The site formation history of Schöningen 13II-4 (Germany): Testing different models of site formation by means of spatial analysis, spatial statistics and orientation analysis

Publication date: February 2020

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 114

Author(s): Carli Peters, Thijs van Kolfschoten


The Lower Palaeolithic, Middle Pleistocene locality Schöningen has been a focus of archaeological research for over two decades. The locality is best-known for the discovery of wooden spears in close association with numerous butchered remains of horses and other large mammals in the Spear Horizon (Schö 13II-4), with an age of ca. 300 kyr. Several site formation models have been proposed to explain the faunal accumulation at the site: 1) single hunting event on a dried lake shore; 2) multiple hunting events in the soft mud of a lake shore; 3) deposition on an exposed delta plain; 4) geogenic displacement by hydrological processes; 5) hominin waste disposal and storage behaviour; and 6) hominin butchering activities on a frozen lake surface. Visual spatial analyses allow for the (subjective) incorporation of archaeological knowledge in the interpretation of spatial data, while spatial statistics allow for more objective and reproducible inferences about spatial patterns. The combination of the two could thus provide a vital tool in disentangling complex site formation processes. This study uses a combination of visual spatial analyses, spatial statistics and orientation analyses in order to further disentangle the site formation history of Schö 13II-4 and to assess the impact of post-depositional processes on the faunal assemblage. This study revealed the existence of intra-site and inter-species differences in spatial distribution and orientation. The results of this study are compared to the suggested site formation models for Schö 13II-4 to test which of these models is most parsimonious with the spatial distribution and orientation of the faunal assemblage. It is concluded that the previously proposed site formation models are overly simplified and cannot be used to explain the site formation history of Schö 13II-4.