Category Archives: CH

Mountains and prehistory at the EAA 2019 meeting in Bern

In roughly nine months many, many archaeologists will be swarming the streets and filling the “Beizen” (the name for restaurants etc. in Swiss German) of the beautiful city of Bern. They will gather here at the 2019 EAA-meeting to share their news and ideas. It will not only be an opportunity to see old friends and make new ones, but also to wander through the city‘s old centre, swim in the Aare (if the weather permits), have a cheese fondue or raclette and a glass of local wine (or beer!) or visit the 3-Lake region, or the nearby Alps of the Bernese Oberland. And, of course, one almost forgets, to discuss fascinating archaeology!

With the Alps nearby and the Alps being such an important part of the Swiss identity, it is no wonder there will be quite a few sessions based around themes concerning the prehistory of mountainous regions. I was lucky enough to be able to join forces with some wonderful colleagues and suggest two of these:

In search of “cloudstones”? Lithic raw material procurement in mountainous and alpine regions during the Mesolithic and Neolithic Session 252 EAA meeting 2019 (PDF)

  • Marcel Cornelissen – Archaeological Service of the Canton of Grisons / Universität Zürich (marcel.cornelissen (at)
  • Astrid J. Nyland – Archaeological Museum, University of Stavanger, Norway (astrid.j.nyland (at)

and also

Settling at high altitudes. Intra-site and and inter-site variability, site function and mobility of hunter-gatherers and the first agropastoral societies Session 319 EAA meeting 2019 (PDF)

  • Federica Fontana – Università di Ferrara (federica.fontana (at)
  • Xavier Mangado Llach – Universitat de Barcelona (mangado (at)
  • Marcel Cornelissen – Universität Zürich (see above)

It would be great if you would consider contributing to either of these sessions and are curious about your research and thoughts. The deadline for contribution submission is February 14th! And if you don’t want to or cannot contribute a presentation/poster, do come and listen to some fascinating mountainous archaeology and meet us in person! There should at least be pretty mountain pictures. If you are not entirely sure if your research fits the session, have any questions about the format or have any other thoughts and questions, do not hesitate to contact any of the organisers. There are, however even more great mountainous archaeology sessions to choose from. In any case, we would love to hear from you!

See you in Bern!

EAA 2019 Bern

From the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age and back again

It is not all Mesolithic in this archaeologist’s life. Last year around this time I took a break from my PhD-research, mainly to earn some money. It turned out it was not bad either to gain some distance from it and to then return to it with a fresh mind almost a year later. It also meant this blog went on a little hiatus. But isn’t it amazing, that after more than 10 years (!!!) it’s still going?! In the meantime, I joined a small team of the Service Archéologique du canton de Berne on a rescue excavation of a Middle/Late Bronze Age settlement near the Lac du Bienne in western Switzerland. It was a geologically interesting location and the site helped to fill a chronological and geographical hole in the prehistory of the region. The famous lake side villages give us a good understanding of the region’s occupation during the Late Bronze Age and the Neolithic. The period in between is sadly less well known in the region. Because of their early discovery and the amazing preservation of organic materials, the focus of archaeologists in the region has long been on these lake side villages. What took place during prehistory beyond these lakes was considered less interesting. The past years has seen a number of rescue excavations and research projects addressing these themes and our excavation of “Sutz-Lattrigen Hauptstrasse 57, 59, 59a” plays its own small part in that.

You wouldn’t think it from this photo, but for most of the excavation we were very lucky with the weather. This changed in December…

You wouldn’t think it from this photo, but for most of the excavation we were very lucky with the weather. This changed in December…

Our initial report has now been published in the Jahrbuch Archäologie Bern 2018 (full citation below). We were able to excavate part of a settlement dating to the Bronze Age C/D – Ha A1 (that is the Middle to Late Bronze Age). Apart from building remains (C14-dated to around 1500-1270 cal BC) and a large amount of ceramics and some metal finds, we also discovered a large cup-marked erratic boulder (“Schalenstein” in German). In fact, it was a regular visitor to the site, 8-year-old budding archaeologist Nahly P. who discovered the cup marks! She lives nearby and often came to visit us with her mother or grandmother to see what we were finding and helped us, of course using her own brush and trowel. The erratic seems to have been placed in a pit with some care and deliberation, together with four smaller boulders. Three of the latter were placed at the same depth in a row in front of the section with the cup marks. Many cup-marked stones are known from the region and from Switzerland in general. Few, however, are found in a prehistoric settlement context and few are secondarily deposited in a pit. When and why this happened will remain unknown for now. Two radiocarbon dates from small charcoal flakes taken from the pit fill date to the Middle Ages, but sadly this tells us very little as it is hard to known how and when these tiny charcoal particles got into the fill.

Finding this cup-marked stone reminded me of something Prof. Richard Bradley wrote in his classic The passage of Arms:

“Much of the difficulty is created because only two stages of the life cycle of an artefact can actually be observed: its production and its final deposition. What happened in between needs to be inferred.” (Bradley 1990, p.33)

Now I am back working on my PhD about the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Switzerland and the Jura Mountains. You can find out more about the site in Sutz-Lattrigen, the finds and the cup-marked stone in the Jahrbuch Archäologie Bern 2018. A short note also appeared in the Jahrbuch Archäologie Schweiz 101, 2018.

The crack team of the Service Archéologique du canton de Berne excavating at Sutz-Lattrigen-Hauptstrassse 57, 59, 59a.

The crack team of the Service Archéologique du canton de Berne excavating at Sutz-Lattrigen-Hauptstrassse 57, 59, 59a.

Cornelissen, Marcel; Ramstein, Marianne; Stapfer, Regine; Zaugg, Pascal (2018), Sutz-Lattrigen, Hauptstrasse 57, 59, 59a. Eine mittelbronzezeitliche Siedlung über dem Bielersee. In: Jahrbuch des Archäologischen Dienstes des kantons Bern, S. 107-109.

Cornelissen, Marcel; Stapfer, Regine (2018), Sutz-Lattrigen BE, Hauptstrasse 57, 59, 59a. In: Jahrbuch Archäologie Schweiz (101), S. 188.

Unterseen I – temps de repos

Lunch break at the excavation in Unterseen. Archaeological Service Canton Berne, Switzerland)

Lunch break at the excavation. Archaeological rescue excavation of medieval building remains in the small city of Unterseen by the Archäologische Dienst des Kt. Bern (Archaeological Service of the Canton Berne, Switzerland)

Open Day / Journées Portes Ouvertes et Découverte d’une fouille préhistorique – Site d’Arconciel/La Souche

From the excavators of Arconciel/La Souche (SAEF):

Dimanche 5 septembre 2010 – Entre 10 et 16 heures.Non loin de l’abbaye d’Hauterive, les falaises de la Sarine abritent un habitat du Mésolithique.

Sis sur le domaine de l’abbaye cistercienne d’Hauterive, l’abri naturel d’Arconciel/La Souche se trouve au cœur des magnifiques gorges de la Sarine, à six kilomètres en amont de la ville de Fribourg. Largement ouvert au sud-ouest, il offre protection, ensoleillement, surface habitable conséquente et accessibilité. A ce titre, il est considéré comme l’un des plus beaux exemples d’habitat de pied de falaise de notre région, un type de sites qui fut particulièrement apprécié par les derniers groupes de chasseurs-cueilleurs du Mésolithique (9700-5000 av. J.-C.).

Estimé dès sa découverte comme l’un des plus hauts lieux de la Préhistoire fribourgeoise du fait de son très bon état de conservation, de sa stratigraphie de plus de trois mètres et de la richesse du matériel mis au jour (près de 15 000 artefacts en roches siliceuses, éléments de parures et plus de 150 000 restes fauniques), mais menacé par l’érosion, l’abri d’Arconciel/La Souche fait l’objet depuis 2003 d’une fouille de sauvetage qui sert également de chantier-école à plusieurs Universités.
Continue reading

Rückwege – Archaeology of the Silvretta at “Visualisation in Archaeology”

Archaeology has always had its own visual vocabulary. We show our research results to our colleagues and to the wider public. This can, at the danger of simplification, often be divided into two categories: 1.) the dokumentation of the research results (plans, finds, tables etc.); and 2.) those visualisations that convey our interpretations (e.g. reconstruction drawings).

If we take the accurate visual representation of lithics (chipped stone tools) research, Martingell and Saville (Martingell and Saville 1988; Saville 2009) for example, argue we should that we should attempt to include as much factual information, mainly on technology, in drawings. Saville (2009, p.750) also includes, rightly I believe, use wear results in this.

However, like with most visualisations, it is, e.g. difficult to use this style of illustration to represent the dynamic, non-linear character of technology. Riede (Riede 2006, fig. 6, p62) tries to represent an evolutionary chaîne opératoire – artefactontogenies and phylogenies – and as such also the dynamic nature of technology in a figure. Although it is not a bad attempt, it is still rather linear. I fear that most people, including archaeologists, who are not in detail familiar with these ideas, see little more then another representation of the classic reduction sequences he tries so hard to avoid. This is especially the case as I expect that for many researchers the idea of an evolutionary chaîne opératoire is rather counter intuitive.

I have not seen any really satisfying examples of illustrations showing the dynamic nature of technology or an evolutionary chaîne opératoire. Continue reading

Groupe de Travail sur le Mésolithique

Michel Mauvilly of the SAEF has initiated the formation of a «Groupe de Travail» for researches in the Mesolithic in Switzerland and surrounding regions. A first meeting is planned for the end of March or April.

Below the announcement in French and German.

Création d’un Groupe de Travail concernant les recherches sur le Mésolithique en Suisse et les régions limitrophes

Afin de promouvoir le Mésolithique en Suisse et de créer une meilleure synergie entre les différents acteurs de la recherche travaillant sur cette période et de la stimuler, nous proposons de fonder un groupe de travail. En effet, ces dernières  années, plusieurs fouilles importantes, réalisées dans plusieurs cantons, ont confirmé le très grand potentiel de notre territoire dans ce domaine.

Le groupe de travail est ouvert à toutes les personnes, professionnelles de l’archéologie ou non, qui sont intéressées par les recherches concernant cette période.

Nous proposons donc d’organiser une première séance visant à définir le cadre, les modalités et les attentes des différents acteurs potentiels.

Plusieurs dates sont d’ores et déjà sélectionnées pour cette séance entre mi mars et  mi avril 2010 que nous proposons d’organiser à Fribourg.

Bildung einer Arbeitsgruppe zur Erforschung des Mesolithikums in der Schweiz und in den angrenzenden Regionen

Um die Erforschung des Mesolithikums in der Schweiz voranzutreiben und die Zusammenarbeit von verschiedenen, in dieser Periode tätigen Forschern zu fördern, möchten wir gerne eine Arbeitsgruppe ins Leben rufen. Gerade in den letzten Jahren haben mehrere bedeutende Ausgrabungen in verschiedenen Kantonen das enorme Potential in diesem Forschungsgebiet aufgezeigt.

Die Arbeitsgruppe steht allen an dieser Periode interessierten Personen offen, seien es professionelle Archäologen oder nicht.

Um den Rahmen und die Modalitäten dieser Arbeitsgruppe zu definieren und die Erwartungen der potentiellen Mitglieder zu sondieren, möchten wir eine erste Sitzung einberufen.

Für diese Sitzung können wir mehrere Daten zwischen Mitte März und Mitte April 2010 vorschlagen.

Interested? Get in touch with the M. Mauvilly at the SAEF (saef[at] or leave a comment and I’ll get back to you with further details.



EXPO¦ARCH¦DISS is a ‘travelling poster show’ of on-going PhD-research from archaeological PhD-students at Swiss universities or concerning ‘swiss’ topics. The exhibition will be shown at the yearly meetings of the associations of roman (ARS), classical (SAKA), prehistoric (AGUS) and medieval (SAM) archaeologists in Switzerland in 2010.

Our aim is to provide a platform of on-going PhD-projects in Switzerland or concerning Swiss topics and to bring PhD-students in touch with each other and with archaeologists in other institutes and companies.

The posters will contain a short summery of the research – questions and methods rather then results – and contact details. Besides, we hope to publish the posters on the www in the future.  Want to join? Drop us a line at expoarchdiss[at]

We are looking forward to include as many projects as possible and are curious about your research.

B. Finlayson @ Universität Zürich & R. Ebersbach @ Berner Zirkel für Ur- und Frühgeschichte

I’d like to point out and invite you to two more talks in December that might interest readers in Switzerland. First, Bill Finlayson (CBRL, Jordan and University of Reading, UK) will give a lecture at the University of Zürich. He’ll speak on recent work in Jordan. Renate Ebersbach (Archäologische Dienst, Kt. Bern, CH) will talk on survey work in the Berner Oberland (Alpine regions of Canton Berne, CH) at the Berner Zirkel für Ur- und Frühgeschichte.

Bill Finlayson worked in Scotland, a. o. on a number of Mesolithic sites, and for the past decade or so has been director of the CBRL in Amman, Jordan. He is active in various Neolithic projects in the Levant. For example, as co-director of the excavations at the PPNA site Wadi Faynan 16. He also excavated the PPNA site of Dhra’ with Ian Kuijt and is involved in the Water-Life-Civilisation Project.

Date and location: Wednesday dec. 9th 2009, 18:00, Universität Zürich Room K02-F-153.

The Archaeological Unit of Canton Bern, CH, has been quite active with survey work in the Alpine regions of the Canton. The finds of the Schnidejoch, for example, have received quite some media attention. There has been a new surge of research in the Alpine regions of the country. The University of Zürich, the Unit of Canton Fribourg, Canton Schwyz, the Unit of Canton Bern, for example, are all active in different regions, mainly staging survey projects. Renate Ebersbach has executed a survey project in the region of Meiringen. She will also show a short film.

Date and location: Thursday dec. 17th 2009, 18:30, main building Universität Bern.

So come along, if you’re around! It would be good to see you there.

E. Nielsen & Wauwillermoos @ Berner Zirkel für Ur- und Frühgeschichte

The Season starts again for the Berner Zirkel für Ur- und Frühgeschichte. And it starts well! Ebbe Nielsen (Cantonal Archaeological Unit Luzern, CH), who is undoubtedly one of the Doyen of the Swiss Palaeo-Meso-scene, will inform us on recent work in the Wauwiller Moos. This dried-up lake in central Switzerland is well known for its – partly waterlogged – Neolithic sites. The Egolzwil-sites will be the most famous.

However, also the Mesolithic (e.g. Schötz 7), the Late Upper Palaeolithic (or the ‘Spätpaläolithikum’, as it is also known in German; e.g. Wauwill Sandmat 16 & 25) and even the Magdalenian (e.g. near by at Kottwil) are represented. The region is one of the few Swiss regions of which the Mesolithic and Late Upper Palaeolithic archaeology is quite well studied and known. This is mainly due to many years of the work by Nielsen and a group of amateur archaeologists.

Interesting is also Nielsen’s corporation with archaeobotanists such as W. Tinner (University of Bern). One of the interesting aspects of this is that it ties in well with the current debate about the occurrence of archaeobotanical evidence for domesticated cereals in central Europe.

It promises to be an interesting evening, so pop-by if you’re around!

Thursday, 22-10-2009, 18:30, Hauptgebäude Universität Bern

Some Literature:

Behre, K. E., 2007, Evidence for Mesolithic agriculture in and around central Europe?, in Vegetation History and Archaebotany 16, pp. 203-219

Erny-Rodman, C., Gross-Klee, E., Haas, J., Jacomet, S. & Zoller, H., 1997, Früher `human impact´ und Ackerbau im Übergansbereich Spätmesolithikum-Frühneolithikum im schweizerischen Mittelland, in JbSGUF 80, pp. 27-56

Nielsen, E., 1992, Paläolithische und mesolithische Fundstellen im zentralschweizerischen Wauwilermoos, in Archäologisches Korrespondenzblat 22, pp. 27-40

Nielsen, E., 2003, Das spätmesolithikum und die Neolithisierung in der Schweiz, in Archäologische Informationen 26 (2), pp.275-297

Nielsen, E. H., 2006, Central Switzerland in the central European Mesolithic, in Kind, C. J. (eds.), After the Ice Age, Stuttgart, Konrad Theiss, pp. 87-94

Nielsen, E., 2009, Paläolithikum und Mesolithikum in der Zentralschweiz. Mensch und Umwelt zwischen 17000 und 5500 v.Chr., Archäologische Schriften Luzern 13, Luzern

Tinner, W., Nielsen, E. & Lotter, A. F., 2007, Mesolithic agriculture in Switzerland? A critical review of the evidence, in Quaternary Science Review, Vol. 26; 9-10, pp. 1416-1431

AG Mesolithikum, Luzern, CH, 2009

From April 3rd to 5th, the ‘AG Mesolithikum’ 2009 took place in Lucerne, Switzerland. The AG Mesolithikum is really a  group of mostly German Meso-researchers who meet once a year to informally exchange ideas and present their recent work. This year it travelled beyond its German homeland and the meeting was organised by Ebbe Nielsen, of the Kantonsarchäologie Luzern, Switzerland (Cantonal Archaeological Unit of Lucerne).

The Saturday was started with a short but enlightening introduction into the organisation and work of the Swiss Cantonal Archaeological Units, with special emphasis on Lucerne, by Head of Unit Jürg Manser. Willy Tinner followed by discussing the arguments for and against off-site palynological evidence for early cereal cultivation in the Alpine region. Although what he presented was not hugely different from the publication of Tinner etal 2007, it was interesting to hear Willy put forward the arguments in person and to be able to discuss them with him. He made clear that the evidence he put forward was not conclusive, but there is a large chance that Pre-Neolithic populations opened up the forest, especially around lakes and moors, and that around 6500 cal BC an increase in the presence of cerealia type pollen and adventives and apophytes can be observed in many cores. It also once again showed how fantastic the preservation of palynological evidence is in the (circum) alpine lakes.

Jehanne Affolter told us about her methodology for interpreting data on flint raw-material distribution in the circum alpine region. It was brought to the point how limiting the small number of known sites (esp. those well dated and with raw-material data) still is.

Claus-Joachim Kind and Dorothée Drucker presented fragments of 2 reindeer metatarsus from the Holocene site of Siebenlinden II, sth. Germany. Comparative isotope research indicates it would have lived in the same wooded and temperate environment as the roe deer and red deer from the site. D. Drucker next presented how isotope 13C & 15N research could possibly be used to reconstruct the Mesolithic human diet and environment. It seems to me, though, that the few known Mesolithic skeletons from Europe don’t allow for a sufficiently fine resolution yet.

Birgit Gehlen (Blätterhöhle, Hagen, GER), Michael Baales & Ingrid Koch (Kreuztal-Buschhütten & Netphen, GER) and Harald Lübke (waterlogged sites on Rügen, GER) presented new fieldwork in Germany. And Thomas Doppler presented the methodologies used on site by the University of Basel at Lutter, Abri St. Joseph (FR) and Arconciel/La Souche (CH) for recovering organic remains.

Erik Brinch Petersen, the only Danish participant, talked with great enthusiasm about – and showed us many photos of – beautiful decorated amber hangers known from the Danish Mesolithic. On Sunday Michel Mauvilly summarised the surveying work he and his colleagues in Ct. Fribourg (CH) have done. They already located a large number of find-spots in many of the (pre-) Alpine parts of the Canton (e.g. in the Petit Mont, Grand Mont and Oeschels valleys) and their distribution maps show clearly that blank spots on the map are largely the result of research biases. Their search for flint and other stone sources show interesting results as well, esp. when integrated with their survey and on-site work. This also suggests that the lack of knowledge we have of the prehistory of other Alpine regions is largely due to research biases; an observation that is supported by a number of other recent survey projects in Switzerland. But I’ll have to write some more about that in the future.

Thomas Richter (presenting fieldwork at Germering-Nebel (Bayern, GER) and Ebbe Nielsen finished off this part of the conference. Ebbe briefly introduced a site at the shores of the Soppensee (CH), where Late Palaeolithic and Early Mesolithic finds have been made. The Sunday then continued with a tour of the Soppensee and the Wauwilermoos near Lucerne, with its many famous Late Palaeolithic, Mesolithic (e.g. Schötz 7) and Neolithic (e.g. Egolzwil) sites.

Thanks to the organisers at the Kantonsarchäologie Luzern and the participants and especially to Ebbe Nielsen for a few pleasant days in Lucerne.

hazelnut_relations auf Deutsch

Man kann jetzt auch auf Deutsch über mich & meine Arbeit lesen auf der Website der Abteilung Ur- & Frühgeschichte der Universität Zürich. (Siehe Profil, Biographie & Forschung)

I am now also present – in German – on the website of the Abteilung Ur- & Frühgeschichte of the University of Zürich. (See Profil, Biographie & Forschung)