Early humans and Neanderthals in glacial context – Archaeology of the Lowlands

M. Weiss
Januar 2023

Future Work:
1) We will investigate the lowland sites Lichtenberg, Salzgitter-Lebenstedt and Ochtmissen.
2) The following is planned at Lichtenberg:

  • Excavation of identified find layers and survey for new find locations to investigate settlement patterns and changing site functions
  • Analysis of lithic assemblages: techno-typogical analyses, raw material analyses, 3D geometric morphometrics, and diachronic assemblage comparison
  • Geological, sedimentological and geophysical investigations aiming for precise dating and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction

3) Small scale investigations are planned at Salzgitter-Lebenstedt and Ochtmissen with the aim to obtain new palaeoenvironmental, chronological and archaeological data.

Artefacts from Lichtenberg II, ca. 90.000 years ago, photo: MPI EVA, Leipzig.

We intend to analyse Neanderthal occupations at the northern extreme of their habitat during a time of rapid climate oscillations (late MIS 5 to MIS 3) that included the first glacial maximum (MIS 4) and HS 4-5, and DO events 9-17 during MIS 3. We aim to contextualise human occupation data with detailed palaeoenvironmental reconstructions and high-resolution chronometric data.

  1. What are the limiting environmental factors that allowed human presence in the north at any given location and time? What were the favouring factors?
  2. To what extent did rapid climatic fluctuations influence the development of technological and socioeconomic solutions, as well as changes in human mobility?
  3. How did stone artefact technology, raw material procurement, and management patterns vary? And can these patterns be linked to palaeoenvironmental factors?
  4. Did prey selection change over time, and was there any preference for specific groups (species, prime-age dominance, male, etc.)?

Our aim is to approach these questions by investigating human site occupation intensities, provisioning strategies (raw material and food) and technologies (lithics and bone artefacts, if preserved) in relation to palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental dynamics. We will investigate variability in stone artefact technologies and procurement patterns aiming to draw conclusion on human adaptation to palaeoenvironmental shifts. Further interregional compassions will then allow us to draw broader inferences on past human-environment feedbacks.

Keilmesser from Lichtenberg I, ca. 70.000 years ago, photo: MPI EVA, Leipzig.
Peat and sand from the 90.000 years old shore line, Lichtenberg II, photo: M. Weiss.

Preliminary work:
Re-excavations and surveys, initial radiometric dating programs as well as re-analyses of various environmental and artefactual materials are pursued at Lichtenberg (MPI/ LIAG, since 2017). At Lichtenberg, we could identifiy several human occupations with a changing lithic technology between the last interglacial, the early Weichselian throughout the onset of the first glacial maximum (Hein et al., 2021; Weiss et al., 2022). Fieldwork in the last years was accompanied with an extensive vibrocoring and seismic campaign that provided promising information for future work on the palaeoenvironment (lake-level stands, vegetation, geomorphic activity) during the time of occupation . The sediment cores delivered well-preserved botanical remains and bioindicators showing the high potential for palaeoenvironmemental studies. Already acquired dating samples on extensive sediment cores will enable us to trace climate shifts within a long high-resolution record that goes along with shifts in the lithic record.

Hein, M., Urban, B., Tanner, D.C., Buness, A.H., Tucci, M., Hoelzmann, P., Dietel, S., Kaniecki, M., Schultz, J., Kasper, T., Suchodoletz, H., Schwalb, A., Weiss, M., Lauer, T., 2021. Eemian landscape response to climatic shifts and evidence for northerly Neanderthal occupation at a palaeolake margin in northern Germany. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms esp.5219. https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.5219
Weiss, M., Hein, M., Urban, B., Stahlschmidt, M.C., Heinrich, S., Hilbert, Y.H., Power, R.C., Suchodoletz, H. v., Terberger, T., Böhner, U., Klimscha, F., Veil, S., Breest, K., Schmidt, J., Colarossi, D., Tucci, M., Frechen, M., Tanner, D.C., Lauer, T., 2022. Neanderthals in changing environments from MIS 5 to early MIS 4 in northern Central Europe – Integrating archaeological, (chrono)stratigraphic and paleoenvironmental evidence at the site of Lichtenberg. Quaternary Science Reviews 284, 107519. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2022.107519

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