Skip to content
Home » Prehistoric cemetery complex unearthed in Germany

Prehistoric cemetery complex unearthed in Germany

Archaeologists in Germany have discovered a remarkable prehistoric cemetery complex near Magdeburg. The site, located on the Eulenberg hill and slated for development by US chip manufacturer Intel, reveals a long history of ritual practices dating back over 6,000 years.

Since 2023, archaeologists from the State Office for Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt (LDA) have been meticulously examining the area in advance of construction. Their work, due for completion in April 2024, has yielded fascinating insights into the lives and beliefs of .

The 300-hectare designated industrial park encompasses part of the Eulenberg, a small hill that held significance for people as far back as the middle (4100–3600 BC). This era, known as the Baalberg , saw the construction of two monumental wooden burial chambers, each 20-30 meters long and positioned remarkably close together – only 200 meters apart. These chambers were undoubtedly covered by substantial earthworks, likely forming prominent burial mounds that dominated the landscape.

Fast forward around 1,000 years, and the area between the mounds underwent a transformation during the Globular Amphora Culture (3300–2800 BC). The corridor became a designated processional route, where rituals involving cattle sacrifice took place. Notably, pairs of young cattle, around 2-3 years old, were sacrificed and buried along this path.

Excavation of two around 5,000-year-old cattle burials. Credit: State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt

One particularly interesting find is a human burial dating to this period. The grave of a 35-40-year-old man was positioned in front of the cattle burials, creating a symbolic image reminiscent of a cart with a driver or a plow pulled by cattle. This imagery, encountered in other contemporary burials, suggests offerings to deities, with cattle representing the most prized possessions and the security of livelihood.

The story doesn't end there. Roughly 1,000 years later, a new development occurred. A palisade ditch, still 50 cm wide, was constructed along the path of the former procession route. This ditch deliberately incorporated the larger of the two burial mounds into a roughly 3-hectare designated burial area. Interestingly, the cattle burials were bypassed but left undisturbed.

Further evidence of the area's enduring significance was found in the form of several Corded Ware Culture burial mounds (around 2800-2050 BC) located approximately 600 meters away. These mounds, with diameters of around 10 meters, solidify the notion of a consistent and long-lasting ritual use for this specific part of the Eulenberg.

The ongoing analysis of these finds promises to unveil even more intriguing details about the beliefs and practices of the Neolithic communities that frequented this area. This remarkable discovery underscores the importance of archaeological investigations prior to development projects, offering a glimpse into the past while paving the way for the future.

Source: State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt (LDA)