On the trail of the Bronze Age elite

Archological excavations explore the first fortification with a settlement north of the Alps

Hünenburg with outer settlement of northwest. The outer settlement lies in the upper half of the picture © University Göttingen
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For the first time archeologists have proven a remote settlement north of the Alps for a Bronze Age castle. As new excavations prove, the Hünenburg near Watenstedt in the Helmstedt district was an important center of Bronze Age rule: finds show that there were members of a leadership elite, wearing the armor made of bronze, round signs and weapons.

The fortifications uncovered during the excavations date back to the Early Bronze Age and early Iron Age. "Outstanding finds such as the fragment of a bronze battle shield are a clear indication of the presence of a ruler and warrior elite, " explains Immo Heske from the Department of Prehistory and Early History at the University of Göttingen. In the outer settlement with an extension of at least five hectares, the residents followed various craft activities. The scientists were able to reconstruct house buildings here.

As Heske explains, the early Bronze Age castles had important market and political functions; they formed the starting point for a far-reaching trade in raw materials and were production centers of high-quality bronze equipment. For the Hünenburg, which existed from the 12th century to about 550 BC, the scientists also found evidence that the complex also served as a cultic center. Investigations of the associated burial ground should not only provide information about religious practices. The researchers also want to find out who the dead were buried here.

Now a new, three-month excavation campaign has started. With archaeological site investigations and complementary research methods of archaeobotany, osteology, dendrochronology and archaeometallurgy, the researchers want to gain further insights into life in and around the Hünenburg. In addition, Heske and his team are hoping for contacts that the settlers in the northern Harz maintained to neighboring centers in the north and southeast.

(University of Göttingen, 13.07.2007 - NPO) advertisement