The Hamburgian culture is characterized by the association of specialized stone tools (shouldered points, Zinken, endscrapers with a lateral retouche) and by the presence of a mobile lifestyle of hunter-gatherer communities following large herds of reindeer during their seasonally migration. The Hamburgian complex represents the oldest colonization of the West and the Middle European Lowlands beginning immediately before the Bølling Interstadial and lasting until the Older Dryas.
It is now well established that the “Havelte-group” with tanged points (resembling Ounanien points) beginns later than the classic Hamburgian, based on stratigraphical, palynological, and geochronological arguments as well as on the results of radiometric dating. Settlements of the Hamburgian have been identified in north-western Germany (Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony) and the Netherlands. A few sites are known from Denmark and southern Scandinavia as well as from Poland. The middle part of the Vistula is believed to form the eastern border of the Hamburgian expansion. Ensembles with Hamburgian affinities are known beyond the borders of the Hamburgian “coreland” in the UK, the Paris basin and from S/W Middle Europe (Petersfels, Schweizersbild).
The origin of the Hamburgian remains a enigmatic. Comparison of the reindeer-based economies of the Hamburgian with those of the Paris Basin Magdalenian, as well as the discovery of French Magdalenian sites yielding more than usual numbers of lithic shouldered or angle-backed points (Cepoy-Marsagny) would emphasize a western starting point for the Hamburgian. However, this picture is not confirmed by the C-14 record and fails to take into account the presence of shouldered or angle-backed points in German and Swiss Magdalenian assemblages, where a well established Magdalenian population is allready present before GI-1e (Meiendorf/Bölling). Overall it is more reasonable to assume an Western and Central Europe origin, which is also substantiated by technological and radiometric data. The Hamburgian in this view would be the adaption of Magdalenian communities to special enviroments by the choice of a special hunting equipment
According to their morphology, Zinken are often seen as tools for antler working. A. Rust, who analyzed antler artefacts from the excavations in Meiendorf and Stellmoor, claimed that Zinken were used as laterally grovers in the production of antler splinters, which were used for the production of organic hunting implements. M. Lindemann and more recently M.J. Weber supported Rust’s idea based on own experimental studies. In contrast B. Kufel-Diakowska argued, that use-wear and experimental studies on Zinken perforators from Olbrachcice 8 showed that these instruments were most probably used as “scrapers” and “borers” for antler working, which suggests that they were more or less multifunctional tools. Anyhow it has to be considered that she evaluated Zinken with an atypical configuration compared to classic Zinkens from the Ahrensburg valley in Schleswig Holstein.