Prof Dr Berit Valentin Eriksen

Research interests


Lithic studies
Flint working is the oldest known craft in the world. Moreover, it is a skill that has to be acquired and which cannot be exercised successfully without a certain amount of knowledge, experience and ability (motor as well as mental, i.e. know-how). Advanced lithic studies operate accordingly within the field of cognitive archaeology. The approach employed emphasises a dynamic technological analysis of primary production sequences (based on experimental flint knapping and refitting of inventories), as well as of schéma and chaîne opératoires, complexity and completeness of assemblages, technological skills and degrees of specialization in tool production. Functional analysis provides a basis for addressing the handling and use of flint tools. Sourcing and provenance analysis provide a basis for discussing the acquisition of lithic raw material in relation to other socioeconomic activities, such as scheduling, control and management of resources, as well as mobility patterns and communication networks. My current research projects span from "Heat treatment of chert as a cultural marker in the early mesolithic of southwest Germany" to "Bronze Age lithic technology" and "Crafts apprenticeship and transmission of knowledge in prehistoric flint working". Lithic technology is a key-element in all projects related to the study of prehistoric hunter-gatherers and will remain so my future research. For this reason the establishment of a "Lithic Analysis Laboratory" well-equipped with facilities for comparative raw material analysis, experimental studies, use wear analysis, etc., is also a designated priority of the ZBSA.

Recent events related to lithic studies included the organization of an international workshop for members of the "Nordic Blade Technology Network" in Schleswig in March 2011 (in collaboration with Dr. Mara-Julia Weber, ZBSA), as well as a session organized in connection with the European Association of Archaeologists annual meeting in Oslo in September 2011 on "Prehistoric flint daggers in Europe (and beyond?)" (in collaboration with Dr. Catherine Frieman, The Australian National University, Canberra).
Modelling hunter-gatherer colonization of late glacial and earliest postglacial Northern Europe
One of my primary research interests relates to the question of how late glacial and early postglacial hunter-gatherer groups moved into frontier areas and coped with more or less rapid environmental changes. This entails perspectives on origins, colonization and migration; mobility; socio-economic organization of technology and settlement; subsistence economic adaptations and land use; various spatiotemporal issues; as well as the methodological approach. My latest research has focused on the need for a reliable correlation of the relative archaeological and absolute geochronological frameworks for the late glacial and earliest postglacial, and on the question of the timing and nature of colonization in relation to the environmental preconditions in Southern Scandinavia.

Recent events related to this field of research included an international conference organized on behalf of the UISPP Commission for "The Final Palaeolithic of Northern Eurasia" in Schleswig in November 2013.
Prehistoric Reindeer Hunters

Reindeer represents a valuable prey species for human hunters in subarctic and arctic biotopes and probably was a key resource for the human colonization of the Baltic and Scandinavian area following the retreat of the Fennoscandian glacier during the Late Glacial. Previous studies of the classic Hamburgian and Ahrensburgian fauna inventories from Meiendorf, Poggenwisch and Stellmoor have addressed these aspects by way of traditional archaeozoological (B. Bratlund) or ethnoarchaeological (B. Grønnow) approaches. A current research project headed by researchers from ZBSA involves modern archaeochemistry and archaeogenetic analyses to address "Late Glacial reindeer migrations in Northwest Europe" (in collaboration with Prof. Dr. T.D. Price, University of Wisconsin, and others). Another project focuses on the reindeer as a supplier of raw material for artefact production (in collaboration with Dr. Eva David, and others). This project is entitled: "Defining the Ahrensburgian. Contributions from a technological study of reindeer antler artefacts". The Late Glacial reindeer antler clubs and mattocks in question have often been associated with the classic Ahrensburgian culture. However, the spatio-temporal distribution of these artefacts (also known as Lyngby-axes) is somewhat different from that of Ahrensburgian lithic inventories and may likely correspond to that of the Tanged Point complex sensu lato. Based on a re-examination of the Lyngby-axes from Stellmoor and other northeuropean sites this pilot study will attempt to answer questions pertaining to the socio-cultural importance of these implements.

Mesolithic Burials
During the rescue excavation in 2001 of an Iron Age village at Hammelev in Southern Jutland, Danish archaeologists unexpectedly uncovered a well-preserved ochre grave and various settlement remains from the Early Mesolithic. The ochre grave contained the cremated remains of an adult individual accompanied by unburned grave goods belonging to the Maglemose culture. Radiocarbon analysis confirms an age of approximately 8000 cal BC. From this period human remains, with or without a burial context, are very rare, and cremation graves even more so. Previously, this was thought to be a simple reflection of the fact that these people were highly mobile hunter-gatherers with little or no need for complex burial practices. Accordingly, this is a truly unique find with far-reaching interpretational implications concerning both the living and the dead in the Early Mesolithic of Northern Europe. The Hammelev cremation grave is to be published in "Aarbøger for Nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie" in collaboration with Hans Christian Andersen, Museum Sønderjylland. The manuscript "Hammelev - a Maglemose cremation grave from Southern Jutland, Denmark" is currently in preparation.