Spatial interpretation of high-resolution environmental proxy data of the Middle Pleistocene Palaeolithic faunal kill site Schöningen 13 II-4, Germany

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


  • Brigitte Urban
  • Kim J. Krahn
  • Thomas Kasper
  • Alejandro García-Moreno
  • Jarod M. Hutson
  • Aritza Villaluenga
  • Elaine Turner
  • Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser
  • Dalia Farghaly
  • Mario Tucci
  • Antje Schwalb

To spatially characterize the palaeolakeshore environment at the archaeological kill site Schöningen 13 II-4 of the Middle Pleistocene Reinsdorf sequence, in-depth palynological, geochemical, aquatic microfossil and archaeological analyses were undertaken on sediment sections with an average thickness of about 15 cm, concordantly overlain by faunal remains, dominated by horse, from the unique ‘Spear Horizon’ layers of the 1995 excavation campaign. The data reveal a distinctive lake level drop, documented by the change from a carbonate-rich lake marl to a carbonate-free organic mud with increased carbon content and decreasing C/N, Si/Al, Si/K and Fe/Al ratios, indicating a higher pedogenic supply of organic matter and drier conditions at the site. Compared with older, similar transitional phases of lake level changes occurring within the Reinsdorf sequence, it is important that these youngest sediments are undisturbed, indicating continuous development. Ostracod and diatom analyses indicate a lowering water level with higher salinities and rich aquatic vegetation. Mesorheophilic ostracod species along with tychoplanktic diatom taxa point to flowing waters and turbulence at the lakeshore, presumably related to spring-fed streams originating from nearby highlands. Palynological results reveal a very diverse zonal vegetation pattern around the palaeolakeshore considering an area of investigation of approximately 50 × 75 m and a tessellated type of regional vegetation during the formation of the archaeological horizons. On topographically lower elevated areas, birch groves and taxa favouring wet, marshy conditions such as Cyperaceae, indicative of terrestrialization, were predominating, while other stands of this transitional phase reveal a very dry, grass-dominated steppe woodland favouring a rich wildlife with a striking number of megaherbivores. Our results suggest that the lithological differences of the ‘Spear Horizon’ layers containing the archaeological finds were due to their respective topographical situation and that the layers were deposited almost simultaneously during the beginning of the lake level drop. Human activities seem to have concentrated in sparsely vegetated areas along the palaeolakeshore, rather than in areas of adjacent denser birch swamp forest stands.

Seiten (von - bis)440-458
Anzahl der Seiten19
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 01.07.2023

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
We thank the Ministry of Science and Culture, Hanover, Germany (Brigitte Urban), PRO*Niedersachsen, Project: 74ZN1230 and the German Science Foundation (DFG: UR25/11‐1, SCHW671/22‐1, project number 350769604) for funding this study. We deeply appreciate the work of Hartmut Thieme and his former excavation team of the Niedersächsisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege (NLD) Hanover for collecting the block samples. We acknowledge Thomas Terberger from NLD, Hanover who made sampling of the blocks possible for his support of this research. We thank Sabine Hansen and Lisa Hillenbrand for assistance with laboratory work, Emad Elba and Lisa Brogmus for calculating and drawing the pollen diagrams and for valuable assistance with graphic presentations. The work on the Schöningen finds is the result of a collaborative project between Monrepos Archaeological Research Centre and the Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution, Johannes‐Gutenberg‐Universität Mainz and Niedersächsisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege, with financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (GA6839/‐1). We finally would like to thank the anonymous reviewers and the editor for their valuable comments that helped improve our manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Boreas published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The Boreas Collegium.