The depositional environments of Schöningen 13 II-4 and their archaeological implications



Publication Details

Stahlschmidt, M. C., Miller, C. E., Ligouis, B., Goldberg, P., Berna, F., Urban, B. & Conard, N. J. (2015). The depositional environments of Schöningen 13 II-4 and their archaeological implications. Journal of Human Evolution, 89 71-91.


Geoarchaeological research at the Middle Pleistocene site of Schöningen 13 II-4, often referred to as the Speerhorizont, has focused on describing and evaluating the depositional contexts of the well-known wooden spears, butchered horses, and stone tools. These finds were recovered from the transitional contact between a lacustrine marl and an overlying organic mud, originally thought to be a peat that accumulated in place under variable moisture conditions. The original excavators proposed that hominin activity, including hunting and butchery, occurred on a dry lake shore and was followed by a rapid sedimentation of organic deposits that embedded and preserved the artifacts. Our geoarchaeological analysis challenges this model. Here, we present evidence that the sediments of Schöningen 13 II-4 were deposited in a constantly submerged area of a paleolake. Although we cannot exclude the possibility that the artifacts were deposited during a short, extreme drying event, there are no sedimentary features indicative of surface exposure in the sediments. Accordingly, this paper explores three main alternative models of site formation: anthropogenic disposal of materials into the lake, a geological relocation of the artifacts, and hunting or caching on lake-ice. These models have different behavioral ramifications concerning hominin knowledge and exploitation of the landscape and their subsistence strategies.

Please refer to publisher version or contact your library.



Link to publisher version (DOI)