пятница, 26 июля 2019 г.

Neolithic burials, Iron Age site found in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia

Archaeologists of the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) have been excavating in Heek-Nienborg (Borken district in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) due to the expansion of an industrial estate. They not only uncovered an Iron Age settlement, but also unexpectedly discovered several graves from the Neolithic period.

Neolithic burials, Iron Age site found in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia
The archaeologists surprisingly found several graves from the Neolithic period, which were provided
with numerous grave goods [Credit: LWL/I. Pepper]

Evidently, more than 5,000 years ago, people lived in the vicinity of today’s Heek. At least they buried their relatives here. Two dozen graves from the time of the so-called funnel beaker culture (3,400 — 2,850 BC) were found by LWL experts during their excavations.

«The discovery of such a cemetery is a stroke of luck,» says Dr. Bernhard Stapel of the LWL Archaeology for Westphalia. «It shows that many unknown testimonies of our ancestors are still hidden in the ground. The graves contained several grave goods, including richly decorated ceramic vessels of various shapes.»

The archaeologists were also able to recover axes and arrowheads made of flintstone. However, no bones have survived from the burials themselves.

«The soil here is very sandy,» explains LWL archaeologist and excavation director Dr. Ingo Pfeffer. «The sand extracts the calcium from the bones, causing them to dissolve more quickly. Therefore, we only have the grave goods and thus an insight into this long past culture. We can get a picture of life and death 5,000 years ago,» Pfeffer continues.

Neolithic burials, Iron Age site found in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia
Since the ceramic vessels in the graves are very unstable, they are recovered
on site in a block [Credit: LWL/I. Pepper]

The ceramic vessels in particular, however, are very fragile. The damp sandy soil has also severely affected them. «That’s why we had to recover the vessels on site in a block,» explains conservationist Lina Pak. «In this process, the finds are carefully uncovered over a wide area and plastered with the surrounding soil. In this way it is possible to recover the objects as a whole and bring them to the restoration workshop.»

«There we can then remove the unstable ceramic from the block under controlled conditions and stabilize it,» says Pak. A total of ten such block excavations were carried out on the Heek-Nienborg excavation site. Pak has only just begun working on the blocks. «This will take some time. Such meticulous work takes a lot of time and patience.»

The archaeologists had originally only expected that they would investigate an Iron Age settlement. In 2016 and 2017, the LWL archaeologists had carried out several trial excavations on the area concerned. «We discovered traces of a settlement thousands of years old,» Pfeffer explains. Traces include the layouts of residential buildings or warehouses as well as waste pits. «We have now been able to investigate these first indications and document an entire settlement.»

On a total area of 2.5 hectares, the scientists uncovered traces of at least three Iron Age farmsteads. In addition, they found numerous pottery fragments, which allow an exact dating.

Neolithic burials, Iron Age site found in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia
The first vessel has already been restored [Credit: LWL/L. Pak]

«As we had already suspected, the settlement dates from the Iron Age, i.e. from around 800 BC to the birth of Christ,» explains Stapel. «We were thus able to gain important insights into the settlement of the area around the Spelt river.»

The archaeologists’ excavations have now been completed. » We must now begin the follow-up work on the excavation,» says Pfeffer. «The vessels from the block excavations should also provide us with some exciting information about the Neolithic period here on site.

Source: Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) [trsl. TANN, July 22, 2019]



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