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Mesolithic routes in Bohemia


Lukas Hanzl

The period of the Allerød interstadial and the Dryas III is dated to the interval ca. 13950-11640 cal BP and 12-8.5 ky BP, respectively. This was followed by the Holocene (Preboreal).The development of the last cultures focused on hunting cold-loving fauna, herd animals retreat north and east in response to the retreat of the glacier. New hunting communities specialize in new game species such as moose, deer, roe deer, pig, et al. Microlithization of the chipped stone industry is gradually taking place.

The research of the Late Paleolithic in Bohemia was mainly devoted to Slavomil Vencl, who discovereddistinguished here for Allerød Age the technocomplexes of the Epimagdalenian (at Kvíc willage and Lhota u Kestřan), also the technocomplex with the tips of an arched retouched occiput,Komořanské jezero, Chabařovice, (Vencl, S. 1966), and the aziloid industry (Plzen and the Hradiště-Atzenhof type) and for the Younger Dryas (Vencl, S. 1988), influences from the area of ​​the technocomplex with awl tips -Voletiny (Vencl, S. 1978).

Most localities are known from the region of southern and southwestern Bohemia orientated towards Bavaria, other locations are also known from northwestern, central and eastern Bohemia orientated towards Saxony. The Hunters use of imported raw materials (SGS) and local raw materials (hornblende, quartzite). Small camps was consisting of several tents and are often by rivers or lakes.( Vencl, S. 1990)


Figure 1, A - the tips of an arched retouched occiput, B - the area of the technocomplex with awl tips, C - the Epimagdalenian, D - the aziloid industry

The beginnings of the Mesolithic settlement are clearly a continuation of the Late Paleolithic settlement. Already in the late Paleolithic, the influence of the Azilian community in southern Bohemia on the shaping of the entire Czech area in the Mesolithic period is obvious. In central, northern and eastern Bohemia, the native local population continues, but already fundamentally influenced by the southern population with the aziloid industry. Thus, a new specific Mesolithic culture for this area – Berounien – is created, as part of the Tardenoisian cultural complex.

The Mesolithic Age began at the end of the last ice age, after its last cold swing period in the Younger Dryas, around 9600 BC, when rapid warming began. Depending on the climate change, the vegetation changed and many representatives of the glacial fauna disappeared. Man demonstrated a high adaptability to new conditions. A typological feature of the Mesolithic is geometric shapes: triangles, trapezoids, circular sections and simple cross-retouched points. In Bohemia, the Mesolithic period ends around 5600 BC.

In the last decade, a number of radiocarbon dates have been published dating from mainly from research in North Bohemian pseudokarst with a number of high-quality stratigraphies. The Mesolithic is divided into old (9300-6500 BC) and young (6500-5500 BC) . Similarly, the North Bohemian Mesolithic is divided into the old (boreal), dated between 8000 and 6500 or 6000 BC with triangles, segments, more rarely blades with a blunt side, Tardenois spikes and small trapezoids and the young Mesolithic (Atlantic), classified between 6500-6000 to 5500 BC, which is characterized by the presence of larger trapezoids and more regular rectangular blades.

First of all, we have to reject all terms such as residence, settlement structure, etc. Mesolithic man in Central Europe was extremely mobile and used only networks of known campsites along precisely given routes, some of which he used repeatedly, others once. In addition to the real needs of the hunters and the influences of the surrounding nature, chance be of importance. It is clear, that some knowledge was passed down through generations and shared communally between different Mesolithic groups, but the factor of time and forgetting also be of importance.

The very diverse composition of stone materials discovered in southern Bohemia (Lipno region) is evidence of contacts over considerable distances. Contacts towards the west are revealed by the most frequently represented mottled hornstone from the Franconian Jura, and the less abundant plate-like striated silex (flint) of Bavarian origin. This testifies to a completely normal crossing of the Šumava. On the other hand, chert of the Bohemian Karst type or quartzite of the Skršín type (from Most in northwestern Bohemia) was brought from the Czech hinterland. All the mentioned factors demonstrate the great dynamism of the relatively small Mesolithic hunter-gatherer communities. (Vencl, S. 1989)

What was the situation in northern and eastern Bohemia? The predominant component of the raw material in the collection is local raw materials. In the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic collections, silicites, which can be transported from long distances, mostly predominate, especially for the Mesolithic but there is a tendency towards searching and using local ones of raw materials. Directly from Kozákov is located find, 472 pieces of raw materials (46.5%). The transport distance does not exceed 1 km. The Opaljaspis (127 pieces, 12.5%). The transport distance is around 10 km. Silicities come from a greater distance (264 pieces, 26%). Due to the significant representation of pieces with fragments of crusts affected by glacial transport, we can consider their origin in glacigenic ones and glacifluvial sediments north of the border mountains. The transport distance would in this case it was about 30 km. The other raw materials are no longer documented in significant quantities and most of them could have been collected in the vicinity of the site. These include amphibole hornblende, which are largely in boulder mode. Cretaceous porcelanites can also come from the area of ​​the Bohemian Paradise. The occurrence of quartzite is interesting from northwestern Bohemia and the Bavarian Plattensilex. (Svoboda, J. 2004)


Figure 2, Mesolithic routes

In the Karlovy Vary region, the composition of the chipped stone industry is not known. A high proportion of hornstone from the Franconian Jura is assumed. Analysis of finds from around Tachov from the collections of J. Kubice, M. Machač confirm a most likely late Paleolithic industry with a high proportion of striped hornstone from Franconian Alba (Jura) (Moravcová – Vokounová-Franzeová 2011, 42-43).

In Moravia, the situation is different. In most rich stations, we encounter combined imports from very distant sources. The locations of Smolín I–III, Přibice and Dolní Věstonice IV were supplied from the north by chocolate-type silex from central Poland, from the Cracow-Czestochowa Jurassic, from the southeast by transdanubian radiolarite of the Szentgál type, and obsidian from eastern Slovakia or northeastern Hungary. Metabasite from northern Bohemia was also found in Přibice.( Oliva, M. 2018)

Hornstone Krumlovský Forest, in the late Paleolithic and in the Mesolithic it spreads beyond the borders of Moravia in all directions. Mostly it is a finer variety II. The majority of Late Paleolithic assemblages, mainly HKF, come from new prospecting in the SE part of the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, but there are also fairly extensive assemblages from Lower Austria, from Gobelsburg to the Danube valley. (Oliva 2010)

Moravia therefore did not have very intensive contact with Bohemia, and its Mesolithic groups, apart from southern Poland, were oriented towards the Danube region and Pannonia.

The given overview of the distribution of material for the stone chipped industry shows that exchange was very limited at this time and a number of regions did not share much in common with each other. The only exception is southern and northwestern Bohemia, where large quantities of materials imported from Bavaria are found. On the contrary, contacts between Moravians and Czech Mesolithic groups, if they existed at all, were very rare.

In the Czech Republic are the finds of organic materials sporadic - such as finding the treated wood and antler Franzensbad "hammers axe" (Geweihhammeraxt) from the cave Martin (Beroun).

So what was the subject of exchange between individual communities? There was only one commodity that these groups could not obtain from their own sources and that was unrelated DNA. Inbreeding in human reproduction, but commonly refers to the genetic disorders and other consequences that may arise from expression of deleterious or recessive traits resulting from incestuous sexual relationships and consanguinity. Inbreeding results in homozygosity, which can increase the chances of offspring being affected by recessive traits. In extreme cases, this usually leads to at least temporarily decreased biological fitness of a population, called inbreeding depression. The avoidance of expression of such deleterious recessive alleles caused by inbreeding, via inbreeding avoidance mechanisms, is the main selective reason for outcrossing.

The reduced genetic diversity, for example due to a bottleneck, will inevitably increase inbreeding for the entire population. This may mean that a comunity may not be able to adapt to changes in environmental conditions. Each individual will have similar immune systems, as immune systems are genetically based. When a comunity becomes endangered, the population may fall below a minimum whereby the forced interbreeding between the remaining people will result in extinction of population.

They Mesolithic People solved this by adapting migration routes so that regular meetings and social contacts were ensured in a vast, sparsely populated area. Permanent migration ensured repeated contact with two or more friendly groups, and if all these communities functioned in a connected system, the supply of new unrelated DNA increased.

The Mesolithic hunters made these journeys partly in small boats down the river, which allowed them to cover large distances relatively quickly. Against the current of the river, the group then returned back by a land route alternative to the river route. The beginnings of this system can already be observed in the Czech Epimagdalenian (Figure 1 letter C).

So far, we have no demonstrable remains of Mesolithic man from the entire area, and therefore no DNA samples. We can only infer from what we suspect about the continuation of the late Paleolithic settlement here in the Mesolithic, that they were descendants of the Villabruna cluster, WHG, and in northern and northeastern Bohemia perhaps individually with an admixture of EHG coming from the east. However, this is only a hypothetical estimate that can be disproved or confirmed only when relevant DNA samples are obtained in the future.



Moravcová, M. - Vokounová Franzeová, D. 2011: Nálezy štípané industrie na širším území obce Tachov, Acta Fakulty filozofické Západočeské Univerzity v Plzni 4/11, 38-51.

Svoboda, J. (ed.) 2004: Mezolit severních Čech. Brno.

Oliva, M. 2010: Pravěké hornictví v Krumlovském lese. Vznik a vývoj industriálně-sakrální krajiny na jižní Moravě. Anthropos N.S. 24. Brno.

Oliva, M. 2018: Mezolit na Moravě ve světle nových výzkumů a poznatků, (Le Mésolithique en Moravie sous l’optique ses recherches noveaux), in: Acta Mus. Moraviae, Sci. soc.

CIII, S. 3-33, ISSN 0323-0570

Vencl, S. 1966: Ostroměřská skupina (Nová pozdně paleolitická skupina v Čechách), Archeologické rozhledy 18, 309-340.

Vencl, S. 1978: Voletiny – nová pozdně paleolitická industrie z Čech, Památky archeologické 69,1- 44.

Vencl, S. 1988: Pozdně paleolitické osídlení v Plzni, Archeologické rozhledy 40, 3-43.

Vencl, S. 1989: Mezolitické osídlení na Šumavě, Archeologické rozhledy 41, 481-505, 593.

Vencl, S. 1990: K současnému stavu poznávání kamenných surovin mezolitu, Archeologické rozhledy 42, 233-243.