Federmesser-Ensembles in Westphalia during the Allerød interstadial

haiger federmesser

This is a 42 mm long projectile point from a “Federmesser” scatter in Westpahlia. While the Rhine valley Federmesser encampments are well known in the international literature, less has been published about the sites in Westphalia

North Rhine-Westphalia encompasses the plains of the Lower Rhine region and parts of the Central German Uplands (Mittelgebirgsregion) up to the gorge of the Porta Westfalica. The state covers an area of 34,083 km² and shares borders with Belgium in the southwest and the Netherlands in the west and northwest. It has borders with the German states of Lower Saxony to the north and northeast, Rhineland-Palatinate to the south and Hesse to the southeast.

Approximately half of the state is located in the relative low-lying terrain of the Westphalian Lowland and the Rhineland. The Westphalian Cretacious Bay  (Westphälische Bucht) opens  towards the Northern German Lowlands (Norddeutsche Tiefebene) northwest  extending broadly into the  North European Plain. The terrain rises towards the south and in the east of the state into parts of Germany’s Central Uplands. These hill ranges are the Weser Uplands – including the Wiehen Gebirge (Hills), the Wesergebirge and the Teuteburg Forest in the east, the Sauerland, the Bergisches Land, the Siegerland and the Siebengebirge in the south, as well as the left-Rhenish Eifel in the southwest of the state. The Rothaargebirge in the border region with Hesse rises to height of about 800 m above sea level.

The Bølling-Allerød interstadial is the initial warm phase during the Weichselian late glacial that is followed by the cold Younger Dryas stadial. The ice-core record shows that rapid climatic amelioration occurred within only a few years at the onset of the Lateglacial circa 14.7 k.a. BP. Fossil Coleoptera assemblages in Britain suggest a rapid increase in mean annual temperature from circa -8 up to +7°C within only a couple of centuries. In north-western Europe this warming is reflected by the replacement of a heliophilous herbaceous vegetation by dwarf shrubs communities and later on by forest. In the lowland areas of The Netherlands, vegetation directly responded to climate change by a gradual development of birch forest during the Bølling. Highest temperatures were reached during the Bølling, followed by a prolonged cooling trend towards the Younger Dryas thermal minimum.

According to the current paradigm, Post_LGM resettlement  of what is now Germany took place from the South/West and from Central Europe in a bidirectional manner. The Westphalian bay was “no mans land” during these times, as no traces of a late Magdalenian have detected here, despite a nearly 150 years of research history.

The Westphalian lowlands, were usually thought to have been populated only during the late Allerød-Interstadial (GI-1c1). Recent research, however, indicates that this zone became populated already during the early Allerød-Interstadial (GI-1c3; 14,k.a. calBP). Important sites in this context are the Rietberg, Reken, (Frille?), Borken- Gemenkrückling and Haltern-Lavesum sites defining the so called “Rietberg facies” , which is attributed to the Early Federmessergruppen (Azilian). The Rietberg sites constitute the earliest evidence of post-Last Glacial Maximum human settlement in the region.

These inventories encompass beside Azilian Bipoints, shouldered points,  angle-backed points,  trapezoidal points  curve-backed Monopoints, long B-points and Zinken. This facies resemble “Cepoy-Marsangy Type” ensembles in Northern France.

haiger katzmanBy contrast with the early Federmessser sites, Salzkotten-Thüle, in the eastern Westphalian Basin, represents a short-term camp belonging to the late (pine dominated) Allerød closer to 13 k.a. cal BP and thus as much as a millennium younger. It comprises some 3000 lithic artefacts overwhelming made on locally available Baltic flint, dominated overwhelmingly by short end scrapers followed by backed tools. It falls clearly into the definition of the late Federmessser-Groups. Similar sites in Westphalia are known from Weißes Venn (Stadt Senden / Kreis Coesfeld),  Westerkappeln, Kreis Tecklenburg,  Wandhofen (Stadt Schwerte, Kreis Unna. These late  Allerød sites have some similarities to the well known Federmesser sites of the Rhineland and the to the Federmesser-site of Rüsselsheim 122, situated in the lower Main region near Frankfurt (Germany).

After the return of the cold, during the younger Dryas at 12 k.a. BP, Ahrensburgian groups entered the Westphalian uplands (Hohler Stein near Kallenhardt, Externsteine), and the nearby southern Lower Saxony Bergland near Göttingen, as well as the Kartstein rockshelter (northern Eifel) and the site of  Remouchamps in the Belgian Ardennes (http://www.aggsbach.de/2011/03/ahrensburgian/).

The  Hohler Stein 2,5 km southwest of Kallenhardt is located in a lovely valley named Loermecketal . The cave is about 40 meters long. During earlier examinations about 1500 artifacts, most of them from flint exploited from nearby sources were found. Most of them were related to the Ahrensburg culture.  Numerous faunal remains, especially from Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), but also from Woolly Rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis), Cave Bear (Ursus spelaeus), Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus), Snow Grouse (Lagopus mutus) have been identified.  One of these remains, a pierced animal teeth (dog / wolfe) that probably was used as a pendant, is suggested to be the oldest (known) Westphalian piece of jewelry.

Suggested Reading:

Rietberg-Facies:  http://www.quartaer.eu/pdfs/2013/2013_holzkaemper.pdf

Much about the Prehistory of Westphalia can be foundat  Michael Baales Blog:


A book by this author recently was published (in German) “Westfalen in der Alt- und Mittelsteinzeit”. Here for free!:


This book will certainly complement and update the still very readable and excellent publication of Klaus Günter: Alt- und mittelsteinzeitliche Fundplätze in Westfalen, Teil 1 + Teil 2.(1986, 1988)

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome!

About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University.

Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.

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2 Responses to Federmesser-Ensembles in Westphalia during the Allerød interstadial

  1. Jamel Soucy says:

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  2. Katzman says:


    You are always welcome for commenting the posts- every scientific based comment will be published and can be discussed…

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