Tübingen Price for Ice Age Research goes to Denmark
University of Tübingen awards prize to Trine Kellberg Nielsen for her research into the colonization of Scandinavia
Dr. Trine Kellberg Nielsen from the University of Aarhus in Denmark is the winner of this year’s Price for Ice Age Research at the University of Tübingen. The archeologist is being honored for her dissertation entitled “Northern Neanderthals: A systematic assessment of the possibility of pre-modern human occupation of southern Scandinavia.” She used this to trace the discussion on whether people had already settled in Scandinavia during warm periods prior to the last Ice Age.
Trine Kellberg Nielsen gained her Bachelor’s degree at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Aarhus in 2008. She moved to the Department of Human Origins at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands for her Master’s degree. She gained her doctorate in Aarhus in 2016 and is now conducting post-doctoral research at the Centre for Biocultural History there. She spent an extended period at the University of Tübingen in 2015 engaged in work at the “The Role of Culture in Early Expansions of Humans” (ROCEEH) research center run by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
There is clear evidence that modern people settled in Scandinavia rapidly after the last Ice Age. However, heated discussions erupt from time to time in Scandinavia on whether Neanderthals settled there too in an earlier warm period – usually based on finds of stone implements by private collectors. Nielsen examined the issue from a wide variety of perspectives. She compared the possible habitat in southern Scandinavia during the so-called Eemian warm period (a warm period 126,000 – 115,000 years ago, named after the Dutch river Eem) with what Neanderthals needed in order to live. She examined the morphological and contextual aspects of the known stone implements and reassessed their dating and anthropogenic relationship.She also developed a map of possible Pleistocene warm-period strata – based partly on the National Borehole Database in Denmark. This included inspecting private collections, conducting her own investigations on the spot and organizing field surveys with groups of volunteers.
She did not find any indisputable evidence of early settlements – if Neanderthals visited southern Scandinavia prior to the Ice Age it was sporadic and ephemeral. “But it’s to Trine Kellberg Nielsen’s credit that a highly emotional discussion between amateur and professional archeologists has now been placed on a broad, new scientific footing without any polemics,” says the archaeologist and private lecturer Dr. Miriam Noël Haidle, in an extract from her official speech to be given at the prize-giving ceremony; she is also the scientific coordinator of the ROCEEH research center. “She has incorporated the potential from both groups in this issue in a beneficial manner.”
The advancement award will be presented in the Fürstenzimmer room at Schloss Hohentübingen (Burgsteige 11) at 11 a.m. on Thursday 2 February. The advancement award for prehistory and quaternary ecology, which is worth EUR 5,000, is made available by Romina Eiszeitquelle GmbH and is being presented for the 19th time this year.
Professor Nicholas Conard
University of Tübingen
Faculty of Science
Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment (HEP)
Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology
Phone +49 7071 29-72416