Neanderthals in changing environments from MIS 5 to early MIS 4 in northern Central Europe: Integrating archaeological, (chrono)stratigraphic and paleoenvironmental evidence at the site of Lichtenberg

Marcel Weiss, Michael Hein, Brigitte Urban, Mareike C. Stahlschmidt, Susann Heinrich, Yamandu H. Hilbert, Robert C. Power, Hans V. Suchodoletz, Thomas Terberger, Utz Böhner, Florian Klimscha, Stephan Veil, Klaus Breest, Johannes Schmidt, Debra Colarossi, Mario Tucci, Manfred Frechen, David Colin Tanner, Tobias Lauer

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Abstract

The resilience of Neanderthals towards changing climatic and environmental conditions, and especially towards severely cold climates in northern regions of central Europe, is still under debate. One way to address this is to investigate multi-layered occupation in different climatic intervals, using independently-compiled paleoenvironmental and chronological data. Unfortunately, most open-air sites on the northern European Plain lack a robust chronostratigraphy beyond the radiocarbon dating range, thereby often hampering direct links between human occupation and climate. Here we present the results of integrative research at the Middle Paleolithic open-air site of Lichtenberg, Northern Germany, comprising archaeology, luminescence dating, sedimentology, micromorphology, as well as pollen and phytolith analyses. Our findings clearly show Neanderthal presence in temperate, forested environments during the Mid-Eemian Interglacial, MIS 5e and the latest Brörup Interstadial, MIS 5c/GI 22 (Lichtenberg II). For the previously known occupation Lichtenberg I, we revise the chronology from the former early MIS 3 (57 ± 6 ka) to early MIS 4/GS 19 (71.3 ± 7.3 ka), with dominant cold steppe/tundra vegetation. The early MIS 4 occupation suggests that Neanderthals could adjust well to severely cold environments and implies recurring population in the region between MIS 5 and MIS 3. The artefact assemblages differ between the temperate and cold environment occupations regarding size, blank production, typology and tool use. We argue that this distinctness can partially be explained by different site functions and occupation duration, as well as the availability of large and high-quality flint raw material. Raw material availability is in turn governed by changing vegetation cover that hindered or fostered sediment redeposition as a provider of flint from the primary source of the glacial sediments nearby.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107519
Number of pages25
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume284
Early online date15 Apr 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2022

Keywords

  • Luminescence dating
  • Middle paleolithic
  • Neanderthals
  • Palynology
  • Quaternary stratigraphy

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