Paleoenvironmental implications of the Krems-Wachtberg archeological site

Birgit Terhorst1, Christine Neugebauer-Maresch2, Thomas Einwögerer2, Mark Händel2, Ulrich Simon2, Bodo Damm3, Ulrich Hambach4, Peter Kühn5, Simon Meyer-Heintze6, Sergey Sedov7
1 Institute of Geography and Geology, Würzburg and Geology, University of Wuerzburg
2 Austrian Academy of Science, Vienna
3 ISPA, Vechta
4 Chair of Geomorphology, University of Bayreuth
5 Institute of Geography, Tübingen
6 Institute of Geography and Geology, Würzburg
7 Institute of Geography and Geology, Würzburg and UNAM, Mexico City

V 2.8 in Löss und terrestrische Archive (Fortsetzung)

18.09.2012, 14:50-15:10, H8


Lower Austria is well known for its loess/paleosol sequences, for example those of in Stratzing, Göttweig, Stillfried and Willendorf. The most detailed investigations have been conducted in loess records related to archeological sites. In particular, the archeological findings at Krems-Wachtberg are in the focus of global scientific interest (e. g. Einwögerer et al. 2006; Händel et al. 2009).


Since 2005 C. Neugebauer-Maresch and her team of the Austrian Academy of Sciences are responsible for the archeological studies at the Krems-Wachtberg site. From the onset of the excavations they integrated different research fields and methods to reconstruct the development of humans and their environment.


The complete Krems-Wachtberg profile comprises a section of a loess/paleosol sequence of more than 8 m in total with a Gravettian find layer in a depth of 5.5 m (Einwögerer et al. 2006, Händel et al. 2009). For the basal parts of the profile, which includes the archeological layer, the chronological scale ranges between 26,000 and 29,000 y BP (uncalibrated 14C ages acc. to Einwögerer et al. 2009). Based on results of detailed rock magnetic investigations and correlations to the North-GRIP ice core, Hambach (2010) suggests a time span between ~20 and ~40 ka for the complete sequence. Thus, the Krems-Wachtberg sequence comprises the upper part of MIS3 as well as the transition to MIS 2. This time span constitutes a period characterized in different types of archives by numerous paleoclimatical and paleoenvironmental fluctutations. The response of geosystems to such changes is of major interest for the human-environmental interaction during the time of occupation of an archeological site. Beside paleotemperature and –precipitation, occurrence of permafrost or deep soil frost, soil humidity, vegetation cover, wind characteristics, topography etc. essentially influence the human activity.

In general, for W European loess sequences a distinct paleosol can be identified for the upper Middle Würmian. In Germany it is designated as Lohne Soil, Stillfried B in Austria or PKI in Dolni Vestonice. With increasing continental climate to the East and Southeast, interstadial soils are difficult to detect (Markovic et al. 2008). In this context, paleosols designated to Stillfried B consist of a series of very weak and initial horizons at its key section in E Austria, whereas the more humid areas in NW Austria record a well-developed paleosol for the upper Middle Würmian. The chronological scales as well as interregional and global correlations are still under discussion. For the western part of Lower Austria, the Lohne Soil, respectively Stillfried B-interstadial soil could not be proved so far. Relevant sequences, such as in Willendorf or Stratzing show an alternation of several weak and thin paleosols, cryic grayish horizons, sandy and silty layers for the period of interest (Thiel et al. in press). In this context, the time scale of the Krems-Wachtberg archeological site is of major interest for paleopedological and pedostratigraphical requests.


The present study accompanies the archeological prospection by paleopedological, rock magnetic, micromorphological, sedimentological and pedochemical analyses in order to reconstruct the paleoenvironmental fluctuations.





Einwögerer T., Händel M., Neugebauer-Maresch C., Simon U., Steier P., Teschler-Nicola M., Wild E. M., 2009. 14C Dating of the Upper Palaeolithic Site at Krems-Wachtberg, Austria. Radiocarbon 51/2, 847-855.

Einwögerer, T., Friesinger, H., Händel, M., Neugebauer-Maresch, C., Simon, U., Teschler-Nicola, M., 2009. Upper Paleolithic infant burials. Nature 444, 285.

Händel M., Simon U., Einwögerer T., Neugebauer-Maresch C., 2009. Loess deposits and the conservation of the archaeological record. The Krems-Wachtberg Example, Quaternary International,  198/1–2, 46-50.

Hambach U., 2010. Palaeoclimatic and stratigraphic implications of high resolution magnetic susceptibility logging of Würmian loess at the Upper Palaeolithic Krems-Wachtberg site.  In: Neugebauer-Maresch, C. & Owen, L.R.: New aspects of the Central and Eastern European Upper Palaeolithic – methods, chronology, technology and subsistence, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Commission of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, 295-304, Vienna.

Markovic, S., Bokhorst, M. P.,Vandenberghe, McCoy J.,W.D., Oches, E.A., Hambach, U., Gaudenyi, T., Jovanović, M., Zöller, L., Stevens, T., Machalett, B., 2008. Late Pleistocene loess–paleosol sequences in the Vojvodina region, North Serbia. Journal of Quaternary Science 23,73-84.

Terhorst, B., Thiel, C., Peticzka, R., Sprafke, T., Frechen, M., Roetzel, R., Neugebauer-Maresch, C., Fladerer, F. A., 2011. Casting new light on the chronology of the loess/paleosol sequences in Lower Austria. E & G Quaternary Science Journal 60/2-3, 270-277.

Thiel, C., Buylaert, J.-P., Murray, A., Terhorst, B., Hofer, I., Tsukamoto, S., Frechen, M., 2010. Luminescence dating of the Stratzing loess profile (Austria) - Testing the potential of an elevated temperature post-IR IRSL protocol. In: Frechen M., (ed.), Loess in Eurasia. Quaternary International 234/1-2, 23-31.

Thiel, C., Terhorst, B., Jaburová, I., Buylaert, J.-P., Murray, A. S., Fladerer, F. A., Damm, B., Frechen, M. & Ottner, F. (in press), Sedimentation and erosion processes in Middle to Late Pleistocene sequences exposed in the brickyard of Langenlois/Lower Austria. Geomorphology 135:295-307.

Krems-Wachtberg W profile. The archeological layer with basal more pedogenetic influenced horizon and uppermost redeposited material (Photo: Thomas Einwögerer).
Krems-Wachtberg W profile. The archeological layer with basal more pedogenetic influenced horizon and uppermost redeposited material (Photo: Thomas Einwögerer).

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Letzte Änderung 07.08.2012