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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Federmesser Culture (Upper Palaeolithic / Upper Mesolithic) (Northern Europe)
c.14,000 - 8800 BC
Incorporating the Tjongerian Culture

The name of this Upper Palaeolithic (Late Old Stone Age) cultural grouping - which superseded the Magdalenian in Northern Europe - is sometimes shown as Federmesser-Gruppen. The word 'federmesser' is a German word which means 'quill knife' to describe the period's characteristic small-backed flint blades.

The Federmesser name serves as a form of classification for a widely-spread group of similar, contemporary forms of Stone Age technology on the Northern European plain in this period. Examples of these forms of technology can be found across a broad sweep of Europe from coastal Belgium, across northern Germany, and into Poland.

The Creswellian technology (10,000-8000 BC) of mainland Britain can also be linked in here, named after its type-site of Creswell Crags in Derbyshire. The characteristic tools of all Federmesser cultures are large trapezes, obliquely blunted blades, and small-backed blades. The Federmesser people occupied caves where available, along with open sites where not (or even both together).

Dates given for this grouping seem to vary wildly, starting at about 14,800-12,800 BC and ending around 9800-8800 BC, perhaps hinting at the flexibility of its function as a group umbrella rather than a single specific culture.

FeatureFor that reason the Tjongerian culture can be placed under the Federmesser umbrella. This was prevalent in the Low Countries and northern Germany, and seemingly across the then-dry grasslands of Doggerland which has since been drowned by the North Sea (see feature link, right). Lochtenrek in the Frisian Netherlands is a type site.

The Tarnowian and Witowian cultures of what is now Poland are also part of the Federmesser, while the later-starting Hamburg culture also has links. The Azilian of Southern Europe also bears certain similarities and has been suggested as being the provider of the Federmesser. The Federmesser was eventually succeeded by the Ahrensburg culture which existed alongside it for about three millennia.

Homo Neanderthalis

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The (re-) population of northern France between 13,000 and 8000 BP, J-G Rozoy (L G Straus, Trans, Quaternary International, Vol 49j/50, 1998), from Europe in the Neolithic: The Creation of New Worlds, A W R Whittle (Cambridge University Press, 1996), and from External Link: Creswellian & Federmesser (Oxford Reference).)

c.13,000 BC

Hamburg culture, which has links to the Federmesser, now spreads over an area which includes modern northern Germany, Poland, southern Sweden, and Britain (as the Creswellian in the latter), and part of the North Sea (usually known as Doggerland).

c.10,500 BC

Having been laid bare by the withdrawing ice sheet, the sweeping grass-covered plains of Doggerland in what is now the North Sea between the Netherlands and the East Anglian region of Britain suffer the beginnings of a gradual inundation.

British Isles map about 10,500 BC
The rising water levels began to remake the coastline, from what's seen here around 10,500 BC to the much-reduced coastline of today's British Isles

As the waters of the Atlantic creep over Doggerland from the north, hunting land is lost in a slow process of minor retreats which are interspersed with more sudden floods. Some of these recede, but others do not. The people here will have names for rivers and hills, and spiritual associations too, so the loss is catastrophic.

c.10,000 BC

Dates are highly speculative for this period. Having succeeded the earlier Magdalenian culture and being a form of extension of it alongside the related Hamburg culture, the Federmesser now gives way to the already-active Ahrensburg culture.

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