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2017-05-12 08:38:10   •   ID: 1599

Salzgitter-Lebenstedt: an important Middle Paleolithic site in N-Germany

Figure 1
This is the first page from a publication about the Salzgitter-Lebenstedt Middle Paleolithic site published by A. Tode in 1983.

Salzgitter-Lebenstedt is an open air site of the North European Plain, situated 50 km southeast of Hannover in Germany. The site was systematically excavated by A. Tode in 1952 under difficult conditions in postwar Germany.

By the way A. Tode seems to be one of those rare German Archaeologists that was not contaminated with nationalistic and racialist NS-ideology during the "Third Reich", although he originally came from Kiel, infamous for the many National-socialists among Professor Schwantes scholars (Jankuhn, Paulsen..)..

A KMG / Eastern Micoquian Site: The site was re-opened for additional excavations in 1977 by Grote et al. and seems to be securely dated to an Interstadial, either during the Early Weichselian (Brörup Interstadial [100 000 BP], or more probably during the OIS3 (Oerel Interstadial [58 k.a–55 k.a BP] or Glinde Interstadial [51–48 k.a BP]). The site was now recognized as a Micoquian / KMG site in a typical Geological position.

Similar ensembles (Handaxes, Keilmesser, Faustkeilbätter, Blattschaber) were later detected at Lichtenberg (Lower Saxonia; about 80 km from Salzgitter) and Löbnitz (Saxony) in a similar geochronical position. It is probable that the ensembles from the "Knochenkiese" of the Emscher and Ruhr valley, also dating to OIS3, belong to the same technocomplex.

An important new KMG-site is Pouch/„Terrassenpfeiler“ , situated in the former brown coal quarry Tagebau Goitzsche – Baufeld Rösa- Sausedlitz, east of Bitterfeld (Saxony-Anhalt).

The first results about the Salzgitter excavation were soon published by Tode in a scientific / interdisciplinary context (1952) and in a more popular form (1953). They were unique at their time regarding the preservation of organic artifacts and contextual data of a Middle Paleolithic site in Middle/West Europe.

Tode early noted that the lithic inventory had affinities to the Micoquian, combined with a typical Levallois technique. Later excavations, which also revealed typical “Keilmesser”, confirmed this assumption.

Site history: During the careful 1952 excavation, a complex embedding process of the artifacts and animal carcasses was observed. Some deposits were undisturbed, but others were reworked by cryoturbation. It is still unclear whether the finds were embedded during a single or at least two depositional phases.

Palynological analysis: The early results indicated tundra-like vegetation, which was later confirmed by   R. Schüttrumpf in 1991.

Geological Dating: In Tode’s early report, an early Weichselian date was suggested. This assumption was later challenged by introducing Archaeological arguments. The site was reinterpreted as “Acheulean” and therefore should date to the OIS 6. In Addition the Levallois operational sequence was was suggested to be characteristic for an Acheulian but should be absent in Micoquian ensembles- a nice example of circular reasoning!

Anyhow renewed excavations and the results of C-14 dating confirmed a Weichselian age.

Bone tools: Some modified bone tools have been described already 1952 and in more detail in 1982 as a part of an excellent monograph by Tode. Today, the bone tool assemblage consists of 23 intentionally modified bones (pointed elephant ribs and fibulae), a modified antler and a triangular bone point (Gaudzinski 1999). It was not before Gaudzinski`s publication, that this fact was internationally recognized.

The renewed analysis of the faunal remains by Gaudzinski finally showed that Neanderthals were logistically organized hunters that exploited reindeer in exactly the same manner as the Ahrensburgians who recolonized Northern Germany about 40,000 years later.

If Tode`s results would have been published in English and at the “right” moment; they would have caused a sensation in the Prehistoric community. But they were widely ignored. Beside linguistic problems and the fact, that the German Prehistoric Archeology was internationally compromised after WW II, the data did not fit into the paradigm that Neanderthals were only intellectual challenged Scavengers.