Environmental conditions at the Last Interglacial (Eemian) site Neumark-Nord 2, Germany inferred from stable isotope analysis of freshwater mollusc opercula

Stefania Milano*, Eduard Pop, Wim Kuijper, Wil Roebroeks, Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser, Kirsty Penkman, Lutz Kindler, Kate Britton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Mollusc biogenic carbonates are valuable records of past environmental conditions. In particular, carbonate oxygen (δ18O) and carbon (δ13C) stable isotopes can be used to reconstruct different physical and chemical parameters, according to the different genera used (marine, freshwater or terrestrial). The Last Interglacial (early Eemian) palaeolake of Neumark‐Nord 2 (NN 2), Germany provides an excellent example of a Neanderthal archaeological site with abundant freshwater carbonate remains. As in other European contexts, one of the most abundant species is Bithynia tentaculata . In order to provide a robust regional baseline for the interpretation of the archaeological data, this study includes a calibration phase on modern B. tentaculata opercula. The results indicate that these calcitic structures are likely to be subjected to a growth slowdown/cessation during summer, which influences their geochemistry, reflecting mainly the water properties of the rest of the year. This modern calibration, together with the existing palaeoenvironmental reconstructions developed for NN 2 (e.g. pollen data), represents a valuable opportunity to establish B. tentaculata opercula as reliable environmental proxies applicable to several other freshwater contexts. The isotope data of the NN 2 opercula, in agreement with the pollen record, indicate that the major archaeological horizon was formed during a rather wet period and potentially in a semi‐forested environment. However, human occupation occurred also during drier phases at the site and within a wide temperature range, indicating the absence of restricted environmental preferences by the local Neanderthal groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-487
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Early online date1 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

The authors acknowledge the two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments that improved the manuscript. Financial support for the excavations in Neumark‐Nord 2 was provided by the Lausitzer Mitteldeutsche Braunkohlengesellschaft mbH, the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen‐Anhalt (Harald Meller, Susanne Friederich), the Römisch‐Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz, the Leids Universiteits Fonds ‘Campagne voor Leiden’ program and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (N.W.O.).


  • Neanderthals
  • last interglacial
  • middle palaeolithic
  • Oxygen and carbon stable isotopes
  • Bithynia tentaculata
  • modern calibration
  • L.
  • DELTA-O-18


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