A Rare Stone Age Burial Found Amongst 140 German Medieval Graves
Archaeologists have discovered a rare Stone Age burial containing 5,000-year-old pottery in the Danube valley of southwestern Germany. The Neolithic burial site was found in an area where 140 medieval graves were also unearthed, many containing swords and jewelry.
After the Volga in Russia, the Danube is the second longest river in Europe. Originating in Germany, the Danube flows southeast for 2,850 kilometers (1,770 miles) to the Black Sea. About 5500 BC, the Linear Pottery culture spread westwards along the Danube valley and encountered Atlantic European cultures.
Now, in the Geisingen-Gutmadingen district of Tuttlingen, in southwestern Germany, archaeologists have discovered a “Corded Ware” culture grave dating to 5,000 years ago. The ancient tomb contained decorated pottery and a flint blade. This time period was when pottery was being created with crushed ceramics (broken pottery) mixed with their clays.
The corded ware pot, rock ax, and flint blade from the Stone Age burial found in southwestern Germany, among 140 medieval graves.(Yvonne Mühleis / State Office for the Preservation of Monuments in the RPS)
Stone Age Burials and Germany’s Battle Axe Culture
The “Corded Ware” or “Battle Axe culture” came from the earlier Funnel Beaker culture of the North European Plain which had merged with the Proto-Indo-European steppe culture (Yamnaya culture). Depending mainly on cattle rearing and occasional cereal cultivation, Battle Axe people created copper and bronze artifacts, alongside their iconic stone battle-axes.
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The name “Corded Ware” comes from a type of coarse pottery clay beaker that was decorated with twisted cord impressions. In these late Stone Age burials, the deceased were buried in flat graves inside small mounds and often the bodies were laid on their side with bent knees. It was not uncommon for wagons/carts and sacrificed animals to be found alongside axes in Corded Ware graves.
A Sacred Site Reused 3,500 Years Later
The researchers also found “140 early medieval graves” in the same area where the Stone Age burial was found. These medieval graves were dated to between 500 and 600 AD and not only did they contain daily-life items like combs and drinking glasses, but also lances, swords, and jewelry.
Mayor Martin Numberger said in a statement that these new discoveries determine that the Gutmadingen district was inhabited “much earlier” than 1273 AD. This was when the first written records mention a settlement in the region. Now, these new discoveries have proven that people lived in the region just after the reign of Roman emperor Romulus Augustus and his Germanic warlord, Odoacer.
Mass Medieval Migrations Caused a Cultural Mix
During the Migration Period (Völkerwanderung) in European history, large-scale migrations of various tribes settled in and often warred for control over collapsed Roman territories. The need and greed for territory and tradable resources meant hyper-violence marred society at this time, but there was also an intermixing of cultures and exchange of burial traditions.
A report on Live Science explains that burial rites at this time sometimes “changed as conquerors took over a particular village or region.” For example, the Alemanni Germanic tribe that was defeated by the Franks in 496 AD was subsequently absorbed into the Duchy of the Merovingians. This is why so many men’s graves from the Migration Period have been found to contain weapons and jewelry.
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The Germanic Alemanni people were first mentioned after being attacked by Roman forces in 213 AD. By the 5th century AD, the tribe had expanded into Alsace and northern Switzerland, and established the German language in those regions. However, in 496 AD “they were conquered by Clovis and incorporated into his Frankish dominions.”
During this transitional time the Alemanni created mass family graves called “adelsgrablege” (noble graves), which were filled with armor, weapons, and jewelry.
Top image: Early medieval weapons and jewelry found in southwestern Germany near the Danube River near Tuttlingen, Germany. Source: Yvonne Mühleis / State Office for the Preservation of Monuments in the RPS
By Ashley Cowie