Category Archives: GERMANY

Discarded Neolithic Meal Identified in Germany

Discarded Neolithic Meal Identified in Germany

Discarded Neolithic Meal Identified in Germany
This pottery shard has 5,000-year-old charred food on it.

People have been burning their porridge for at least 5,000 years, remains of a charred cooking pot unearthed in Germany confirms. And just like today, cleaning the pot was more hassle than it was worth.

Archaeologists discovered the meal mishap after examining a trash heap of mixed pottery shards at Oldenburg LA 7, a Neolithic settlement that researchers consider one of the oldest villages in Germany, according to a study published Jan. 19 in the journal PLOS One.

“As soon as we looked inside the person’s cooking pot it was obvious that something went wrong,” study lead author and archaeobotanist Lucy Kubiak-Martens, a cooperation partner with BIAX Consult, a company that specializes in archaeobotany and paleobotany in the Netherlands, told Live Science.

Chemical analyses of the residues still caked onto the ceramic shards revealed “food crusts” containing traces of different ancient cereal grains, including emmer wheat and barley.

Researchers also found remnants of white goosefoot, a wild plant known for its starchy seeds, according to a statement from Kiel University in Germany. 

“One pottery shard that once was part of a plain, thick-walled pot contained the remains of white goosefoot seeds, which are related to quinoa and rich in protein,” Kubiak-Martens said.

“There was also emmer, which when sprouted, has a sweet flavor. It looked like someone had mixed cereal grains with the protein-rich seeds and cooked it with water. It wasn’t incidental, it was a choice.”

While there is evidence that people ground wild oats, likely for flour, 32,000 years ago in Italy, the newly described broken pot may represent the world’s first recorded (and failed) attempt at cooking porridge. It is impossible to say if the person broke the pot rather than be bothered with cleaning it, or if the pot broke naturally long after the cooking mishap.

A microscopic image of the internal microstructure of the food crust showing emmer grain particles.

A separate pottery shard contained animal fat residue — most likely milk — that had seeped into the clay. However, it didn’t appear that the cook in question had mixed any grains into the liquid, so the milk was unlikely part of the porridge. 

“The sprouted grains also tell us when they harvested them, which would have been when they sprouted sometime in the late summer,” Kubiak-Martens said. “Back then they couldn’t put grains on a shelf and store them for later use like we do today. They had to use what they harvested immediately.”

While previous analyses of soil samples have shown evidence of cooking with similar ancient grains and seeds during this time period, this study marks the first time that researchers have found burnt food residue on a ceramic vessel in Neolithic Germany and offers a glimpse of this person’s diet, according to the statement.

“[This cooking incident] not only shows us the last step in someone’s daily routine of preparing meals but also the last cooking event using this pot,” she said. “This is much more than just a charred grain. We are seeing how people prepared their daily meals thousands of years ago.”

This 48-Million-Year-Old Fossil Has an Insect Inside a Lizard Inside a Snake

This 48-Million-Year-Old Fossil Has an Insect Inside a Lizard Inside a Snake

Palaeontologists have uncovered a fossil that has preserved an insect inside a lizard inside a snake – a prehistoric battle of the food chain that ended in a volcanic lake some 48 million years ago.

Pulled from an abandoned quarry in southwest Germany called the Messel Pit, the fossil is only the second of its kind ever found, with the remains of three animals sitting snug in one another.

“It’s probably the kind of fossil that I will go the rest of my professional life without ever encountering again, such is the rarity of these things,” palaeontologist Krister Smith from Germany’s Senckenberg Institute told Michael Greshko at National Geographic. “It was pure astonishment.”

Smith and his team suspect that the iguana ate a shiny insect meal, and then two days later was swallowed headfirst by a juvenile snake. 

It’s unclear how the snake ultimately died, but what we do know is it got too close to the deep volcanic lake that once bubbled in the Messel Pit, and was either poisoned or suffocated by the toxic fumes.

Its corpse likely slid into the lake after death, where the Russian doll of skeletons was preserved perfectly for millions of years.

This 48-Million-Year-Old Fossil Has an Insect Inside a Lizard Inside a Snake
Rare ‘Nesting Doll’ Fossil Uncovers Beetle in Lizard in Snake. Snake with lizard and beetle: The rare tripartite fossil food chain from the Messel Pit.
A beetle inside a reptile inside a snake.

“To see this kind of trophic scale recorded within the gut of a snake is a very cool thing,” UK palaeontologist Jason Head from the University of Cambridge, who wasn’t involved with the study, told National Geographic.

While the combination of snake-lizard-bug is entirely unique in the fossil record, this isn’t the first time a prehistoric turducken has been discovered. 

Back in 2008, Austrian researchers found a 250-million-year-old fossil that had preserved a shark that had eaten some kind of amphibian that had eaten a small fish. 

It’s far more fragmentary than the Messel Pit fossil, but it was the first real indication that the food web of the time was far more complex than researchers had thought.

If anywhere is likely to be harbouring more of these types of fossils, it’s the Messel Pit, which in the past has served up the now notorious Darwinius masillae fossil, a fossilised beetle with its turquoise iridescence largely intact, and two turtles caught in the middle of doing, erm, turtle things…

The best-preserved fossils in the world from the Eocene epoch, which ran from around 56 to 34 million years ago, have been found here, and Smith and his team are already planning another trip back.

“This fossil is amazing,” says one of the researchers, Agustín Scanferla. “We were lucky men to study this kind of specimen.”

The find has been published in Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments.

Archaeologists discover almost complete 300,000-year-old elephant skeleton

Archaeologists discover almost complete 300,000-year-old elephant skeleton

This is how the ancient humans may have discovered the elephant’s carcass on a lake shore at what is now Schöningen, Germany.

Archaeologists have discovered the nearly complete skeleton of an enormous, now-extinct elephant that lived about 300,000 years ago in what is now the northern German town of Schöningen, according to new research.

Although this elephant — the Eurasian straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) — likely died of old age, meat-eaters promptly devoured it; bite marks on its bones suggest that carnivores feasted on the dead beast, and flint flakes and bone tools found near the elephant indicate that humans scavenged whatever was left, the researchers said.

“The Stone Age hunters probably cut meat, tendons, and fat from the carcass,” project researcher Jordi Serangeli, head of the excavation in Schöningen, said in a statement.

The elephant died on the western side of a vast lake, a hint that it perished from natural causes.

“Elephants often remain near and in water when they are sick or old,” Ivo Verheijen, a doctoral student in archaeozoology and paleontology at the University of Tübingen, said in the statement. In addition, the elephant, a female, had worn teeth, suggesting it was old when it died, he said. 

Archaeologists discover an almost complete 300,000-year-old elephant skeleton
This 3D image was created by stitching together 500 individual photos that were taken of the straight-tusked elephant.
The remains from the front part of the elephant’s body are shown here.
Excavator Martin Kursch uncovers one of the elephant’s feet.
The excavation site in Schöningen, Germany

Image Gallery

Researchers have found the remains of at least 10 elephants dating to the Lower Paleolithic — also known as the Old Stone Age (about 3 million to 300,000 years ago) —  over the past several years at Schöningen. But this new find is by far the most complete. The remains include 7.5-foot-long (2.3 meters) tusks — which are 125% longer than the average 6-foot-long (1.8 m) tusk of a modern African elephant, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

The researchers also found the complete lower jaw, numerous vertebrae and ribs, large bones from three of its four legs, and all five of its delicate hyoid bones, which are found in the neck and help support the tongue and voice box. 

This P. antiquus elephant had a shoulder height of about 10.5 feet (3.2 m) and would have weighed about 7.5 tons (6.8 metric tons). “It was therefore larger than today’s African elephant cows,” Verheijen said.

Near these remains, researchers found 30 small flint flakes and two long bone tools. Micro flakes embedded in these two bones suggest the ancient humans who scavenged the elephant used them to sharpen stone tools (called knapping) at the site, said project researcher Bárbara Rodríguez Álvarez, an archaeologist at the University of Tübingen. 

Of note, the ancient humans who likely scavenged the elephant were not Homo sapiens. The earliest evidence of H. sapiens in Europe dates to about 45,000 years ago, according to excavations at a cave in Bulgaria, a study published last week in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution found. Instead, these human scavengers were likely H. heidelbergensis, an extinct human relative who lived about 700,000 to 200,000 years ago, the researchers in Germany said.

Wildlife watering hole

The lake was a popular hole for elephants, according to several of their preserved footprints just 330 feet (100 m) from the new elephant excavation site. 

“A small herd of adults and younger animals must have passed through,” Flavio Altamura, a researcher at the Department of Antiquities at Sapienza University in Rome, said in the statement. “The heavy animals were walking parallel to the lakeshore. Their feet sank into the mud, leaving behind circular tracks.”

These elephants would have lived in a comfortable climate, comparable to today’s; about 300,000 years ago, Europe was in the Reinsdorf interglacial, a warmer period bookended by two glacial (or colder) periods. Other animals thrived there, too. About 20 kinds of large animals lived around the lake, including lions, bears, saber-toothed cats, rhinoceroses, wild horses, deer, and large cattle, according to excavations. “The wealth of wildlife was similar to that of modern Africa,” Serangeli said.

All of these animals attracted ancient human hunters. Archaeologists have found the remains of 10 wooden spears and one throwing stick from 300,000 years ago, according to a study published online on April 20 in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. 

The new finding was uncovered in a collaborative effort between the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen in Germany and the Lower Saxony State Office for Heritage. The research will be published in the magazine “Archäologie in Deutschland” (Archaeology in Germany) and was presented at a press conference in Schöningen on May 19.

A tiny, 48-million-year-old primate Horse Looked Like a Badger

A tiny, 48-million-year-old primate Horse Looked Like a Badger

The 48-million-year-old beast could have resembled a modern-day badger, according to a reconstruction of a wild horse the size of a small dog.

Experts named the early equid ‘Propalaeotherium voigti’ after it was discovered in an oil pit in Messel, near Frankfurt, in southern Germany, in 2015.

The Messel Pit, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in late 1995, is a decommissioned quarry that has yielded numerous amazingly preserved fossils.

A tiny, 48-million-year-old primate Horse Looked Like a Badger
A reconstruction of a primitive horse the size of a small dog has revealed that the 48-million-year old creature may have looked like a modern-day badger. Pictured, the P. voigti fossil

These have included mammals, fish, beetles, and even crocodiles and alligators.

Propalaeotherium voigti belonged to a genus of ancestral horses that was native to both Europe and Asia during the early Eocene epoch and broadly resembled the tapirs of today’s South America and Asia.

These creatures would have weighed in at just around 22 pounds (or 10 kilograms) and stood at around 20 inches (50 centimeters) tall. 

According to experts, P. voigti would have sported a coat much like that of a modern-day deer and would have lived in small herds.

The fossilised specimen’s short neck, arched back and splayed, nail-life ‘hooflets’ — rather that the hooves of modern horses — indicate that it was adapted for a life of foraging amid the subtropical rainforests that once covered Europe.

In fact, fossil evidence from the Messel oil pit has revealed that the diminutive horses dined on berries and leaf matter that they picked from the forest floor. 

It was not be until the late Eocene — around 33.9 million years ago — that horses in general began to evolve longer legs and shift their weight onto individual toes in order to better escape predation as their habitats shifted to grassland.

Palaeontologist Martin Fischer of the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena collaborated with artists Amir Andikfar and Jonas Lauströer to turn a high-resolution computer tomography (or CT) scan of the Propalaeotherium voigti specimen into a 3D reconstruction, pictured

It was this change, also, which resulted in the horse family moving their diet from foliage to grass — selecting for the evolution of longer, more durable teeth.

Propalaeotherium voigti is to be recognised this year — the 25th anniversary of the Messel pit obtaining UNESCO status — as the ‘heraldic animal’ by the Hessian Landesmuseum Darmstadt, which holds the largest collection of fossils from the pit.

Palaeontologist Martin Fischer of the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena collaborated with artists Amir Andikfar and Jonas Lauströer to turn a high-resolution computer tomography (or CT) scan of the specimen into a 3D reconstruction.

The reconstruction will be on display at the Hessian Landesmuseum Darmstadt from August 18, 2023.

A medieval ‘curse tablet’ summoning Satan was discovered at the bottom of a latrine in Germany

A medieval ‘curse tablet’ summoning Satan was discovered at the bottom of a latrine in Germany

A medieval 'curse tablet' summoning Satan was discovered at the bottom of a latrine in Germany
The rolled-up piece of lead contains inscriptions that are barely visible to the naked eye.

Archaeologists in Germany have discovered a rolled-up piece of lead that they think could be a medieval “curse tablet” that invokes “Beelzebub,” or Satan.

Upon first glance, the researchers thought the “inconspicuous piece of metal” was simply scrap, since it was found at the bottom of a latrine at a construction site in Rostock, a city in northern Germany, according to a translated statement.

However, once they unfurled it, archaeologists realized that the 15th-century artifact contained a cryptic message etched in Gothic minuscule that was barely visible to the naked eye. It read, “sathanas taleke belzebuk hinrik berith.”

Researchers deciphered the text as a curse that was directed toward a woman named Taleke and a man named Hinrik (Heinrich) and summoned Beelzebub (another name for Satan) and Berith (a demonic spirit).

While researchers may never know who these people were, they did offer some ideas for the reasoning behind the bad blood.

“Did someone want to break up Taleke and Heinrich’s relationship? Was this about spurned love and jealousy, should someone be put out of the way?” the researchers asked in the statement.

Archaeologists said the finding was unique, especially since similar “curse tablets are actually known from ancient times in the Greek and Roman regions from 800 B.C. to A.D. 600,” Jörg Ansorge, an archaeologist with the University of Greifswald in Germany who led the excavation, said in the statement.

For instance, a 1,500-year-old lead tablet inscribed in Greek and found in what is now Israel calls on demons to harm a rival dancer, while 2,400-year-old tablets found in Greece ask the underworld gods to target several tavern keepers.

“Our discovery, on the other hand, can be dated to the 15th century,” Ansorge said. “This is truly a very special find.”

Researchers weren’t surprised to find the artifact at the bottom of a latrine, considering that curse tablets “were placed where they were difficult or impossible to find” by those who have been cursed, according to the statement.

125,000 Years Ago Neanderthals Hunted Elephants Much Larger Than Extinct Woolly Mammoths

125,000 Years Ago Neanderthals Hunted Elephants Much Larger Than Extinct Woolly Mammoths

Hunting the now-extinct straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) was widespread among Neanderthals, concludes a research team.

In the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences scientists write that they have closely examined the bones of elephants that are approximately 125,000 years old that were discovered in Gröbern in Saxony-Anhalt and Taubach in Thuringia, Germany, decades ago.

They were able to identify cut marks made by stone tools used by the Neanderthals that indicate that the animals must have been hunted before they were extensively butchered.

125,000 Years Ago Neanderthals Hunted Elephants Much Larger Than Extinct Woolly Mammoths
Pelvic bone of a Palaeoloxodon antiquus found in Gröbern.

It was two years ago, during the analysis of bones found at the Neumark-Nord site in a former lignite mine in Saxony-Anhalt, that the same team discovered the very first evidence that Neanderthals actively hunted straight-tusked elephants, the largest terrestrial mammals of the Pleistocene.

“The results of the more recent examination of the bones from Gröbern and Taubach now show that the hunting of these elephants by Neanderthals was not an isolated phenomenon but must have been a more regular activity,” emphasized Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser, Professor of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology at JGU and Director of the Archaeological Research Center and Museum of Human Behavioral Evolution MONREPOS in Neuwied, an institute run under the aegis of LEIZA.

Gaudzinski-Windheuser was extensively involved in the investigation of the bones from Gröbern and Taubach as well as the previous study of the bones from the Neumark-Nord site.

Palaeoloxodon antiquus roamed the landscapes of Europe and Western Asia 800,000 to 100,000 years ago.

With shoulder heights of up to 4 meters and body masses of up to 13 tons, the European straight-tusked elephant was the largest land-living animal at the time, significantly larger than today’s African and Asian elephants and even bigger than the extinct wooly mammoth.

“We have estimated that the meat and fat supplied by the body of an adult Palaeoloxodon antiquus bull would have been sufficient to satisfy the daily calorie intake of at least 2,500 adult Neanderthals,” explained Gaudzinski-Windheuser.

“This is a significant number because it furnishes us with new insights into the behavior of Neanderthals.

So far, for instance, researchers had generally assumed that Neanderthals associated in groups of no more than 20 individuals.

However, the information now obtained in relation to the systematic exploitation of straight-tusked elephants indicates that Neanderthals must have gathered, at least temporarily, in larger groups or mastered techniques that allowed them to preserve and store large quantities of foodstuffs—or both.

Seven Bronze Age Swords And Large Hoard Of Slavic Coins Found In Germany

Seven Bronze Age Swords And Large Hoard Of Slavic Coins Found In Germany

Seven impressive Bronze Age swords and a large hoard of Slavic coins have been unearthed by volunteer archaeologists in Germany. The find was made in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

The Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Ministry of Science, Culture, Federal, and European Affairs announced in a press release that the seven swords were found in fragments near Mirow (Mecklenburg Lake District).

Seven Bronze Age Swords And Large Hoard Of Slavic Coins Found In Germany
Credit: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Ministry of Science, Culture, Federal and European Affairs

It can be assumed that they came to the surface some time ago when a trench was being dredged and spread over a larger area with the dredged material.

Originally, the swords were probably sunk into the lowlands as consecration or sacrificial offerings. Although such deposits of valuable items are not unusual, many Bronze Age swords have never been discovered in one place in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Scientific dating has shown that the swords date back to the Bronze Age. Their age is estimated at around 3,000 years.

The finders meticulously tracked down the individual fragments, making it possible to assemble the swords almost completely.

The recovery was carried out together with an excavation technician from the state archaeology department.

The 6,000 silver coins from the 11th century were found on Rügen, Germany’s largest island. They were scattered over a larger area, but most of them were in a clay pot.

Credit: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Ministry of Science, Culture, Federal and European Affairs

The coins were also found by volunteer conservationists, more precisely by the “De Ackerlöper” working group.

The origins of the coins are very different. Some of the coins are from Western Germany, while others can be traced to the Meißen-Upper Lusatia region. About 10 percent of the coins come from England, Denmark, Bohemia, and Hungary.

Credit: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Ministry of Science, Culture, Federal and European Affairs

The unearthed coins reflect trade relationships in the 11th century. Scientists point out that this is the largest Slavic coin hoard of the post-war period to date.

Another very unusual find is the reliquary containers that were found in the Mecklenburg Lake District. A volunteer conservationist discovered the treasure during an inspection. In a pot with around 1,700 coins were neck and finger rings, a pearl necklace (with gold, rock crystal, and carnelian beads), and two reliquary containers.

Credit: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Ministry of Science, Culture, Federal and European Affairs

The researcher explained that the two reliquary containers offer surprising evidence of the Christian faith in an area that was still largely influenced by other beliefs at the time.

“Around 250 volunteers are currently active in the preservation of archaeological monuments. About the same number are currently undergoing relevant training. They are indispensable for preserving our cultural heritage in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania,” Culture Minister Bettina Martin said, highlighting the work of the volunteer archaeological preservationists in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Ancient Roman Military Camp Unearthed in Eastern Germany

Ancient Roman Military Camp Unearthed in Eastern Germany

Ancient Roman Military Camp Unearthed in Eastern Germany
The building floor plans formerly belonged to rectangular cult buildings made of clay framework. In front of them was a small portico made of two columns.

Archaeologists in Germany have unearthed the foundations of two temples and a shallow, circular ditch at a former Roman camp.

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of two Roman temples and a sacrificial pit in Germany.

The building remnants, located at the site of a former Roman camp known as Haltern in northwestern Germany, are the first known instances of temples found at a Roman military site, according to a translated statement.

During excavations, archaeologists unearthed the clay frameworks of the rectangular buildings.

The last time researchers explored the site was in 1928, but the findings were since reburied to help preserve the existing structures.

The twin temples were once part of a larger building complex that measured roughly 21,500 square feet (2,000 square meters).

Archaeologists initially thought one of the buildings was used as a meeting house, or “schola,” for military officials and later as a workshop, based on some of the tools found strewn about the site. They’re currently not sure of the second building’s purpose.

In the excavation area of the former military camp, the foundations of the temples can still be seen as faint soil discoloration.

“[The constructions] were based on the typical large podium temples made of stone that could be found in numerous Roman cities at the time of Emperor Augustus,” Bettina Tremmel, an archaeologist with the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe (LWL) in Germany, said in the statement.

Augustus, the great-nephew and adopted heir of Julius Caesar, ruled as the empire’s first emperor from 31 B.C. to A.D. 14.

Between the two structures, researchers found a shallow, circular sacrificial pit—a surprising find, considering “the construction of a grave within a settlement was forbidden under Roman law,” according to the statement.

No human remains have been found at the site thus far.

“In our current state of research, the two small temples and the niche building with the burning pit are a unique building group within a Roman camp,” Michael Rind, director of archaeology at LWL, said in the statement.

“Previous archaeologists have already puzzled over the function of these buildings.”