Holocene Wooded Environment and Wood Economy of Northern Central Europe, Investigated by Archaeo- and Geoanthracological Methods
In this project wood usage, woodland-management, and the wooded environment are investigated by using wood charcoal of selected archaeological sites in German lowlands. The charcoals were formed during different processes such as natural fires, human camp fires, or for production processes. With regard to fires induced by humans, factors like selection and avoidance may matter. But in most cases, the burnt wood represents individual site conditions. Nevertheless, one of the main questions to be addressed asks whether every available type of wood was used or if selection/avoidance processes regarding different species are detectable? Over the course of time, natural changes in woodlands and the development of new techniques by humans affected wood usage. This raises further questions to be investigated such as: how can the natural woodland composition be characterized for the time in focus? Were there changes in wood usage over time? When can an anthropogenic influence be detected and was forest management already implemented? Another factor to be investigated is the influence of humans on forest composition itself. No later than during the Neolithic, open areas were created resulting in a promotion of light-demanding taxa. Did longer periods of wood use at one site result in shifts of used wood so that charcoal assemblages display openness around the sites?
The project area is located in the German lowlands where diachronous and multi-site charcoal studies have not yet been realised. A main focus here is placed on the time span from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age. The investigation is based on three different concepts of comparison:
Synchronous analyses (multi-site) of the selected single time spans (Mesolithic – Neolithic – Bronze Age) show general and individual developments for these intervals. For instance, the Neolithic Funnel Beaker Culture is investigated for six archaeological sites: Altmark (grave mound), Belleben (enclosure), Flintbek (grave mounds), Oldenburg-Dannau (settlement), Triwalk (settlement), and Wolkenwehe (station). On the one hand, the charcoal spectra represent the individual natural site conditions, e. g. adjoining wetlands. Otherwise, light demanding taxa like Corylus (hazel) and Maloideae show high values indicating an opening of the landscape by Neolithic farmers.
Diachronous analyses of single regions highlight individual (local) developments which are only visible by comparison within time series. One example is the Flintbek region which was used by humans as burial grounds from the Neolithic until the Iron Age. With an increase in the presence of humans (Funnel Beaker Culture), values of light demanding taxa also increased. This first intensive usage of the Flintbek area ended around 3000 BC – when woodland taxa dominate. A less obvious change due to human impact appears during the Single Grave Culture, again with increasing values of light-demanding taxa. Afterwards, Maloideae lose their influence. Early Bronze Age samples are characterised by high values of Quercus (oak) and Corylus, indicating a higher human impact. In the Younger Bronze Age woodlands recover, whereas in the Iron Age high values of Corylus again indicate woodland clearings.
Combinations of on-site and off-site data allow further data interpretation concerning the selection of wood and human impact because on-site samples represent the used wood whereas off-site samples display the wooded environment.
Tutorial assistant on a field trip to Franconia (Bavaria) at the course “Vegetation, Mikroklima
und Böden” (vegetation, microclimate and soil) and at the course “Bestimmung von Pflanzen“
(Determination of plants)
Student research assistant in the working group “Historical Geobotany” of the Ecology Centre
Jansen, D., Mischka, D. & O. Nelle (2013): Wood usage and its influence on the environment from the Neolithic until the Iron Age – A case study of the graves at Flintbek (Schleswig-Holstein, Northern Germany).Vegetation History and Archaeobotany,
The Neolithic woodland – Archaeoanthracology of six Funnel Beaker sites in the lowlands of Germany. Journal of Archaeological Science,
Fries, J.E., Jansen, D. & M.J.L.Th. Niekus (accepted): Fire in a hole! First results of the Oldenburg-Eversten excavation and some notes on Mesolithic hearth pits and hearth-pit sites. Siedlungs- und Küstenforschung im südlichen Nordseegebiet (SKN) 36.
Nelle, O., Jansen, D. & M. Overbeck (accepted): Charcoals from iron smelting furnaces – fuel supply and environment of a medieval iron smelting site near Peppange/Luxembourg. BAR International Series.
Jansen, D., Lungershausen, U., Robin, V., Dannath, Y. & O. Nelle (2012): Wood charcoal from an inland dune complex at Joldelund (Northern Germany). Information on Holocene vegetation and landscape changes. Quaternary International, DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2012.02.010
Nelle, O. & D. Jansen (2011): Botanische Großrestanalyse – Rekonstruktion von Vegetation und pflanzlicher Ressourcennutzung. In Bork, H.-R., Meller, H. & R. Gerlach (Hrsg): Tagungen des Landesmuseums für Vorgeschichte Halle, Band 6: 97-109.
Schrautzer, Joachim; Jansen, Doris; Breuer, Michael & Oliver Nelle(2009): Succession and management
of calcareous dry grasslands in the Nothern Franconian Jura, Germany. – Tuexenia 29: