Preliminary results on the search for new Late Glacial rock shelter-sites in the Federal State of Hesse

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The multidisciplinary project “Apocalypse Then? The Laacher See volcanic eruption, Deep Environmental History and Europe’s Geo-cultural Heritage” at Aarhus University aims to investigate the influence of the catastrophic Late Glacial volcanic eruption on the lifeways of foragers 13.000 years ago. One of the major work packages is the discovery of new sites which can provide Late Palaeolithic strata in the context of volcanic ash deposits. Previous tephrochronological research has demonstrated that neither open-air nor deep cave sites harbour great potential for discovering in situ volcanic ash (e.g., Housley & Gamble. 2015). In contrast, rock shelters are geomorphological features particularly well suited for preserving tephra deposits and they have been attractive for settlement throughout most of human prehistory. For the Late Palaeolithic, this can be observed with the sites of Bettenroder Berg in Lower Saxony which provide rich ABP (Arch-backed point-technocomplex) finds covered by Laacher-See Tephra (see Grote 1994). For the state of Hesse in Central Germany a database of ca. 800 potential rock shelters is forming the basis for the search for new sites in the medial zone of the Laacher See eruption (Hofbauer 1991, 1995). Geospatial approaches, including archaeological predictive modelling and the use of geological proxies, were used to estimate conditions most adequate for the potential presence of rock shelters used by Late Glacial foragers. Following this computer-aided pre-processing, a survey was conducted in the study area to ground-truth the model. Also, digital site-data was collected by aerial and ground-based photogrammetry to allow better planning of trial trenches. This exercise has yielded a small set of rock shelter locations, which holds great potential for the discovery of the sought-after Palaeolithic and volcanic layers. In this presentation, we present the current state of our research in the study area. The Federal State of Hesse has not been the focus of much Palaeolithic research, especially when it comes to the Late Palaeolithic. We present, as a first example of our investigation, the site of the Wetterstein in north-eastern Hesse, which we argue shares many key landscape characteristics of Late Palaeolithic sites. The Hessian data holds the rare opportunity to conduct predictive research in a Palaeolithic context and test the computer models by excavations. Literature Grote, K., 1994. Die Abris im südlichen Leinebergland bei Göttingen. Archäologische Befunde zum Leben unter Felsschutzdächern in urgeschichtlicher Zeit, Isensee Verlag, Oldenburg. Hofbauer, H., 1991. Felsschutzdächer im Umland des Amöneburger Beckens und in der nördlichen Wetterau. Berichte der Kommission für Archäologische Landesforschung in Hessen, 1, 14-17. Hofbauer, H., 1995.Abri-Kataster von Hessen: Ein Vorbericht. Berichte der Kommission für Archäologische Landesforschung in Hessen, 3, 99-105. Housley, R.A., Gamble, C.S., 2015. Examination of Late Palaeolithic archaeological sites in northern Europe for the preservation of cryptotephra layers, Quaternary Science Reviews 118, 142-150.
StatusAccepteret/In press - 2018
Begivenhed60th Annual Meeting of the Hugo Obermaier Society, April 3rd – April 7nd 2018 in Tarragona -
Varighed: 3 apr. 20187 apr. 2018


Konference60th Annual Meeting of the Hugo Obermaier Society, April 3rd – April 7nd 2018 in Tarragona

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