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2010-12-07 17:03:56   •   ID: 1010

Bromme Point and the Large Tanged Complex of N-Europe

Figure 1
This is a Bromme Point from the Type Site. Analysis of these projectile points indicates that they comprised an excellent and efficient hunting weapon when used as spear heads. They were too heavy weighted for being arrow points.

We have evidence of four major Late Paleolithic complexes in southern Scan­dinavia and North European plain: Hamburgian, Federmesser, Brommean and Ahrensburgian although these "entities" are heavily biased and may not reflect distinct complexes beyond an unified tanged-point horizon, as recently mentioned by Riede.

The oldest taxonomic unit of the tanged point complex during the last Glacial in N/E Europe is the Brommean, which is known from a narrow zone following the young moraine area around the Baltic Ice Lake, from Denmark, northern Germany, northern Poland up to Lithuania and Belarus.

Figure 2
Some isolated sites are also known from Central Poland.  Brommean hunter-gatherers may have also been present along the southern coast of Baltic Ice Lake, which is now covered by Baltic Sea. According to multiple lines of evidence, the Brommean Culture is dated to the 2nd half of Allerød and the beginning of Dryas III period

The Brommean is characterized by a comparatively simple technology. Large cores exhibit a conical or sub-cylindrical shape and  usually one striking platform only. Blades and flakes were detached by direct hard hammer percussion, as shown by presence of the distinct bulbs and thick butts of blades and flakes. In general, the homogenous Brommean assemblages have very simple tool-kits. They consist of large tanged points, up to 12 cm long, simple end scrapers and burins. 

In the southern zone of Brommean territory, this ensembles are frequently associated with curved backed points (Azilian points or Federmessser) and scrapers with lateral retouches.

Brommean sites in Scandinavia are not numerous: 75 settlement sites and 240 single finds were reported by Eriksen, 1999. The number of Brommean sites in Germany, Poland and Lithuania are even smaller. Brommean assemblages in Poland are known from Rydno, a famous Late Palaeolithic ochre mining complex.  

Rydno Brommean assemblages are located ca 800 km from Denmark and, according to Schild (1984), this could  be explained as resulting from long distance movements to search of ochre. Anyhow, this assumption cannot be proved because in N-Germany and Denmark, up to no traces of Rydno ochre usage have been found.

Bromme points are quite big compared with Ahrensburgian or Swiderian points and they are frequently seen as spear points. The general feature of tanged point  evolution over the North European Plain is the decreasing size of projectiles  in both the western (Brommean followed by Ahrensburgian) and eastern parts of the region (Brommean followed by Swiderian) over time. In the Preboreal period, tanged points lost their importance and were generally replaced by microliths as composite arrow head inserts.

The relationship between the Hamburgian and the Southern Scandinavian Bromine culture is unclear. A find from Lovenholm in eastern Jutland, if really in primary context, may indicate of a transitional phase, with a combination of Havelte-type tanged arrowheads and Bromme points.

There is some  evidence that the large eruption of the Laacher See-volcano, located in western Germany and dated to 12,9 k.a BP, had a dramatic impact on hunter-gatherer demography all along the northern periphery of late Paleolithic  societies.

In Southern Scandinavia and Northern Germany we observe a simplification of the material culture with a the loss of bow-and-arrow technology, and the  emergence of the Bromme technocomplex. Most of the known Bromme settlements are in well-drained sandy soil and lack organic remains. Faunal remains from the eponymous Bromme site include reindeer, wolverine, beaver, swan, and pike but elk seems to have been more important than reindeer.

The Bromme culture flourished at the end of Allerod and the beginning of the Younger Dryas. Two alternative chronologies have been proposed for the Brommian: a long chronology where the late Hamburgian (Havelte Phase) switched to a tanged point industry and a short chrology, where the Bromme culture was related to the late Federmesser groups.  

The relationship between the Hamburgian and the Southern Scandinavian Bromine culture is unclear. A find from Lovenholm in eastern Jutland, if really in primary context, may indicate of a transitional phase, with a combination of Havelte-type tanged arrowheads and Bromme points.

At several sites in Northern Germany there are assemblages combining points of the Federmesser and Bromme complexes. The chronological and cultural significance of this grouping is still hard to determine, since the temporal homogeneity of most of these assemblages is rather uncertain.

An interesting hypothesis has recently put forward by Riede et al.: Around 12,920 years BP, the Laacher See volcano, located in present-day western Germany, erupted catastrophically. With a calculated magnitude of ~ 5.8, the Laacher See eruption was one of the largest volcanic events of the Late Pleistocene in the Northern Hemisphere.

In the course of the eruption, near-vent ejecta devastated some 1,400 km2 of land and  a total estimated area of more than 225,000 km2 was affected by tephra falling out of a Plinian eruption column that may have reached a height of 40 km. 

It is interesting to see that the the time of the Laacher See eruption marks the important transition from northwestern Federmesser to Bromme culture in southern Scandinavia and from northeastern Federmesser to Perstunian (a Brommean equivalent) in the sub-Baltic region.

Riede has argued that the Mega eruption of the Lacher See vulcan had multicausal consequences for the demography of the late Allerød leading to  a sudden drop in demic connectedness, disruption of traditional exchange and communication networks which in turn led to a disappearance of more complex skills such as the arrow and bow technology.