Analysis of Migration Processes due to Environmental Conditions between 40,000 and 14,000 a BP in the Rhine-Meuse Area

Principal Investigators: F. Lehmkuhl

The investigation of the Rhineland as the geographic sink of migration movements by modern Homo sapiens will provide new insights on the relationship between environmental change and human behaviour. As part of the investigation, the existing data will be gathered and extended by new data form archaeological and geomorphological fieldwork. Relative and absolute dating methods will allow building up the chronological frame within the time slices under investigation. The results generated within project D1 concerning subsistence strategies, technological adaptations and land use patterns due to environmental conditions will be inserted into large-scale models of population dynamics and mobility.

For long periods during the Pleistocene, the Rhine-Meuse region was either totally depopulated or functioned as a part of the northern periphery of the ecumenism. Thus, in the context of the CRC theme Our Way to Europe, the Rhine-Meuse region is a possible target and frontier area of migration movements, principally from Western and Eastern source areas characterised by a high mobility of the hunter-gatherer-societies.

The area between the Rhine and the Meuse rivers will serve as a case study area for environmental conditions, regional indicators and interregional consequences of population dynamics. Here, different populations and cultural influences met and mixed with each other. These processes were probably not unidirectional. The climatic changes during the Weichselian glaciation influenced the demographic development and opened up or closed down colonisation routes and areas accompanied with geomorphogenetic active and stable phases. In this context, the human environmental interaction, against the background of the study area in its function as target region or sink for possible migration movements, builds the main focus of this investigation.

In the study area the Upper Palaeolithic (40,000 to 12,000 a BP) is the time of arrival of anatomically Modern Man and includes two important time periods: The colonisation of the Rhineland by modern Homo sapiens, represented by the Aurignacian between 35,000 and 30,000 a BP and the recolonisation after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) between 20,000 and 14,000 a BP (Magdalenian). Concerning the Rhineland there are fundamental gaps of knowledge for both time periods, due to the lack of regional modelling. Presently, we are searching for archaeological evidence of the first Homo sapiens colonisation as well as the recolonisation after the Last Glacial Maximum of the Middle Rhine area and the Lower Rhine Embayment. Combined with detailed knowledge of the landscape history, its processes and chronologies, we expect to obtain important new insights to describe the interdependence of environment and culture, which will not only expand the regional state of the art, but also support the general task of the CRC.


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