Groß Pampau, GR, c. 500,000 BP, Site, Characteristic Tools, Bifaces / d)pampaustrat

Section and Strata Attributions. Section, Ohle gravel pit, Groß Pampau, GR. Section illustration by Herbst (1983) [in Lierl, H-J. (1985). Der Miozäne glimmerton von Gross Pampau. Der Geschiebesammler 19(1):9-29].  The Weichsel glacial did not reach the Pampau area (Schmidtke and Lammert 1992).  Given the section drawing, in the most likely scenario for the Pampau site the upper gravels and till were deposited by the Saalian complex (Saale I, II and III).  They are probably Saale III, MIS6 (~160 kya), which in northern Germany produced the most sedimentation of the three glacials and which at some sites contains older Saale II, MIS8 (~275 kya) material.  The ad hoc patch of gravel indicated in the Herbst section, just below the primary upper gravel stratum, could be Saale I, MIS10 (~350 kya) or a component of a combined Saale III-II glaciation.  At Pampau, the Saalian gravel strata are dark in color due to organic matter redeposited by the glacier from prior interglacial(s), presumably the Wacken-Dömnitz (MIS9) and/or Holsteinian (MIS11).  As is typical of many sites in northern Germany, where interglacial organic strata are rare, it appears from the Pampau section that MIS9 and MIS11 material has been plucked away by Saale glacial action and redeposited in the Saalian complex glacial till.   The Saalian gravels lie, apparently unconformably, over the extensive Elsterian (MIS12, 423-478 kya) meltwater sand, diagonal beds, and the basal gravel layer.  The basal gravel includes flint, chert, quartzite, quartz, granite and limestone, and organic pieces, such as wood/woody plant material.  Benekendorff collected primarily from this basal gravel dredged from an 18-20m depth (in the Herbst section illustration indicated at ~5m depth, the difference due to strata tilting). In the Hamburg area the basal moraine of the Elster can be locally up to 70m thick [Duphorn, K. et al. (1973).  Pleistocene and Holocene. Eiszeitalter u. Gegenwart, Band 23/24, s. 222-250].

The Elster moraine strata lie, again unconformably, over the "Feinsand" deposit.  This sand appears comparable to the Pliocene and lower Quaternary quartz sands described in Duphorn, K. et al. (1973); they also note that there are no moraines older than the Elster/Mindel in the Hamburg and northern Lower Saxony area and Elster sediments generally—and rarely Saale or Weichse—overly Tertiary (Pliocene, Miocene, etc.) beds. The Pampau Miocene strata are the only fresh surface exposure of the Langfeldian (Upper Miocene) in NW Germany, rich in fossils, including whale and shark skeletons discovered in 1984. [Hinsch, W. (1990). Biostratigraphy of Reinbekian / Levesauian / Lüneburgian / Langfeldian boundary stratotypes in Pampau area (SE Holstein). Veroff. Übersee-Museum A10:55-79. Bremen.]

Artifact Dating.  There are three hypotheses for this site, which I list in order of probability.  (A) If the above geostratigraphy is correct, lower gravel artifacts were redeposited from Cromer, MIS13 and capped by Elsterian meltwater sands and clays.  Infrequent reworked artifacts as evidenced by lighter patina would be MIS12 cold period, which is supported by figural representations of glacial fauna.  If so, the minimum age for Pampau lower gravel artifacts is the end of the Elsterian, MIS12 (423-478 kya) and the predominant Cromerian artifacts date to MIS13 (478-524 kya), though some artifacts could be older.  In sum, the predominant artifacts are minimum 423 kya and up to 524 kya.  MIS13 dated sites in the UK are Boxgrove, Westbury, Waverly Wood, and Fordwich, the latter with very thick (‘Abbevillian’) handaxes; and in Germany, Miesenheim I.  MIS 12 sites in Germany include Kärlich H.  The Heidelbergensis type-site, Grafenrain Pit, Mauer is dated either MIS13 or MIS15.

(B) A second hypothesis is that the strata of meltwater sands and clays above the lower gravels were deposited in an early phase of the Saalian.  At other northern Germany sites, Saale II (MIS8) begins (circa 300 kya) with massive outwash sands.  This seems unlikely for Pampau as it would have capped underlying MIS11 and MIS9 interglacial strata and these do not occur at Pampau.  Even if this were the case, lower gravel artifacts would still be predominantly MIS12 or older, with perhaps more Holsteinian MIS11 materials mixed in than scenario A.  (C) A final caution is that all Pampau gravels may be components of the Saalian complex; none are Elsterian.  If this were the case, the 20m-dredge depth would be due to vertical tilting of a Saalian stratum (presumably Saale I).  Such extreme tilt does not match the Herbst section.  In addition, Saale I is generally described as ‘little or no flint and mostly limestone’, but the Pampau lower gravel contains multiple rock types (flint, chert, quartzite, and quartz as well as limestone), which does match known Elsterian types.  Even if this least probable scenario were demonstrated, the predominant lower gravel artifacts would be Holsteinian MIS11 (362-423 kya) or older, with possible rare OIS9 (303-339) ka mixing, which would imply lower gravel minimum date older than 300 kya.

In short, the artifact dating in scenario A appears to me most convincing: predominant artifacts are minimum 423 kya and up to 524 kya (i.e., MIS12-13), with possible (scenario B) infrequent mixing in of Holsteinian (MIS11, 362-423) artifacts.  Support for scenario A comes from Benekendorff’s proposed faunal representation identifications.  For example, Macaca sp. at least in the UK, is not reported extant after MIS9 (Schreve and Bridgland 2002), is rare in Holsteinian, but well-attested in Cromerian (Stuart 1982); and in Germany is reported from Mauer MIS13/15 (Schreiber & Löscher 2011) and MIS 11 (Bilzingsleben II).  Apparent representations of glacial fauna, such as musk ox and mammoth and interglacial fauna, such as elephant and hippo, at Pampau would seem to accord with dating the Pampau lower gravels to include both the Elsterian glacial and Cromerian interglacial.

Photo © Ursel Benekendorff. The site is documented in Benekendorff, U. (1990). From the information recorder stone to a picture book of the stone age. Archaeologische Berichten 20:14-28 and 43-65 (Elst, NL).

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