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Defining the Ahrensburgian

Prof. Dr. Berit Valentin Eriksen

Contributions from a technological study of reindeer antler artefacts

In 1897 Sophus Müller, head of the National Museum of Denmark, reported on two recent finds of reindeer antler clubs from Nørre Lyngby (locus classicus of the now obsolete Lyngby culture) and Odense Canal. Unfortunately both of these implements were stray finds without context. In a brief essay Müller discussed the possibility of assigning these artefacts a Palaeolithic age, but the pieces were so unique that he refrained and instead argued of a connection with the much later so-called Arctic Stone Age of Northern Finland, Sweden and Norway. Half a century later the chronological framework of the reindeer antler clubs and mattocks – now also known as Lyngby axes – was firmly established to be late glacial due to their occurrence in great numbers at the classic Ahrensburgian Stellmoor site. Henceforth they were generally assigned to the Ahrensburgian culture without further ado.

However, the spatio-temporal distribution of the so-called Lyngby axes is somewhat different from that of Ahrensburgian lithic inventories sensu stricto. And moreover, most of the presently known specimens are single finds and some of the Danish and Swedish implements may actually equally well be attributed to the preceding Brommian culture. Accordingly, these reindeer antler artefacts (clubs, mattocks, axes) should rather be assigned to the Tanged Point Complex sensu lato. This observation is also corroborated by a recently published implement from Klappholz LA 63 which is firmly dated to the Allerød. It is obviously important to develop a dating programme that employs AMS-dating to systematically date and place these artefacts in their appropriate cultural context.

Such a dating programme is but one element in the present co-operative research project involving senior researchers from ZBSA and CNRS (Centre National de la Recherce Scientifique, Paris). An initial pilot study of 18 Lyngby axes from the Stellmoor find horizon has established the immaculate research potential of this group of artefacts with respect to a »chaîne opératoire« analysis aiming at a complete dynamic reconstruction of their manufacture and use life. Based on a complete, contextual re-examination of the Lyngby axes from Stellmoor and other north European sites, we are accordingly confident that we shall succeed in answering questions pertaining to the socio-cultural importance of these implements.

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