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The German Stonehenge at sunset in Pömmelte.       Source: Mattis Kaminer / Adobe stock

Pömmelte Ring Sanctuary Finds May Eclipse Stonehenge

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Ancient astronomical observatory in Pömmelte, Germany, is to be excavated and scientists think it will overshadow England’s famous Stonehenge in terms of archaeological data and number of human burials. 

Over 4,000-years-old, an Early Bronze Age German settlement near the town of Pömmelte is known to be vastly more expansive than contemporary structures like Stonehenge in the British Isles. A team of archaeologists from Germany’s state office for Monument Conservation and Archaeology and the University of Halle , have already conducted two rounds of excavations at the ancient settlement and the next dig is planned to begin this summer, including British students from the University of Southampton, depending on restrictions concerning the coronavirus pandemic.

The ring sanctuary at Pömmelte excavation. (georgfotoart / Adobe stock)

The ring sanctuary at Pömmelte excavation. ( georgfotoart / Adobe stock)

A Vast Agri-Ritualistic Centre

Pömmelte is a village and a former municipality in the Salzlandkreis district of Saxony-Anhalt in Germany, which was first settled by Sorbian settlers and is first documented in 1292 AD. During the Bronze Age , around the late third millennium BC, an enormous wooden astronomical observatory that functioned similarly to England’s Stonehenge had become a ritualistic center within a thriving agricultural environment, and radiocarbon dating determines it was used by the Unetice culture between 2300 and 1600 BC.

In 2018, Science Mag published a research article by archaeologist and Stonehenge expert Timothy Darvill of Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom, who claimed rituals performed at this “German Stonehenge” may link the mysterious monument with its UK counterpart.

A full shot of the German Stonehenge at night in Pömmelte. (Uwe Graf / Adobe stock)

A full shot of the German Stonehenge at night in Pömmelte. ( Uwe Graf / Adobe stock)

Dr. Franziska Knoll, an archaeologist at the Institute for Art History and Archaeology of Europe at the University of Halle, recently explained to German daily newspaper Deutsche Welle , that the new excavation beginning in April will cover an area of around “29,000 square meters (34,684 square yards).” Knoll added that “thirty-seven ancient longhouses” have already been found in the area and the team of archaeologists are sure the next planned dig will identify more longhouses “in the jumble” of  the ancient observatories wooden pillars.

Investigating Satellite Astronomical Sites

The new excavation aims to reveal unknown truths about the social and religious environment of the Early Bronze Age “ Unetice culture ” whose priestly astronomers designed, created and used the famous astronomical Nebra Sky Disk depicting gold representations of the Sun, Moon and stars.

The Nebra Sky Disk. (Dbachmann, Theway / CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Nebra Sky Disk. (Dbachmann, Theway / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

And to broaden their cultural understanding of the Pömmelte sanctuary, archaeologists will also investigate an ancient circular moat located about a kilometer (0.6 mi) away from the ring shrine, and a 6,000-year-old grave complex from the so-called Baalberge culture south of Pömmelte will also be investigated near the town of Schonebeck.

The Pömmelte settlement was built at the end of the Neolithic Age and enhanced up to the Early Bronze Age and it was occupied by different cultural groups for more than 300 years. The oldest longhouse foundations are associated with the Bell Beaker culture (ca. 2500-2050 B.C.) who emerged at the end of the Neolithic Age and Dr. Knoll says these longhouses and the ceramics discovered inside them show how the Unetice culture developed from the Bell Beaker culture. 

Excavating an Army of Dead Astronomers Priests

British researchers are helping their German counterparts by contributing decades of accumulated experience in interdisciplinary landscape archaeology, and already it has been noted that the astronomical observatories at both Stonehenge in England and Pömmelte in Germany were “built near rivers.” This, according to Dr. Knoll, highlights the importance of waterways in prehistoric times, which were social arteries used to transport foods, tools, animals and people through the ancient geographies.

During the 20th century, archaeologists in England discovered 60 cremation burials at Stonehenge and according to an entry on Ancient History Encyclopedia , it is estimated that somewhere in the region of two hundred more remain unexcavated around the famous stone monument. The latest cremations radiocarbon dated to c. 2300 BC, which reveal the practice of cremation was still practiced at Stonehenge long after the first bluestones and sarsens had been erected at the stone circle.

Bell cup burial found near the Pömmelte site. ( Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt / Matthias Zirm)

Pömmelte also dates to c. 2300 BC, however, contrasting greatly with Stonehenge, large areas of Pömmelte are already uncovered, which Dr. Knoll says allows for “completely different archaeological insights.” And furthermore, according to the archaeologist, while many graves have been discovered near and around Stonehenge, they will be overshadowed by the quantity of those expected to be excavated in Pömmelte.

Top image: The German Stonehenge at sunset in Pömmelte.       Source: Mattis Kaminer / Adobe stock

By Ashley Cowie

Comments

Other than the first two paragraphs I don't think there was much of a schlong measuring contest between the two.

 

what I find interesting more is that this would indicate a culture that spread or was in contact with others over a large distance. It's not like two separate groups dreamed up the same idea of a henge independently.

 

makes you wonder

why must we have these puerile comparisons, ‘My henge is bigger than your henge...’ and why just limit the discussion to Anglo-Germanic rivalies.. there are other cultures in the same period with henges yet they are conspicously absent from the article.  What is found at Pömmelte adds to knowledge but to reduce it to ‘mine is bigger than yours’ is absurd.  Both henges are unique and offer much insight, and compared to other henges of the same period there is a tantalizing vision of religious development.. some should be looking at it how it evolved and devolved not doing size / quantity comparisons as the only meaningful data.

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