Day 1 - Monday, September 23rd:

Welcome & Coffee

Starting with some words of welcome and organizational remarks, an overview of what is going to happen at this workshop will be outlined. This will be followed by an introduction to the PaleoMaps project, which was first established as a small side project of the CRC806-Database - the data management platform of the CRC 806 - concerning the creation of paleoenvironmental GIS datasets to be available from Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) of the CRC806-Database (Willmes et al 2017). The first formulation of the this idea behind PaleoMaps was formulated and published already 3 years ago (Willmes et al 2016), still mainly focused on the infrastructure and data model aspects, but not yet named PaleoMaps. This idea was then developed further, to generally include all aspects of gathering data and information, as well as methods and techniques for modelling these information as GIS based representations of paleoenvirnments. The following two questions will be addressed in this presentation. What exactly is the idea behind the PaleoMaps project? What are the key challanges for compiling comprehensive PaleoMaps, i.e. a collection of paleoenvironmental spatial data for a given spatio-temporal context?

Willmes, C., Becker, D., Verheul, J., Yener, Y., Zickel, M., Bolten, A., Bubenzer, O., Bareth, G. (2016): An Open Science approach to GIS-based paleoenvironment data. ISPRS Ann. Photogramm. Remote Sens. Spatial Inf. Sci. III-2, 159- 164 . DOI:10.5194/isprs-annals-III-2-159-2016

Willmes, C., Becker, D., Verheul, J., Yener, Y., Zickel, M., Bolten, A., Bubenzer, O., Bareth, G. (2017): PaleoMaps: SDI for open paleoenvironmental GIS data. IJSDIR, Vol. 12, 39-61, DOI: 10.2902/1725-0463.2017.12.art3


Currently GIS tools are widely used at various stages of archaeological investigations. One of their biggest advantages is the ability to integrate various types of data, not just archaeological ones. This gives great opportunity to modern exploitation of environmental and palaeoenvironmental data and its comparison with archaeological datasets. Due to that, the main aim of this presentation will be the description of three case studies from the area of contemporary Poland which are based – however in a different manner – on the utilisation of archaeological and environmental/palaeoenvironmental data with the support of GIS tools. These case studies will be connected with: comparison of archaeological data and recently obtained pollen data in specific part of Polish Central Pomerania where numerous archaeological sites are known (1); investigation of settlement transformations in the area of Polish Eastern Pomerania during the end of the Bronze Age and at the Early Iron Age. In this case archaeological data was compared with chosen datasets of environmental data in order to verify statements present in current archaeological literature and related with settlement conditions at that periods (2); archaeological researches of the Białowieża Forest based on the analysis of ALS data of the whole woodland complex with additional use of environmental datasets (3). The presentation will discuss main problems related with the utilisation of different sorts of data as well as issues connected with cooperation between different disciplines: both in the field and while the elaboration of the research effects.


The research of our institution, the Centre of Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA), focuses particularly on the North Sea and Baltic Sea area. During the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic these areas were significantly different from today’s coastlines. Hence, to understand human movements in this study area during these period usable maps of past landscapes needed to be created. Once considering this issue, we became aware that changing landscapes remained a relevant topic around the North Sea and the Baltic Sea well into later periods and that maps on a European-level for these changing states are lacking. In our small infrastructure project “EPHA –European Prehistoric and Historic Atlas” we began approaching this desideratum by compiling GIS-based maps for the Late Weichselian and Early Holocene using data collected in the literature. In the future, we aim to cover also younger periods with this approach. Realising how much time it costs to find and evaluate the necessary data, we decided to share the results with an interested community by making the maps available in an Open Access format ( In this talk, we will present the process of compiling the maps with the obstacles that we had to face and the implications for our future plans.
Project Website:

Coffee Break

Reconstructing environmental conditions of the past is crucial to understand human evolution. The B3 project of the CRC806 uses different methods to reconstruct paleoenvironments in the Near East and Europe. Here, we give an overview of the latest approaches and recent publications. The methods include I) spatial biome modeling for different climate scenarios using a biome-climate transfer function; II) diachronic local biome and climate reconstruction based on pollen data of sediment cores; and III) spatial climate reconstruction using paleo proxy data. The results provide new insights into the environmental history on different scales.
Miebach, A., Stolzenberger, S., Wacker, L., Hense, A., Litt, T. (2019): A new Dead Sea pollen record reveals the last glacial paleoenvironment of the southern Levant. – In: Quaternary Science Reviews, Vol. 214, p: 98-116, DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.04.033


The reconstruction of paleo-landscape features for archaeological and/or paleontological purposes is primarily based on available environmental data and additional site information. Hence, site location analysis is usually a combination of multi-variate statistics and spatial continuous datasets that have been prepared by advanced GIS applications. For example, digital elevation data of different origin and on different scales are utilized to derive topographic indices describing certain processes or characteristics of geomorphologic, geologic, climatic, hydrologic, vegetation or strategic circumstances. In three case studies from Italy and Eastern Africa, I will illustrate what DEMs, remotely sensed data, detailed terrain analysis, data mining technologies and geophysical methods tell us about Landscape pattern and how their integration might help to understand, and to reconstruct paleo-landscapes.

Märker M. , Schillaci C., Melis R.T., Kropáček J., Bosino A., Vilímek, Hochschild V., Sommer C., Altamura F., Mussi M. (2017): Geomorphological processes, forms and features in the surroundings of the Melka Kunture Paleolithic site, Ethiopia. Accepted by Journal of Maps.

Märker M., Kropacek J., Mussi M., Melis R., Schillaci C. & (2018): Morphometric Terrain Analysis to explore present day Geohazards and Paleolandscape forms and features in the surroundings of the Melka Kunture prehistoric site, Upper Awash Valley, Central Ethiopia. Acta Universitatis Carolinae Geographica 53, 1, /2018, 10-19. DOI: 10.14712/23361980.2018.2.

Bachofer F., Quénéhervé G., Zwiener T., Märker M. & Hochschild V. (2016): Comparative analysis of edge detection techniques for SAR images. European Journal of Remote Sensing 49, 205-224. DOI: 10.5721/EuJRS20164912.

Kropacek J., Schillaci C., Salvini R. & Märker M. (2016) Assessment of gully erosion in the Upper Awash, Central Ethiopian Highlands based on comparison of archived aerial photographs and very high resolution satellite images. Geographia Fisica e Dinamica Quaternaria. 38. doi:10.4461/GFDQ.2016.39.15

Märker M., Quénéhervé G., BachoferF. & S. Mori (2015): A Simple DEM Assessment Procedure for Gully Systems Analysis in the Lake Manyara Area, Northern Tanzania". Natural Hazards, 79 (1), 235-253. DOI: 10.1007/s11069-015-1855-y

Bachofer F., Quénéhervé G., Hochschild V. & M. Märker (2015): Multisensoral Topsoil Mapping in the Semiarid Lake Manyara Region, Northern Tanzania. Remote Sensing 7(8), 9563-9586. DOI: 10.3390/rs70809563 ISSN: 20724292

Quénéhervé G., Bachofer F. & M. Märker (2015): Experimental Assessment of Runoff Generation Processes on Hillslope Scale in a Semiarid Region in Northern Tanzania. Geografia Fisica e Dinamica Quaternaria. 38 (1), 55-66.

Bachofer, F., Quénéhervé, G., Märker, M. & Hochschild V. (2015): Comparison of SVM and Boosted Regression Trees for the Delineation of Lacustrine Sediments using Multispectral ASTER Data and Topographic Indices in the Lake Manyara Basin. Photogrammetrie, Fernerkundung und Geoinformation. 1, 81–94.

Flores E., Quénéhervé G., Bachofer F.,Shahzad F. & M. Märker (2015):Morpho-tectonic Interpretation of the Makuyuni Catchment in Northern Tanzania using DEM and SAR Data. Geomorphology, 248, 427-439. DOI 10.1016/j.geomorph.2015.07.049.

Vogel, S. & Märker, M. (2013): Modeling the spatial distribution of AD 79 pumice fallout and pyroclastic density current and derived deposits of Somma-Vesuvius (Campania, Italy) integrating primary deposition and secondary redistribution. Bulletin of Volcanology 75 (12), 1-15.

Vogel, S. & M. Maerker (2012): Comparison of pre AD79 Roman Paleosols in two contratsing paleo-topographical situations around Pompeii (Italy). Geografia Fisica e Dinamica Quaternaria, 35 (2012), 199-209.

Vogel, S., Märker, M., Esposito, D., Seiler, F. (2016): The Ancient Rural Settlement Structure in the Hinterland of Pompeii Inferred from Spatial Analysis and Predictive Modeling of Villae Rusticae. Geoarchaeology 31(2), 121-139. DOI: 10.1002/gea.21560

Vogel S., Märker M.,Rellini I.Hoelzmann P., Wulf S.,Robinson M., Steinhübel L.,Di Maio G., Imperatore C., Kastenmeier P., Liebmann L., Esposito D., Seiler F. (2016):From a stratigraphic sequence to a landscape evolution model: Late Pleistocene and Holocene volcanism, soil formation and land use in the shade of Mount Vesuvius (Italy) (Article) Quaternary International, 394, 155-179. DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2015.02.033

Märker M. & Bolus M. (2018): Explorative spatial analysis of Neandertal sites based on stochastic environmental modeling. GI_Forum 2018 (2), 21 - 38


The modeling and mapping of palaeoenvironments in context of Pleistocene human behaviour tend to focus on parameter such as climate, vegetation or associated biomes and thus, represent mainly direct and indirect biotic parameters. However, abtiotic landscape parameters such as a very smooth or rough topography are also highly affecting the way in which humans have lived in a given landscape.
This talk discusses the impact of topography at various scales in the spatial analysis of a given landscape with regard to geoarchaeological questions. Two issues in particular are of major importance in geomorphometry: the spatial resolution of a DEM, and the spatial scale of landforms under consideration. A clear identification of various scales is important, as geomorphometry operates on a wide spectrum of scales ranging from a few millimetres up to several hundreds of kilometres, resulting in a wide range of landforms. It is discussed what the topography can contribute to the characterisation of a given landscape at various scales, where hunter-gatherers have lived and how this can be integrated into the characterisation of palaeolandscapes with particular focus on human behaviour at different scales. Examples are given from Northeast Africa and the Eastern Desert of Egypt.

Coffee Break

In order to understand how species evolutionarily responded to Plio‐Pleistocene climate oscillations (e.g. in terms of speciation, extinction, migration and adaptation), it is first important to have a good understanding of those past climate changes per se. This, however, is currently limited due to the lack of global‐scale climatic datasets with high temporal resolution spanning the Plio‐Pleistocene. To fill this gap, I here present Oscillayers, a global‐scale and region‐specific bioclim dataset, facilitating the study of climatic oscillations during the last 5.4 million years at high spatial (2.5 arc‐minutes) and temporal (10 kyr time periods) resolution. This dataset builds upon interpolated anomalies (Δ layers) between bioclim layers of the present and the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) that are scaled relative to the Plio‐Pleistocene global mean temperature curve, derived from benthic stable oxygen isotope ratios, to generate bioclim variables for 539 time periods. Evaluation of the scaled, interpolated estimates of palaeo‐climates generated for the Holocene, Last Interglacial and Pliocene showed good agreement with independent general circulation models (GCMs) for respective time periods in terms of pattern correlation and absolute differences. Oscillayers thus provides a new tool for studying spatial‐temporal patterns of evolutionary and ecological processes at high temporal and spatial resolution.
Gamisch, A. Oscillayers: A dataset for the study of climatic oscillations over Plio‐Pleistocene time‐scales at high spatial‐temporal resolution. Global Ecol Biogeogr. 2019; 00: 1– 9.


A Heinrich event (HE) is a natural phenomenon, occurred during the last glacial periods, in which the broken off large armadas of icebergs traverse the North Atlantic. As it is hypothesized that the Heinrich events may indicate an extreme global climate change, so paying enough attention to these phenomena is important. The precise evolution of these glacial events is still under debate. Although there is no consensus, some mechanisms for the periodic iceberg release during Heinrich events have been proposed, e.g. a multi-millennial buildup collapse (binge–purge) cycle of the Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS) by MacAyeal (1993). Based on this hypothesis, a steady, time independent snow accumulation rate without any variation in external climate is the only requirement of an oscillatory behavior from the LIS. Some prominent Heinrich layers, H1, H2, H4, and H5, appear are accompanied by massive discharges of armadas of icebergs with a major source area from Hudson Strait into the North Atlantic. Old versions of the EarthSystem Models (ESMs) were based on this assumption that the extent and elevation of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are time invariant without any interaction with other parts of the climate system, while it has been established that they have mutual interaction with atmospheric and ocean currents on time scales of a decade or less. After introducing improved ice sheet dynamics of HEs in a ESM model, we simulate HEs by applying the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) boundary conditions under different forcing scenarios.

Closing of Day 1
Time to ask questions or to speak up for everyone in the audience.

Day 2 - Tuesday, September 24th:

Welcome & Coffee

Carrying capacity (CC) is the maximum biomass that an ecosystem can sustain over the long term. Since CC is ultimately determined by Primary Productivity, it can be predicted from Mean Annual Temperature and Annual Rainfall, the two main determinants of Primary Productivity. In addition to be one of the main determinants of biodiversity, CC strongly conditions several ecological processes. Thus, analyzing the variation in the CC of ecosystems along the Pleistocene, and its relationship with species diversity provides information on how the biological communities of the past were structured. We illustrate here how maps of inferred maximum CC in the past may help us to understand the functioning of palaeoecosystems with an ecological structure without recent analogues. We show that, when compared with recent ecosystems, the mammalian communities of southern Europe were characterized during the late Early Pleistocene by a high carnivore species richness and a moderate, or relatively low, herbivore species richness. Carnivore species richness was as high as it is in the richer recent African communities, but carnivore CC was much lower. Consequently carnivores necessarily occurred in the late Early Pleistocene ecosystems of Europe at low population densities, and this undoubtedly affected ecosystem functioning.
Rodríguez, Jesús & Mateos, Ana. (2018). Carrying capacity, carnivoran richness and hominin survival in Europe. Journal of human evolution. 118. 72-88. 10.1016/j.jhevol.2018.01.004.


Detecting hotspots for archaeological sites in space and time is a challenging undertaking for several reasons. The first reason is that the temporal ordering of archaeological sites cannot be clearly identified due to the uncertainties attached to dating methods. A second obstacle is that various clustering algorithms assume certain shapes for the clusters beforehand. This assumption might not be valid for archaeological settlement patterns, which show various shapes across time and space. Density-based clustering is a non-parametric approach, which considers the closeness of objects in a given neighborhood. The concept of this clustering scheme will be depicted and explained how some of the above mentioned problems can be circumvented by introducing different density-based clustering algorithms in their chronological order of adaptations. Also a new algorithm will be introduced which is a fuzzy clustering approach.


Core Areas and Extended Areas have been introduced by Cologne-based working-groups to calculate site-density based population estimates for different socio-economic entities – such as for sedentary, farming communities as well as mobile hunter-gatherer societies – at different European scales. The scales of analysis identified during the geostatistical upscaling procedure, the so-called Cologne Protocol, are of interest here. In this presentation we introduce Core Areas and Extended Areas, how they are derived and why they are important as informed scales when mapping and modelling in prehistoric research. An ongoing study by one of us (M.M.) demonstrates the use of Core Areas to characterise humans’ relationship with Europe’s main river systems, investigated diachronically throughout the Upper and final Palaeolithic as well as Neolithic.

Coffee Break

The fossil, archeological and genetic findings of the recent years point towards a more complex story of the earliest hominin expansions. These findings support multiple expansion events, taking place in various regions, with more complex cultural behavior and complex inter-species interactions. The latter is documented by the admixture between modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans. Additionally, to the increasing amount of field data, there is an increased amount of behavioral models and environmental reconstructions which have to be integrated in the larger frame of hominin expansions. To deal with this increasing complexity, interdisciplinary and integrative approaches are required, that use the support of computer power. Agent-based modeling is such an approach, which allows testing hypotheses on expansions on reconstructed model environment and provides quantifiable results from dynamic simulations. In this talk, we present agent-based modeling as a method to approach questions on hominin dispersal and migration at different scales and different demands on environmental data. We will give examples on test-cases that are currently developed within the Role of Culture in Early human Expansions (ROCEEH) project and the Modeling Environmental Dynamics of Hominin Dispersals around the mid-Pleistocene transition International Focus Group (METHOD IFG). By the example of these models, we want to show the potential on how agent-based modeling can help us to examine questions on hominin expansion, but also make aware about the limitations that exist and how to deal with it.


This master’s thesis deals with species distribution modeling (SDM) for eight selected prey animals of the Neanderthals and the anatomically modern human within the frame- work of the Collaborative Research Center 806 ("Our way to Europe"). This research was realized for three methods in three climatically different time slices during the Late Pleis- tocene. One profile method, one regression method and one machine learning method were used. A model was developed that performs these three methods in order to obtain a potential distribution of the paleofauna in the Late Pleistocene and to link it to the dispersal of humans in this region. The results show that all three methods predict con- ditions for the presence of the species which may have hunted from both Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans. However, there are differences in the predicted re- gions between the individual methods for each species. Another task was to determine the best performing method. Based on this work, MaxEnt, a machine learning method, emerged as the best performing method among the applied methods.


Archaeological records indicate that many regions in Europe were not inhabited by hunter-gatherers during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). It is assumed that the limitation of potential habitats was due to the harsh climatic conditions and glacial extent. In the populated regions of southwestern Europe, a new technocomplex, the Solutrean, is known to have rapidly emerged among hunter-gatherers but did not reach the regions east of 10°E. To gain new insights into human occupation of Europe during the LGM, Human Existence Potential (HEP) is presented, which expresses the suitability for hunter-gatherers to inhabit a region under given environmental conditions. We estimate the HEP based on archaeological site locations and reconstructed climate/environment data. By geostatistic upscaling of archaeological site distributions into Core Areas, we distinguish areas that were likely to be continuously occupied by hunter-gatherers, from areas intermittently occupied. The use of Core Areas is found to describe human presence with higher accuracy, removing some of the previously observed mismatches between reconstructions archaeological records. Using HEP, important anthropological and archaeological questions can be studied. Environmental Human Catchment (EHC) and Best Potential Path (BPP) are applied to, respectively, quantify an area of HEP attraction and the most cost-efficient path between two areas. With these tools, we characterize the potential connections between the Core Areas, the environmental barriers and possible social and technological interactions. A study on the social network between Core Areas in western Europe is presented. A clear difference in adaptation is found between the populations in western and eastern Europe, and a significant climate barrier prevented the propagation of the Solutrean to eastern Europe.

Coffee Break

In contemporary archaeological research, the domestication of plants and animals in the Near East during the Early Holocene is alternatively interpreted as an overall slow and gradual, or else as rapid process. Both positions are supposedly supported by 14C-radiometric data, but which is of generally low quality. A recent chronological re-analysis (Weninger, 2017) of the archaeological, archaeobotanical and archaeozoological data confirmed that the Wild-Domestic-Transition (WDT) was indeed initially slow (millennial scale), but terminated at 10.2 ± 0.2 ka calBP with an abrupt switch to herding and agriculture. Interestingly, the WDT is itself synchronous with an abrupt climatic switch to higher precipitation, as documented in marine and terrestrial climate records in the Mediterranean and adjacent regions (e.g. Levant, Iran). The WDT is immediately associated with the onset of Neolithic dispersal out of the Fertile Crescent into Central Anatolia, and from the Northern into the Southern Levant. From the viewpoint of Complex System Theory (Niche Construction, Punctuated Equilibrium), it appears possible to understand the rapidity of WDT as due to amplification with feedback (i.e. resonance) for a small number of causal factors, abbreviated: human agency tightly coupled with the genetic properties of domesticates and enhanced water availability. In the present paper, we compare the eMed (Neolithic) response to the precipitation increase at ~10.2 ka calBP (Sapropel S1) with the response of contemporaneous Hunter-gatherer (Epipalaeolithic) societies in the wMed (Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, Saharan Regions). The method applied is large-scale combination of palaeoclimate records with archaeological 14C-data using the method of Barcode Sequencing.
B. Weninger (2017): Niche construction and theory of agricultural origins.Case studies in punctuated equilibrium. Documenta Praehistorica XLIV, 6-17.
Article (
Suppl. Informations (


Computational modelling approaches are increasingly being applied to archaeological research questions and offer new avenues for testing hypotheses of past human behaviour. In this talk we first provide an introductory overview of the different modelling approaches that have been used to study mobility and land use patterns of Pleistocene humans of the Western Mediterranean and discuss the particular importance of reliable proxy data. In the second part we present a case study dealing with human coping methods in relation to climate change. We apply two methods Kernel Density Estimation and Mating Network analysis to see how hunter-gatherers on the Iberian Peninsula and in North-Western Africa reacted to the arid climate of Heinrich Event 1. Here, we can link models of human behaviour to palaeoclimate models and show the long-term effect severe climate conditions could have on hunter-gatherer societies.

Closing session
Discussion about outcome of the workshop and future directions.