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Radiocarbon evidence for the Lateglacial Human Recolonisation of Northern Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2014

R.A. Housley
Department of Archaeology, The University, Gregory Building, Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8QQ
C.S. Gamble
Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton, Southampton SO 17 1BJ
M. Street
Forschungsinstitut für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Forschungbereich Altsteinzeit, Schloss Monrepos, 56567 Neuwied, Germany
P. Pettitt
Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Research Laboratory for Archaeology & the History of Art, 6 Keble Road, Oxford OX1 3QJ


This paper examines, through the use of Accelerator Mass Spectrometry dating, the database of Lateglacial cultures involved in the recolonisation of northern Europe. The aim is not only to determine the timing of that recolonisation, but also to propose a general model of hunter-gatherer colonisation at a sub-continental scale. The question is addressed of how long the period of abandonment of northern Europe during the Würm/Weichsel glaciation may have lasted, and when it both started and came to an end. A series of questions is asked concerning the processes and mechanics of recolonisation and the sequences for specific areas are examined. AMS radiocarbon dating shows that a two stage process was involved, which has important implications for our analysis of regional settlement patterns and the changing scale of Lateglacial hunting systems. Recolonisation was a dynamic process, integral to, and internally driven by, the social life of Lateglacial hunters. It may have been constrained by environmental and resource factors, which we have emphasised here, but ultimately it was an historical, social process and should be similarily regarded to that of the farmers. By measuring rates of expansion data are provided for use in other studies of hunter-gatherer colonisation.

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Copyright © The Prehistoric Society 1997

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