Climatic Changes: New Archaeological Evidence from the Bohemian Karst and Other Areas

By Bouzek, Jan | Antiquity, June 1993 | Go to article overview

Climatic Changes: New Archaeological Evidence from the Bohemian Karst and Other Areas


Bouzek, Jan, Antiquity


A review of the scattered evidence for climate change in Bohemia and its region shows the importance as well as the difficulty of plotting a better history. Newly identified phases, both dry and wet hint at other fluctuations as yet only guessed at.

The purpose of this contribution, the first version of which was presented to a colloquium organized by Halle University in 1988 (the planned publication in STRIAE (Uppsala) has never appeared), is to give some information about developments in the study of climatic development in Central Europe, as they relate to archaeology, within the framework of a more general programme conducted over the past 20 years with my friends K.-D. Jaeger and Vojen Lozek. Our first joint contribution to the UISPP congress at Nice in 1976 has never been published, but the next report (Bouzek 1982) appeared in Harding (1982). Unlike most other inspiring studies in this volume (for Central Europe cf. especially Beug 1982), which used 14C dating of deposits, we attempted a direct confrontation of the scientific evidence with prehistoric pottery from identical layers (Jaeger & Lozek 1978; Bouzek 1982). Another contribution dealing with reciprocal interrelations between climatic fluctuations and prehistoric agriculture was presented to another conference (Bouzek 1983), and a more recent paper in Czech suggested further research approaches in this field (Bouzek 1990).

Occupation of caves and settlements

Developing the first outlines of the main changes in the interaction between prehistoric man and the climate, our aim was to understand minor changes in climatic evolution and to date them more precisely.

One of the projects concerned the precise archaeological dates of individual layers at Tetin and Svaty Jan pod Skalou (Bohemian Karst), studied earlier by K.-D. Jaeger and V. Lozek (cf. especially Lozek 1960). In both cases, the sequence consists of alternating layers formed under terrestrial and subaquatic conditions. Examples of pottery from test excavations are shown in Bouzek 1990: figure 1.

The finds illustrated there and other fragments allow us to date the lower dry-period layers in both sites to HaB2 (and, probably, to the end of HaB1). The Middle Eneolithic fragments of the Rivnac culture were collected from Tetin, not from the damaged deposit itself, but in all probability from one of the former layers formed during a terrestrial episode on the site.

This picture has parallels among the traces of cave settlements from other parts of the Bohemian Karst (Sklenar & Matous ek 1992, cf. here FIGURES 1-4). The Late Bronze Age pottery from the caves mainly dates from HaA1 and HaB2, while there are some traces of Middle Eneolithic occupation and much of the Early and Middle Neolithic cultures. TABLE 1 gives the quantities of known caves with pottery finds in this area.

A survey of the prehistoric occupation of the Thuringian caves was published by Walter (1985). Neolithic finds of Linearbandkeramik are fairly common, those of Stichbandkeramik less so, and there are only modest traces of occupation during the Late Neolithic period. A parallel evolution can be traced in the Moravian and Slovakian Karst areas, as far as can be seen from the material published and from the test samples from the profile test diggings by V. Lozek, which he enabled me to study. In Slovakia, following rich Neolithic settlements (notably of the Buekk culture) there are traces of many caves being used in the Lausitz and Puchov cultures (cf. Bouzek 1990).

Of the Eneolithic cultures, the Middle Eneolithic is best represented (Rivnac in TABULAR DATA OMITTED Bohemia, later Baden in the east) and some Early Eneolithic has also been recorded; traces of Late Eneolithic occupation are fairly rare. Finds of the Early Bronze Age seem to be also missing except for the Late Unetice, Veterov and contemporary cultures (BrA2 late -- B 1). Even so, many of the caves with Late Unetice pottery seem more probably to have served for cult than settlement purposes. …

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