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4th Archaeological Conference of Central Germany

„1600 - Cultural change in the shadow of the Thera-Eruption?“

Since 2008 the Archaeological Conference of Central Germany is organized by the State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt with support of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Halle (Saale).

Upon focusing different archaeological sub-disciplines on the last Archaeological Conferences of Central Germany, this year for the first time a special topic of prehistory was discussed. The title of this year's conference was „1600 - Cultural change in the shadow of the Thera-Eruption “.

In an interdisciplinary discourse amongst others volcanologists, climatologists and archaeologists debated on the eruption of Thera/Santorini in the mid 17th century BC, the possible climatic consequences of this eruption and their potential cultural effects in Europe.

The 22 lecturers and nine posterauthors from in all twelve nations presented their results in front of over 230 participants in the Audimax at the Martin Luther University. The three-day conference was opened by the plenary lecture of the international renowned volcanologist Prof Dr Hans-Ulrich Schmincke. He gave a lecture about “How do large Plinian eruptions impact climate? With examples from Laacher See Volcano (12900 BP), Laki (1783), Tambora (1815) and Pinatubo (1991)”. In the two following days the topic was discussed in a scientific and an archaeological section.


For a long time the cultural changes at about 1600 BC in the eastern Mediterranean region have been associated with the well known eruption of the volcano on Thera/Santorini in ca. 1625 BC. In the course of this interdisciplinary conference a controversial discussion was held about whether cultural changes at about 1600 BC in many European regions could perhaps also have had climatic reasons which were possibly caused by volcanic eruptions, such as the Minoan Eruption.

The first, scientific section focussed on the eruption of the volcano on Thera and its direct consequences, such as the tsunami-wave that - as a long term consequence -  probably was responsible for the decline of the Minoan world on Crete. How far these and other prehistoric eruptions had influenced the supraregional climate was debated comprehensively by scholars studying alpine climate indicators, pollen profiles and the climate modelling.

In the second section an archaeological transect through Europe was made in order to reveal the changes and/or maybe continuities in each relevant region. Beginning with the direct periphery of the Mediterranean different regions in Southern, Central and Western Europe were examined. For the period from about 1650 until 1550 BC archaeological evidence in each cultural region was presented by comparing settlement structures, funerary rites and hoarding practices through time. This comparative database formed the foundation for discussing the phenomenon of a cultural change at about 1600 BC in Europe.

The relation between the topic “1600” and Central Germany is mainly presented by the hoard of Nebra. That find shows the particular importance of the time about 1600 BC for Central Germany. That date marks the close of the Early Bronze Age, as well as the interim end of hoarding practices. The most prominent example of these hoards is definitely the Sky Disc hoard on the Mittelberg near Nebra.

In addition to the lecture program, the participants were offered the possibility to visit the permanent exhibition at the State Museum, where the original Nebra Sky Disc is presented.

Organiser: State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt with support of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Organisation and conference office: Anna Swieder M. A.