Projects and Excavations

Projekte 2019

Current research in Eurasia at the Division of Anthropological Archaeology, Kiel. Green: taiga.

 

Defending the Taiga - Stone Age hunter-gatherer fortifications in Siberia

 

Defending the Taiga - The phenomenon of fortified Stone Age hunter-gatherer settlements in Western Siberia

When do hunter-gatherers build fortifications? What are the reasons for the construction of complex enclosed settlements, and what role do they play in the negotiation and appropriation of space? These questions touch on a central but underexplored field in current anthropological debates on peace, war and the human nature. The emergence of fortified sites among Stone Age hunter-gatherers in the Western Siberian taiga in the 7th-6th millennium BC is an outstanding and unique phenomenon in world prehistory. Although representing one of the earliest instances of communities enclosing and fortifying their settlements worldwide, the phenomenon has not been recognized beyond regional Russian archaeology and remains virtually unknown in the wider scientific community.

Amnya 1, 2019

Stone Age house pit and contemporary Khanty bird trap on Amnya 1 promontory fort, Western Siberia, summer 2019 (photo: H. Piezonka).

The early enclosed sites in the taiga coincided with a range of other innovations that bear witness to substantial sociocultural and economic changes, among them the appearance of pottery vessels, the foundation of sacrificial mounds, and a decrease in residential mobility reflected by the rise of pit houses. It is unclear, however, what led to such complex hunter-gatherer life ways with new enclosed complex settlement types. Did intergroup conflicts develop that were severe and foreseeable enough to necessitate the construction of defences? Did ritual or communal drivers lead to new forms of appropriating space and landscape? Which internal social and cultural mechanisms, external influences and environmental factors have been at play in these processes? Further peaks of fortification construction in the Siberian taiga occur in the Iron Age and in early modern times. Ethnohistorical and historic archaeological evidence in Western Siberia indicates that such defences were protecting hunter-fisher communities from raids of other foraging groupsand of herding nomads, both from the steppe, taiga and the tundra. The evidence also shows that complex agglomerated and partly subterranean settlements in the north can, besides a defensive function, also be connected to the climatic conditions in the Siberian winters. Investigations of the phenomenon of the Stone Age Siberian complex enclosed settlements have the potential to open up a new facet in hunter-gatherer archaeology and to enhance the understanding of the rise and effects of intergroup conflict in acephalous, heterarchical societies.

Kayukovo, helikopter

Helikopter transport to Kayukovo, Western Siberia, summer 2018 (photo: S. Lips).

Kayukovo, geophysics

Kiel students conducting geomagnetic survey of 7000 year old house pit, Kayukovo, Western Siberia, summer 2018 (photo: S. Lips).

Since 2016, Russian and German scholars from various scientific institutions collaborate in the investigation of this phenomenon in Western Siberia. New targeted fieldwork is devoted to the study of early Holocene settlement systems and defensive constructions, employing an integrated multi-proxy approach including survey, small-scale excavation and radiocarbon dating as well as geoscientific, zooarchaeological and archaeobotanical studies. In 2016 to 2019, pilot studies have been carried out on the sites of Mergen 6 in the Ishim forest steppe, on Kayukovo 2 in the middle Ob’ region, and on the promontory fort of Amnya 1 in the northern taiga. First results of this ongoing research already now provide new information on structure, function and chronology of the sites and on their environmental and cultural setting. On this basis external influences, internal social and cultural mechanisms, and environmental factors at play are investigated. The results will lead to a better understanding of the character of the sites and of their position within the cultural landscape and the intergroup dynamics of this period in the forest steppe and taiga zone. The pilot studies have been partly been supported by the Kiel Cluster of Excellence “ROOTS - Social, Environmental, and Cultural Connectivity in Past Societies”.

Mergen drilling

Russian cooperation partners extracting core for pollen analysis at Lake Mergen close to Mergen 6 Stone Age settlement, spring 2019 (photo: TSC, SB RAN).

Project Team:

 

Collaboration partners:

 

 

Mesolithic cemetery Groß Fredenwalde, Germany

New research at the oldest burial place in Northern Germany

The vineyard near Groß Fredenwalde is not only an important landmark in the Uckermark region, but also the site of an archaeological sensation: 8,500 years ago, in the Middle Stone Age people created a burial ground on the hill. The Universities of Göttingen and Kiel and the Berlin University of Applied Sciences are researching the site together with the Brandenburg State Archaeology Department. The German Research Foundation (DFG) is supporting the two-year research project, in which the Kiel University is involved through its co-applicant Prof. Dr. Henny Piezonka. The first graves were discovered as early as 1962 during construction work on the hill, but the great importance of the site only became clear during post-excavations a few years ago. A team led by Prof. Dr. Thomas Terberger from the Department of Prehistory and Early History at the University of Göttingen discovered, among other things, the grave of a young man who found his last resting place in an upright position and was interred with grave goods such as bone tips and flint knives. The researchers also found the grave of an infant who had been dignifiedly buried with red ochre - to date the oldest grave on the mountain. "Up to now, only a few individual graves or small groups of graves of mobile hunters and gatherers were known from the Mesolithic," says Terberger. "The burial site in Groß Fredenwalde was obviously deliberately created by a community and used for centuries."

The skeletal remains at the burial site are so well preserved that they can be examined with scientific methods. The majority of the burials belong to the period around 6,000 BC; one dates to around 5,000 BC, when the first farmers of Linear Pottery had already colonized the Uckermark. The cemetery therefore offers the opportunity to study the last hunter-gatherers before and after the beginning of the "Neolithic Revolution" in Northern Germany and to look at environmental changes by means of pollen analyses carried out by the Department of Environmental Archaeology and Archaeobotany at the Kiel University. Whether mixing between indigenous people and the first farmers already occurred during this period is to be clarified by genetic analyses with the support of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Mankind in Jena.

In summer 2019, the first field research took place as part of the DFG project. In spring, the project partners of the HTW Berlin performed a block excavation of a burial whose analysis under laboratory conditions is currently underway. During further excavations in August and September 2019 with the participation of students from the Universities of Kiel and Göttingen within the framework of a teaching excavation, two more inhumation graves could be located. In autumn 2019, first lake drillings were carried out to obtain sediment cores for studies on vegetation and landscape development. Here, specialists from the University of Greifswald (Dr. Sebastian Lorenz) and archaeobotanists from the Kiel University (Dr. Magdalena Wieckowska-Lüth) work hand in hand.

Funding: German Research Foundation (funding period: 2019-2021)

Team Kiel: Prof. Dr. Henny Piezonka (Project Management, Archaeology) Dr. Magdalena Wieckowska-Lüth (Palynology) Project partners: Prof. Dr. Thomas Terberger, Göttingen University (Project Management) Prof. Dr. Franz Schopper, BLDAM (Project Management) Prof. Dr. Thomas Schenk, HTW Berlin (Project Management)

 

Nomads of the Taiga - Migration and Identity in Siberian mobile communities

Ethnoarchaeological research among the Selkups, a mobile hunter-fisher community in Siberia

The Taz-Selkups live in northern West Siberia between the rivers Ob' and Yenisey. They are one of the last indigenous groups that have preserved their traditional way of life as nomadic hunter-fishermen and reindeer herders in the taiga until today. The project offers the unique opportunity to conduct ethnoarchaeological research among wildlife hunters in the forest zone. A particularly interesting constellation results from the fact that the Selkups did only migrate northwards to the Taz river in the 17th century, while the majority of the group remained in the ancestral territories in the south in the Tomsk Oblast. Using a combination of archaeological, ethnological, linguistic and natural science methods, stages and facets of the adaptation processes triggered by such a migration can be investigated from different perspectives.

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Taz region, Western Siberia. Abandoned dwelling of a Selkup family in the taiga near the Pokalky tributary, summer 2016 (photo: H. Piezonka).

In the summers of 2017 and 2018 the surveys at the Taz and its tributary Pokalky were continued. For several archaeological sites with pit houses, but also for recent summer and winter dwellings of Selkupian families, 3D terrain models and photogrammetric plans could be produced. In the presence of a former inhabitant a winter house from 1982 was archaeologically examined. In conversation with the still mobile living hunter, fisherman and reindeer keeper, a lot of information about the building process, the ground plan and the use of the space as well as the way of life and economy of the inhabitants could be collected. This information complements the archaeologically visible information and provides valuable evidence for the different life-world backgrounds of the development of patterns of material culture.

Fischer Taz

Taz region, Western Siberia. Selkup fisher in his log boat checking the nets, summer 2017 (photo: C. Engel).

 

Team

Prof. Dr. Henny Piezonka; Prof. Dr. Wiebke Kirleis

Cooperation Partners
Funding

Gerda Henkel Foundation (Funding period: 2017-2019)

 

Stone Age settlement Veksa, Northwest Russia

8000 years of cultural development in the northeast European forest zone

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Veksa, Russia. Measuring of Stone Age wooden piles on the bank of the Vologda river at low tide in autumn 2011 (Photo: H. Piezonka).

With its unique stratigraphy and excellent preservation conditions, the Veksa site in northwest Russia represents an important reference site for the prehistory of the northeast European forest zone. The up to three meters thick layer package offers ideal conditions for the interlocking of cultural and environmental development since the 6th millennium BC. An outstanding finding are pile-dwelling-type structures from the 4th/3rd millennium BC. The aim of the new field research, which was started in 2015 together with the State Museum Vologda, is to obtain information on aspects of supra-regional importance such as the spread of technological innovations (early ceramics, bronze and iron metallurgy), the periphery of large cultural complexes like Corded Ware and the so far unresolved question of the beginning and end of the transition to a producing economy. First results of the Environmental Archaeology Department in Kiel indicate that agriculture in this region may have been introduced as late as during the Middle Ages. Among the special results of the new excavations is the discovery of numerous very well preserved wooden fish traps and fish fence remains from the 3rd millennium BC, which underline the increasing importance of aquatic resources towards the end of the Stone Age.

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Veksa, Russia. Wooden fish trap on the banks of the Vologda, excavation campaign 2016 (Illustration: Chr. Engel).

 

Funding: German Research Foundation (funding period: 2015-2018)

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Team Kiel

Prof. Dr. Henny Piezonka; Prof. Dr. Wiebke Kirleis; Christoph Engel M.A.

Cooperation Partners

 

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Veksa, Russia. Hunter-gatherer ceramics of the 5th to 3rd millennium BC (Illustration: H. Piezonka).

 

Between China and the Urals: On the tracks of the oldest forager pottery

The emergence of early ceramic traditions in Transbaikalia and Mongolia from the 12th millennium BC

Around 18,000 BC, when large areas of the northern hemisphere were still covered by miles of glacial ice, East Asian hunters and gatherers were already producing ceramic vessels. In the Old World, therefore, the development and use of the first earthenware was by no means linked to the transition to a producing economy. Currently, the question is being discussed whether the ceramic innovation among Eurasian hunter-gatherers spread continuously from the oldest core areas in the Far East towards the West and as far as Europe, or whether an independent invention of earthenware vessels has repeatedly occurred in this huge area. Transbaikalia and Mongolia are of central importance to this question. However, it is precisely here that a modern archaeological data basis was lacking until now, and the legacies of the early post-glacial period (approx. 12th to 7th millennium BC) are largely unexplored.

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Togootyn gol, Eastern Mongolia. On the river terrace sondages were made to record the stratigraphic sequence (Photo: S. Lorenz).

The German-Russian-Mongolian cooperation project aims to develop a reliable database on the Early Ceramic period in Transbaikalia and Mongolia. In summer 2014, field research was carried out at seven promising sites. Even before the completion of all analyses and evaluations, we now can better outline the Early Ceramic Epoch in Inner Asia. First data from the Russian site Krasnaja Gorka at the Eravnoe Lake District indicate a Late Pleistocene age of the early pottery. This would be the first evidence of this oldest ceramic horizon in the Middle Transbaikalia. Also in Kibalino on the Selenga river, remains of simple, poorly fired vessels were found in a loess layer, probably dating from the end of the Ice Age or from the early post-glacial period. At the Mongolian sites a somewhat younger phase of pottery use was recorded, which is characterized by a cord impression decorated ware. The new data open up the possibility to better chronologically and culturally classify this early pottery type, which is poorly researched but widespread in space and time.

 

Funding: Gerda Henkel Foundation (funding period: 2014-2015)

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Cooperation Partners::

 

INDUCE - The Innovation, Dispersal and Use of Ceramics in NE Europe

 

The origins, adoption and use of pottery vessels are among archaeology’s most compelling issues. Pottery vessels are no longer viewed in western archaeology as a material correlate of sedentary farming life in the Neolithic. Despite recognition of pottery vessels in hunter‐gatherer contexts in some parts of northern Europe and the former Soviet Union, their impact on, and role in, hunter-gatherer lifeways has been regarded as peripheral to mainstream European prehistory. The project seeks to rebalance the evidence and the debate, placing the innovation, dispersal and use of pottery vessels among hunter‐gatherers in NE Europe at the heart of the enquiry. Virtually nothing is known of the choices underlying the adoption of pottery vessels or the uses to which they were put. Similarly, there is little understanding of the environmental contexts that led to the emergence of pottery or the timing and dynamics of its apparent westward dispersal across NE Europe, nor its legacy following the introduction of food production. INDUCE will tackle these important challenges with an integrated approach to reconstructing the contextual life histories of over 2000 pottery vessels, enhancing chronological control of early pottery horizons through 600 14C dates, investigating the typology of several thousand vessels from across the study region, creating spatio‐temporal models for the spread of different pottery traditions and documenting the impact of the introduction of farming on the use of vessels for resource utilisation. This new understanding of pottery manufacture, dispersal and use across NE Europe will inspire a fundamental re‐evaluation of later hunter‐gatherer prehistory and culminate in an alternative narrative for the ‘Neolithisation’ of Europe.

Further Information:

INDUCE

Early Pottery GRoup

Förderung: European Research Council (ERC Advanced Grant, PI: C. Heron) (Förderzeitraum: 2016-2021)

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Mitarbeiterin:

 

Kooperationspartner:

 

Abandoned cities in the steppe

Since 2019, a Mongolian-German research project in the "Lost Cities" program of the Gerda Henkel Foundation is investigating the roles and perceptions of early modern religious and military centres in nomadic Mongolia

The migration of people from the countryside to larger centres, but also the violent destruction of settlements and cities are phenomena that have marked world history for many thousands of years. At the same time, shrinking and completely deserted cities, so-called Lost Cities, are emerging, forgotten places in rural regions whose original meaning may have different effects. Such abandoned urban places can also be found in Mongolia, which is characterized by a nomadic way of life. As former centres of sedentary life, they still make an important contribution to the country's cultural identity, which deserves to be understood more precisely. It is the handed-down pastoral nomadism, the reception of Chinese and Tibeto-Buddhist influences, and the founding of the state as a People's Republic barely one hundred years ago that determine this field in cultural memory.

A new ethnoarchaeological research project at the Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel (CAU) aims to investigate this area of conflict. The project "Deserted Cities in the Steppes: Role and Perception of Religious and Military Centres in Nomadic Mongolia" contrasts Buddhist monastic settlements with presumed military camps of Manchurian occupiers during the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911). It aims to gain new insights into various facets of urban life in early modern Mongolia and to examine how they shape cultural memory over several generations up to the present. Currently, about 30 percent of the Mongolian population are living as nomads. This mobile way of life is just as much an essential part of their cultural identity as the reference to the rise of the Mongolian empire under the leadership of the Great Khans - above all Genghis Khan - in the 13th and 14th centuries. Less is known about the following centuries, however, when Mongolia was under the dominance of the Chinese Ming Dynasty and later the Manchurian Qing Dynasty.

The focus of the new research project is to extend the knowledge about this period and to investigate its continued effects up to the present. For this purpose, ethnographic research, archaeological fieldwork and remote sensing methods are combined in an interdisciplinary approach. In order to investigate how history is still reflected in the consciousness of the local population, interviews with the local people are conducted and evaluated. First interdisciplinary fieldwork in September 2019 has already provided new insights into the dating of the presumed military complexes, the building structures of monastic sites and the perception and interpretation of the facilities by the local nomadic population.

The research is funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation as part of the sponsorship focus "Lost Cities - Perception of and living with abandoned cities in the cultures of the world" since 2019. Particularly noteworthy is the funding of three young scholars through research and doctoral scholarships (Enkhtuul Chadraabal, Archaeology and Building Research; Jonathan Ethier, Archaeology; Dr. Christian Ressel, Mongolian Studies) within the project. Project partners are the Mongolian Academy of Sciences (Prof. Dr. Chuluun Sampildonov), the Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel (Prof. Dr. Henny Piezonka), the Dresden University of Applied Sciences (Prof. Dr. Martin Oczipka) and Dr. Birte Ahrens (Bonn). There is also intensive cooperation with the German Archaeological Institute (Dr. Christina Franken).

 

Funding: Gerda Henkel Foundation (funding period: 2019-2021)

 

 
Team Kiel

 

Enkhtuul Chadraabal, Archaeology and Building Research

Jonathan Ethier, Archaeology

Dr. Christian Ressel, Mongolian Studies

 

 

Project and ooperation Partners:

 

Prof. Dr. Martin Oczipka, University of Applied Sciences Dresden (Project Manager, Remote Sensing)

Prof. Dr. Sampildonov Chulunn, Mongolian Academy of Siences (History)

Dr. Birte Ahrens, Bonn (Project Manager, Archaeology)

Prof. Dr. Wiebke Kirleis, Environmental Archaeology and Archaeobotany, Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel

Prof. Dr. Cheryl Makarewicz, Archaeozoology and Isotope Research, Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel

Dr. Christina Franken, KAAK, German Archaeological Institute

 

 

Cluster of Excellence ROOTS

Social, Environmental, and Cultural Connectivity in Past Societies

As one of the PIs of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS and as Deputy Speaker of the Subcluster "ROOTS of Social Inequality", Henny Piezonka and her team of the Division of Anthropological Archaeology are contributing in various fields to the multidisciplinary research cluster. The Division of Anthropological Archaeology is involved with research projects in the Sub-Clusters ROOTS of Social Inequalities, Dietary ROOTS, and Urban ROOTS.

In the Subcluster "ROOTS of Social Inequality", the Division's contribution encompasses research on early hunter-gatherer fortifications (project Defending the Taiga), on markers of social inequalities of hunter-gatherer settlements in Western Siberia (PhD project Tanja Schreiber) and on burial mounds as a quantificatin proxy for social inequality (project "Atlantic to Altai Burial Mounds"). In the Subcluster "Urban ROOTS", the project "Abandoned Cities of the Steppe" is adding a nomadic perspective on urbanism to the research agenda. In "Dietary ROOTS", hunter-gatherer and pastoralist lifeways are taking into view, for example in "Morgan Windle's PhD project" on Human-reindeer systems in the Siberian taiga.

 

CRC 1266 "Scales of Transformation - Human-Environmental Interaction in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies"

Social, Environmental, and Cultural Connectivity in Past Societies