Category Archives: GERMANY

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.”

Skeleton with 4 prosthetic metal fingers unearthed from centuries-old grave in Germany

Skeleton with 4 prosthetic metal fingers unearthed from centuries-old grave in Germany

The prosthetic hand replaced four missing fingers on the skeleton’s left hand, with only the thumb still attached.

Archaeologists in Germany have unearthed a skeleton with a metal prosthetic hand still attached to its left arm, replacing fingers that had likely been amputated.

An analysis revealed the prosthetic contraption was once covered in leather and strapped to the individual’s arm with bandages.

The skeleton, discovered in the southern town of Freising, belonged to a man aged 30 to 50 who died between the years 1450 and 1620, government officials announced in a translated statement on Oct. 27.

“The hollow prosthetic on the left hand replaced four fingers,” Walter Irlinger, deputy of the general conservator at the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation, said in the statement. “The index, middle, ring and little fingers are individually molded out of sheet metal and are immobile.”

Marks on the remaining left hand bones suggest the fingers were amputated while the man was alive, but it remains unclear why surgeons had to perform the procedure. A thumb bone found cemented to the corroded metal prosthetic indicates the patient kept his thumb.

Skeleton with 4 prosthetic metal fingers unearthed from centuries-old grave in Germany
Archaeologists cleaned the hand sporting the prosthetic, pictured here before restoration work began.

Archaeologists removed the hand wearing the prosthetic from the skeleton for restoration work and analysis. Scans revealed it was a simple metal contraption with scraps of fabric and leather stuck to the finger replicas, showing the outside of the prosthetic hand was at least partially covered, according to the statement.

Remains of a gauze-like material inside the hollow fingers indicate the prosthetic device may have been padded to protect the hand stump from the metal.

The fingers were slightly curved and lay parallel to each other to imitate the natural resting position of a hand, Irlinger said. 

The discovery suggests medicine at this time was concerned with the wellbeing of amputees and found solutions to make life easier for them, officials said in the statement.

The skeleton dates to a period marked by military conflicts that may have led to a high number of injuries and amputations, which likely heightened the demand for prosthetics in and around Freising.

The skeleton was found during pipe laying work in the southern German town of Freising.

The prosthetic hand is not the first of its kind to be unearthed. Archaeologists have described around 50 similar medical devices found across Central Europe and dating from the late Middle Ages (1300 to 1500) to the early modern period (1500 to 1800).

Unlike the stiff contraption discovered in Freising, some of these prosthetic limbs had sophisticated, movable parts, the statement said.

One of the oldest prosthetics on record is a 3,000-year-old wooden toe discovered on an ancient Egyptian mummy. 

Extremely Rare Medieval Folding Chair Reveals Its Secrets

Extremely Rare Medieval Folding Chair Reveals Its Secrets

In 2022, archaeologists made a very unusual find. A medieval folding chair was discovered in a woman’s grave in Steinsfeld, in Central Franconia, in the Ansbach district of Germany.

Examinations of the woman’s skeleton showed she was around 40 to 50 when she died. The dead woman had a necklace of colored glass beads around her neck.

A rarity: this iron folding chair was found during an excavation in Steinsfeld, Bavaria.
Extremely Rare Medieval Folding Chair Reveals Its Secrets

At the time of the discovery, the Bavarian State Office for the Preservation of Monuments was only the second to discover an iron folding chair from the early Middle Ages in Germany.

Across Europe, 29 sites of early medieval graves with folding chairs have been handed down, only six of which are made of iron.

According to the state office, it dates from around 600 AD, i.e., from the early Middle Ages. When folded, the chair, which was about 70 by 45 centimeters in size, had been placed at the feet of the dead.

In a recent press statement, scientists announced the remarkable 1,400-year-old folding chair’s secrets would be revealed to the public.

Experts have worked for almost a year with the medieval chair. In the summer of 2023, scientists decided to excavate the medieval chair and restore and preserve it for future generations.

It was a delicate and time-consuming task. The results of these efforts are a success and give the public an excellent opportunity to investigate this unusual medieval object in more detail.

One computer tomographic examination quickly made it clear that the folding chair was almost completely preserved and was even decorated with inlays—in this case, brass non-ferrous metal inlays.

According to scientists, the folding chair is made up of two frames connected with an axle pin. There are two narrow slots in the horizontal struts. These were used to attach the seat, which was probably made of animal fur, as indicated by mineralized organic remains. The decorative motifs range from spirals to diamond herringbone patterns.

“The extremely rare find of an early Medieval iron folding chair in August 2022 was already a sensation, but after remaining in the ground for over 1,400 years, receiving such a density of details was a surprise even for the BLfD experts.

Using the latest technology and highly experienced scientific support, the spectacular, internationally acclaimed find of the century could literally be done again be put on its feet, “Professor Mathias Pfeil, head of the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation, said.

“This find, which at first glance seems so modern, is an absolute rarity and of the greatest cultural-historical interest because it gives an insight into the burial equipment of prominent sections of the population and into the early use of furniture,” Professor Pfeil added.

People have been making iron and bronze folding chairs since ancient times. They were considered essential official signs and symbolized power, authority, and dignity.

Extremely Well Preserved 2,000-Year-Old Child Shoe Discovered In Salt Mine

Extremely Well Preserved 2,000-Year-Old Child Shoe Discovered In Salt Mine

Scientists conducting mining archaeological investigations have discovered an extremely well-preserved 2,000-year-old child shoe in a salt mine!

The special find was made by the German Mining Museum Bochum, Leibniz Research Museum for Georesources.

Excavations were carried out under the direction of the head of the research area, Prof. Dr. Thomas Stöllner. The Dürrnberg near Salzburg, Austria, is known for its rock salt mining, which already took place in the Iron Age.

Extremely Well Preserved 2,000-Year-Old Child Shoe Discovered In Salt Mine
A 2,000-year-old show found in a salt mine.

Due to the preservation effect of the salt, organic remains are in particularly good condition in contrast to other excavations, where such finds are in short supply. During this year’s campaign in the Georgenberg tunnel, a children’s shoe made of leather came to light. It roughly corresponds to today’s shoe Euro size 30 (7.25 inches – 18.4 cm).

“For decades now, our research activities on the Dürrnberg have repeatedly provided us with valuable finds in order to scientifically develop the earliest mining activities.

The condition of the shoe that was found is outstanding,” says the head of the research area, Prof. Dr. Thomas Stoellner, in a press statement.

“Organic materials usually decompose over time. Finds such as this children’s shoe, but also textile remains or excrement, such as those found on the Dürrnberg, offer an extremely rare insight into the life of the Iron Age miners. They provide valuable information for our scientific work.”

The research work on prehistoric salt production at Dürrnberg near Hallein in Austria is part of a long-term research project.

The research work on prehistoric salt production at Dürrnberg near Hallein in Austria is part of a long-term research project. Credit: German Mining Museum Bochum

In the immediate vicinity of the find, the archaeologists discovered further organic remains: a fragment of a wooden shovel in the shape of half a shovel blade and the remains of fur with a lacing. Possibly, these belonged to a fur hood.

Excavations will continue over the next few years. The aim is to open up the entire extent and thus obtain the most comprehensive information possible about the work of the Iron Age miners and their way of life.

In addition, scientists will attempt to determine the size of Dürrnberg’s mining halls.

These types of mining archaeological excavations and research methods provide important insights into areas of life that cannot yet be documented and researched from other sources.

Beautifully Complete 150-Million-Year-Old Turtle Fossil Discovered In Germany

Beautifully Complete 150-Million-Year-Old Turtle Fossil Discovered In Germany

An incredibly well-preserved fossil of an ancient Jurassic sea turtle has been uncovered in Germany, the first to have a complete skull, shell, and all four limbs.

Beautifully Complete 150-Million-Year-Old Turtle Fossil Discovered In Germany
This flat pancake of a fossil has tortoise a lot about the environment where the turtle would have lived.

The marine turtle had a massive head and would have swum through the shallows of a tropical sea that once covered Europe 150 million years ago. 

Across the world, there are some extremely important fossil sites that have provided scientists with an array of specimens that help determine all sorts of information about the way ancient creatures once roamed across the land and seas of ancient Earth.

The Torleite Formation near Painten in southeastern Germany is such a place; an active quarry, it’s also home to hundreds of fossil Jurassic marine creatures such as turtles, crocodilians, fish, and even giant marine reptiles like ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. 

It was here in 2014 scientists uncovered a new specimen of the turtle species Solnhofia parsonsi, dating back around 150 million years. This area is known as the Franconian Alb and contains large amounts of marine sedimentary rocks from the Lower and Upper Jurassic.

The specific area in which the turtle specimen was found had only begun to be investigated in the last 20 years and has provided a wealth of specimens in different taxonomic groups.

The variation in specimens led scientists to suggest that this area would have been once connected to the open sea. 

The fossil reveals more about the ecology of this ancient turtle species.

The new specimen is exceptionally well preserved with a complete skull and skeleton visible. “Compared to the size of the carapace, the skull is very large, reaching approximately 40% of the carapace (shell) length,” the authors write in the study.

 However, it can only be looked at from the top of the shell down. This is the first fossil with a complete skull, shell, and nearly complete limbs, and only the second of this species found with the head and rear limbs in their natural positions, which helps the team understand more about the turtles’ behavior.

The team thinks that the way the turtle’s paddles differed from the stiff flippers of deep-sea turtles suggests that it did not have a fully pelagic (open sea) lifestyle and so did not spend large amounts of time on the open sea. Instead, they reason that the paddle formation along with a difference in tail length suggests that this turtle’s ecology was more suited to being a shallow-water coastal marine species. 

The study is published in PLOS ONE.

Archaeologists Find 300,000-Year-Old Elephant Skeleton in Germany

Archaeologists Find 300,000-Year-Old Elephant Skeleton in Germany

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 Find 300,000-Year-Old Elephant Skeleton in Germany
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.

500-year-old gold coins discovered in a German monastery were ‘hastily hidden’ during a ‘dangerous situation’

500-year-old gold coins discovered in a German monastery were ‘hastily hidden’ during a ‘dangerous situation’

Archaeologists in Germany have uncovered a handful of 500-year-old gold coins buried among the ruins of a medieval monastery.

500-year-old gold coins discovered in a German monastery were 'hastily hidden' during a 'dangerous situation'
One of the four gold coins was discovered at a monastery in Germany.

Known as Himmelpforten, the Augustinian Hermit monastery housed monks from its founding in 1253 into the 16th century.

The archaeologists think the four coins were “hastily hidden” by one of the monks in 1525 during an uprising in which farmers stormed the monastery in Wernigerode, a town in central Germany, according to a translated article in Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper

“The gold coins were of great value, and the small fortune was probably hidden by a monk in an acutely dangerous situation,” Felix Biermann, a project manager and archaeologist from the Saxony-Anhalt State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology told Mitteldeutsche Zeitung. “It didn’t end well because the coins couldn’t be recovered.”

Classified as guilders (guldens), a type of currency used during the Holy Roman Empire, the coins include one that was minted in Frankfurt before 1493, during the reign of the Holy Roman emperor Frederick III; another coin minted in Schwabach, outside Nuremberg, sometime between 1486 and 1495; and two coins produced in Bonn by the Archdiocese of Cologne around 1480, according to Newsweek.

In addition to the coins, researchers discovered an array of artifacts, including brass book clasps from the monastery’s library, ceramics, animal bones, a cavalry spur, and lead seals that were used to stamp cloth for commerce, all of which provide insight into the large-scale trade and prosperity of the monastery, according to Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.

All that remains of the monastery itself is the foundations of some buildings, including the main chapel and refectory where the monks would have dined.

300,000-year-old double-pointed stick among oldest record of human-made wooden tools

300,000-year-old double-pointed stick among oldest record of human-made wooden tools

Archaeologists have unearthed the oldest large collection of wooden tools made by humans at a site in Schöningen, Germany. The artefacts date back to about 300,000 years ago.

300,000-year-old double-pointed stick among oldest record of human-made wooden tools
Perspective photograph of the double-pointed throwing stick from Schöningen, Germany.

Included in what ancient people left behind are wooden spears and shorter throwing sticks that have been sharpened at both ends.

It is unclear exactly which hominin is responsible for producing the tools, but their age suggests either Homo heidelbergensis or Homo neanderthalensis.  

The collection has been analysed before, but further analysis has been required to gain deeper insight into how the tools were used.

The 300,000-year-old tools found at Schöningen were analysed using micro-CT scanning, 3D microscopy and infrared spectroscopy to better understand how they were made and their potential uses. The results are published in the PLOS ONE journal.

The double-pointed stick in particular reveals new human behaviours for the time period. Made from spruce, the branch was debarked and shaped for aerodynamics and ergonomics.

It is believed the wood was seasoned to prevent it from cracking and warping.

New insights from the detailed multi-analytic techniques suggest that the main purpose of the tool was as a throwing stick for hunting. This indicates “potential hunting strategies and social contexts including for communal hunts involving children,” the researchers write.

“The Schöningen throwing sticks may have been used to strategically disadvantage larger ungulates [hooved animals such as deer and antelope], potentially from distances of up to 30 metres.”

“In illustrating the biography of one of Schöningen’s double-pointed sticks, we demonstrate new human behaviours for this time period, including sophisticated woodworking techniques,” the authors write.

These are also not the only ancient tools that have been found at the site. In 2012, researchers found that 171,000-year-old tools found at Schöningen were probably made using fire.

Though it is the oldest collection of wooden tools anywhere in the world, the Schöningen spears are not the oldest known tools made from wood.

In 1911, an artefact now known as the “Clacton spear” was discovered near the English seaside town of Essex. It is believed to be the 400,000-year-old tip of a spear, making it the oldest known wooden tool.