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Contextualizing the history and practice of Paleolithic archaeology: Hamburgian research in northern Germany

Blythe E Roveland, University of Massachusetts Amherst


For decades, archaeologists have investigated the history of the discipline and, more recently, some have suggested that self-reflection be incorporated into fieldwork and archaeological reports. These efforts should promote critical understandings of archaeological practice as well as of the data and interpretations originating from such practice. This dissertation represents an exploration of the influences, at various levels, affecting one body of data (constituting the German Hamburgian) and interpretations about that data. The Hamburgian was first defined as a late Paleolithic cultural complex on the North European Plain in the early 1930s. Throughout its research history, avocational archaeologists have played a prominent role in the discovery and interpretation of the Hamburgian record. The most influential of these amateurs was Alfred Rust, whose fieldwork at the now-classic sites of Meiendorf and Stellmoor was carried out at the very inception of Hamburgian research. His discoveries inspired a host of other explorations of Hamburgian sites in northern Europe and shaped subsequent expectations and interpretations about this prehistoric period. These findings were eagerly followed by an interested public and were the source of intense regional and national pride during the unique social, political, and economic climate between the World Wars in Germany. Among the early investigations that followed upon the heels of Rust's work was the excavation of Pennworthmoor 1 in Cuxhaven-Sahlenburg by another self-trained archaeologist, Paul Büttner. Sixty years later Pennworthmoor 1 was again the site of archaeological fieldwork at which time I played a part. Past practices of Hamburgian archaeology in northern Germany, in general, and at the site of Pennworthmoor 1, in particular, are considered through documentary and collections research. The formative first decade of Hamburgian archaeology is the primary focus. In addition, a reflexive approach to my own fieldwork at the Pennworthmoor 1 site is offered to illustrate the complexities and effects of daily practice involved in data recovery and interpretation that cannot be readily gleaned from historical records.

Subject Area

Archaeology|Science history

Recommended Citation

Roveland, Blythe E, "Contextualizing the history and practice of Paleolithic archaeology: Hamburgian research in northern Germany" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9978546.