Category Archives: Paläolithikum

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


The «6. Interregionales Silex Symposium» – an interregional/-national early summer’s evening in Basel

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of taking part in the highly informal „6. Interregionale Silex Symposium” in Basel. The fabulous weather allowed for an early May bbq and beer gathering, followed by a stimulating evening of flinty-talk.

Acheulean Implements, Kent UK

Acheulean Implements, Kent UK

D. Schuhmann (Germany) started us off with some musings on the Yabrudien in Hummal other sites in Syria. H. Flück (Fricktal), really a Romanist, took a brave step standing up in front of a room full of hard-core prehistorians and introduced us to the fabulously beautiful knapping work of the Mayas. M. Bolliger (Fricktal) subsequently read out a highly informative alphabetic list of 1000 interesting rawmaterial sites in Europe. We will never again be lost for ideas on what to do when on holidays!

The break was spent with more interregional international beer (Efes, Kronenbourg and Bittburger; thanks to the little Turkish shop next door’s tendency to promote cosmopolitism) outside again and used for much valueless networking, the most useful kind.

Flint nodule

Flint nodule; ©Arco Ardon, Flickr

I (Limburg) had the honour to start the second block and gave the audience my take on Kohn & Mithens (Antiquity 1999) so called Sexy Handaxe Theory. D. Brönnimann (Baselländer) then proceeded to succinctly explain us the many things we can not learn from flint thin sections. Dr. R. Jagher (Basel) finished off the evening by giving us a slightly worrying insight into the biology and toxicology of the Tuber silexorum (Common Flint nodule) from a Baseller point of view. After which we just managed to get the last train home (although there are rumours that a few locked themselves in the building and stayed a bit longer.)

Thanks everyone for a good evening!

Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology in Switzerland – where we stand now
As usual, the 2010 Jahrbuch Archäologie Schweiz vol. 93 includes a list of newly discovered and excavated sites. It is no surprise that the number of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites discovered or investigated in 2009 is relatively low in comparison to the number of sites from most later prehistoric, roman and medieval periods. The figure below comes from Siegmund’s 2008 publication in the Jahrbuch der Archäologie Schweiz 2008, vol. 91.


Siegmund 2008 Abb. 9, p. 95. Do not be confused by the typos in the Roman and Medieval numbers: the correct ones are 1630 & 1288.

It clearly shows the chronological distribution of the newly recorded or excavated sites in Switzerland during the period 1987 – 2006. It is also noted by Siegmund, that especially concerning the Mesolithic, Germany and France show even worse records (although for the alpine areas this might not been true; see below). Also, about a third of the Mesolithic sites mentioned in the above table are recorded in only one Canton: Fribourg.

Below the numbers of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites, and as a comparison the Bronze Age sites, recorded in 2008 & 2009. It shows ten sites mentioned in 2008 of which five were new discoveries and nine sites mentioned in 2009 of which four were new discoveries, against seventeen and forty-three sites dating to the Bronze Age.

Continue reading

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