The human occupation of the Benelux during the Younger Dryas

The human occupation of the Benelux during the Younger Dryas

Quaternary International 242 (2011) 267e276 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Quaternary International journal homepage:

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Quaternary International 242 (2011) 267e276

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Quaternary International journal homepage:

The human occupation of the Benelux during the Younger Dryas P.M. Vermeersch Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200E, 3001 Leuven, Belgium

a r t i c l e i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history: Available online 3 November 2010

In the Benelux, the Federmesser population of the Allerød period seems to have disappeared at the onset of the Younger Dryas, which was a period of very cold conditions. The Ahrensburgian, a new group of people, occupied and expanded in the lowland and the higher country probably on a seasonal basis, during winter in the lowlands, and during the summer in the southern highland. In the Benelux, it can be defined typologically as an industry with numerous Zonhoven points, a variable number of Ahrensburgian points, numerous end scrapers and burins and no microburin technique. The origin of the Ahrensburgian remains fully unclear. We suggest that the Benelux Ahrensburgian is older than the north European one. At the end of the Younger Dryas and early Preboreal the whole Benelux, northern France, the dry southern North Sea and Southern England was used by Ahrensburgian groups. The late Ahrensburgian groups gave birth to the early Mesolithic and a continuous occupation of the Benelux. Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction The Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxemburg) is situated in NW Europe between 50 and 54 N. The landscape is composed of lowland, east of the North Sea within the South also some dissected mountainous area, the Ardennes, with an elevation up to 700 m a.s.l. Ahrensburgian, normally associated with the Younger Dryas, was present in the Benelux. This contribution critically analyses the data related to this presence: environmental conditions, stratigraphy, chronology, settlement structure, technological and typological characteristics.

resulting from the activity of segregation ice, were formed during the Younger Dryas. They imply an annual average temperature of between 4 and 6  C (Pissart, 2003). The presence of cryofractured limestone fragments in the Ahrensburgian sediments of the Remouchamps and La Préalle sites (Dewez et al., 1974) also suggests the presence of a very cold climate. Considering the climatic conditions and taking in mind that human populations had deserted the Benelux during the LGM and returned to the area only during the Bølling, around 13,200 cal BP (Vermeersch et al., 1987; Vermeersch and Maes, 1996), one is tempted to accept that the adverse environmental conditions during the Younger Dryas were not quite attractive for humans.

2. Younger Dryas environment in the Benelux 3. Lateglacial occupation of the Benelux According to the CalPal curve based on GISP2 HULU (Weninger and Jöris, 2008), the period covered by the Younger Dryas (YD) encompasses the period 10,700 to 10,000 BP, approximately 12,500 cal BP to 11,500 cal BP. Temperature reconstructions for the European YD climate suggest a NeS thermal gradient and very low winter temperatures, around 17  C. The summer conditions were less dramatic, with temperatures around 13  C in Benelux (Renssen et al., 2001; Fig. 1). It is supposed that during the first part of the Younger Dryas, discontinuous permafrost was present in the Isarin and Bohncke, (1999) and in northern Belgium, where frost wedges of Younger Dryas age have been frequently observed. Periglacial mounds (lithalsas) from the Hautes Fagnes in the Ardennes,

E-mail address: [email protected] 1040-6182/$ e see front matter Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2010.10.021

Federmesser (and possibly Creswellian) groups were present during the Allerød when the whole area of the Benelux was continuously visited and exploited. A high number of sites has been located and excavated (Fig. 2). In Benelux, but also in many other sandy areas of Western Europe, there is a problem when trying to determine the age of the lateglacial sites. This is mainly due to the very restricted areas where contemporaneous or posterior sedimentation took place. With the exception of a few cave deposits in Wallonia, all Benelux sites are open air sites situated in or on Weichselian aeolian deposits, resulting in a palimpsest distribution of human remains, except in those very restricted areas where Younger Dryas aeolian accumulation occurred. This accumulation is mainly observable in the field when the Usselo soil, of Allerød age, is preserved below the


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Fig. 1. Reconstruction of the European temperatures during the Younger Dryas. (a) Winter. (b) Summer (after Renssen et al., 2001).

Holocene soil horizons (Vanmontfort et al., in press). There is, moreover, the problem that palimpsest occupation remains have been subjected to bioturbation in the Allerød and Holocene podzolic soil, resulting in a vertical scattering of the artefacts in soil horizons (Vermeersch and Bubel, 1997). For that reason, stratigraphical position of artefacts is often of very little use for chronology. Indeed, only where lateglacial peat or soil horizons have been observed on site, can a specific deposit of Younger Dryas age be identified and differentiated from other deposits (Fig. 3). However, as stratigraphy of the aeolian deposits is mostly obliterated by the Holocene soil, there is often no possibility to identify Younger Dryas deposits (Vermeersch et al., 1973). Considering the problems related to the origin of the dated materials, 14C ages from the Federmesser as well as from the Ahrensburgian were plotted (Figs. 4 and 5). In the Benelux, the age of Federmesser samples coincide mainly with Allerød and even earlier periods, whereas the age of Ahrensburgian samples coincide with later times, mainly the Younger Dryas.

4. The end of the Federmesser The beginning of the Federmesser in the area will not be discussed here, because it is outside the scope of this contribution. However, it is important to observe that Federmesser sites are by dozens more numerous than Ahrensburgian sites. The Allerød interstadial conditions are characterised by a stable landscape, even in those areas where deflation was active previously. Soil profiles developed forming the Usselo soil, preserved at many places in the Benelux. Peat bogs were formed in the deflated areas and valley bottoms. The biotopes were still open, but woodlands occurred and increased. After substantial extension of Betula, the open biotopes were characterised by an important colonisation of Pinus (Paulissen and Munaut, 1969). The end of the Allerød and the start of the Younger Dryas was characterised by rapid and intense cooling and rising water tables, with catastrophic effect on the vegetation. Thermophilous pine trees could not survive the cold Younger Dryas climate. Dead wood provided abundant source

Fig. 2. Federmesser sites (registered in the Radiocarbon Palaeolithic Europe database v. 10) in Benelux and adjacent areas.

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Fig. 3. Pedostratigraphic position of sites (H, Hamburgian; F, Federmesser; A, Ahrensburgian; M, Mesolithic) in sandy deposits of the Benelux (adapted from Vermeersch, 1977 and Bosinski, 1995).

of fuel for intense, large-scale fires, resulting in the presence of charcoal particles in the ”Usselo soil” (Van der Hammen and van Geel, 2008). Knowledge on the fauna available for hunters is extremely reduced, as most sites are situated in sandy areas (Cordy, 1991). It is presumed, based on data from the Somme river and of nearby German sites, that red deer, roe deer and elk were present during the Allerød (Street, 1998; Baales and Street, 1999), and were replaced by reindeer at the onset of the Younger Dryas. The Federmesser occupation of the area, based on the available 14C dates, seems to continue until ca. 10,000 cal BP (Fig. 4). A main problem in accepting the 14C chronology is certainly that it remains very difficult, if not impossible, to assign a dated sample (frequently scattered charcoal fragments from the “occupation horizon”) to the Federmesser assemblage from that “occupation horizon”. Structured hearths are rare, and in the best cases, charcoal was collected in charcoal accumulations, which have been considered as the

remains of an unstructured hearth. Charcoal samples had most often been subjected to pedoturbation. Pollen analysis (Bos and Janssen, 1996) suggest that, at the Milheeze Federmesser site (Noord Brabant), humans were active also during the Younger Dryas stadial, but the cultural attributes of the occupants cannot clearly be attributed to the Federmessser. Crombé and Verbruggen (2002) argue for an uninterrupted continuation of occupation between the Federmesser and the Early Mesolithic because of the high frequency of re-use of Federmesser locations during the Early Mesolithic. According to these authors, it could well be that the same human groups continued to occupy the same locations, adapting their material equipment as the environment changed at the transition between the Lateglacial and the Early Holocene. However, problems in dating the Federmesser sites still remain unsolved. Relying on their stratigraphic position, if not obliterated by the later pedogenesis, the Federmesser sites occur in or on top of the Usselo soil or peat of Allerød age. In such a position,

Fig. 4. CalPal radiocarbon age distribution for the Federmesser from the Benelux and its adjacent areas (<8.5 W and >48.8 N) in correlation with GISP2 HULU GRIP HULU 18O (blue line). (For interpretation of the references to colour in this figure Legend, the reader is refered to the webversion of this Article).


O (red line) and


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Fig. 5. CalPal cumulative radiocarbon age distributions for the Federmesser and the Ahrensburgian from the Benelux in correlation with the GRIP HULU

there is a great possibility that charcoal, even from a hearth, is mixed with charcoal that occurs in the Usselo soil. The problem persists in the Younger Dryas, as deposits of that period are often reworked Allerød charcoal bearing deposits. It is thus almost never certain, except for the 14C dating of Rekem on resin attached to a Federmesser point (OxA-942: 11,350  150 BP1), what was dated (Fig. 5). Due to pedoturbation and bioturbation, scattered charcoal can be a mix of particles from several later periods; or mainly Federmesser-produced charcoal; or mainly Usselo charcoal; or a mixture of all these occurrences. It is not expected that luminescence dating of the deposits will change the understanding, as the deviations of the luminescence dates are rather large. 5. How are Ahrensburgian remains in the Benelux recognized? The Ahrensburgian is one of the “Stielspitzen-Gruppe” as defined by Taute (1968) for Middle Europe. The ‘classic’ Ahrensburgian sites such as Stellmoor (Rust, 1943), from the end of Younger Dryas or even the earliest Preboreal, are characterised by a predominance of tanged points. Taute (1968, p. 220) included several sites with hardly any tanged points in the Ahrensburgian because of the presence of large blades, including “Riesenklingen”. He suggested that such sites might represent a late phase of the Ahrensburgian, dating from the last part of the Younger Dryas or the first part of the Preboreal (Taute, 1968, p. 21). Gob (1988, 1991) has included these sites in his EpiAhrensburgian. According to Ballin and Saville (2003), many Ahrensburgian tanged points were manufactured using microburin technique. In the Benelux most sites, but not Vessem-Rouwven (Arts and Deeben, 1981), Budel IV or Neer III (Bohmers and Wouters, 1956), have assemblages where Zonhoven points are much more numerous than Ahrensburgian points.2


Individual 14C dates have not been calibrated. The text “The type “Zonhoven Spitze” was defined by Schwantes (1928) as a short thin blade, which at its upper end is truncated by a retouch in such a way that the point is situated in the prolongation of the lateral blade edge. Schwabedissen (1944, p. 115) used the term also for points which in addition have also a basal truncation. According to Taute (1968, pp. 182e184) a real pointed tip is called a B-point. As the term B-point has a different meaning in literature, it is preferred not to continue the use by Taute (1968), retaining the definition of the term of Schwantes (1928), leaving out the irregular trapezes which have two truncations. 2


O curve.

Ahrensburgian points are rare or even missing (Table 1). Such assemblages are, however, characterised by a good quality blade technology, the presence of numerous burins and end scrapers, and the absence of the microburin technique. The individuality of the Ahrensburgian of Zonhoven Molenheide is stressed by De Bie (1999), who observes that percussion marks on Ahrensburgian blanks can be distinguished from both Federmesser and early Mesolithic assemblages. The Benelux Ahrensburgian is defined as a lithic industry differing from the Federmesser and from the Early Mesolithic by the production of large blades, characterised by specific percussion marks, the absence of microburin technique, the (near) absence of (pointed) backed blades, the presence of numerous Zonhoven points and/or Ahrensburgian points, and the presence of numerous burins and end scrapers. Points sometimes represent up to 50% of the retouched artefacts. The cave sites of Remouchamps (Dewez et al., 1974) and La Préalle (Dewez, 1988), both clearly related to the colder conditions of the Younger Dryas, confirm a lithic composition with Zonhoven and Ahrensburgian points and the absence of the microburin technique. Using this definition, the following sites (Fig. 6) can be attributed to the Ahrensburgian. Sites which provide an acceptable (ages younger than 9000 BP have been disregarded) 14C age of Table 1 Number of points in the assemblages that are considered as belonging to the Ahrensburgian from young to old.

Geldrop 3e2 East Eersel-Panberg Geldrop 3e1 Geldrop/Mie Peels Geldrop 1 Gramsbergen 1 Remouchamps Fonds-de-Forêt Zonhoven Molenheide Sougné A-WF Zonhoven Kapelberg Vessem-Rouwven Oudehaske

14 C age in ka BP

Number of Ahrensburg points

Number of Zonhoven points

9.8 9.8 10.2 10.1e10.6 10.5 10.5 10.3e10.8 Y.D. 10.8 ? ? ? ?

1 0 19 0 16 0 24 35 6 13 0 319 1

135 16 64 31 49 82 68 13 124 34 49 49 11

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Fig. 6. Ahrensburgian sites in larger Benelux (registered in the Radiocarbon Palaeolithic Europe database v. 11).

samples most probably related to the Ahrensburg occupation include:  Remouchamps (B) in gelifractured deposits, with ages of 10,320  80 (OxA-3634), 10,330  110, (OxA-4190), 10,800  110, (OxA-4191) and 10,380  170 (Lv-535) (Dewez et al., 1974).  Zonhoven Molenheide (B), in the EeC horizons of a xeropodzol and a 14C age on scattered charcoal 10,760  70 (UtC-3720) (Vermeersch, 2008).  Geldrop, Mie Peels (NL) in a layer of Younger Coversand II. The Usselo soil is covered by 20 cm coversand (Lanting and Van der Plicht, 1995/1996). Two dates were obtained from pine charcoal concentrations: 10,090  110 (GrN-16507) and 10,610  100 (OxA-2563).  Gramsbergen I (NL) charcoal from a pit with no stratigraphical observations and an (probably too young age because of the sample preparation procedure) age of 9320  60 (GrN-7793) (Lanting and Van der Plicht, 1995/1996).  Geldrop 1 (NL) in young Coversand II above the Usselo layer, but partially on a desert pavement on top of Usselo with an age of 10,500  70 (GrA-15177) (Deeben et al., 2000) on calcined bone.  Luiksgestel 2 (NL) with no good stratigraphical observation has 14 C dates on charcoal with an age of 9970  105 (GrN-4181) and 9355  120 (GrN-5999) (Lanting and Van der Plicht, 1995/ 1996).  Eersel-Panberg (NL) is situated in the B/C and C horizons of the xeropodzol. Charcoal gave an AMS date of 9810  70 (GrA15175) (Deeben et al., 2000).  Geldrop 3e2 East (NL) in the B, B/C and C-horizons of a xeropodzol which was formed in Younger Coversand II and has an AMS age of 9770  60 (GrA15182) on calcinated bone. The Usselo soil is about 20 cm below the artefact-bearing layer (Deeben et al., 2000).

 Geldrop 3.1 from the B, B/C, and the upper part of the C horizons of a xeropodzol formed in the Younger Coversand II. An AMS date of 10,190  60 (GrA-15181) on burnt bone was obtained (Deeben et al., 2000). A site with no lithics but with organic material is Europoort (NL), with ages of 9945  115 (Ua-642) and 9690  125 (Ua-644) (Lanting and Van der Plicht, 1995/1996). Sites without 14C but with acceptable stratigraphical observations include:  Oudehaske, on top of Younger Coversand II (Johansen and Stapert, 2000).  Coléoptère layer 6B, (B) found in gelifractured deposits but with only 6 artefacts including 1 Zonhoven point (Dewez, 1988). A reindeer bone fragment is decorated with numerous incisions. Sites without stratigraphical observations and no 14C but with characteristic lithic assemblages (Arts and Deeben, 1981) include: Echt-Montfort I (NL), Echt-Reigersbroek (NL), Echt-Sint Joost (NL), Fonds-de-Forêt, terrace (B), Gent Tweekerkenstraat (B) (Crombé et al., 2007), Herkenbosch (NL), Horst (NL), Kessel-Broek (NL), Kesseleijck (NL), Knegsel-Schietbaan (NL), Leerop (NL), Luiksgestel 2 (NL), Mégarnie (B) (Otte et al. 1997), Nederweert-Noordervaart (Neer III) (NL), Neer-Boshei (NL), Neer I-Wijnbeek (NL), Oudega (NL), La Préalle (B), Someren (NL), Reutum Wolfsberg (NL), VenloBlerick (NL), Vessem-Rouwven (NL), Vessem-Oostelbeekse Dijk (NL), Vessem 3 (NL), Zonhoven-Kapelberg (B) (Huyge, 1985), and Sougné A-WF (Gob, 1988). 6. Art objects Perforated ochre fragments, striated perforated rounded sandstone fragments, lydite pendants, and grooved sandstones have


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been collected at Geldrop 3e1 (Deeben, 1995). Two figurines, a male and a female (Fig. 7 right), incised on a cobble have been found (Verhart, 1995). An engraved bone (72 mm. long) from Remouchamps is a narrow splinter, polished on each face, both faces being more or less flat. One end finishes in a point, while the other forms a rounded head (Fig. 7, left). The obverse bears four sets of incised lines containing several strokes. The reverse side has a more complicated arrangement, with six main vertical lines in relation to which are disposed sets of horizontal lines or simple short strokes. The interpretation of the Remouchamps engraved bones still remains uncertain. The internal consistency of the numbers marked on them suggests that they may be objects connected with games of chance, more particularly with fortunetelling games (Dewez, 1974). A group of forty-five fossil shells from the Paris basin, two human teeth (of which one is perforated), and a few flints smeared with ochre, were found at Remouchamps (Dewez et al., 1974). 7. Faunal remains Faunal remains have been collected at Remouchamps and at La Préalle (Bouchud, 1974). At both sites the faunal remains consist of mainly cold adapted species: Rangifer tarandus, and less frequently, Cervus elaphus, Megaceros, Bos sp., Equus caballus, Capra ibex, Sus scrofa and Felis silvestris. According to Baales (2000), it is certain that the migrant herds of reindeer were hunted in favourable locations near the caves. The slaughtered animals were brought back to camp, intact or dismembered before and then exhaustively cut. A thorough analysis of reindeer remains and especially the

teeth and antlers from three sites provided an answer to the question of seasonality. Based on a very good analysis, Baales (2000) arrived at the conclusion that, in early spring, the herds migrated south to the highlands of the Eifel, the Ardennes, and the mountainous regions of Westphalia, where they spent the summer. The colder and windier highlands reduced the inconvenience caused by parasites, particularly for newborns. At the same time, the abundance of new plants allowed accumulation of large reserves of fat for the next winter, during which they stayed in the North European Plain. 8. Site organisation Site organisation can only be studied at some sites (Fig. 8). Geldrop 3e2 East (Wenzel, 2009) is characterised by a rectangular, find-rich central region around a fire pit, which is surrounded by a loose scattering of artefacts (Fig. 8). There certainly existed a partition which resulted in the fact that the interior area emerged in the artefact distribution as rectangular structure, even if that were not necessarily real walls. Even if building a boundary does not require a lot of work, its presence indicates that the occupants were planning to remain at the place for some time. Arrow hafting was one of the main activities at the site, which also contains many indications of household activities. The rich assemblage, the demarcated central area and long distance refits suggest that the site has been used for a period of time. At the Zonhoven Molenheide (Ahrensburgian) site, the organisation is similar to that of the Federmesser sites at Rekem (De Bie and Caspar, 2000) and Meer (Van Noten, 1978). Artefact

Fig. 7. Art objects from the Ahrensburgian: Remouchamps (Dewez, 1974), Venus from Geldrop, dancer from Wansum (Verhart, 1995).

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Fig. 8. Reconstruction of the activity areas at (left) Geldrop 3.2 East (after Wenzel, 2009, Fig. 104) and (right) the connections between several concentrations at Zonhoven Molenheide (Vermeersch, 2008).

distribution is characterised by a wide dispersal (>100 m2), with diversified lithic concentrations of 30 to 50 m2. The presence of several structures associated with the use of fire is common at the Federmesser sites but structured hearths are absent. Some charcoal concentrations were found. Import of blades and tools to Geldrop 3e2 East is probable (Deeben, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997). Debitage of blanks in a flint type which is not widely present at the site suggests that some blades and tools were imported. However, as the area is very rich in different flint types, no information on the origin of those artefacts is available. 9. Environmental conditions Ahrensburg-hunters, fishermen and collectors had, for the establishment of their settlements, a preference for well drained sand ridges and terrace edges with sandy soil near lakes and meander cuts. In Benelux, sites are most often situated in the lowlands, but some sites are situated in caves in Wallonia. When looking at a larger scale, it is clear that two different environments have been visited by the Ahrensburgians: the lowland and the higher areas. Seasonal patterns in the Ahrensburgians’ use of the landscape can be interpreted as largely determined by seasonal movements of the reindeer (Baales, 1996). In this model, the main summer grazing areas of the reindeer were in the plateau and hill areas (including the Ardennes) and the uplands of central England, while during the autumn the reindeer migrated to the southern part of the North Sea. Sites such as Remouchamps and Kartstein were occupied during the warmer season, when the reindeer migrated to the south, whereas lowland sites were occupied in autumn and winter, during the reindeer trek to the north. This hypothesis seems to be confirmed by the degree of attrition of two reindeer molars from Remouchamps which refer to the summer period (Bouchud, 1974). Unfortunately, outside the Ardennes, seasonal indicators at Ahrensburgian sites are absent. 10. Chronological position of the Benelux Ahrensburgian Generally speaking, the Benelux Ahrensburgian is related to the Younger Dryas cold episode. The sedimentology of the Remouchamps and La Préalle sites confirms the presence of Ahrensburgian visitors during the cold Younger Dryas. Comparing the limited number of acceptable 14C ages from Ahrensburgian sites outside

the Benelux with those from the Benelux (Fig. 9), many of the southern sites are older than the northern (German) ones. The Epi-Ahrensburgian, where Ahrensburgian points are absent (Gob, 1988), appears not to be younger than the classical Ahrensburgian. At some of the sites, Ahrensburgian points are more numerous than Zonhoven points (Deeben and Rensink, 2005), e.g. at Vessem, Budel IV and Neer III, whereas at most of the Benelux sites, Ahrensburgian points are not numerous, whereas Zonhoven points are predominant (Table 1). This difference seems not to coincide with chronological or with environmental differentiation. It is considered as the result of site specialisation or personal preferences of the hunters. According to Deeben et al. (2000), “an evolutionary change in the flint industry of the Ahrensburg culture is evident: tanged points gradually disappear while microlithic points gain in popularity as projectile points. Most of the microlithic points are b-points (Zonhoven points) . Truncated artefacts are more numerous in the younger sites.” However, taking in account the (restricted number of) 14C ages, it seems that the oldest Ahrensburgian sites in the Benelux do not have numerous Ahrenburgian points, but always have a high number of Zonhoven points. The trend in the evolutionary change seems to indicate the opposite direction, where Ahrensburgian points are rather a later influence from the north into the Benelux Ahrensburgian (Table 2). That seems to be in accordance with the final Younger Dryas to early Preboreal age of the north German sites, such as Stellmoor where numerous 14C dates give ages around 10.3e9.8 ka BP. In the Benelux, Ahrensburgian points have never been numerous with the exception of the Vessem-Rouwven (Arts and Deeben, 1981) site. It is remarkable that in the Benelux, Zonhoven points from the Ahrensburgian are not manufactured with the microburin technique, whereas this is apparently the case in more northern sites (Ballin and Saville, 2003). Microburin technique appears in the Benelux from the Early Mesolithic (Vermeersch, 1982). In the Early Mesolithic, the numerous Zonhoven points are manufactured with the microburin technique. During the Younger Dryas, there is a clear decline of settlement, compared to the Allerød (Crombé and Verbruggen, 2002). This could be explained by a thinning of population or even a depopulation of the area. More to the south, Fagnart and Coudret (1997) observe that no Federmesser sites in the Somme basin in northern France could be attributed to the Younger Dryas. The occupation of that region appears to have declined sharply during the Younger Dryas.


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Fig. 9. CalPal cumulative radiocarbon age distributions for the Ahrensburgian correlated with the GRIP HULU

11. Origin of the Ahrensburgian in the Benelux The origin of the Ahrensburgian still remains unclear. Most authors agree that the Ahrensburgian hunters came from the north, where they possibly had developed from the Bromme group, an early manifestation of the Tanged Point Technocomplex (Taute, 1968). However, considering the late age of the North German Ahrensburgian, especially Stellmoor, it is hypothesised that the southern Ahrensburgian is of earlier date than the northern one. However, sites such as Alt Duvenstedt (Kaiser and Clausen, 2005) are clearly older, although there are problems with the 14C dating. Northern connections of the early Ahrensburgian in the Benelux are also in contradiction with the presence of numerous shells which have been imported from the Paris basin. In the author’s view, the hypothesis that Federmesser occupation in the southern sandy area evolved into the Ahrensburgian (Rozoy, 1978), is not


O curve.

acceptable either. Recent analyses of technical attributes showed that Ahrensburgian debitage can clearly be distinguished from Federmesser debitage in this region (De Bie and Vermeersch, 1998; De Bie, 1999). According to Fagnart (2009), the early Preboreal Belloisian and also the English Long Blade tradition are to be interpreted as a functional specialisation of sites within the epiAhrensburgian tradition. This conclusion is based on technological arguments and is probably correct. It implies that the late Ahrensburgian expanded into a very large area of Northern France, the North Sea, Southern England and the Benelux. 12. The end of the Ahrensburgian in the Benelux During the early Preboreal, reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) gradually disappeared from the area, and herbivores such as horse (Equus ferus) and bovids quickly decreased in number. As the onset of the

Table 2 14 C dates from Benelux Ahrensburgian sites, taken from the on the web available “Radiocarbon Palaeolithic Europe Database v11” ( 14cpalaeolithic/index.html) for evaluation of most dates see also Lanting and Van der Plicht (1995/1996).



7060 8800 9280 9320 9355 9770 9810 9970 10,090 10,190

70 60 290 60 120 60 70 105 110 60

UtC-3195 GrA-15183 Y-157-B GrN-7793 GrN-5999 GrA-15182 GrA-15175 GrN-4181 GrN-16507 GrA-15181

Scattered Pinus charcoal Bone Charcoal Pinus charcoal Same sample as GrN-4181 (?) Calcinated bone Calcinated bone From hearth Pine charcoal 1982/1 Bone

10,320 10,330 10,380 10,500

80 110 170 70

OxA-3634 OxA-4190 Lv-535 GrA-15177

Bone Bone Bone Calcined bone

10,560 10,610 10,760

200 100 70

Y-157-A OxA-2563 UtC-3720

Charcoal Pine charcoal 1985/2 Scattered charcoal

10,800 10,960

110 85

OxA-4191 GrN-1059

11,070 11,450

90 180

GrN-1687 H-75/78

Bone Charcoal from hearth probably mixed with charcoal from Usselo layer Charcoal Charcoal ? form artefact concentration in Usselo layer

Site name

Stratigraphic information


Zonhoven Molenheide Geldrop 3e2 East Rissen 14a Gramsbergen I Luiksgestel 2 Geldrop 3e2 East Eersel-Panberg Luiksgestel 2 Geldrop, Mie Peels Geldrop 3e1

In A-B3 horizons of humic-iron podzol In the B, B/C, and C horizons of a xeropodzol In B, B/C and C horizon of humic-iron podzol From tree fall pit? ? In the B, B/C, and C horizons of a xeropodzol In B/C and C horizons of the xeropodzol soil ? In the B, B/C, and C horizons of a xeropodzol Probably mainly from B and B/C horizon of humic-iron podzol In gelifractured limestone debris In gelifractured limestone debris In gelifractured limestone debris In young Coversand II above Usselo layer, but partially on a desert pavement on top of Usselo In B, B/C and C horizon of humic-iron podzol below dune In the B, B/C, and C horizons of a xeropodzol In A-B3 horizons of a humic-iron podzol

Remouchamps Remouchamps Remouchamps Geldrop I Rissen 14a Geldrop, Mie Peels Zonhoven Molenheide Remouchamps Geldrop I Budel IV Rissen 14a

In gelifractured limestone debris In young Coversand II above Usselo layer, but partially on a desert pavement on top of Usselo Sample might be originating from another site In B, B/C and C horizon of humic-iron podzol below dune


C identification

Sample information

P.M. Vermeersch / Quaternary International 242 (2011) 267e276

Holocene was still cool and wet, some grasslands probably survived. However, after 10,000 B.P, climate and faunal spectra rapidly approached modern conditions (Cordy, 1991), with the larger mammals dominated by red deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), and wild boar (Sus scrofa). Apart from the technique of manufacturing, there is hardly any difference between the obliquely truncated (Zonhoven) points from the (Epi-)Ahrensburgian and those from Early Mesolithic contexts. With the onset of the Preboreal, numerous new sites occur, suggesting an important increase of population density in the Benelux. Many scholars (Gob, 1988; Thévenin, 1996; Crombé, 1998) have argued that assemblages belonging to the Mesolithic Neerharen group (Vermeersch, 1984) are most likely to have derived from the Ahrensburgian. 13. Conclusions The Younger Dryas was certainly a period of very cold conditions with a reinstallation of permafrost and an important forest decline. Reindeer made their reappearance in the area. The important Federmesser group, characterising the Allerød, seems to have disappeared at the onset of the Younger Dryas. It remains possible however, although not clearly attested, that part of the Federmesser group continued its occupation during the Younger Dryas. Another group, the Ahrensburgian, occupied and expanded in the lowland and the higher country probably on a seasonal basis, during winter in the lowlands, including the present North Sea and during the summer in the Southern highland. Its presence was however rather scanty and certainly not as expansive as the Federmesser groups. In the Benelux, the Ahrensburgian can typologically be defined as an assemblage with numerous Zonhoven points, a variable number of Ahrensburgian points, numerous end scrapers and burins. Irregular trapezes can be present. Technologically, the Ahrensburgian is differentiated from the Federmesser by the presence of long blades and from the Early Mesolithic by the absence of microburin technique. At the end of the Younger Dryas and early Preboreal the whole Benelux, northern France, the dry southern North Sea and Southern England was used by Ahrensburgian groups. There is no reason to differentiate between an Ahrensburgian and an Epiahrensburigan group. The origin of the Ahrensburgian remains fully unclear. The late Ahrensburgian groups gave birth to the early Mesolithic and a continuous occupation of the Benelux. Searches should be conducted for new sites with faunal remains, an interpretable stratigraphy and good dating opportunities. The possibility of finding such sites is, however, very restricted. In the sandy lowland deposits such sites are certainly rare. Sites could be located in peaty environments, and a new cave site could provide new data. Acknowledgements The author gratefully acknowledges suggestions and additions by E. Paulissen, L.G. Straus, M. Van Gils, B. Vanmontfort, and an unknown reviewer. Funds to attend the SAA congress were provided by the “Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten”. References Arts, N., Deeben, J., 1981. Prehistorische jagers en verzamelaars te Vessem: een model. Stichting Brabants Heem, Eindhoven. Baales, M., 1996. Umwelt und Jagdökonomie der Ahrensburger Rentierjäger im Mittelgebirge. R.G.Z.M./Rudolf Habelt, Bonn. Baales, M., 2000. L’archéologie du Paléolithique final en Rhénanie du centre et du nord (Allemagne). In: Valentin, B., Bodu, P., Christensen, M. (Eds.), L’Europe centrale et septentrionale au Tardiglaciaire. Confrontation des modèles régionaux de peuplement. Colloque de Nemours 1997. Mémoires du Musée de préhistoire d’Ile-de-France 7. Nemours, pp. 239e252.


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