Category Archives: GERMANY

Hoard of 1,800-Year-Old Silver Coins Discovered in Germany

Hoard of 1,800-Year-Old Silver Coins Discovered in Germany

More than 5,500 silver coins buried by a river about 1,800 years ago are now in the hands of archaeologists, following the hoard’s discovery in Augsburg, Germany. 

About 5,500 Roman silver coins were found in the hoard. Cleaning and analysis of the coins are underway.

At the time of the coins’ burial, the Roman Empire was in full swing, with its coinage reaching all corners of its territory and beyond.

These coins “are denarii, the standard silver denomination during the 1st-early 3rd century [A.D.],” Stefan Krmnicek, a professor of ancient numismatics (the study of coins) at the University of Tübingen in Germany, told Live Science in an email.

Archaeologists found the hoard earlier this year in an old riverbed. But though the coins were scattered in the newly dug pit, that likely wasn’t how they were originally placed.

“The place of hiding was probably washed away many centuries later by a flood of the Wertach river, scattering the coins in the river gravel,” Krmnicek said. 

“We have just started cleaning and studying the material,” but so far, it appears that “the youngest coin of the hoard was minted at the beginning of the 3rd century [A.D.], thus dating the deposition of the hoard in the early 3rd century,” Krmnicek said.

“We currently hypothesize that the hoard was buried in the early 3rd century outside the Roman city of Augusta Vindelicum, near the Via Claudia Augusta [a Roman road] running there.” 

At that time, Augusta Vindelicum was the capital of the Roman province of Raetia, Krmnicek said. Why the hoard was buried is an ongoing mystery that researchers are trying to solve. 

“We do not yet know why the hoard was deposited,” Krmnicek said, noting that Leo Brey, a doctoral candidate at the University of Tübingen, is trying to solve this “riddle” in his research.

The hoard was excavated by Sebastian Gairhos, director of the Archaeological Service of the City of Augsburg. No artefacts other than the coins were found with the hoard.

Blackened mummy cake found intact 79 years after WWII air raid

Blackened mummy cake found intact 79 years after WWII air raid

A cake baked 79 years ago has been found in the Old Town district of the city of Lübeck, which is located near the coast of northern Germany, according to a Live Science report.

Blackened mummy cake found intact 79 years after WWII air raid
A 79-year-old nutcake lies on a table in the workshop of the Department of Archaeology for the Hanseatic City of Lübeck Historic Monuments Protection Authority.

Though the charred delicacy hasn’t been edible for a very, very long time, it’s still recognizable as a cake, representatives of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck said in a statement.

The cake’s overall shape, nut fillings, details in the sugar icing decorations and even its wax-paper wrappings remained intact after the pastry was burned into a crisp, cake-shaped charcoal briquette during a World War II air raid.

Archaeologists have previously discovered the burnt remains of long-ago meals, but they rarely find food that’s a whole and well-preserved as this cake was, according to the statement. It offers a glimpse into a dark moment in Germany’s history and illuminates the fragility of life during wartime, Lübeck representatives said. 

On the night of March 28, 1942 (and into the early morning hours of March 29), the British Royal Air Force bombed Lübeck, a historic city and a nonmilitary target, in retaliation for the Nazi blitz of Coventry, England, in 1940, said Dirk Rieger, head of the Department of Archaeology for the Hanseatic City of Lübeck Historic Monuments Protection Authority.

The nut-filled cake had recently been unwrapped when the bombs landed, and all of the building’s stories collapsed into the cellar, Rieger told Live Science. Somehow, the cake escaped being crushed, and the intense heat of the flames rapidly scorched and carbonized the confection amid the wreckage.

Founded in 1143, Lübeck is one of the best-preserved medieval urban sites in northern Europe, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which added Lübeck to its World Heritage List of protected sites in 1987.

From 1230 until 1535, Lübeck — a port city on the Baltic Sea — served as the capital of an international merchants’ organization known as the Hanseatic League, and much of the city’s extraordinary medieval architecture remains intact to this day, UNESCO says.

Artefacts and other remains deep underneath the buildings, in Lübeck’s sediments, are also exceptionally well preserved, Rieger said. 

Restorer Sylvia Morgenstern cleans the preserved nutcake with a brush and vacuum cleaner.

“The subsoil is made of clay, so the preservation for organic material is awesome,” he explained. “You dig down like 7 meters [23 feet], and you are in the 1100s.

We have every single feature of urban and mercantile activity throughout eight or nine centuries, which is absolutely unique in the way it’s been preserved.” 

To date, more than 4 million objects have been recovered from excavations around Lübeck — “everything from tiny children’s shoes to whole medieval ships,” Rieger said. 

Workers found the cake in April during infrastructure work in Lübeck’s Old Town district, “close to the town hall and the main market area,” Rieger said. In the ruined parts of the city that the British had bombed, “the town left the cellars within the soil and built new houses on top of them,” he said. Because of Lübeck’s important historic status, archaeologists supervise all of the city’s construction work.

Experts were already present when the workers opened the cellar and discovered the blackened cake, along with plates, knives, spoons and vinyl records that included Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” according to the statement.

Scientists brought the cake to the city’s restoration laboratory, where conservators carefully cleaned it with delicate picks, brushes and vacuums, and then collected samples to identify the nutty filling, Rieger said. But their work to preserve the rare carbonized confection has just begun.

Bombs that the British Royal Air Force dropped on Lübeck contained incendiary chemicals, such as phosphorus, and the archaeologists need to make sure that there are no traces of such materials on the cake that could react when exposed to chemicals used in the preservation of valuable artefacts.

“This cake is like a window into 80 years ago,” Rieger said, and the view is bittersweet. When the cake is finally ready for public display and people can peer through that window, “they will hopefully see not only the destruction of the war but also the joy that people had,” he added.

“Because this was a family celebration, they listened to music, they wanted to have a nice cup of tea, they wanted to have this cake. It’s a very intimate situation that was immediately destroyed by this war.”

Traces Of An Ancient Road In A Lake

Traces Of An Ancient Road In A Lake

Anyone travelling from the German city of Brandenburg via Berlin to Frankfurt an der Oder at the Polish-German border does so along with an ancient route that reaches far into Poland.

From a raft, the team uses a hollow cylinder to punch through the lake bottom thus getting sediments with layers. The layers are called warves and preserve traces from historic developments and landscape changes, e.g. pollen or ashes.

German and Polish researchers have now documented the influence of this East-West connection on the history of the landscape by examining the sediments of Lake Czechowskie in the Bory Tucholskie and also evaluating historical sources.

According to the results, three phases of landscape development can be distinguished in the last eight hundred years: from an almost untouched landscape through an intermediate phase lasting several centuries—characterized by alternations between strong settlement activity and the return of nature after wars—to today’s cultural landscape.

One of the two main authors, Achim Brauer of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, says: “Wars had a clear influence, as the Via Marchionis was repeatedly used for troop transports that led to local destruction and devastation.

In this study, for the first time, we have shown the impact on the landscape of every war in the region’s history. In general, wars have led to greater or lesser devastation (‘renaturalization’) of the landscape, which has also lasted for varying lengths of time.”

At other times, it was political developments that left their mark on the landscape, such as an agrarian reform in 1343, which led, with a certain time lag, to an accelerated “anthropogenization” of the landscape, that is, to clearly a visible human influence. In the sediments of Lake Czechowskie this is shown by a strong increase of rye pollen and the decrease of birch and pine pollen.

Because sediments in a lake exhibit annual stratification similar to tree rings, the German-Polish team was able to pinpoint the year from which pollen originated by counting the individual layers (“warves”) down to a resolution of five years.

According to this, the landscape remained largely untouched by humans until about 1350 AD. Extensive forests and natural grasses dominated. Then followed five turbulent centuries.

The expansion of agriculture and the formation of larger towns were favoured by a warm climate and politically calm times. However, between 1409 and 1435 there was war between the Teutonic Order and Poland—fields became fallow land, forests expanded again.

After peace was concluded, five quiet decades followed again, during which an increase in handicrafts was also evident. Hardwood was cut to obtain building material and potash—thus, birch pollen disappeared from lake sediments, rye again increased massively.

Sediments from the bottom of lakes are often layered. The individual layers, called warves, preserve information from the past and can be “read” like tree rings. By identifying pollen or ashes, landscape evolution, climate and even political events can be traced.

Huge army campaigns with thousands of riders and foot soldiers, plague epidemics in several waves and some very cold years with crop failures are also documented. Then, from the middle of the 19th century, the influence of agriculture, settlements and economic activity took over to such an extent that one can speak of a predominantly human influence, which continues to this day.

READ ALSO: ANCIENT ROMAN ROAD DISCOVERED AT THE BOTTOM OF VENICE LAGOON

First author Michał Słowiński says that “the most important result is that this development did not take place uniformly. Rather, we see an alternation of phases of rapid development and significant regressions.

The reasons for this are complex interactions of socio-economic, political and climatic factors.”

Medieval Graves Containing Luxury Goods Unearthed in Germany

Medieval Graves Containing Luxury Goods Unearthed in Germany

A wealthy medieval man who died over 1,500 years ago in what is now Bavaria, Germany, may have been a fierce warrior who also cared deeply about his personal appearance. 

Medieval Graves Containing Luxury Goods Unearthed in Germany
Ornate carvings on the ivory comb depict scenes with animals.

The man, who was about 40 to 50 years old when he died, was buried with fine weapons and a horse. But his grave also included luxurious toiletries, including a pair of scissors and an intricately carved ivory comb that may have been used to style his hair and beard, archaeologists recently reported.

They also discovered a second, equally lavish grave holding a woman who was about 30 to 40 years old when she died. It contained jewellery, food and a high-quality red ceramic bowl that likely came from northern Africa, representatives of the Bavarian State Office for Monument Protection (BLfD), the agency supervising the excavation, said in a German-language statement.

Both burials dated to around the sixth century A.D., according to the statement. The ivory comb and ceramic bowl were highly unusual burial items for this period, and they “must have been real luxury goods at the time,” BLfD Conservator General Mathias Pfeil said in the statement (translated from German).

Scientists found the two graves in Bavaria’s Nördlinger Ries or Ries Crater. This ancient crater in southern Germany measures about 16 miles (26 kilometres) in diameter, with a rim that rises about 660 feet (200 meters) above the crater floor, according to NASA.

It was identified in the 1960s as the site of a meteor impact, but because its subtle shape with low elevation blends into the surrounding landscape, the crater is not easily detected in satellite images, NASA reported.

During the sixth century A.D., red ceramic bowls such as these were produced in northern Africa.

Medieval Europeans may not have known that the area was once struck by a massive space rock, but they nonetheless followed the faint outline of its central depression to construct a settlement that covered 0.6 miles (1 km), according to NASA. Researchers discovered the two luxurious burials at the site of this ancient village, according to the BLfD.

Gazelle-like animals

Restoration of the broken fine-toothed comb revealed carved decorations of animals on both sides of the object. In the scenes, creatures resembling gazelles leap to escape predators, though the scientists haven’t yet confirmed the types of animals shown, according to the statement. 

Combs are often found in graves from the Middle Ages, but they are usually simpler tools that aren’t made of such fine material.

Ivory carvings are rare in sixth-century burials, and very few ornately carved ivory combs are known from this period at all; the previously described combs from this period are all carved with Christian motifs rather than hunting scenes, the statement said. 

Near the man’s skeleton lay the remains of a horse, along with spurs and pieces of a bridle. There were also weapons in the grave, including a battle-axe, lance, shield and longsword, hinting that their owner was wealthy and important, BLfD representatives said.

The burial of a middle-aged man included an axe, a lance and a sword, and the body of a horse was found nearby in the pit.

In the woman’s grave were food items, such as preserved eggs, as well as a weaving sword, which is a wooden loom accessory used for tightening threads, according to the statement.

But the standout item in her burial was the red bowl, which was in excellent condition. Unlike other vessels in the two graves, the bowl was not produced locally; rather, it was a style known from the Mediterranean trade, and it likely originated in what is now Tunisia, in North Africa. 

A cross was stamped into the bowl’s base, and markings carved into the bowl’s rim could be magical symbols or runes — letters in ancient Germanic alphabets — perhaps indicating the name of the vessel’s owner, according to the statement. 

However, further analysis is required to determine what the inscription might mean, BLfD representatives said.

Scientists decode how ropes were made 40,000 years ago

Scientists decode how ropes were made 40,000 years ago

Prof. Nicholas Conard and members of his team, present the discovery of a tool used to make rope in today‘s edition of the journal: Archäologische Ausgrabungen Baden-Württemberg.

The context of the rope-making tool at the time of discovery in August 2015 .

Rope and twine are critical components in the technology of mobile hunters and gatherers. In exceptional cases impressions of string have been found in fired clay and on rare occasions string was depicted in the contexts of Ice Age art, but on the whole, almost nothing is known about string, rope and textiles form the Paleolithic.

A key discovery by Conard’s team in Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany and experimental research and testing by Dr. Veerle Rots and her team form the University of Liège is rewriting the history of rope.

The find is a carefully carved and beautifully preserved piece of mammoth ivory 20.4 cm in length with four holes between 7 and 9 mm in diameter. Each of the holes is lined with deep, and precisely cut spiral incisions.

The new find demonstrates that these elaborate carvings are technological features of rope-making equipment rather than just decoration.

Close up of the rope making tool from mammoth ivory from Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany, ca. 40,000 years old .

Similar finds in the past have usually been interpreted as shaft-straighteners, decorated artworks or even musical instruments.

Thanks to the exceptional preservation of the find and rigorous testing by the team in Liège, the researchers have demonstrated that the tool was used for making rope out of plant fibers available near Hohle Fels.

“This tool answers the question of how rope was made in the Paleolithic”, says Veerle Rots, “a question that has puzzled scientists for decades.”

Excavators found the rope-making tool in archaeological horizon Va near the base of the Aurignacian deposits of the site. Like the famous female figurines and the flutes recovered from the Hohle Fels, the rope-making tool dates to about 40,000 years ago, the time when modern humans arrived in Europe.

The discovery underlines the importance of fiber technology and the importance of rope and string for mobile hunters and gatherers trying to cope with challenges of life in the Ice Age.

Prof. Conard’s team has excavated at Hohle Fels over each of the last 20 years, and it is this long-term commitment that has over and over again paid off, to make Hohle Fels one of the best known Paleolithic sites worldwide.

Hohle Fels and neighboring sites from the Ach and Lone Valleys have been nominated for UNESCO World Cultural Heritage status.

Rope making tool from mammoth ivory from Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany, ca. 40,000 years old.

The excavations at Hohle Fels near Schelklingen in the Ach Valley are funded by the HeidelbergCement AG, the Ministry of Science of Baden-Württemberg and the Heidelberger Academie of Sciences.

Artefact Found in Germany Hints at Neanderthal Hunting Practices

Artifact Found in Germany Hints at Neanderthal Hunting Practices

Neanderthals from the Swabian Jura hunted horses and reindeer with hafted leaf-shaped stone points 65,000 years ago. The evolution of hunting is recorded by a recently found leaf tip from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hohle Fels Cave.

Artifact Found in Germany Hints at Neanderthal Hunting Practices
Hohle Fels. Leaf point

A team under the direction of Professor Nicholas Conard for the University of Tübingen and the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment in southern Germany recovered the artefact underlying a layer dating to 65,000 years ago, which represents a minimum age for the find.

Microscopic studies document that this carefully made projectile point was mounted on a wooden shaft and used as a thrusting spear to kill a large game. Results of the excavations and analysis of the leaf point appear in two papers in this week’s publication of Archäologische Ausgrabungen in Baden-Württemberg and Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Urgeschichte.

“The new discovery represents the first time a leaf point has been recovered from a modern excavation, allowing researchers to study the fresh find with state-of-the-art methods,” says Conard. The last time researchers in the region recovered such artefacts was in 1936.

The chert artefact is 7.6 cm long, 4.1 cm wide, 0.9 cm thick and weighs 28 grams. Conard adds that “our results document how the tool was made, used and why it was discarded.” Thanks to a series of four ESR-dates the find is securely dated to over 65,000 years ago.

Until now finds of leaf points were interpreted as belonging to the period between 45,000 and 55,000 years ago, and belonging to the last cultural phase of the Neanderthals in Central Europe. Conard reports “The new results demonstrate that our assumptions about the dating of the cultural groups of the late Neanderthals were wrong and need revision.”

Dr. Veerle Rots from the University of Liège in Belgium conducted detailed microscopic analyses of the leaf point. Damage to the tip indicates that the artefact was used as a hafted spear point and that the spear was likely thrust into prey rather than being thrown.

Rots’ work documents how Neanderthals used plant-based glue and bindings made from plant fibres, sinew or leather to secure the leaf point to the spear. Neanderthals clearly used the spear for hunting. While they re-sharpened the tool it broke, leading to its discard.

Rots remarks “Neanderthals were expert stone knappers and knew exactly how to make and use complex technologies combining multiple parts and materials to produce and maintain deadly weapons.” Earlier fossil humans during the time of Homo heidelbergensis used sharpened wooden spears for hunting, but these spears lacked mounted stone points like those used by Neanderthals.

Hohle Fels. The chert artefact in finding a position.

The leaf point from Hohle Fels will be on display at the “Find of the Year” at the Museum of Prehistory in Blaubeuren from July 22 until January 2022.

“Hohle Fels is a remarkable site where after 25 years of excavation by the current team, spectacular discoveries from the period of the Neanderthals and early modern humans are still being made,” says Dr. Stefanie Kölbl, the director of the Museum of Prehistory.

The Museum of Prehistory in Blaubeuren is the central research museum for topics related to the UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Swabian Caves and for Ice Age Art.

It contains many of the earliest examples of figurative art including the Venus of Hohle Fels and the earliest musical instruments known worldwide.

Archaeology breakthrough: Researchers unearthed ancient homes at German ‘Stonehenge’

Archaeology breakthrough: Researchers unearthed ancient homes at German ‘Stonehenge’

The Bronze Age site lies 85 miles away from Germany’s capital in the village of Pömmelte, and since its restoration in 2016 has become a key tourist attraction.

It is known for its wooden ringed structure, which researchers believe has ties to Wiltshire’s iconic Stonehenge site, and have even claimed may have been influenced after the people of Pömmelte visited the UK.

University of Halle archaeologist Franziska Knoll described the site as the “largest early Bronze Age settlement we know of in central Europe”, noting how it “must have been a really significant place”.

Also known as Woodhenge, excavations at the area have been ongoing for the past three years and conducted by archaeologists from the University of Halle, as well as the State Office for Monument Conservation and Archaeology.

During this work, researchers argue they have found evidence that shows dwellings on the site, including the unearthing of around 130 longhouses, Heritage Daily reported.

The 4,000-year-old settlement was believed to have been built by those who lived by the Bell Beaker culture, in around 2300 BC.

Out of the Bell Beakers came the Únětice culture, which then populated the site.

Archaeologists have discovered 130 homes at an Early Bronze Age monument, suggesting there was a community living around Germany’s ‘Stonehenge’

Experts speculate that it may have been used in astronomical rituals, a world away from the residential area it has now become.

After working on the site, archaeologists theorised that Pömmelte had been active for around 300 years – before it was abandoned after being burned down in 2050 BC.

Speaking earlier this year, Ms Knoll said: “We call it the German Stonehenge because the beginnings are the same.

“It’s got the same diameter, just a different orientation. They’re built by the same people.”

Previous excavations of the site found dismembered bodies of children and women, with some having suffered severe skull trauma and rib fractures.

The archaeologist also argued that with Stonehenge pre-dating Pömmelte, the Wiltshire site could have been a blueprint for the German landmark.

She added: “It’s not coincidental.

“It’s coming from the same culture, the same view of the world.”

Pömmelte was originally found in 1991 after laws changed in East Germany to allow aerial photography to be used.

The images allowed experts to search for any signs of ancient buildings, such as areas of land where the soil is holding more moisture, leading to crops to grow taller and greener.

They showed rings of “postholes arranged in concentric circles where the Woodhenge once stood”.

Tenth-Century Church Unearthed in Germany

Tenth-Century Church Unearthed in Germany

Archaeologists searching for a royal palace in Germany have discovered a 1,000-year-old church constructed for Otto the Great (also called Otto I).

An aerial view of the church built for Otto the Great, along with nearby burials, is seen from the southwest.

Otto I, who lived from A.D. 912 to 973, consolidated and expanded the Holy Roman Empire. The empire, which was centred in Germany, controlled territory throughout central Europe.

Historical records indicated that a palace and church were built near Helfta in Saxony for the Roman emperor; and archaeologists with the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archeology Saxony-Anhalt started searching for it in May, they said in a German language statement.

During excavations at the church, archaeologists discovered this enamelled brooch from the ninth century.
Tenth-Century Church Unearthed in Germany
Numerous burials and tombs were found around the church in Germany.

Royal church

The three-aisled church is about 100 feet (30 meters) long and was shaped like a cross, excavations revealed.

The church was destroyed during the Protestant Reformation that swept through Europe in the 16th century and led to the creation of new branches of Christianity, the archaeologists said in the statement.

The church and palace would have “dominated” the valley where they were built, the archaeologists said. 

Among the artifacts found so far is a Romanesque bronze crucifix decorated with enamel that was made in Limoges in New Aquitaine (in modern-day France) in the 13th century, archaeologists said.

Archaeologists also discovered a large fragment of a church bell, an enamelled ninth-century brooch and numerous coins.

The archaeologists have also found several burials around the church, including some tombs made out of bricks.

Excavations and analysis of the remains are ongoing at the site. Right now, excavating the church is a priority, but historical records indicate that the palace is nearby and remains of it may be found as work continues.

Historical records say that while Otto I ordered the construction of the church and a nearby palace, he himself only visited it once when the church was inaugurated around A.D. 968.

The archaeologists noted that Otto I had numerous palaces with nearby churches located throughout his empire.

Felix Biermann, an archaeologist with the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archeology Saxony-Anhalt is leading the excavation team.