Neanderthals in the north
A review of the record and new researches

G. Di Maida
June 2023

One of the main foci of the CCEHN project is to understand the dynamics of early humans peopling of the northern central European region, which is very sensitive to climatic and environmental changes.
Working in synergy with the other clusters, and thus relying on geological, environmental, climatological and genetical analyses, we aim at reviewing the record for the main phases of the Middle Palaeolithic, articulating it in three overarching time frames: Early (MIS 8 to 6), Eemian (MIS 5) and Late (MIS 4 and 3).

Figure 1: Chrono-stratigraphy of the Low and Middle Palaeolithic of Central North Europe. Graphics: GDM.

Although its relatively short duration (ca. 15-20 Ka), the Eemian represents the phase of Pleistocene with the most similar climatic condition to today’s and it is a crucial junction for the understanding of settlement strategies of the Neanderthals and their use of landscape and environmental resources (hunting techniques, social and living strategies, etc.), specifically for regions that have been previously covered by ice pack and heavily influenced by the transgressions of glaciers.

The Late Middle Palaeolithic (LMP, with a duration of ca. 70 Ka) is on the contrary a period characterised by a variety of climatic conditions, from mild (MIS 5c, 5a) to cool (MIS 5d, 5b, 3) to extremely cold (MIS 4). It is in this period that – based on the number of sites known – the Neanderthals seem to have reached their demographic peak. It is also the period in which, we witness a diversification in the material culture, in what has been interpreted as a regionalisation and the appearance of different traditions.

Figure 2: Profiles during the emergency excavation at Ochtmissen, Lüneburg, Lower Saxony in 1993. Photo: NLD.

Within this overall frame, our team will also analyse the lithic assemblage from the excavation of Ochtmissen (Lüneburg, Niedersachsen), that was carried out in the ‘90s; as well as the review of the numerous gravel pit findings, that pay the price of uncertain stratigraphic contexts and chronological attributions, but represent an important source of information, if cross-referenced with the other data in our possess.

Our long-term goal would be then that of bringing all these data together and publishing a detailed summary, reporting the current state of the art, that would hopefully constitute the basis for any future research in the region.

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