of open-air sites in an open landscape with a sufficient preservation of organic artefacts (cf. Debout et al., 2012), and thus, resembles the situation in northern Central Europe (Figure 1). The site of Buisson-Campin (Verberie) (Enloe and Audouze, 2010) will be studied in detail, while in a second step different assemblages of Etiolles (Les Coudrays) (D71 & Q31) and Pincevent (La Grande-Paroisse) (IV0 & IV20) will be compared with the obtained results.

Finally, the aim of this thesis - the technological and functional characterization of the osseous industries of the Hamburgian and the contemporary Final Magdalenian – is an important piece of the jigsaw puzzle that will lead to an augmented knowledge of the relationship of these cultures. The juxtaposition of this thesis to the typo-technological observations on stone tools (e.g. Pigeot, 1987; Bodu, 1994; Valentin, 1995; Hartz, 2012; Weber, 2012) and zooarchaeological observations (e.g. Bratlund, 1994; Poplin, 1994; Enloe, 2010; Bignon-Lau, 2014 etc.) will increase the knowledge of the socio-economic behaviour, of the inhabitants of the two regions. The objective to describe all aspects of the life of the prehistoric people is necessary to understand the norms and describe their particularities. Thus, this thesis is an important building brick on the way to a holistic modus operandi in the sense of an ethnologie préhistorique (Leroi-Gourhan 1936). On a diachronic level, this integral approach will help to elucidate the reaction of humans to subtle and abrupt environmental and societal change at the end of the Ice Age.

The cotutelle de thèse-project is located at the ZBSA and the University of Kiel [supervisor: Berit V. Eriksen] as well as the Panthéon-Sorbonne University Paris [supervisor: Marianne Christensen].



It is financially supported by the Université franco-allemande/Deutsch-Französischen Hochschule

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