Berit Valentin Eriksen

Head of Research Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology, Schleswig.

Research interests

Lithic studies

Flint working is the oldest known craft in the world. Moreover, it is a skill that has to be acquired and which cannot be exercised successfully without a certain amount of knowledge, experience and ability (motor as well as mental, i.e. know-how). Advanced lithic studies operate accordingly within the field of cognitive archaeology. The approach employed emphasises a dynamic technological analysis of primary production sequences (based on experimental flint knapping and refitting of inventories), as well as of schéma and chaîne opératoires, complexity and completeness of assemblages, technological skills and degrees of specialization in tool production. Sourcing and provenance analysis provide a basis for discussing the acquisition of lithic raw material in relation to other socioeconomic activities, such as scheduling, control and management of resources, as well as mobility patterns and communication networks. My current research spans from “Craft’s apprenticeship and transmission of knowledge in Bronze Age flintworking” to “Heat treatment of chert as a cultural marker in the early mesolithic of Southwest Germany”. Lithic technology is a key-element in all projects related to the study of prehistoric hunter-gatherers and will remain so in my future research.


Modelling hunter-gatherer colonization of late glacial and earliest postglacial Northern Europe

One of my primary research interests relates to the question of how late glacial and early postglacial hunter-gatherer groups moved into frontier areas and coped with more or less rapid environmental changes. This entails perspectives on origins, colonization and migration; mobility; socio-economic organization of technology and settlement; subsistence economic adaptations and land use; various spatiotemporal issues; as well as the methodological approach. My latest research has focused on the need for a reliable correlation of the relative archaeological and absolute geochronological frameworks for the late glacial and earliest postglacial, and on the question of the timing and nature of colonization in relation to the environmental preconditions in Southern Scandinavia.


Prehistoric Reindeer Hunters

Reindeer represents a valuable prey species for human hunters in subarctic and arctic biotopes and probably was a key resource for the human colonization of the Baltic and Scandinavian area following the retreat of the Fennoscandian glacier during the Late Glacial. Previous studies of the classic Hamburgian and Ahrensburgian fauna inventories from Meiendorf, Poggenwisch and Stellmoor have addressed these aspects by way of traditional archaeozoological (B. Bratlund) or ethnoarchaeological (B. Grønnow) approaches. A current research project headed by researchers from ZBSA involves modern archaeochemistry and archaeogenetic analyses to address "Late Glacial reindeer migrations in Northwest Europe" (in collaboration with Prof. Dr. T.D. Price, University of Wisconsin, and others). Another project focuses on the reindeer as a supplier of raw material for artefact production (in collaboration with Dr. Eva David, and others). This project is entitled: "Defining the Ahrensburgian. Contributions from a technological study of reindeer antler artefacts". The Late Glacial reindeer antler clubs and mattocks in question have often been associated with the classic Ahrensburgian culture. However, the spatio-temporal distribution of these artefacts (also known as Lyngby-axes) is somewhat different from that of Ahrensburgian lithic inventories and may likely correspond to that of the Tanged Point complex sensu lato. Based on a re-examination of the Lyngby-axes from Stellmoor and other northeuropean sites this pilot study will attempt to answer questions pertaining to the socio-cultural importance of these implements.


Mesolithic Burials

During the rescue excavation in 2001 of an Iron Age village at Hammelev in Southern Jutland, Danish archaeologists unexpectedly uncovered a well-preserved ochre grave and various settlement remains from the Early Mesolithic. The ochre grave contained the cremated remains of an adult individual accompanied by unburned grave goods belonging to the Maglemose culture. Radiocarbon analysis confirms an age of approximately 8000 cal BC. From this period human remains, with or without a burial context, are very rare, and cremation graves even more so. Previously, this was thought to be a simple reflection of the fact that these people were highly mobile hunter-gatherers with little or no need for complex burial practices. Accordingly, this is a truly unique find with far-reaching interpretational implications concerning both the living and the dead in the Early Mesolithic of Northern Europe. 


Academic qualifications

2011  Transfer of habilitation to the University of Kiel. Venia legendi in Prehistory (Ur- und Frühgeschichte)
2010 Habilitation, University of Tübingen. Thesis: “Transitions and Transformations. From late Pleistocene reindeer hunters to Bronze Age flint knappers”
1989 PhD degree in Prehistoric Archaeology from the University of Aarhus. Thesis: “Change and Continuity in a Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherer Society”
1984-1989 Doctoral studies at the University of Tübingen and at the University of Aarhus
1984 Masters degree in Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Aarhus 


Academic career

2014 Professor II, University of Bergen, Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion (part time professorship)
2009- Head of research, “Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology” (ZBSA) in the “Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen Schloss Gottorf”
2007-2008 Fixed term lecturer, University of Aarhus, Department of Prehistoric Archaeology
2002-2007 Senior research fellow, Moesgaard Museum 
2000-2002 Fixed term lecturer, University of Aarhus, Department of Prehistoric Archaeology. Research fellow at Ferskvandsmuseet and Museet for Thy og Vester Han herred
1997-1999  Associate professor, University of Aarhus, Department of Prehistoric Archaeology 
1996 Research fellow, Museet for Thy og Vester Han herred. Research travels in Germany
1992-1995 Assistant professor, University of Aarhus, Department of Prehistoric Archaeology                                       
1990-1992  Alexander von Humboldt research fellow, University of Tübingen, Institut für Urgeschichte 


Honorary offices 

2009-  President of the UISPP Commission for "The Final Palaeolithic of Northern Eurasia / Le Paléolithique Final de l'Eurasie du Nord"
1998-2009  Founding member and secretary of the UISPP Commission XXXII: "Final Palaeolithic of the Great European Plain / Paléolithique final de la Grande Plaine européenne"
 1992-2003 Founding member and secretary of the INQUA working group on "The Archaeology of the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition"; 1999-2003 also secretary of the INQUA Commission on "Human Evolution and Paleoecology"
 1999-2003 Secretary of the Danish Alexander von Humboldt Club


Major research grants

2004-2007 The Danish Research Council for the Humanities kindly financed the project: “Production strategies in Bronze Age flintworking – the decline and fall of a master craft”. Grant no. 25-03-0520.
1992-1995 The Danish Research Council for the Humanities kindly financed the project: “Patterns of ethnogeographic variability in late Pleistocene and early Holocene Central and North Europe”. Grant no. 15-8654.
1990-1992  The Alexander von Humboldt Research Foundation kindly financed the project: “Räumliche Variabilität der urgeschichtlichen Jäger- und Sammler­gemein­schaften im spätglazialen und frühpostglazialen Mittel- und Nordeuropa”. Grant no. IV 1 701-2.


Relevant publications

  1. 1991: Change and Continuity in a Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherer Society: A study of cultural adaptation in late glacial – early postglacial southwestern Germany. Archaeologica Venatoria 12. Tübingen
  2. 1997: Implications of thermal pretreatment of chert in the German Mesolithic. In: R. Schild & Z. Sulgostowska (eds.): Man and Flint. Proceedings of the VIIth International Flint Symposium. Warsaw, p. 325-329
  3. 2000: B.V. Eriksen (ed.): FLINTSTUDIER – en håndbog i systematiske analyser af flint­inven­tarer. Aarhus Universitetsforlag. Århus: Kapitel 1: Indledning, p. 9-16; Kapitel 3: Grund­læg­gende flintteknologi, p. 37-50; Kapitel 6: “Chaîne opératoire” – den operative proces og kunsten at tænke som en flinthugger, p. 75-100; Kapitel 14: “Squeezing blood from stones” – flint­oldsag­ernes vidnesbyrd om social struktur, subsistensøkonomi og mobilitet i ældre sten­alder, p. 231-274
  4. 2002a: Reconsidering the geochronological framework of Lateglacial hunter-gatherer colonization of southern Scandinavia. In: B.V. Eriksen & B. Bratlund (eds), Recent studies in the Final Palaeolithic of the European plain. JAS Publications Vol. 39. Højbjerg, p. 25-41.
  5. 2002b: Fossil mollusks and exotic raw materials in late glacial and early postglacial find contexts – a complement to lithic studies. In: L.E. Fisher & B.V. Eriksen (eds.): Lithic raw material economy in late glacial and early postglacial western Europe. BAR S1093. Oxford, p. 27-52
  6. 2006a: Stenalderstudier – fortid, nutid og fremtid for den tidligt mesolitiske arkæologi. In: B.V. Eriksen (ed), Stenalderstudier. Tidligt mesolitiske jægere og samlere i Sydskandinavien. JAS Publications Vol. 55. Højbjerg, p. 9-18.
  7. 2006b: Colourful Lithics – the “Chaîne Opératoire” of Heat Treated Chert Artefacts in the Early Mesolithic of Southwest Germany. In: C.J. Kind (ed): After the Ice Age. Settlements, subsistence and social development in the Mesolithic of Central Europe. Materialhefte zur Archäologie in Baden-Württemberg, Heft 78. Stuttgart: Konrad Theiss Verlag, p. 147-153
  8. 2007: Travelling craftsmen in Early Bronze Age Denmark – addressing the evidence of leftover lithics. In: B. Hårdh, K. Jennbert & D. Olausson (eds), On the Road. Studies in honour of Lars Larsson. Acta Archaeologica Lundensia, Series in 4°, No. 26. Lund, p. 253-258.
  9. 2008: Dynamic technological analysis of Bronze Age lithics. A tribute to an unconventional archaeologist. In: Z. Sulgostowska & A.J. Tomaszewski (eds), Man – Millennia – Environment. Studies in honour of Romuald Schild. Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences. Warsaw, p. 301-306.
  10. 2010: Flint working in the Danish Bronze Age – the decline and fall of a master craft. In: B.V. Eriksen (ed): Lithic technology in metal using societies. JAS Publications. Højbjerg, p. 81-93.

A complete list of publications as well as downloads, description of edited volumes, etc., may be found at HTTP://WWW.PALAEOLITHIC.DK/BOOKS