Project structure

Project structure

The project follows an innovative and interdisciplinary, two-pronged archaeological and volcanological approach that investigates the local Late Glacial archaeological record of southern Scandinavia in parallel with global patterns of risk, vulnerability/resilience, and impacts amongst traditional small-scale societies (foragers, horticulturalists, small-scale farmers) affected by volcanic eruptions. Blending ideas and data from the humanities, the social and natural sciences, this project will consider how so-called geo-mythological effects may have patterned post-eruption responses. It will place particular emphasis on aspects of mobility and connectedness, given that volcanic fallout can act as ‘ecological roadblocks’ as well as cognitive or social barriers to mobility. Mobility and connectedness are crucial to the maintenance of viable social and demographic networks in prehistory, and the responses of Late Glacial foragers in southern Scandinavia may have been at least partially conditioned by their peripheral social and demographic position prior to the eruption – a vulnerability conditioned by their already ‘fragile’ mobility.


The project comprises three work packages, which are described briefly below.

Work packages

WORK PACKAGE 1: A GLOBAL OPEN-ACCESS DATABASE OF FORAGER RESPONSES TO VOLCANIC EVENTS

This Work Package will provide cross-cultural context to traditional societies’ responses to volcanic events in the past by putting together and analyzing an event-response database of ethnographically and archaeologically documented case studies using multivariate statistics. The aim will be to investigate whether general patterns of vulnerability, resilience and response can be extracted from these global data, and to thereby provide a new framework for better interpreting the local southern Scandinavian case study. For thoughts on how such a database could be constructed see the project article in the journal Natural Hazards.

WORK PACKAGE 2A: MAPPING OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL LOCALITIES

This Work Package is concerned with mapping the occurrence of archaeological phenomena on the North European Plain prior to and after the Laacher See eruption. Their occurrence in space will then be compared to the occurrence of Laacher See tephra fallout, and in relation to climatic gradients along the length of northern Europe in order to disentangle effects of general climatic change from the specific effects of the Laacher See eruption. The aim of this work package is to quantify the physical and social ‘spatiality of risk’ at the time of eruption. This database can be accessed at www.lateglacial.org.

WORK PACKAGE 2B: RADIOCARBON DATING & MODELLING

The purpose of this Work Package is to improve the chronology for the Scandinavian Late Palaeolithic via radiocarbon dating, the identification of volcanic fallout ash, and chronological modeling. Mirroring Work Package 2a, the resulting chronological relationships will facilitate a better assessment of the ‘temporality of risk’ at the time of eruption. The evaluated radiocarbon dates for the southern Scandinavian Late Glacial are available as online supplementary information from the Journal of Archaeological Science website.

WORK PACKAGE 3: SYNTHESIS

The aim of final Work Package is to provide a theory-driven synthesis of the data generated by this project under an overarching framework focusing on mobility, social and demographic networks, and cognition. Volcanic eruptions generate stress, which is accounted for in culturally specific terms. What then (if any) was the Laacher See eruption’s impact on contemporaneous foragers? Combining the local with the global, Work Package 3 will produce a new model for the origin and fate of these Ice Age hunter-gatherers in southern Scandinavia, and these insights will in turn be used to think anew about other prehistoric eruptions and their impacts on the human past. The results of this synthesis are now published in abridged article format in the journal Natural Hazards. Extended results will be published in monograph format and as an edited volume.