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Felix Riede

Eruptions and ruptures - a social network perspective on vulnerability and impact of the Laacher See eruption (c. 13,000 BP) on Late Glacial hunter-gatherers in northern Europe

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12,920 years ago, the Laacher See volcano, located in present-day western Germany, erupted. This cataclysmic eruption and its attendant ash fallout affected flora, fauna and hence also foragers over a vast area across Europe. Specifically, the emergence of a highly unusual and distinctly regional techno-complex - the so-called Bromme culture of southern Scandinavia - has been linked to this eruption. This culture is characterized not only by tight regional circumscription, but also by a simplification of stone-working technology and a likely loss of bow-and-arrow technology. Such a loss of arguably adaptive technology has, in this and other case studies, been explained through formal demographic modelling, where parameters such as population size, density and connectedness play a critical role. This paper extends these efforts by taking an explicit social network perspective, and by empirically exploring contemporaneous network parameters in light of ethnographic comparative data, and through evidence for the movement of lithic and non-lithic resources across Europe. It is argued that Late Glacial networks at the time prior to the eruption were already stressed, and that the post-eruption regionalization in northern Europe can be seen as a critical rupture along the periphery of these networks. In turn, this conclusion is set into a broader perspective by drawing on anthropological and sociological studies of recent disasters that also highlight the importance of social networks in mediating - in a mitigating or aggravating way - the social effects of calamities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalArchaeological Review from Cambridge
Pages (from-to)67-102
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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