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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Hamburg Culture (Upper Palaeolithic) (Northern Europe)
c.13,500 - 11,100 BC

The Hamburg (or Hamburgian) is dated to the Upper Palaeolithic (Late Old Stone Age), and particularly late within that 'upper' period. It appears to have been an extension of the earlier Magdalenian cultures which saw the repopulation of vast areas of Northern Europe which had been depopulated due to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). The LGM has been dated at around 22,000-17,000 BC (calibrated dates).

FeatureStarting from an initial phase around 13,900 BC alongside the very similar and quite contemporaneous Federmesser culture, the Hamburg culture spread over an area of Europe which included modern northern Germany, Poland, southern Sweden, and Britain (as the Creswellian in the latter), and part of the North Sea (usually known as Doggerland), which was still dry land at this time (see feature link for more).

The occupation of Doggerland by modern humans can also be catalogued under the broader Federmesser cultural definition which seems to act as an umbrella for many more-locally-expressed cultures. These cultures were carried northwards by the first human occupants of the post-glacial Northern European plains following the LGM. They followed close behind the retreating glaciers, gradually migrating northwards over hundreds of years as the ice slowly melted.

As shown by sites such as Hohen Viecheln (now in the Nordwestmecklenburg district, in Germany's Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state (formerly medieval Pomerania)), the people of the Hamburg and the slightly later and succeeding Ahrensburg culture 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.

Later North European Mesolithic groups, such as the Maglemosian, increasingly focused their efforts on red deer, wild cattle, and marine mammals. Simultaneously, 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.

The Hamburg has much more stable dating than the Federmesser, although it is sometimes given as a culture which predates the Federmesser (not surprisingly, given the latter's movable dating). The similar but slightly later Ahrensburg and Bromme cultures co-existed alongside it, but the Bromme far outlasted both of them.

Hamburgian stone tool

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from Late Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Settlement of the European North: Possible Linguistic Implications, Christian Carpelan, and from External Links: Mesolithic Culture of Europe (PDF, Vidya Mitra Integrated E-Content Portal), 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 Hamburgian site in the Netherlands (Don's Maps).)

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.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.

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

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.11,100 BC

The Hamburg culture fades out as the Ahrensburg and Bromme cultures rise to dominate in a Northern Europe which still contains large areas of tundra and only the beginnings of heavy forestation.

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