New Publications

Recent palynological research on subsistence transformations in the costal zones of Mesolithic Norway

January 08, 2018

Examples of settlement plans in Central and Southeast Europe.Based on previous palynological research, the new publication “Towards a refined understanding of the use of coastal zones in the Mesolithic: New investigations on human–environment interactions in Telemark, southeastern Norway” deals with transformations in prehistoric subsistence. In collaboration of Kiel University together with colleagues from Oslo, M. Wieckowska-Lüth, CRC 1266 subproject F3 researcher W. Kirleis, S. Solheim and A. Schülke, both Museum of Cultural History, Oslo University, could identify anthropogenic manipulations in Mesolithic woodlands in the costal hinterland of southeastern Norway. The joint publication tackles the question if early woodland management was an intended or unintended process and in which sense hunter-gatherer strategies of costal hinterland exploitation contributed to forest alteration. Besides evidence for the repeated use of the forested costal hinterland in Mesolithic times, a highlight of their research findings is the consistency of archaeological and palynological data, as both material culture and pollen proxies’ support the fact that the availability of the resource lime (providing timber for dug out canoes and bast for ropes) was one potential trigger for the production and use of Noestvet axes, as the number of sites with these artefacts increases with the onset and peaks in the Tilia pollen curve. Based on this data, as well changes in the woodland composition (occurrance of lime) as transformations in the site pattern (establishment of special workshop activity areas in the coastal hinterland) can be explained.

Figure: Summed probability distribution plot of all published 14C-dates (n = 57) from 18 sites containing Nøstvet axes and production waste in southeastern Norway plotted against the percentage curves of Tilia and Betula. The decreases in the Tilia curve represent opening up of the forest canopy and the potential use of the timber and bast of the lime e.g. for dug out canoes, whereas the increases in the Betula curve demonstrate the starts of the woodland regeneration phases with the pioneer species birch. Figure: Steinar Solheim/Carsten Reckweg (Institute for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology, University of Kiel). M. Wieckowska-Lüth et al. 2018, p. 848, fig. 10

M. Wieckowska-Lüth, S. Solheim, A. Schülke, W. Kirleis, 2018: Towards a refined understanding of the use of coastal zones in the Mesolithic: New investigations on human–environment interactions in Telemark, southeastern Norway. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 17 (2018) 839-851. DOI:10.1016/j.jasrep.2017.12.045

Developments of Population Agglomerations, Social inequality and Centralized Control in Neolithic to Iron Age times

October 23, 2017

Examples of settlement plans in Central and Southeast Europe.

Three new publications of CRC 1266 speaker Johannes Müller concentrate on aspects of developments and forms of population agglomerations connected to the origin of social inequalities and centralized control in prehistoric Europe. The settlements and Chalcolithic mega-sites in Southeast Europe, especially the Balkan and the North Pontic region. Additionally to the scope of the GSHDL “Human Dresearch benefits from long-term project collaborations and excavations of Neolithicevelopment in Landscapes”, the studies are of main interest for questions related to social and economic transformations addressed in the CRC 1266 (e.g. subproject A1D1interlinking groups “Economies: Stability and transformation” and “Social organisation and Built Space”).

In “From the Neolithic to the Iron Age – Demography and Social Agglomeration. The Development of Centralized Control” Müller takes a diachronic look on patterns of economic and social structures present at sites of population agglomerations and concludes the breakdown of these proto-urban structures as a response of vulnerable societies to internal changes of the state system. Not a general population growth but the concentration of people and the magnitude of control exercised within these communities prevented the development of sustainable socio-political systems, which stays in contrast to the Near East. In co-authorship with CRC 1266 and GSHDL colleagues Vesa Arponen, Robert Hofmann and René Ohlrau, the paper “The Appearance of social inequalities: Cases of Neolithic and Chacolithic Societies” presents a new methodological approach how to detect social inequality and forms of social control. The archaeological record of households from Late Neolithic Balkan villages and Chalcolithic North Pontic mega-sites is examined in order to establish proxies addressing these issues, for instance the social meaning of households by comparing architecture and inventories.  “Inheritance, population development and social identities” discusses the role of households and inheritance rules in Southeast Europe from 5200-4300 BCE related to questions concerning changes of political structures within these societies. Along concrete examples, he considers the institutional and regulatory characteristics of these concepts connected to certain archaeological proxies, such as house size, settlement structure, degree of population agglomeration and regional population density.

Müller, J., From the Neolithic to the Iron Age – Demography and Social Agglomeration. The Development of Centralized Control. In: Manuel Fernández-Götz und Dirk Krause (Ed.): Eurasia at the Dawn of History. Urbanization and Social Change. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017, p. 106–124.

Müller, J.; Arponen, V. P.; Hofmann, R.; Ohlrau, R., The Appearance of social inequalities: Cases of Neolithic and Chacolithic Societies. In: Andrea Cardarelli, Alberto Cazalla und Marcella Fangipane (Ed.): Preistoria e protostoria delle civilta antiche. Thematic issue: The Origin of Inequality. [S.l.]: GANGEMI (Origini. Preistoria e protostoria delle civiltà antiche - Prehistory and protohistory of ancient civilizations, XXXVIII, 2015-2), 2017, p. 65–83.

Müller, J., Inheritance, population development and social identities. Southeast Europe 5200-4300 BCE. In: Maja Gori und Maria Ivanova (Hg.): Balkan Dialogues. Negotiating Identity between Prehistory and the Present. Florence: Taylor and Francis (Routledge Studies in Archaeology) 2017, p. 156–168.

Figure: Müller, Examples of settlement plans in Central and Southeast Europe. The principles of the spatial distribution of houses, the size of houses and continuities and discontinuities might be interpreted as the reflection of different inheritance rules in the archaeological record: Primogeniture contra partible inheritance (J. Müller, Inheritance, population development and social identities, p. 162).

Socio-Environmental Dynamics along the Historical Silk Road

March 21, 2019

Cover_SilkThe edited volume ‘Socio-Environmental Dynamics along the Historical Silk Road’ discusses socio-environmental interactions in the middle to late Holocene, covering specific areas along the ancient Silk Road regions. The 22 chapters provide insight into this topic from various disciplinary angles and perspectives, ranging from archaeology, paleoclimatology, antiquity, historical geography, agriculture, carving art and literacy. Versions of most of the chapters were initially prepared for the international workshop entitled “The Rise and Fall: Environmental Factors in the Socio-Cultural Changes of the Ancient Silk Road Area”, which was convened by the Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ (GSHDL) at Kiel University during September 27-28, 2017.

The Silk Road is a modern concept for an ancient network of trade routes that for centuries facilitated and intensified processes of cultural interaction and goods exchange between West China, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. Coherent patterns and synchronous events in history suggest possible links between social upheaval, resource utilization and climate or environment forces along the Silk Road and in a broader area.

Studies in the volume indicate both that climate conditions significantly influence human socio-cultural systems and that the socio-culture systems are certainly resilient to climate impacts. The cross-cutting theme has been to reach beyond simple explanations of environmental or human determinism, but social resilience under environmental impacts.

Both the workshop and the volume were jointly sponsored by the Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ at the Kiel University (GSC 208/2) and the Past Global Changes project (PAGES).

The publication is freely accessible online via the publishing house Springer, but can also be purchased as printed versions:

Yang, L., Bork, H.-R.,  Fang, X., Mischke, S., 2019. Socio-Environmental Dynamics along the Historical Silk Road. Springer-Nature, Cham, Switzerland. 535 Pages. ISBN 978-3-030-00727-0

Early seafaring: Sicily later populated as previously thought

Di Maida SicilyIt is a complex archaeological task to prove when and where our ancestors crossed the seas. So far, it has been suggested that people belonging to the Paleolithic culture of the Aurignacian Mountains (ca. 38,000 to 29,000 BC) were the first one who crossed the Strait of Messina between the Italian mainland and Sicily.

A study conducted by a team of international scientists from various disciplines has re-examined the site and performed radiocarbon dating on plant remains and human teeth. Gianpiero Di Maida of the Graduate School "Human Development in Landscapes" and Professor Ben Krause Kyora of the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology, Kiel University (Kiel University), refute the previous theory of colonization history in Sicily: The age determined by the dates is between 7960 and 6530 BC, much later than previously assumed, thus assigning the finds to the Holocene. It seems that Fontana Nuova was inhabited not by Paleolithic but by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers.

press release (in German) 

Original publication: Di Maida G., Mannino M.A., Krause-Kyora B., Jensen T.Z.T., Talamo S. (2019) Radiocarbon dating and isotope analysis on the purported Aurignacian skeletal remains from Fontana Nuova (Ragusa, Italy). PLoS ONE 14(3): e0213173.