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Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine


In the lead-up to the expansion of the Forderstedt opencast limestone mine by CIECH Soda Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG, the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology of Saxony-Anhalt (LDA) will again carry out archaeological excavations near Forderstedt this year. During the excavations, which have been ongoing since mid-June, the five-member excavation team recorded about 100 features on an area of about 15,000 square metres in total, which originate in particular from the late Neolithic Age (about 2800 to 2050 BC) and the Middle Bronze Age (about 1550 to 1250 BC).


Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine
Burial from the Middle Bronze Age with bronze decorations and vessels
[Credit: State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology
Saxony-Anhalt, Marcel Rodens]



The site on a plateau above the valley of the Bode River, which is only about one kilometer away, is literally ideal for prehistoric settlement. This is confirmed by the archaeological excavations that have been carried out here in the open-cast mining area since 2011. Even before the current investigation period, they yielded around 20 burials of the Neolithic Corded Ware Culture (approximately 2800 to 2200 BC) as well as traces of settlement and a so-called "pit alignment", a row of pits that probably dates from the late Bronze Age to early Iron Age (approximately 1200 to 450 BC) and which served to define the landscape.


Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine
Aerial view of the circular furrow of a former burial mound of the Middle Bronze Age
with central burial [Credit: State Office for Monument Preservation
and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt, Klaus Bentele]

Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine
Crouched burial of the Cord Ware Culture with stone setting in the east
and eight vessels [Credit: State Office for Monument Preservation
and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt, Klaus Bentele]

Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine
Two massive stone piles probably contain graves from the Neolithic or Late Bronze Age
[Credit: State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology
Saxony-Anhalt, Klaus Bentele]

A continuation of this "pit alignment" was found during the ongoing investigations. It consisted of about 30 long rectangular pits as well as two ditches branching off from them. Another group of seven graves of the Corded Ware Culture (about 2800 to 2200 BC) from the late Neolithic period was documented. Some of the graves had stone fixtures and were richly equipped with vessels, flint blades and pierced dog canines. 




In addition, the discovery of two burial mounds from the Middle Bronze Age (about 1550 to 1200 BC) is of importance. They each had a diameter of about 14 metres. Inside one of the mounds a central burial with a stone slab covering was found, in the other a total of five inhumations in east-west orientation. Three of these graves contained bronze grave goods in the form of arm and leg ornaments and small spiral wire rings. 


Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine
An excavation assistant uncovers a grave from the Bronze Age before the open-cast
 limestone mine is expanded [Credit: MDR/Tom Granke]

Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine
In all more than 100 different finds, including pottery, flint blades and jewellery 
have been recovered this season [Credit: MDR/Tom Granke]

Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine
Detail of excavated grave belonging to the Corded Ware Culture
[Credit: MDR/Tom Granke]



A row of twelve massive posts is possibly connected to one of the tumuli. Among the other features documented this year are a cremation grave of the Late Bronze Age (about 1200 to 750 BC), 22 settlement pits of unclear date and two massive stone piles, partly consisting of large limestone slabs, which are probably graves of the Corded Ware Culture or the Late Bronze Age.


Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine
The purpose of these trenches is a mystery to archaeologists. They also appear in
England and in Central Germany and may have been boundary markings
[Credit: MDR/Tom Granke]

Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine
Corded Ware vessel retrieved from one of the burials at the site
[Credit: MDR/Tom Granke]


Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine
Pierced dog canines, probably used as jewellery, found at the site
[Credit: MDR/Tom Granke]


The current excavation results confirm the previous observations on the use and significance of the site in prehistoric times and add new important facets to them. Thus, this year for the first time Bronze Age features were found in the shape of the two tumuli, which prove that the area was used as a burial ground beyond the end of the Neolithic period. The richly decorated vessels of the Neolithic Corded Ware Culture (2800 to 2200 BC) show influences of the Schonfeld Culture, which was at the same time located further north, and thus indicate an exchange between both cultures, whose territories met at the Bode.


Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine
Excavations have been ongoing at the Forderstedt limestone mine since 2011
[Credit: MDR/Tom Granke]

Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine
Archaeologists working at the Forderstedt limestone mine
[Credit: Jan Woitas/dpa-Zentralbild]

Graves, traces of settlement from Neolithic and Bronze Age found at German limestone opencast mine
The excavation areas in the run-up to the Forderstedt limestone mine
[Credit: State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology
 Saxony-Anhalt, Klaus Bentele]

The continuous excavations on the extension areas of the limestone open-cast mine are carried out in close, exemplary cooperation and with great support from CIECH Soda Deutschland. They make it possible to obtain an ever more complete overall picture of the settlement structures of this micro-region in prehistoric times.


Source: Archaeologie Online [trsl. TANN, September 28, 2020]



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