Urgeschichte und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie

Hundisburg, Lkr. Börde, Sachsen-Anhalt

The gravel bed Hundisburg is considered a classic Palaeolithic site in Germany, and as a result has been studied for more than a hundred years. In cooperation with the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt and numerous other volunteers, the Universität Tübingen began conducting field work in 2005. These surveys and excavations produced important archaeological and geological findings. In 2010, in a joint effort with the excavation directors at Schöningen (Niedersachsen) and the University Leiden (Netherlands) further field work took place.

This site, now located on the grounds of the Landschaftsparks Althaldensleben-Hundisburg belonging to the city of Haldensleben, has been known since 1904 when the first stone artifacts were discovered (Favreau 1905, Wiegers 1908). Due to their morphology the artifacts were classified as late Acheuléen due to their similarities to the Levallois-Peret industry complex near Paris by Wiegers in 1909. This suggested that finds from this site are very old. Impressively, this typological classification was confirmed in 1921, when a typical Late Acheuléen hand axe was discovered (the original artifact is kept at the Kulturhistorisches Museum Magdeburg). A thorough examination of all artifacts recovered due to gravel mining in the 1950s, counting nearly a hundred, was conducted by V. Toepfer in 1961. 

The finds originate from a gravel bed in the former course of the river Bebel, meaning their value as a source is limited. Nonetheless, they are still quite interesting since few other sediments in Northern and central Germany from this time have been preserved due to the geological conditions in these regions (Weber 1997). The find layer at Hundisbark is relatively thin, despite this, next to stone artifacts, many faunal remains of large and small mammals, fish, mollusc and micro fauna could be recovered. Thanks to the excavations, the find allocation of stone artifacts and faunal remains became clear by examining the stratigraphy at hand. 

So far, all faunal remains that have been identified, are typical for a cold phase mammoth steppe: Wooly mammoth (mammuthus primigenius), Wooly rhino (coelodonta antiquitatis), steppe bison (bison priscus), wild horse (equus ferus), reindeer (rangifer tarandus), red deer (cervus elaphus). The only carnivore found is a wolf (canis lupus). The bones recovered are mostly heavily fragmented due to the gravel they were imbedded in, most likely having been transported there by natural processes. However, some bones exhibit cutting marks. The molluscs from the gravel were identified by S. Meng (Greifswals) and suggest the existence of a floodplain forest in the area surrounding the site, with partially very low flow velocity. Climate wise, the molluscs comply with a more temperate cold phase, which would correlate with the Early Saalian. 


By working together with several geologists, the formerly controversial age of the find layer could be determined to be Early Saalian Cold phase, a time, for which few other sites are known in Central Europe. Unfortunately, the absolute age of the finds can not be narrowed down further than at least 150 000 BP, due to the geological classification for this time lacking in several aspects (Litt 2007).  Analysing indicator stones, K.-D. Meyer (Burgwedel) concluded that the gravel exhibited typical conditions of a fluviatile deposition in the Early Saalian cold phase (most likely Drenthe). 

The number of stone artifacts doubled due to the trial excavation 2005/6 to count more than 200. In the four month long excavation in 2009, another 100 artifacts were recovered. Metric and typological examinations of the stone artifact inventory did not produce any significant differences between the artifacts, so, on a prehistoric scale, it can be presumed that they are of the same age. Interestingly, there is a remarkable difference in acute edged and rounded artifacts; the former make up 43 % of the inventory. While the rounded artifacts surely were transported several hundred meters, the sharp edged stone tools account for activities in the immediate surroundings of the site. 

The majority of artifacts are from basic production. Of the few recovered cores, none are Levallois cores, but we still know this core preparation technique was applied due to the recovered target flakes. Among the tools, researchers most commonly found naturally backed scrapers and knives. The technological concept of a wedge-shaped cross section with a dull, unworked edge opposite of a pointed worked edge, has also been documented for some of the bifacial tools, e.g. a carefully retouched wedge-shaped knife. Allover, few ideal-typical artifacts were recovered, nonetheless, the "inventory" appears to be Late Acheuléen due to the application of the Levallois technique. 

Surely, the Bebertal was frequently visited by Neanderthals due to the rich flint stone deposits and the proximity to hunting animals as well as the water from the former river Beber. Since all steps of the Chaîne opératoire are proven for this site, it can not have been only used for gathering raw materials. 


P. Favreau, 1905. Neue Funde aus dem Diluvium in der Umgegend von Neuhaldensleben, insbesondere der Kiesgrube am Schlosspark von Hundisburg. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 37, S. 275-295.

T. Litt/K.-E. Behre/K.-D. Meyer/H.-J. Stephan/S. Wansa, 2007. Stratigraphische Begriffe für das Quartär des norddeutschen Vereisungsgebietes. Eiszeitalter u. Gegenwart 56/1-2, 7/65.

V. Toepfer, 1961. Die altpaläolithischen Feuersteinwerkzeuge von Hundisburg. Jahresschr. Mitteldt. Vorgesch. 45, 35/69.

T. Weber, 1997. Älterpaläolithische Funde aus dem Mittelelbegebiet. Leipziger Geowissenschaften 5, S. 183-199

F. Wiegers, 1908. Diluviale Flußschotter aus der Umgebung von Haldensleben. Jahrb. Preuß. Geol. Landesamt für 1905, 58/80.

F. Wiegers, 1909. Die diluvialen Kulturstätten Norddeutschlands und ihre Beziehungen zum Alter des Löß. Prähist. Zeitschr. I, 1/36.


Stefan Ertmer

Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters

Abteilung Ältere Urgeschichte und Quartärökologie

Schloss Hohentübingen

72070 Tübingen