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Excavations of the Neolthic burial mounds at Eulenberg have revealed wooden graves with multiple occupants. Source: LDA / Heritage Daily.

6,000 Year Old Neolithic Burial Mounds were Later Used for Ritual Sacrifice!

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A complex Neolithic burial with two monumental mounds has been unearthed on the Eulenberg near Magdeburg, Germany. Dated to 6,000-years-ago, the year long excavation has yielded these two mounds at a distance of 200 meters (656 feet) from each other.

The mounds contain wooden grave chambers, each hosting several burials. Around a thousand years later, the area between the mounds served as a processional route, where both cattle and people were ritually sacrificed and interred!

Two Cultures, Two Settlements

Since 2023, archaeologists from the State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt (LDA) have been diligently examining expansive areas on the Eulenberg near Magdeburg in anticipation of construction activities by the US chip manufacturer Intel, according to a press release by idw.

Situated within the planned 300-hectare (741 acre) industrial park, the Eulenberg is a small hill that along the relatively flat Börde landscape. The Eulenberg has been significant historically, utilized for settlement since the early Neolithic period due to its fertile soils.

Detail of the wooden graves at the Eulenberg Neolithic burial mound (LDA / Heritage Daily)

Detail of the wooden graves at the Eulenberg Neolithic burial mound (LDA / Heritage Daily)

During the Baalberg Culture (4100–3600 BC), a late Neolithic culture of Central Germany and Bohemia associated with the establishment of two large settlements. The two large trapezoidal wooden burial chambers, measuring 20 meters (65.6 feet) and 30 meters (98.4 feet) in length, were constructed in close proximity, likely covered by substantial earth mounds that dominated the landscape.

Baalberg Culture burial practices varied. Some individuals were buried in simple pit graves, while others were interred within wooden grave chambers covered by earth mounds. These burial mounds often contained multiple burials, indicating communal or family burial practices.

Around a millennium later, during the Globular Amphora Culture (GAC) period (3300–2800 BC), the corridor between the mounds served as a route for processions. Sacrifices of young cattle and human burials were performed along this path, reports Arkeonews.

One burial featured a middle-aged man (likely 35-40 years) placed into the grave before the cattle burials, suggesting symbolic representations tied to a cart pulled by cattle. Clearly these were votive offerings of essential possessions to the gods.

Speaking to HeritageDaily, a representative of LDA explained, “Along this path, pairs of young, 2-3 year old cattle were sacrificed and buried. In one case, the grave of a 35 to 40 year old man was dug in front the cattle burials, creating the image of a cart with a driver or a plough pulled by cattle.”

The GAC had a distinctive tradition of incorporating animal parts, such as a pig's jaw, or even entire animals as grave offerings, documented at various GAC sites throughout Central Europe.

Approximately 1,000 years later, a palisade ditch, 50 cm (19.6 inches) wide, was constructed along the former procession route, intentionally encompassing the larger of the two mounds in this 3-hectare burial space. This development, however, did not disrupt the existing cattle burials. Several burial mounds from the Corded Ware Culture, also known as the Single Grave Culture (around 2800-2050 BC) were discovered approximately 600 meters away, evidence of a ritual that endured across time periods and generations.

Inhumation, or burial of the deceased's body, was the most common burial practice of this culture. Graves were often shallow pits dug into the ground, with the body placed in a flexed position, generally in an east-west orientation.

The deceased was sometimes accompanied by grave goods, which could include pottery, tools, weapons, jewelry, and food offerings. Occasionally, cattle were also buried with the deceased as a marker of social status and wealth.

The State Office for Monument Protection and Archaeology aims to conclude excavations by the end of April to facilitate the construction phase for Intel.

Top Image: Excavations of the Neolthic burial mounds at Eulenberg have revealed wooden graves with multiple occupants. Source: LDA / Heritage Daily.

By Sahir Pandey

References

Altuntas, A. 2024.  Archaeologists unearth 6,000-year-old two monumental mounds containing wooden grave chambers in Germany. Available at: https://arkeonews.net/archaeologists-unearth-6000-year-old-two-monumental-mounds-containing-wooden-grave-chambers-in-germany/

Milligan, M. 2024.  Archaeologists find 6,000-year-old mounds containing wooden grave chambers. Available at: https://www.heritagedaily.com/2024/03/archaeologists-find-6000-year-old-mounds-containing-wooden-grave-chambers/151025

Radley, D. 2024.  Archaeologists unearth 6,000-year-old mounds containing wooden grave chambers in Germany. Available at: https://archaeologymag.com/2024/03/archaeologists-unearth-6000-year-old-mounds-in-germany/

 
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Sahir

I am a graduate of History from the University of Delhi, and a graduate of Law, from Jindal University, Sonepat. During my study of history, I developed a great interest in post-colonial studies, with a focus on Latin America. I... Read More

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