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Neolithic Settlement and Land Use History in Northwestern Germany - First Results from an Interdisciplinary Research Project

Kramer, Annette; Mennenga, Moritz; Nösler, Daniel; Jöns, Hauke; Bittmann, Felix

The Neolithic settlement and land use history in
northwestern Germany is subject to detailed archaeological
and palynological investigations that
are carried out within the framework of the DFG
priority program “Early Monumentality and Social
Differentiation –the Emergence of Neolithic Monuments
and Early Complex Societies in Northern
Central Europe”. Up to now, only little is known
about the settlement structure and the environmental
conditions and changes in northwestern Germany
during the 4th and 3rd millennium BC, although
various megalithic monuments, grave mounds as
well as surface finds indicate that the area was settled
by the West Group of the Funnel Beaker and the
subsequent Single Grave Cultures. Therefore, five
local research areas were selected that bear high poenclosures, in order to shed light on the cultural
context of Neolithic societies in Northern Europe
since 4100 BC (compiled by Müller 2009; 2011).
In Northwestern Germany, the distribution area
of the west group of the Funnel Beaker Culture
(TRB) and the Single Grave Culture (EGK) is to
be investigated. Several traces were left by both cultures
in the areas between the Elbe and Ems rivers.
The most prominent features are the numerous
megalithic tombs that – at least partly – still shape
today’s landscape (Fig. 1). They have often been objects
of scientific research as their architecture and
distribution reveal regional differences in settlement
intensities and land use. In addition, a few flat graves,
hoards, and settlements with building features are
known (complied by Assendorp 1999; Kossian
2005; Laux 1995; Strahl 1990), while no causewayed
enclosures have yet been identified from the
mentioned area (compiled by Richter 2002, 3 pp.).
Therefore, this setting is ideally suited for investigations
into the Neolithic colonisation history of
the 4 th and the early 3 rd millennia BC. The research
project of the Lower Saxony Institute for Historical
Coastal Research (NIhK) commences here.
Within the project it is necessary to explore whether
the rare TRB settlement features can be considered
to be characteristic for this epoch and which
settlement pattern might be presumed. Hence, the
localisation and the extensive examination of wellpreserved
TRB and EKG settlements are of great
significance (Nösler et al. 2011). The relationships
between graves and coexistent settlements and the
existence of hierarchical structures among single
settlements and graves, respectively, are important
topics that will be addressed within the examinations.
It is also of great importance to know which natural
preconditions the Neolithic settlers had to
deal with and which climatic and ecological changes
they had to face. Palynological investigations
will give insights into these developments. A number
of further questions are to be investigated. For
example, when was the TRB established on the
Northwestern German Plain? From which cultures
(Ertebølle, Swifterband, Rössen / Bischheim) did
the TRB evolve? Which culture(s) influenced the
TRB, and what reasons were crucial for this development?
The transition from the TRB to the EGK,
including when and why it took place, will also be
analysed. The state of the art prior to the project’s
commencement and its first results shall be presented
in the following.

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