A site of the Hamburg tradition with a constructed hearth near Oldeholtwolde (Province of Friesland, the Netherlands); first report


  • D. Stapert


(pp. 86-87)

In this article a few provisional results are given of the investigation of the Hamburg findspot at Oldeholtwolde.

This site was excavated in 1980 and 1981 (over a total period of about 23 weeks). The findspot lies in the valley of the river Tjonger, at the foot of the slope of a fairly low cover-sand ridge along the bank of the main stream channel in the valley, at a spot where the transition from sandridge to stream channel is relatively abrupt. This last-mentioned fact is possibly one of the most important characteristics of the site as regards the localisation in the landscape, and could indicate the possibility that the Hamburg people were here occupied, among other things, with catching fish. Furthermore the site lies on a kind of "peninsula" in the valley plain of the Tjonger (see figs. 7, 8); the area is surrounded by stream channels on the south, west, north and partly also on the east.

At the site location there is no boulder-clay present. The Hamburg people must have brought the flint and stones they used over a distance of several hundred metres.
Stratigraphically the finds occur at an average depth of c. 20 cm below the "Layer of Usselo", that was found in parts of the excavation area just below the topsoil. The finds were present near the top of a layer of cover-sand with thin loamy bands that must be regarded as Younger Cover-sand I. This layer (that is locally c. 2 m thick) was deposited during the Early Dryas stadial. On the basis of the stratigraphical situation the finds can be dated to relatively soon (a few decennia?) before the beginning of the Allerød interstadial.

In the stream channel immediately to the south of the site the 'Layer of Usselo' merges into a brown peat layer. In the peripheral zone the peat layer contains wood remains (trunk fragments) of Salix and Betula, while further away from the bank abundant remains of Carex are mainly present. A C14-dating of the lowermost 1 cm of the peat layer (sample taken at a spot c. 3 m south of the fringe of its area of extent: fig. 10) gave the result: 11,340±100 B.P. (GrN-11.264), so it can be said that the peat layer formed during the second half of the Allerød interstadial.

Above the peat layer, and the 'Layer of Usselo', a thin layer of Younger Cover-sand II is locally present, that becomes increasingly thinner towards the south (in the stream channel). Coming out of this sand layer are frost fissures penetrating through the brown peat layer (figs. 15, 16); these must have originated during the Late Dryas.

For the purpose of comparison with the stratigraphical data of Oldeholtwolde, a profile at Oldeholtpa is briefly discussed. Here, under the 'Layer of Usselo', cover-sand with thin loamy bands is also present, and below it extremely loamy cover-sand, that most probably must be regarded as Older Cover-sand. This supports the chronostratigraphical interpretation of the profile at Oldeholtwolde.

In the middle of the find concentration a constructed hearth (diameter c. 1.5 m) was found (figs. 19-27). This consisted of a heartshaped configuration of flat stones (average thickness c. 2 cm) in a shallow depression. In the centre an hollowed-out pit (diameter c. 35 x 50 cm, depth c. 10 cm) was present, of which the bottom and sides were paved with closely set, flat stones. Charcoal (probably mostly from burnt brushwood) was present under the stones. A C14-sample of the charcoal from the central pit gave the dating: 1 1,540±270 B.P (GrN-10.274). Outside the hearth, too, many scattered stones were present. In view of the presence of black patches of charring on them most of these must have once lain in the  earth. In my opinion there are no good indications of a 'tent structure' or anything similar to be found in the distribution of the stones.

Among the points, in addition to the shouldered points that are normal for the Hamburg tradition also tanged points and Gravette/Tjonger points are present. These appear to support a late dating of the site: in this region Tjonger points are especially typical for the Federmesser tradition that can be dated mainly in the Allerød interstadial.

In my opinion it can be concluded with a reasonable degree of certainty that the site at Oldeholtwolde dates from the final phase of the Early Dryas stadial. There is some reason to assume that this site does not represent a winter camp.