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Landscape and settlement archaeological studies relating to the development of the Late Mesolithic in Northern Germany during the 7th and 6th millennium BC

Dr. Harald Lübke, Dr. Ulrich Schmölcke

The complex interaction between humans, animals and the environment during the Mesolithic in the Western Baltic region constitutes the environmental-archaeological focus of this project which, in addition to H. Lübke and U. Schmölcke (ZBSA), primarily involves S. Hartz (ALM). Further partners who should be mentioned are I. Clausen (ALSH– State Authority of Archaeological Heritage Schleswig Holstein) and T. Terberger, University of Greifswald. Start-up funding was initially ensured by funds from the ZBSA, and the ALM, respectively. The raising of external funds for continuation of the work has both been planned and already partially implemented.

The chronological focus of the project is on the Mid-Holocene, primarily in the 7th and 6th millennium BC. In Northern Germany this period has been characterised so far by a conglomeration of un-stratified inland sites with surface finds, best summarised under the general concept of trapeze and micro-blade industries. In Southern Scandinavia, the Kongemose culture developed at this point in time. This was a highly specialised coastal culture with a strong regional identity, which exploited the marine resources in the nascent Baltic Sea – food resources that were not available to people living further south in inland areas.

At present, very few details are known of the life and environment of the inland hunter-gatherer societies. The same also applies to the composition of the vertebrate fauna at that time. This is of particular interest as mammals, birds and fish constituted the basis of the human diet. Consequently, the wetlands and bogs of the Weichselian moraine landscape of eastern Schleswig-Holstein constitute the primary working area for this project. Here, finds from the Late Mesolithic lie embedded within layers which guarantee good conditions of preservation for organic material such as animal bones and plant remains. In this way, it will be possible to acquire a general picture, encompassing humans, fauna and flora, of the environment during the Middle Holocene and, at the same time, to create a solid chronological framework for this so far neglected epoch.

The fieldwork in Schleswig-Holstein will be supplemented by comparative studies of Late Mesolithic assemblages from the SW Baltic Sea region. Furthermore, links with other independent projects exploring the Mesolithic of the Eastern Baltic region are also planned.

In 2009, trial excavations were carried out at various sites, known from surface collections or from previous excavations, where a location close to water promised favourable preservation conditions, also for organic remains. In the case of the site of Satrup LA 2, Schleswig-Flensburg district, corresponding find-bearing layers were also demonstrated. The further investigation of this latter site – together with trial excavations of other potential sites – was continued in 2010.

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