A 14 000-Year-Old Amber Elk and the Origins of Northern European Art

By Veil, Stephan; Breest, Klaus et al. | Antiquity, September 2012 | Go to article overview

A 14 000-Year-Old Amber Elk and the Origins of Northern European Art


Veil, Stephan, Breest, Klaus, Grootes, Pieter, Nadeau, Marie-Josee, Huls, Matthias, Antiquity


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Introduction

The naturalistic animal art of steppe hunters in ice age Europe apparently came to an abrupt end during the climatic transition to the Postglacial. Only thousands of years later would woodland hunters once more produce schematic animal figurines in northern Europe (Terberger & Ansorge 2000). The amber figurine representing an elk cow, recently found in northern Germany, falls into this chronological gap. The Weitsche elk provides evidence for the continuity of naturalistic art during the climatic transition and represents a missing link to the geometric art of Postglacial woodland hunters in northern Europe (Clark 1975). It helps to correct the impression of an overall cultural break and a drastic impoverishment in artistic expression at the end of the last ice age (Leroi-Gourhan 1978; Kozlowski 1992). The Weitsche elk also helps to explain when and how Postglacial art in northern Europe evolved.

Discovery

Part of the amber figurine was first discovered in 1994 while prospecting at a site of the Federmesser culture, Late Glacial woodland hunters in the Elbe Valley, midway between Hamburg and Berlin, Germany (Veil & Breest 2001). Here, flint artefacts are scattered over more than 60ha around the village of Weitsche, which makes this site one of the largest known settlement areas of the earliest woodland culture in north-western Europe. Systematic sieving of the adjacent arable soil between 1994 and 1998 and in 2003 yielded several concentrations of flint artefacts, fragments of calcined bone and, in particular, 49 fragments of amber scattered over approximately 100[m.sup.2] within a total investigated area of 700[m.sup.2] (Figure 1). Many of these fragments fitted to the original piece of amber, and step by step the rump of an animal took shape. On 21 September 2004, the head of the figurine was found, proving without doubt that it represents an elk cow. A pendant and a fragment of bead complete this assemblage of amber objects. All the artefacts were discovered within the ploughsoil, which lay to a depth of 250mm. The Late Glacial surface was within this horizon: the amber artefacts did not come from a feature below the subsoil, like a pit or burial. A thin layer of fluvial loam had protected the amber against weathering.

Dating

Since the amber artefacts lay within a scatter of flint objects and calcined bone fragments, all three categories supposedly belong to the same occupation, which included a hearth and other activities (Veil & Breest 2001). The stone tools, numbering nearly 200, are typical for the Federmesser culture (Figure 2) and date the site to the woodland phase at the end of the last ice age (Greenland-Interstadial 1a-e: Bolling-Allerod) (Street et al. 1994). Despite systematic sieving, no artefacts from younger periods were found. Raw amber occurs in the local quaternary sediments (Alexander 2002).

Fragments of calcined bone, among them the vertebra of a beaver--a typical species of the Late Glacial woodland phase (Staesche pets. comm.)--were used in the AMS radiocarbon dating of the assemblage. Although the calcined bones no longer contained organic carbon, a small fraction of carbonate (0.5-1.0%), dating from the time of calcination, was protected against exchange by hydroxyapatite recrystallised during calcination, making it suitable for radiocarbon dating (Lanting & Brindley 1998; Lanting et al. 2001; de Mulder et al. 2004; Van Strydonck et al. 2005). The reliability and reproducibility of the dating of cremated/calcined bone, in the Leibniz Laboratory of the Christian-Albrechts-Universitat zu Kiel, were verified as part of the Fifth International Radiocarbon Intercomparison (VIRI) (Naysmith et al. 2007). Infrared analysis was used to confirm the crystallographic changes characteristic of calcined bones in the fragments to be dated (Huls et al. 2010). Two bone fragments of different size were dated: KIA 26439 yielded 0. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A 14 000-Year-Old Amber Elk and the Origins of Northern European Art
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.