The University of Arizona

Dating Late Paleolithic Harpoons from Lake Lubāns, Latvia

John Meadows, Berit V Eriksen, Ilga Zagorska, Alexander Dreves, Joanna Simpson


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.

DOI: 10.2458/56.16957


harpoon, Palaeolithic; Latvia; radiocarbon; stable isotope; ZooMS

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