LATE PALAEOLITHIC, MESOLITHIC AND EARLY NEOLITHIC IN THE LOWER ALPINE REGION BETWEEN THE RIVERS ILLER AND LECH (SOUTH-WEST BAVARIA)
Birgit GehlenErschienen in: Thévenin, André (ed.) & Pierre Bintz (dir.) (1999) L'Europe des derniers chasseurs. L'Epipaléolithique et Mésolithique. Peuplement et paléoenvironnement de L'Èpipaléolithique et du Mésolithique. Actes du 5e Colloque international UISPP, 18-23 septembre en Grenoble 1995. Paris 1999, 489-497.
Résumé. - La région des Basses-Alpes entre l'Iller et le Lech est connue sous le nom d'Allgäu. Pendant le Pléistocène final et l'Holocène ancien, la région de l'Allgäu et liée au développement culturel des Alpes souabes et de la Haute-Souabe. À quelques exceptions près, les sites de l'âge de pierre en Allgäu on été d´couverts par des ramassages ou fouilles non scientifiques effectués par des amateurs. Il s'agit pour la plupart de sites de plein air, où la couche de sédiments est généralment peu épaisse. Ce facteur, combiné aux conditions dans lesquelles ont été faites les découvertes, est souvent responsable de la non-préservation, ou plutôt de la non-récupération de matériel organique, ce qui rend l'analyse archéologique principalement dépendante des objets lithiques eux-mêmes. Le seul site-abri connu à ce jour dans la région a été fouillé par l'Institut de pré- et protohistoire de l'Université de Cologne entre 1984 et 1988. Les sites épipaléolithiques et mésolithiques se trouvent à des altitudes approximatives comprises entre 720 et 920 m au-dessus du niveau de la mer et sont généralment situés dans les mêmes conditions topographiques, donc sur des collines ou des terrasses aux abords de ruisseaux, de rivères ou de lacs. Le paysage des Basse-Alpes a été prinicipalement formé par la dernière période glaciaire. Ce n'est qu'au cours du Bölling que les glaciers ont complètement disparu et qu'une lente reforestration s'est amorcée. Seules des découvertes isolées pourraient indiquer une occupation pendent le Magdalénien. Jusqu'a présent seulement quatre inventaires sont connus de l'epoque épipaléolithique. Situé à Weissensee près de Füssen, à environ 920 m au-dessus du niveau de la mer, l'abri "Unter den Seewänden" reste seul site à avoir fourni des dates radiocarbone qui indiquent une occupation pendent l'Alleröd. Les inventaires de 12 sites représentant le Mesolithique ancien, donc le Beuronien A ou B du Sud de l'Allmagne (la période du Préboreal et du Borél ancien). le Beuronien C (la période du Boréal moyen et final), compris ici comme la prèmiere phase du Mésolithique récent, est présent dans trois inventaires. Neuf inventaires peuvent ètre attribués au Mésolithique récent classique présentant des lames régulières une occupation et/ou des microlithes rectangulaires (la période du Boreal final jusqu'a l'Atlantique ancien). Il y a peu d'évidence pour une occupation de la région pendant le Néolithique ancien. Quelques découvertes isolées - des haches et peu de céramique - indiquent des relations avec le Néolithique ancien d'origine danubienne.
Abstract. - The Lower Alpine region between the rivers Iller and Lech is known as the Allgäu. During the Late Pleistocene and the Early Holocene the Allgäu is obviously connected with the cultural development in the Swabian Alps and in Upper Swabia. With few exceptions, the Stone Age finds in the Allgäu have come to light through collecting or non-scientific excavating by amateurs. Almost all the sites are open air sites, where there is usually very little sedimentation. This fact, and the find circumstances in general, are responsible for the non-survival - or rather non-recovery - of any organic material. Archaeological analyses are mostly dependent upon the sone artefacts themselves. The only hithero known abri site in the region was excavated by the Institute for Pre- and Protohistory of the University of Cologne between 1984 and 1988. The late palaeolithic and mesolithic sites lie at heights between 720 and 920 m above sea-level and are generally situated in similar locations on top of hills and on terraces close to rivers, streams and lakes. The landscape of the lower Alpine region was mainly formed during the Last Ice Age. Once the area had become free of ice, a slow reforestation began in the Bølling period. Only singular finds could point to a settlement during the Magdalenian. From the Terminal Palaeolithic, 4 assemblages are known today. Situated about 920 m above sea-level, only the abri "Unter den Seewänden" in Weissensee near Füssen is dated absolutely by the radiocarbon method as belonging to the Alleröd period. The Early Mesolithic, Beuronian A or Beuronian B phase of Southern Germany (Preboreal period and Early Boreal period), is represented by 12 sites. The Beuronian C phase (Middle to Late Boreal period), understood here as the early stage of the Late Mesolithic, could be identified in 3 assemblages. 9 inventories are dated to the classical late Mesolithic with regular blades and/or rectangular microliths (Late Boreal period to Early Atlantic period). There is small evidence for the presence of people during Early Neolithic Times. Some single finds of axes and few ceramics point to connections with the Early Neolithic of Danubian origin.
The lower Alpine region between the rivers Iller and Lech is known as the Allgäu. Its northern border lies north of a line marked by the cities of Memmingen and Landsberg am Lech (Fig. 1). The name Allgäu also defines a cultural area, which even today is characteristically south-west German-Swabian, although the greater part belongs administratively to Bavaria. The connection between this region and the cultural development of south-west Germany is even apparent in stone-age artefacts. The few known palaeolithic and mesolithic finds are very similar to the inventories in the Swabian Alps and in Upper Swabia.
With few exceptions, the stone-age finds in the Allgäu have come to light through collecting or non-scientific excavating by amateurs. Almost all the sites are open air sites, where there is usually very little sedimentation. This fact, and the find circumstances in general, are responsible for the non-survival - or rather non-recovery - of any organic material. For archaeological analyses we are mostly dependant upon the stone artefacts themselves. Three open-air sites were discovered by archaeologists during a programme of small test excavations.
Fig. 2: Pollen profiles and stone-age sites in the lower Alpine region of the Allgäu.
Pollen profiles: 1 Kleinwalsertal, Austria; 2 Ammergebirge, Bavaria; 3 Auerberg, Bavaria.
Late Palaeolithic sites: 1 Forggensee (Magdalenian?); 2 Hopferau-Pertlesbichl; 3 Bannwaldsee-Judenberg;
4 Feuerbichl; 5 Abri 'Unter den Seewänden'.
Early Mesolithic sites: 1-3 Hopferau-Scharrenmoos 1-3; 4 Bannwaldsee 2; 5 Bayerniederhofen 1;
6 Bayerniederhofen 2.
Late Mesolithic sites: 1 Memmingen-Trunkelsberg; 2 Bannwaldsee-Stadel; 3 Feuerbichl; 4 Forggensee 2;
5 Forggensee 3; 6 Forggensee 4; 7 Forggensee 5; 8 Forggensee 6;
9 Bannwaldsee-Judenberg; 10 Winterzach.
Early Neolithic sites: 1 Forggensee; 2 Dirlewang-Helchenried; 3 Rieden; 4 Buxheim-Egelsee;
5 Legau-Oberlandholz; 6, 7 Scheuring-Haltenberg; 8 Kaufering.
The only hitherto known abri site in the region was excavated by the Institute for Pre- and Protohistory of the University of Cologne between 1984 and 1988 (Gehlen 1988a; 1995). The late palaeolithic and mesolithic sites lie at heights between approximately 720 and 920 metres above sea-level and are generally situated in similar locatios on top of hills and on terraces close to rivers, streams and lakes. A map of all the sites (Fig. 2) shows, that the Alpine regions of the Allgäu have not been taken into consideration. This is the research area of Giuseppe Gulisano and we leave the description of the stone age sites in this region to him (Gulisano 1994; 1995). Other facts recognizable from the map are that: the best investigated area lies in the south east corner of the Allgäu and that there are huge regions which have not been researched until now (Gehlen 1988a; 1988b; 1995). Only the sites which can be dated by typological criteria or by 14C dates, are discussed below.
Late Palaeolithic and Early Mesolithic
The landscape of the lower Alpine region was mainly formed during the last Ice Age. There is only a small chance of recovering finds originating from earlier palaeolithic times. Botanical and faunal remains, however, illustrate that living conditions must have been favourable during the earlier interstadial and even stadial periods. After the area became free of ice a slow reforestation began in the Bølling period. This is proved by various pollen analyses from the Alpine region of the Kleinwalsertal in Austria (Fig. 2: Pollen Diagrams 1) (Dieffenbach-Fries 1981, 109-113) and the Ammergebirge in Bavaria (Fig. 2: Pollen Diagrams 2) (Bludau 1985, 152-168). A single double burin on a large blade, recovered on the northern shore of the late glacial Lech lake (Fig. 2: Late Palaeolithic Site 1 at 775 m; Fig. 3, 1), may point to a settlement of the Magdalenian culture. The Lech lake disappeared at the beginning of the holocene but was recreated in 1954 as an artficial lake called the Forggensee. There are four sites from the terminal Paleolithic known today. Three of them (Fig. 2: Late Palaeolithic Sites 2-4. Site 2: Hopferau-Pertlesbichl at 808 m; Fig. 3, 2-5; site 3: Bannwaldsee-Judenberg at 800 m; site 4: Feuerbichl at 802 m) can only be identified by the presence of backed points, backed bladlets und burins in the assemblages. Situated about 920 metres above sea level, the abri 'Unter den Seewänden' in Weißensee near Füssen (Fig. 2: Late Palaeolithic Site 5; Fig. 3, 6-8) is the only occupied site hitherto investigated completely by archaeologists.
Fig. 3: Paleolithic and early mesolithic artefacts. 1 burin from the Forggensee - Magdalenian? 2-5 backed bladelets, backed point and burin from Hopferau-Pertlesbichl - Late Paleolithic. 6-8 backed bladelets from the abri 'Unter den Seewänden' - Late Paleolithic. 9 elongated trapeze from Hopferau - Scharrenmoos 2 - Beuronian A. 10-12 base-retouched micropoints from Bannwaldsee 2 - Beuronian B. 13-15 base-retouched micropoint, triangle and lateral retouched micropoint from Bayerniederhofen - Beuronian B.
Two 14C dates (KN-3623: 11.600 ± 230 BP and KN-3624: 11.400 ± 230 BP), the little surviving pollen, and the botanical identification of the charcoal indicate an occupation of the rock shelter during the Allerød period. The inventory comprises some 500 stone artefacts. The tools (backed bladlets and end-scrapers) and the high proportion of refitted pieces point to a temporary camp for hunters for short durations. The mesolithic open-air sites are situated in similar positions to those of the Late Paleaolithic, but are more numerous. There are 12 early mesolithic sites (Praeboreal period and early Boreal period) known so far. The types of microliths occuring in the assemblages are discernible as belonging to the Beuronian Phase A or Phase B of south-west Germany (Taute 1975). Due to the circumstances of discovery, it is impossible for most of the assemblages to define chronological and functional units. Only a few can be assigned clearly to one of the early Beuronian phases. One is Beuronian A (Fig. 2: Early Mesolithic Site 1: Hopferau-Scharrenmoos 2 at 790 m; Fig. 3, 9), three are Beuronian B (Fig. 2: Early Mesolithic Sites 4-6. Site 4: Bannwaldsee 2 at 818 m; Fig. 3, 10-12; site 5: Bayerniederhofen 1 at about 820 m; Fig. 3, 13-15; site 6: Bayerniederhofen 2 at about 820 m). During the Late Palaeolithic and Mesolithic people used mainly local silices to make their tools. The pebble beds of the rivers, streams and moraines delivered a huge amount of colored Alpine radiolarite (red, green, grey, black) and grey to black Alpine chert of good knapping quality. Most of the material originates from these pebble resources. The artefacts made from Alpine chert often show a cream-colored patina. Very seldom were artefacts made from rock crystal, quarz or alpine quartzite. Some pieces, as is frequently the case in the larger inventories, were brought from the limestone hills of the Swabian Alps. This 'exotic' rawmaterial and a typological comparison of the stone artefacts indicates a close contact between the Allgäu and the Danubian people or the same identity of the settlers of both regions.
The Beuronian C phase (middle to late Boreal period) in southern Germany is understood here as the early stage of the Late Mesolithic. The most characteristic stone artefacts of this period are the often very tiny scalene triangles and small backed borers of the "mèche de foret" type. The Beuronian C phase is generally older than the "classic" Late Mesolithic with regular blades and rectangular microliths, but botanical analyses and 14C dates reveal a partial overlapping of the two facies (Oeschger & Taute 1980; Taute 1980). In some regions of south-western Germany the Beuronian C seems to be the only late mesolithic culture (for example Cziesla 1992, 273-287). Three assemblages from the Allgäu contain artefacts of the Beuronian C phase (Fig. 2: Late Mesolithic Sites 1-3. Site 1: Memmingen-Trunkelsberg at about 620 m; Site 2: Bannwaldsee-Stadel at 800 m; site 3: Feuerbichl at 802 m, Fig. 4, 1-7). The Late Mesolithic with regular blades and/or rectangular microliths (late Boreal period to early Atlantic period) is represented by 9 inventories. Most of the regular blades in these assemblages have primary facetted butts; dorsal reduction is very rare. A concentration of such sites seems to occur at the northern shore of the Forggensee, which is about 500 metres east of the early Holocene river Lech (Fig. 2: Late Mesolithic Sites 4-8. Site 4: Forggensee 2; Fig. 4, 8-15; Site 5: Forggensee 3; Site 6: Forggensee 4; Site 7: Forggensee 5; Site 8: Forggensee 6; Fig. 4, 16-19; all sites with altitudes between 775-780 m). Charcoal from a concentration found at the Forggensee 2 site was dated to 7.980 ± 80 BP (KN-3626) which indicates an early stage of the "classic" Late Mesolithic. The assemblages from the sites at Forggensee 2 and Forggensee 6 are characterized by the dominance of initial cores and core-preparation flakes made of red and green radiolarite and Alpine chert; regular blades and retouched tools are rare. An interpretation as "ateliers" where local silex was prepared is possible. The sites at Bannwaldsee-Stadel and Feuerbichl (Fig. 2: Late Mesolithic Sites 2 and 3; Fig. 4, 20-23) contain artefacts of the Beuronian C and the Late Mesolithic with trapezoid microliths and/or regular blades as well. As already mentioned above, it is not possible to determine whether these elements represent an archaeological unit or not. A more recent impression is given by the late mesolithic artefacts from Bannwaldsee-Judenberg (Fig. 2: Late Mesolithic Site 9 at 800 m; Fig. 4, 24-27), a site already occupied during the Late Palaeolithic and the Early Mesolithic. The large asymmetrical trapezes are reminiscent of the artefacts excavated at the Henauhof Nord II site by the Federsee in Upper Swabia (Kind 1992; Owen & Pawlik 1993). This site is dated to the end of the Mesolithic, contemporaneous with the earliest Neolithic. Another assemblage from the end of the Mesolithic was recovered from the site at Winterzach (Fig. 2: Late Mesolithic Site 10 at about 700 m, Fig. 4, 28-32). The blades seem to be somewhat more regular than the earlier ones and one of the asymmetrical trapezes shows retouche inverse plate (Fig. 4, 29). This manner of retouching is seen as characteristic of a younger phase during the late Mesolithic (Löhr 1994, 20-26) or Early neolithic (Taute 1973/74, 79-82; 90-91). Asymetrical trapezes with retouche inverse plate seem to be of western European origin (Löhr 1994, 20-21). The site of Winterzach is situated about 30 km north of the Alps and about 60 km south of the Swabian Alps. Together with artefacts made of colored radiolarite and Alpine chert, the inventory contains a large number of pieces made of jurassic chert originating from the Swabian Alps. The stone artefacts were collected from an small area of just a few metres in diameter. There was no indication of a neolithic settlement at the site.
Archaeologists never thought of the cool and wet lower Alpine region of the Allgäu with its poor soil as belonging to the classic early neolithic settlement area of the 'Danubian Cultures'. But there is evidence for the presence of people during early neolithic times.
Fig. 4: Late mesolithic artefacts. 1-7 base retouched micropoint, scalene triangles and mèche de foret from Feuerbichl - Beuronian C. 8-15 rectangular microliths and regular blades from Forggensee 2 - classical Late Mesolithic. 16-19 rectangular microliths and regular blades from Forggensee 6 - classical Late Mesolithic. 20-23 rectangular microliths and regular blades from Feuerbichl - classical Late Mesolithic. 24-27 asymetrical trapezes and regular blades from Bannwaldsee-Judenberg - Terminal Late Mesolithic. 28-32 triangle, asymmetrical trapeze with retouche inverse plate and regular blades from Winterzach - Terminal Late Mesolithic.
Only a few artefacts or assemblages can be clearly assigned to the Early Neolithic. Isolated finds of an adze from the north shore of the Forggensee (Fig. 2: Early Neolithic Site 1 at about 770 m; Fig. 5, 1), a shoe-last ax from Dirlewang-Helchenried (Fig. 2: Early Neolithic Site 2 at about 650 m; Fig. 5, 2) and one shaft-hole ax from Rieden (Fig. 2: Early Neolithic Site 3 at about 660 m) prove human presence during the 'Linearbandkeramik' or 'Stichbandkeramik/Rössen' periods. Such isolated objects are a very common phenomenon in the highlands on the periphery of early neolithic settlement areas and are considered to be indications of contacts between mesolithic and neolithic settlers. Five possible early neolithic settlement sites are known in the northern part of the Allgäu, already in or close to the loess regions. At Buxheim-Egelsee near the city of Memmingen, already located in the loess area south of the river Danube (Fig. 2: Early Neolithic Site 4 at about 620 m; Fig. 5, 3; 4), pits with pottery of the 'Stichbandkeramik' and 'Großgartacher Gruppe' types were excavated during the buildung of the Autobahn (Schröter 1974). A probably early neolithic assemblage of stone artefacts was recovered in Legau- Oberlandholz (Fig. 2: Early Neolithic Site 5 at about 700 m) and three locations with pottery of the 'Linearbandkeramik' and 'Stichbandkeramik' types were discovered close to the villages of Kaufering and Scheuring-Haltenberg north of the city of Landsberg am Lech (Gerhard & Gohlisch 1992) (Fig. 2: Early Neolithic Sites 6-8 at about 600-620 m; Fig. 5, 5-10).
Fig. 5: Early neolithic artefacts (scale 1:3): 1 Early neolithic adze from the Forggensee; 2 Early neolithic shoe-last ax from Dirlewang-Helchenried; 3 Pottery from Buxheim-Egelsee - 'Stichbandkeramik'; 4 Pottery from Buxheim-Egelsee - 'Großgartacher Gruppe'; 5-7 Pottery from Scheuring-Haltenberg - 'Linearbandkeramik'; 8-10 Pottery from Kaufering - 'Stichbandkeramik'.
Only 20 km north of the foothills of the Alps there is a uniquely situated mountain called Auerberg. Pollen analyses of several moors surrounding the mountain reveal domesticated cereals in the early Atlantic period (Fig. 2: Pollen Diagrams 3). The earliest date for domesticated cereals found near the Auerberg is 6.310 ± 65 BP (KI-2210.10, Willkomm 1988, 180). The southernmost loess soils of the Allgäu can be found only some 5 km northeast of this mountain (Küster 1988, 55-59). There must have been early farmers living within the traditional hunter-gatherer areas of the lower Alpine regions. From several pollen diagrams of the northwestern Alps (Dieffenbach-Fries 1981, 121-123; Bludau 1985, 231-233), the southern and western Alps and from individual finds in pollen diagrams for the eastern lower Alpine regions of Bavaria, domesticated cereals are reported from the early Atlantic and even from the late Boreal period (dates collected by Küster 1988, 102-113). The recent discovery of many mesolithic sites in the Alps between the river Rhine and the river Iller indicate the probability of passages between different alpine regions during the early Holocene (Gulisano 1994; 1995). Although it is evident, that the Allgäu belonged to the sphere of influence of the Early Danubian Neolithic, it seems possible that neolithic elements reached the northern foothills of the Alps - perhaps even earlier - from southern and southwestern directions.
I thank Werner Schön for the redaction of the manuscript, Beverley Hirschel for the correction of the English text and Norbert Bartz for the composition of the maps (fig. 1 and fig. 2) with the personal computer.
Bludau, W. 1985: Zur Paläoökologie des Ammergebirges im Spät- und Postglazial. Rheinfelden 1985.