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Dating Late Paleolithic Harpoons from Lake Lubāns, Latvia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 February 2016

John Meadows
Zentrum für Baltische und Skandinavische Archäologie, Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen, Schloss Gottorf, 24837 Schleswig, Germany Leibniz-Labor für Altersbestimmung und Isotopenforschung, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Germany
Berit V Eriksen
Zentrum für Baltische und Skandinavische Archäologie, Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen, Schloss Gottorf, 24837 Schleswig, Germany
Ilga Zagorska
Institute of Latvian History, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia
Alexander Dreves
Leibniz-Labor für Altersbestimmung und Isotopenforschung, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Germany
Joanna Simpson
BioArCh and Department of Chemistry, University of York, United Kingdom


Over 3000 prehistoric bone and antler artifacts, collected in the late 1930s from the former lakebed of Lake Lubāns, are held by the National History Museum of Latvia. This collection is remarkable not only as one of the largest known assemblages of bone implements in northern Europe, but also in terms of diversity of forms. The most elaborately worked objects include harpoons, often with two rows of barbs and spade-shaped bases, which are believed to date to the Late Paleolithic, and to be among the oldest organic artifacts ever found in Latvia. Four broken specimens were sampled in 2011 for accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating, stable isotope analysis, and taxonomic attribution by ZooMS. The results support the interpretation that these artifacts were made from large cervid bones, and date all four objects to the early Preboreal (mid-10th millennium cal BC). The Lake Lubāns harpoons therefore fall in the same period as similar harpoons from Denmark, northern Germany, and Poland, although only a handful of these have been dated directly.

Methodology: Generaland Bones
Copyright © 2014 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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