Research projects in which staff and students of the chair Bioarchaeology are participating.
Buhlen is a Late Pleistocene site in the Eder valley near Kassel (Germany). This site yielded many lithic artefacts and is rich in faunal remains. Bones of large mammals include cave bear, woolly mammoth, rhinoceros, giant dear, and saiga antelope. Small mammal bones are also present (e.g. marmot, ground squirrel, steppe lemming, Arvicolinae, hare, and hamster'. The fossil assemblages indicate that a cold and arid climate existed with semi-open steppe vegetation, consisting of grasses and shrubs with small patches of forests. The majority of the faunal remains of the Buhlen assemblage indicate that the site could be dated to the Early Weichselian. Well represented species are the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), horse (Equus sp.), the woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis), reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), red deer (Cervus elaphus), and ox/bison (Bos primigenius/Bison sp.). The artefacts from the site are characterized by either a Micoquian or a Mousterian working technique, which are both dated to the Middle Palaeolithic.
COMSEC refers to the title of an NWO funded Dutch Russian Research Cooperation, entitled 'The Collapse of the Mammoth Steppe Ecosystem'. This project focuses on how the faunal assemblages give an insight into the collapse of the Mammoth Steppe ecosystem. The objective is to create a faunal assemblage database that contains well dated (14C) material from between 40,000 and 8,000 years ago. Only data from sites located in the artic region north of approximately 60°N latitude will be included. The European Palaeoecological Database, the result of the previous joint Russian-Dutch project, will be enlarged with data from North America and Siberia. The Siberian data will be extracted from published articles (mainly written in Russian) and a large number of (unpublished) reports. In general the Siberian faunas are not well dated. Therefore, the COMSEC project will attempt to use the 14C technique to date as many of these assemblages as possible.
Schöningen (Lower Saxony, Germany) is arguably one of the most important Palaeolithic sites of North-western Europe, not only because of the discovery of wooden spears, but also because of a rather complete geological sequence dating from the Elster glaciation to the Holocene. The Quaternary deposits are rich in botanical and zoological remains. Since the discovery by Dr. H. Thieme of the first Palaeolithic artefacts in Schöningen in 1992 the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University has been involved in the multidisciplinary research effort. The Leiden contribution concentrates on the study of the vertebrate remains from the Pleistocene deposits and focuses on archaeozoological as well as paleoenvironmental and biostratigraphical considerations.
Since the end of the 19th century fossil mammal bones have been collected in the Early Pleistocene clay pits near Tegelen, the type site of the Tiglian in The Netherlands. The clay pit Maalbeek (near the Tegelen pits) is well known amongst palaeontologists because of the discovery of the remains of a tapir and a mastodon. It has been shown that the mammal fauna from Maalbeek is older than the fauna from the Tegelen pits. Recently, a new horizon rich in fossil vertebrates has been discovered in the Maalbeek pit. The horizon yielded thousands of mammalian remains, mainly of small mammals. Debate exists on the biostratigraphical relation between the Tegelen pits and the Maalbeek pit. In order to investigate this, a multidisciplinary research team has been formed and the exposed Maalbeek sequence has been sampled. Sediment samples for botanical, malacological as well as theriological investigations have been processed. In addition, a large number of samples for palaeomagnetic research has been taken.
The sand quarry of Woerden (near Utrecht) yielded and continues to yield Pleistocene mammal assemblages and Palaeolithic (lithic) artefacts. Since the material is found in dredged sediments, its stratigraphical context is uncertain. However, by examining the fossil bone material that has been found in Woerden sediments, it might be possible to get an idea about the age of the dredged sediments and even shed light on the climatic conditions and the landscape in which the Palaeolithic people and animals lived. The Woerden bone material yields a large variety of animals, both species living in warm and cold stages. Rangifer tarandus, Coelodonta antiquitatis and Mammuthus primigenius lived in a cold environment and Dicerorhinus sp., Sus sp. and Elephas antiquus lived during warmer periods. Most of the bones originate from Cervidae family (including remains from Alces, Cervus, Megaloceros and Rangifer). They most probably have an Early Pleistocene and/or Late Pleistocene age.