Palaeolithic bone and antler artefacts from Lateglacial and Early Holocene Denmark: technology and dating

Markus Wild, Morten Fischer Mortensen, Niels Henrik Andreasen, Per Borup, Claudio Casati, Berit Eriksen, Lise Frost, Kristian M. Gregersen, Mogens Bo Henriksen, Marie Kanstrup, Jesper Olsen, Kristoffer Buck Pedersen, Peter Vang Petersen, Conni Ramskov, Lasse Sørensen, Mikkel Sørensen, Sidsel Wåhlin

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The Danish Palaeolithic began during the Lateglacial (approximately 12,350 calBC) and lasted for about four
thousand years. Only a handful of sites and organic stray finds have been precisely dated. And it is primarily on these that a
preliminary chronological framework has been built. Similarly, numerous hypotheses on palaeohistory, typology, and
settlement patterns have been proposed. However, due to the preservation of sediments that allow the preservation of
organic materials and their exploitation during the past 170 years, abundant reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) and elk (Alces alces)
remains have been uncovered. Many of these are worked and at least some of which can be assigned to the Palaeolithic. These
remains have, so far, been only partly studied. Here, we present a study of the complete corpus. The Lateglacial faunal collections
in 33 Danish museums were assessed, and 50 reindeer and elk objects are described in detail because they are worked
or were mentioned in the literature as being worked. The Palaeolithic artefacts were AMS 14C-dated and analysed together
with existing datasets.
The results of the study create a more robust framework for hypotheses building. A reliance on reindeer for tool production
throughout the Danish Palaeolithic is confirmed, as is the two-fold occupation of Denmark during the Hamburgian. Furthermore,
the new results indicate a reduction of human occupation or even possible absence of humans during the first half of the
Younger Dryas, followed by an intensive re-occupation of eastern Denmark during the Preboreal. Furthermore, the analysis of
the worked bone and antler materials provides new insights into the manufacturing processes. The repeated occurrence of
transversely segmented reindeer antler, documenting a continuous evolution of this technique from the Late Upper
Palaeolithic to the Final Palaeolithic, speaks against a clear separation of the different cultural entities.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2020
Pages (from-to)105-181
Number of pages76
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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