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Prehistoric Germany – Paleolithic & Mesolithic Period

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Lower and Middle Paleolithic

The oldest example of the presence of hominids in the territory of modern Germany is the lower jaw from Mauer aged 600–500 thousand years, belonging to a Heidelberg man. Somewhat later finds are the bones from Bilzingsleben, the remains of a Steinheim man, the Schening and Leringen wooden spears.

Sequencing of the Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA from the Holenstein-Stadel Cave (HST), showed that this subspecies of Neanderthals separated from the main trunk between 316 000 and 219 000 years ago and interbred with the early Homo sapiens at least 219 thousand years ago.

Neanderthals of the early atypical group of Eringsdorf were found in the Ilm valley.

The teeth from Taub are attributed both to the early Neanderthals and to the late Heidelberg forms.

From the Heidelberg man there was a Neanderthal man who lived in Germany about 100 thousand years ago. Since Germany was tundra during the last phase of the glacial period polar glaciation reached the north of Lower Saxony, Germany was hardly inhabited from the times of Middle Oriyak and to the Middle Paleolithic, and throughout this long period there are no traces of human habitat on its territory.

On the territory of present-day Germany, Neanderthals died out not later than 42 thousand years ago.

Upper Paleolithic

The oldest traces of a Cro-Magnon ( Homo sapiens ) who migrated to Europe were found in the caves of the Swabian Alba. By the period of 40-35 thousand years B.C. Venus of Hohle Fels, the world’s oldest human figurine was unearthed.

Paleolithic Cultures : Orignac (33,000–19,000 BC) | Gravetta (28000 – 21000 BC) | Solutreiskaya (18000 – 15000 BC) | Hamburg (13,500 – 11100 BC) | Arensburg (11,000 – 10,000 BC) | Sviderskaya (about 10,000 BC) | Federmesser (9800 – 8800 BC)


The Mesolithic in Germany was a natural continuation of the final Paleolithic, without a cultural gap, with a slow and gradual increase in change. As noted by archaeologist E. Numbers, the characteristic tools (in particular, bone ones) for both of these sub-periods are generally the same.

During the Mesolithic period, most of the German territory was dominated by Dufensee Culture , which was part of the Nordic circle of Mesolithic cultures and related to the Maglemose culture in Denmark, Star-Carr culture in the British Isles and Komornitsky culture in Poland. From the southwest, Tardenois culture penetrates the territory of Germany.

In the north of Germany, the Mesolithic is significantly delayed and at the last stages coexists with Neolithic cultures penetrating from the southeast.

8000-6000 B.C. (Early Mesolithic)

For the Mesolithic is characterized by the manufacture of small stone tools – microliths, which were used, in particular, as spearheads. The strength of stone tools is increased by their annealing in fire at a temperature of 270-300 ° C. Production of jewelry begins – beads from fish bones and shells. The main findings related to the Mesolithic were made in the Rems-Murr region, in the vicinity of Lake Constance and Federsee.

Thanks to the studies that were carried out in various caves of the Swabian Alba Wolfgang Taut, the South German Mesolithic was divided into numerous chronological sub-periods tied to various forms of microliths.

In the 1990s, in the course of numerous archaeological excavations near Rottenburg, three Mesolithic sites were investigated. They belonged to the early post-glacial period, about 8000 – 7700 years. BC. Here, the Mesolithic sites are exceptionally well preserved – clearly visible are the foci, dwellings, and workshops.

Numerous finds in the Swabian Alba, which until the 1960s. Researchers were considered “Mesolithic rough tools” (or Campinian culture ), are now considered as fragments of stones that arose naturally under the influence of frost, or as semi-finished products of neolithic tools.

6000-4500 BC (Late Mesolithic)

Due to climate change from continental to atlantic, vegetation also changes. Hazel thickets are replaced by mixed forests dominated by oaks: hunting for large animals in such forests is difficult. In this era, deer, wild boar and other large game make up only 20-30% of the diet. 40-50% of the diet consists of vegetable products: nuts, wild berries and fruits, acorns. Stone processing techniques are being improved, and the tips of the copies take the form of trapezoidal microliths.

Of great importance are the excavations in the Feuersee region, where in 1988–1989. near Bad Buchau, Mesolithic settlements with seven foci were investigated. Here were found rich finds, which gave a lot of information about the late Mesolithic. By the method of radiocarbon dating, they were assigned to the 1st half of 6 thousand B.C. Habitats of early Neolithic culture of linear-tape ceramics in southwest Germany are superimposed on the late Mesolithic zones. The coexistence of these cultures, often hostile, lasted for several centuries.

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