|11 November 2011
Central Europe's oldest artwork found in Germany
Archaeologists have found cave paintings thought to be Central Europe's oldest such artwork in Baden-Württemberg's Swabian Alps (southern Germany). They found four painted stones from the cave Hohle Fels near Schelklingen, although the meaning of the red-brown spots is still a mystery. The stone paintings, thought to be 15,000 years old, are being displayed at a special exhibition at the University of Tübingen's museum.
The spots don't seem particularly artistic at first glance. But they are important because they represent the first time such old paintings have been found in Central Europe, although similar work has been seen in France and Spain.
"These spots are anything but accidental. It is quite clear they have relevant content," said archaeologist Nicholas Conard who assisted on the find. They might have a religious significance, or they might be a form of ice age menstruation calendar - one point for each day. "But ultimately, you have to be humble and admit, we just don't know," Conard added.
When Conard's archeology team made their discovery at the Hohle Fels site in the early summer of 2009, they had not been expecting to find anything because they were working in comparably young layers of sediment created at the end of the last ice age rather than the older, deeper layers where other artifacts had been found. Nothing had ever been uncovered from this particular era in the numerous caves dotted around the Swabian Alps. Then one student noticed a strange stone lying amongst the sediment. "This stone was so dirty that at first you didn't see anything," Conard recalled. It was only when the stone was washed that it became clear one side had been painted.
The color of the dots was made from a mixture of hematite and red hematite which was then mixed with calciferous drops of water from the caves, according to excavation technician Maria Malina.
It's not the first time that the Hohle Fels has been in the headlines in recent years. The cave has been the site of a number of important archeological ice age finds, including what is believed to be the oldest human depiction ever found, a 40,000-year-old ivory carving of a woman dubbed the 'Venus of the Fels Cave', which was likewise discovered by Conard.
Edited from The Local, Free Internet Press (9 November 2011), Past Horizons (10 November 2011)
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