Project II: Middle Pleistocene glacial and postglacial landscape evolution

J. Winsemann
April 2023

During the Middle Pleistocene northern central Europe was repeatedly transgressed by the Fennoscandian ice sheets. In front of these ice sheets large ice-dammed lakes formed that catastrophically drained during deglaciation. Such glacial lake-outburst floods are among the largest floods on earth. They have the capacity to radically modify landscapes, including cutting deep channels and creating new fluvial drainage courses. The glacial and postglacial landscape system in turn was the canvas for early humans / Neanderthals occupation with regard to food and raw material provisioning, as well as access to water and shelter. In addition, after deglaciation, many of the erosional features that were cut by glaciers or meltwater remained unfilled and became lakes during the Eemian. These lakes represent potential Palaeolithic archives.

This subproject focuses on the large-scale reconstruction of the Middle Pleistocene glacial and postglacial landscape evolution. Despite a long research history, the Middle Pleistocene depositional environments of northern Germany are still not well understood and disputed.

We will provide a comprehensive palaeogeographic reconstruction of the spatio-temporal evolution of ice-margin configurations and associated depositional systems along the retreating Saalian ice margins and the evolution of major drainage systems that will help to identify migration routes of early humans. These palaeo-ice marginal positions will be mapped across the study area and dated by means of OSL-dating. Luminescence dating will be carried out in collaboration with Dr S. Tsukamoto and Dr N. Rahimzadeh (project III).

Eemian lake sediments will be mapped using geological maps, borehole logs, and available cross-sections. Particular emphasis will be put on the origin of these small lake basins and their potential as geological archives of human occupation.

How the landscape may have been looked like during deglaciation. Photo by courtesy of C. Brandes
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