The year is 12,800 BP. Europe is entirely occupied by people of the so-called Upper Magdalenian culture. Well, not entirely ... one small region, southern Scandinavia, differs markedly from its neighbours.
These lines open the first book-length treatment of the cultural evolution of late ice age forager societies at the northern edge of Europe. "Splendid Isolation" summarises more than ten years of research that connects the cataclysmic eruption of the Laacher See volcano in present-day western Germany with contemporary cultural changes. It also offers an in-depth treatment of the eruption's impact on plants, animals and people as well as its cultural-historical consequences. Invoking the term 'splendid isolation', the author argues that despite the eruption's evidently detrimental ecological impacts, it led to a regional cultural effervescence in the form of the Bromme culture. By charting this past calamity, the book also shows how the study of ancient disasters can be made useful in today's debates of resilience, vulnerability and apocalypse.