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Project D4

Chronology, Site Concentrations and Cultural Differentiation of the Mesolithic in the Rhineland and in Westphalia

Principal Investigators: A. Zimmermann

Main goals and research topics

Research Area: The Rhineland and Westphalia, Western Germany

The amount of research undertaken on the Mesolithic period varies in the different regions of Germany. Data bases for the Rhineland and Westphalia, in particular, are still incomplete. About 1,400 assemblages are known from these areas but most are only surface collections. The elaboration of an absolute chronology will enable us to focus on answering several major questions relating to the time between approx. 10000 and 4000 calBC by means of the usual archaeological methods.

General goals after establishing an absolute chronology based on 14C dates:

  1. Dating the surface collections by typochronological and statistical methods.
  2. GIS-based mapping of the sites for each chronological phase.
  3. Reconstruction of changes in the environment, living-conditions, cultural habitus, mobility and land use by the Mesolithic inhabitants.

Specific research topics

Within the framework of these general goals, we intend to focus more closely on several specific chronological phases/periods and the gaps in previous research:

  1. The Final Palaeolithic – Earliest Mesolithic transition. Microlith assemblages of the Earliest Mesolithic (or Initial Mesolithic) are characterized by simple micropoints (Zonhoven points) and non-standardized types of microliths. This is true of the Ahrensburgian settlement area as far as its southern border in the northern Eifel. In the area of the Late Ahrensburgian Culture, the microliths demonstrate a direct link between the Late Palaeolithic and the Earliest Mesolithic: the transition phase can be dated to the Preboreal period in the 94th and 93rd centuries cal BC. Such clear continuity has not yet been observed in the Late Azilian settlement area in the adjacent region further to the south.
  2. Developments during the Early Mesolithic. Particular attention will be paid to the Early Mesolithic in the middle Boreal, which has not yet been clearly documented for Central Europe. Absolute dates for sites from this phase are very rare. The first appearance of the Rhine-Meuse-Schelde Culture, from 7600 calBC onwards, was of central importance in the further development of Mesolithic cultures. In the Rhineland, in particular, the Mesolithic assemblages of this period are characterized by facially retouched microliths, which show the cultural exchange with western Central Europe (todays northeastern France and BeNeLux-countries).
  3. The Early Mesolithic – Late Mesolithic transition. Contrary to other current interpretations, we assume that there was continuity from the Early to the Late Mesolithic in the area covered by the research project, although the earliest phase of the Late Mesolithic is, so far, poorly dated in Central Europe. It will be of great importance to determine and date the technical innovations that occurred then in type, manufacture, and hafting of arrowheads and in new blade-production methods.
  4. Neolithization. Generally speaking, Neolithization was a slow process in our research area: it started around 5300 calBC and probably ended only 1500 years later. The process differed considerably in the various regions within our project area; as a result of different cultural influences and depending on the prevailing natural environment. Primary aims of our research are to describe this process and to reconstruct the economic and cultural changes that took place.

A chronological classification of the Mesolithic sites in combination with geographic, botanical und climatic proxies will demonstrate how cultural developments depended on environmental conditions. It will enable us to describe the fundamental changes in living conditions and ways of life during the Mesolithic.


Current and prospective activities from 01.07.2013 to 30.06.2014

Documentation: Mesolithic assemblages in Ostwestfalen; Mesolithic assemblages in the Südeifel and the Trierer Land; Dating and archaeozoological-palaeogenetic examination of Mesolithic aurochs-remains.

Fieldwork: Palynological investigations in Ostwestfalen-Lippe; Drilling and test trenches in the Rhineland at Kerpen-Sindorf, Dormagen-Straberg, Rureifel, Hillesheimer Kalkmulde, Hüttingen a.d. Kyll, Overath-Rottstück.

Partners: Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe - Archäologie für Westfalen; Lippisches Landesmuseum Detmold; Biologische Station Kreis Paderborn – Senne; Archäologisches Freilichtmuseum Oerlinghausen; Landschaftsverband Rheinland - Amt für Bodendenkmalpflege im Rheinland; Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier; Römisch Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz; Labore für Archäobotanik Universitäten Köln und Frankfurt a.M.; Artemus GmbH Frechen; Arbeitsgruppe Paläogenetik der Universität Mainz; Archäozoologie Berke.





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