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Pömmelte, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, the ‘German Stonehenge’ site.	Source: JEFs-FotoGalerie/Adobe Stock

New Discoveries Show People Lived at “German Stonehenge” in 2,300 BC

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At the site of the circular sanctuary of Pömmelte in the state of Saxony-Anhalt in Germany, archaeologists have spent the last six years unearthing the remains of a settlement that was continuously occupied in the third millennium BC. The distinctive shape of the religious sanctuary has caused it to be dubbed the “German Stonehenge,” and the discoveries made so far make it clear that the site’s monuments functioned as the cultural hub of a thriving prehistoric community.

Sanctuary area was constructed of wood. (Sina Ettmer/Adobe Stock)

Sanctuary area was constructed of wood. (Sina Ettmer/Adobe Stock)

The Many Cultures of the German Stonehenge Revealed

During the most recent round of excavations at the Ringheiligtum Pömmelte, archaeologists have unearthed the outlines of three previously undiscovered houses that were located to the north of the circular sanctuary. These particular houses would have been constructed by individuals from the Bell Beaker culture, who occupied the region between 2450 and 2250 BC. These are new additions to the outlines of ancient houses found during previous explorations, which included nine houses to the south, east and west of the Stonehenge-like installations.

The latest finds are much smaller in number. However, as is explained in a statement released by the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle (Saale) in Saxony-Anhalt, their discovery “helps complete the picture and fully capture the ritual and settlement landscape of the third millennium BC.”

With a total of 12 large residential structures spread out over an area covering around 9.6 acres (3.9 hectares), the Bell Beaker culture established a secure and sizable settlement around the sanctuary site. They were the predecessors of the Únětice culture of the Early Bronze Age, who likely lived in the area in even larger numbers.


The largest of the three recently discovered house plans of the Bell Beaker culture (between 2450 and 2250 B.C.) with the circular sanctuary in the background, facing west. (A. Leneke / Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt)

The largest of the three recently discovered house plans of the Bell Beaker culture (between 2450 and 2250 B.C.) with the circular sanctuary in the background, facing west. (A. Leneke / Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt)

But even before groups associated with the Bell Beaker culture arrived, people from the earlier Corded Ware culture (2800 to 2500 BC) were living there. During the most recent excavations, archaeologists found the remains of a small rectangular sanctuary at Pömmelte, and also a poorly preserved but still identifiable Corded Ware burial site. They also unearthed a Corded Ware pit that contained fragments of two containers, a broken ax, and flint blades.

First Indications of Habitation at Pömmelte

So far, it has not been possible to pinpoint exactly where Corded Ware houses might have been located. However, archaeologists have found some of their agricultural installations, in the form of 78 pits that were dug out to store grain. Despite being only a meter deep these pits would have held 1,000 kilograms of grain each which means that 78 storage pits could have fed as many as 780 adults for an entire year.

A few traces of the grains have been found, preserved despite the immense passage of time. They have been identified as wheat, barley and spelt, although other grains might have been stored in the pits as well.


One of the 78 silos of the Corded Pottery culture (between 2550 and 2250 BC).

One of the 78 silos of the Corded Pottery culture (between 2550 and 2250 BC).

This does not mean the Corded Ware culture was vegetarian. Both the Corded Ware and Bell Beaker peoples were involved in the breeding of livestock, for meat and milk. A recent analysis of ceramic vessels from both cultures found traces of fats from cows and pigs in the Corded Ware containers, and traces of dairy products in Bell Beaker drinking cups. Vessels from the Únětice culture, which first occupied the site around 2250 BC, were also recovered and studied, and they were found to contain remnants of many different foods and drinks, from both plant and animal sources.

The German Stonehenge: A Magnet for the People

 The Ringheiligtum Pömmelte is called the German Stonehenge in part because of its circular shape. But like Stonehenge, Pömmelte was also used for rituals and ceremonies related to spirituality and astronomical observation in the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages (between 3,000 and 2,000 BC).

Located close to the city of Barby near the Elbe River, the installation features seven precisely constructed concentric circles made from palisades, ditches, and raised banks, all of which have holes dug for the placement of wooden posts. Naturally the original posts were missing when the site was first excavated by archaeologists, but new posts were cut and put in to help recreate the site as it would have looked 4,500 years ago.

It is clear that this was an important religious site. Since there is no written literature detailing the people’s beliefs and practices at that time, however, researchers are limited in the conclusions they can draw about how the residents of the area worshipped in this long-lost age. But this was obviously considered a sacred place, which explains why there were so many residential buildings constructed close to the site, by multiple cultures over the course of several centuries.

A Prosperous Village and Revered Sanctuary Site

The latest announced findings from the Ringheiligtum Pömmelte site reveal the comprehensive nature of the work archaeologists are doing to unlock the secrets of the ancient peoples who built the German Stonehenge and the community that surrounded it. Excavations combined with laboratory analysis are producing enlightening discoveries, showing that the settlement at Pömmelte was prosperous and successful for a long period of time.

“The outstanding results produced by the intense research of the village around the circular sanctuary once again demonstrate the exceptional importance of this site, which goes far beyond the borders of Saxony-Anhalt,” said Saxony-Anhalt State Parliament President Dr. Gunnar Schellenberger during a recent visit to the excavation site. The explorations at  Ringheiligtum Pömmelte are being sponsored by his government, under the supervision of Saxony-Anhalt’s State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology.

The newest round of excavations, which will conclude in mid-July 2024, have been focusing on an area that covers 88,000 square feet (8,150 square meters) to the west and east of the circular installations. This is likely a sign of things to come, as archaeologists narrow their searches to concentrate on a more detailed study of individual sections of the site.

Top image: Pömmelte, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, the ‘German Stonehenge’ site.               Source: JEFs-FotoGalerie/Adobe Stock

By Nathan Falde



It's interesting. I personally think that time and tide will prove many of these sites and the peoples that built them to be far older (and possibly interlinked) than we currently recognise. I get the sense of great travellers crossing huge distances over landmasses that were more dangerous. But also perhaps far less submerged than we think even now, making crossings easier. Which may be why so many of these global sites and carvings look so similar.

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Nathan Falde graduated from American Public University in 2010 with a Bachelors Degree in History, and has a long-standing fascination with ancient history, historical mysteries, mythology, astronomy and esoteric topics of all types. He is a full-time freelance writer from... Read More

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