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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Ahrensburg & Bromme Cultures (Upper Palaeolithic) (Northern Europe)
c.12,000 - 9800 BC
Incorporating the Lyngby Culture

The Northern European Ahrensberg (or Ahrensburgian) is dated to the Upper Palaeolithic (Late Old Stone Age) and, like the related Hamburg and the slightly earlier-starting Federmesser, particularly late within that 'upper' period, close to the beginning of the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age).

Both appear to have been an extension of the earlier Magdalenian cultures in Europe. These witnessed the repopulation of vast areas of the northern tundra which had been depopulated due to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), dated at around 22,000-17,000 BC (calibrated dates).

FeatureThe duration of the Ahrensburg was short, just a thousand years (about 12,000-11,000 BC). It emerged around the midway point of the Hamburg and existed alongside it. Its territory stretched as far as eastern England (the fens of East Anglia and the East Midlands), reaching across Doggerland (see feature link), into the Low Countries, northern Germany, Czechia, Slovakia, and western Poland. It also provided a northwards Norwegian extension which became the Komsa culture.

This culture outlasted the Hamburg by just a century or so but was probably already fading before that. The people of the Ahrensburg and Hamburg cultures especially were able to continue late-glacial hunting adaptations which focussed on reindeer and European elk (moose). Their group numbers were typically small, allowing for easy movement to keep up with the game they hunted.

The Bromme lasted for a healthy eighteen hundred years. Named for a settlement at Bromme on western Zealand (Netherlands), it emerged around 11,600 BC and faded around 9800 BC. It largely abutted the neighbouring Ahrensburg, being centred over the Cimbric peninsula (Denmark), the northern coastal areas of Germany, and northern Poland, with the Ahrensburg its southern neighbour along that entire stretch.

It extended farther eastwards though, into Kaliningrad, Lithuania, and Latvia. It is characterised by sturdy lithic flakes which were used for all tools, primarily awls (sticklar), scrapers, and tanged points. No stone axes have been found. The Bromme and Ahrensburg are so similar that it has been proposed they should be classed as one and the same, under the label Lyngby culture, with the Bromme being recognised as an older, northern branch of the Ahrensburg.

Both cultures could be a product of the first major warming period at the end of the most recent ice age. Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology points out that Europeans now became more closely related to populations from the Near East (such as those of the Natufian), the Caucasus, and Turkey, coinciding with this warming period. This could reflect an expansion of people from the Near East and south-eastern Europe across the rest of Europe.

Multiple, huge movements of people can be seen in the archaeological record, apparently displacing previous populations. Analysis of genes carried by ice age Europeans shows, amongst other things, that they had dark complexions and brown eyes, along with a higher percentage of Neanderthal ancestry than modern populations.

However, after about 12,000 BC blue eyes began to become increasingly common along with lower proportions of Neanderthal genes (pale skin only appeared across much of the continent after about 5000 BC, borne by the early farmers of the Sesklo culture and its offshoots). The change in dominant populations is consistent with the idea that much of the DNA modern humans inherited from the Neanderthals had harmful effects. This inheritance seems to have been progressively lost via natural selection.

Homo Neanderthalis

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from External Links: The Genetic History of Ice Age Europe (Nature 2016), and Federmesserkulturen i Danmark - Belyst med udgangspunkt i en amatørarkæologs flintsamling, Felix Riede, Steffen Terp Laursen, & Ejvind Hertz (Jysk Arkæologisk Selskab, 2011, and available via Core), and Mesolithic Culture of Europe (PDF, Vidya Mitra Integrated E-Content Portal), and National Encyclopaedia of Sweden (in Swedish).)

c.12,000 BC

The first human occupants of the post-glacial Northern European plains - especially those of the Ahrensburg and Hamburg cultures - continue late-glacial hunting adaptations which focus on reindeer and elk. Later North European groups, such as those of the Maglemosian, increasingly focus their efforts on red deer, wild cattle, and marine mammals.

Map of Ahrensburg and Bromme cultures
The Ahrensburg and Bromme culture zones sat side-by-side, with a sizeable overlap, and with their similarities making it possible to propose their designations be merged into a single culture (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Cultures in the temperate forests of Europe, such as the Azilian, Tardenoisian, Sauveterrian, and Montadian, furnish evidence of the deliberate and organised exploitation of forest resources, including acorns, hazelnuts, wild cattle, boar, fallow deer, red deer, and ibex.

c.11,600 BC

For the people of the Bromme, whose culture corresponds to the second half of the Allerød Oscillation, reindeer is the most important prey. However, they also hunt moose and elk, wolverine, and beaver. Their landscape is a combination of taiga and tundra.

c.11,000 BC
/ 9800 BC

Europe's relatively short-lived Ahrensburg culture fades around 11,000 BC to be succeeded in eastern Central Europe and Eastern Europe by the Swiderian culture while the Komsa survives in the north. The Bromme survives as the last of these post-Magdalenian cultures which have also included the Federmesser and Hamburg.

Hamburgian flint sculpture
This flint of 58cm in length has been retouched into a sculpture of a bear from a flake which apparently suggested this form to the knapper

The Bromme is succeeded from about 9000 BC in Northern Europe, and especially in Scandinavia, by the Maglemosian, and possibly in the east by the Ienevo and Resseta cultures. The Sauveterrian soon arises in the southern areas of the former Ahrensburg region, and then extends southwards.

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