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ROCK ART AND ROCK ART RESEARCH IN GERMANY

Comuncation : XVIII VALCAMONICA SYMPOSIUM 2000
There are no great rock art sites in Germany like those of Sweden, Norway, France or Italy. There is only few prehistoric rock art in a narrower sense, that means engravings and paintings on extended rock surfaces or on huge boulders lying immovable in the landscape. We need to use the term rock art in a much wider sense for our overall view and have to include the engraved slabs of the megalithic tombs and some chalcolithic menhir-statues.
The bulk of rock art in Germany does not belong to prehistoric times. The majority are more or less recent paintings and engravings in Palatinate mountains, in Bavaria and the Austrian Alps. Some of them may be only a few decades or centuries old. They are nevertheless a very interesting ethnographic material worth to be documented and studied extensively. In general they are not taken in consideration by archaeologists, ethnologists or historians as they are not the class of documents they are dealing with. They are a typical domain of laymen who have written some very fine reports.
Germany is culturally divided in two parts during prehistoric times. The prehistoric cultures of Northern Germany are orientated to western and northern Europe. Southern Germany in contrast is orientated to south-eastern Europe and influenced by Mediterranean, Balkanic and Near-Eastern cultures. In consequence we may expect different archaeological material and rock art in the north and the south. The borderline between these two main spheres are the highlands in central Germany.

Northern Germany:
In some way we may concern Northern Germany as the southern frontier of the North European Rock Art province. As indicated above there are no great sites. Rock art scattered over Schleswig-Holstein and Niedersachsen.
The majority of the rock engravings are there simple cup-marks. They are pecked and smoothed into granitic boulders of different size which have been transported from Norway and Sweden to Germany by the glaciers of the last ice age. These cup-marks occur in small groups of only few entities or in greater clusters on more extended surfaces.

The blocks may be isolated or part of megalithic constructions. We can assume that an important part of these boulders with or without decoration has been destroyed in the course of centuries, because the granite is an important building material in northern Germany, where do not exist outcrops of local rock and real quarries.
Complex themes are much more scarce. In general they are derived from simple cup-marks which are connected by lines to greater entities. Some cup-and-ring-marks exist too. Footprints or handprints are associated in some cases. Only one human figure has been discovered up to now at Schafwinkel, Kr. Verden: a simple stick like man with his round shield. This type is well known in Scandinavia and belongs to Bronze Age.

Cup-marks are difficult to date wherever they occur. Some are pecked into capstones of megalithic tombs. As we do not know whether these cap-stones have been protected originally by earthen mounds or were accessible to any one in prehistoric times, we cannot be sure that they are not much younger than the tomb itself. The rock of Wiershausen (Kr. Hannoversch Münden) was used as an offering place during Middle Bronze Age. A dagger and a needle were deposed on its decorated surface. That means the cup marks existed already during this time. They may be of Neolithic or Bronze Age.
Up to now, more sophisticated rock art is always part of megalithic constructions. Most important are the megalithic tombs of Züschen, Halle-Döhlauer Heide and Göhlitzsch near Halle/Saale. In addition, there are some menhir-statues, one of them is presented here.

Züschen near Lohne, Nordhessen:
Excavated in 1894. Gallery grave with a long chamber and an small anteroom (L=19m. B=2,50m). Entrance in the east. Age: Built during Late Neolithic (4th millennium) and reused during Corded Ware period (3rd millennium). Engravings of bullheads (Bucrania) and two-wheeled cars, an idol-like oval representation and zigzag-lines Halle-Döhlauer Heide (Sachsen-Anhalt):
Excavated in 1953-1954. Megalithic chamber (3,2×1,3 m, interior). Consists of 10 slabs and 6 ceiling slabs. Age: Corded Ware (mid 3rd millennium). Decoration: engraved and white painted geometric motives resembling those of corded ware pottery. One idol-like oval representation.

Göhlitzsch near Leuna (Sachsen-Anhalt):
Discovered in 1750. Part of a megalithic chamber with decorated walls. Decoration: engravings with rests of red and white colour: geometric motifs and a few weapons: bow, arrows, quiver, axes.

Schafstädt near Merseburg (Sachsen-Anhalt):
Menhir-statue. Discovered 1962. Reused as a roof-stone of a grave of corded-ware times. Decoration: ornaments, belt
Much younger are the engravings of the famous grave of Anderlingen. They belong to Middle Bronze Age.

Anderlingen near Bremervörde:
Discovered ca. 1906. Chamber of a grave of Middle Bronze Age (Montelius II). Decoration: Three dancing (?) persons

Southern Germany:
Only few is known about prehistoric rock art in Southern Germany although we should expect a lot of Bronze Age and Iron Age sites. Vessels decorated with animals or human beings are very typical of the Hallstatt Culture in Eastern Bavaria. There are clay figures of horses, horse-riders etc. All these objects remind one of Northern Italy and Valcamonica. There are enough rock surfaces appropriated for engravings. I do not know a convincing reason, why we have no good sites up to now, but only a few scattered examples.

Forchheim (Gosberg, Honings etc.) near Nuremberg:
A small group of rock art exists in the North of Nuremberg, near the town Forchheim (Ofr.). At least three cemeteries with groups of grave-mounds have been excavated in the first half of the century. These mounds are encircled by sandstone boulders decorated with geometric motifs. The decorated faces looks outward and must have been visible in prehistoric times.
The grave goods belong always to the Urnfield Period. Especially the vessels are very typical of the period around 1000 BC. Everyone assumes therefore that the engravings of the stone circles belong to that period too, although the motifs are in total contrast to all art of Urnfield culture we know till now.
I think, that the idea of my colleague Martin Nadler should be right. He proposes that Urnfield people reused some mounds of Corded Ware culture. That means the decoration is much older than the excavated object. Unfortunately little is known about late Neolithic in that area mainly by bad conditions of conservation. So we do not have a good idea of the customs of that time.

Weilheim near Tübingen (Baden-Württemberg):
A huge menhir has been excavated some years ago. H = ca. 4,25 m. Decoration: Halberds and a round shield. The engravings could be part of Mont Bégo or Luine. There should be some rock art tradition in SO-Germany.

Middle Ages and Modern Periods:
In contrast to the few and uncertain examples of prehistoric period there exists a long lasting tradition of making rock art in Bavaria and the Austrian and Bavarian Alps. The youngest representations are more or less contemporary, the oldest ones are some centuries old. One can trace back the engravings to the moment when natural erosion of the surfaces has eliminated the last remaining lines. This span of time differs from site to site as it is dependent of the quality of the rock itself. A good hint to the highest possible age of a site are dates cut into the walls beside other motifs.

Kleines Schulerloch (Altmühltal) Niederbayern:
The site: The ”Kleines Schulerloch” is a small cave in the lower valley of river Altmühl. More famous is the so-called Great Schulerloch, an important middle Palaeolithic site. The cave was discovered by A. Obermaier and O. Rieger in 1937 and published by F. Birkner in 1938.
Its decoration consists of an animal (probably a roe deer) leaping to the right, a shield like sign, a lozenge interpreted normally as a vulve, and an inscription in rune letters: birg leub selbrade (Brigitte sweetheart of Selbrade ?).

There has been a long discussion about the age of the engravings. Some consider them as a fake, others as a true document of early Middle Ages. Herbert Kühn took an extreme position: the animal is Palaeolithic, the runes medieval.
Today it is impossible to decide whether the engravings are recent or old because the wall has been cleaned extremely. But it is testified by different persons, that the wall was covered by thick likens and moss at the time of discovery. The lines look altered in contrast to a stroke made in 1938 or 1939. The discoverers are said to be trustworthy persons.

Linguists do not venture to decide whether the rune text may be old or not. There is pro and contra. It would be necessary to investigate if the animal and the signs are testified in the 7th century AD or would be a very strange element at that time.

Madlkopf near Rehberg (Passau, SE-Bavaria):
The site of the so-called Madlkopf (Girls-head) looks totally like a prehistoric site. It is situated high up on the top of a mountain far away from the nearest houses. That means the painter had to hike through the forest and to take all his equipment to the remote place.
The red painting is about 3,50 m large. It was discovered around 1980 by a local teacher and came to my knowledge some years later.
A legend tales, that some Swedish soldiers robbed a piece of cattle during the Thirty Years War, brought it to the mountain, killed it and wrote with its blood a date on the rock. A modern version tales the same, but now American soldiers are involved.

Unfortunately there is no date, but a large picture of a small town with a great castle and a fortification. A horseman seem to arrive from the left.
It is difficult to decide how old the picture may be. It cannot be a recent fake as some likens grow over the red lines. That means a certain span of time must have past since its creation. It cannot be older than the 17th or 18th century as the towers have a special type of helmets looking like an onion. These helmets are very typical in Bavarian churches of Baroque period.

Haberer Kirche near Reutern (SE-Bavaria):
The site consists of to huge blocks leaning one against the other, forming a small shelter. The black picture are painted on the lower side of one block. I visited the place as a young student in 1964. Two campaigns of excavation and documentation followed in 1974 and 1974. The results give no hit to the age or other circumstances of the site. A ”Haberer” is a special sort of field demon and field judge of SE-Bavaria.

Austrian Alps:In the Austrian and the Bavarian Alps exists an enormous material of different age. The documentation is the domain of the members of ANISA, the Austrian Rock Art Society.lt is present in the Internet, so that enough information is available. Some slides of the Kalbrunnalm (Fountain Alp), Lenzenschlucht (Lenzen Gorge) or the Dachsboden (Badger Alp) may be sufficient to illustrate our report.

(CHRISTIAN ZUCHNER)

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