Urgeschichte und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie

Hohle Fels

Hohle Fels in the Ach valley near Schelklingen is a cave formed in the White Jurassic Period located ca. 7 m above today's flood plains of the Ach. It is of special importance for prehistoric research due to its Middle Palaeolithic and Upper Palaeolithic layers. 

The first investigations of the cave took place in the 19th century. Since 1977, scientists from the Institute for Prehistory, Early History and Medieval Archaeology of the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen have been conducting excavations at Hohle Fels, focusing on the Magdalénien and Moustérien layers. 


Additionally to questions regarding subsistence and settlement behaviors during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic as well as environmental reconstruction, research focuses on the transitional period from Neanderthals to anatomically modern men. 

Middle Palaeolithic

Only small parts of the Middle Palaeolithic layers have been examined due to technical reasons. Among the finds from these four layers are stone tools, mostly manufactured using local Jura hornstone, e.g. small Levallois cores and scraping tools. Some cave bear and ibex bones recovered exhibit cutting marks. Horse, red deer and reindeer were also hunted. Evidence of cave bears is found less frequently compared to the Upper Palaeolithic layers. It is remarkable that this Neanderthal culture appears not to produce any art such as figurines or jewelry or musical instruments. The absence of tools crafted from organic materials should also be noted. This is known from other comparable sites. 

Ongoing work

Every year during the summer months June to August, six to eight week long excavations take place at Hohle Fels. International students may join these campaigns. If you are interested in joining the excavation team, please contact  Maria Malina.


Literature (selection)

Barth, M.M., Conard, N.J. & Münzel, S.C. (2009): Palaeolithic subsistence and organic technology in the Swabian Jura. In L. Fontana, F.-X. Chauvière & A. Bridault (eds), In search of Total Animal Exploitation. Cases Studies in Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic. Proceedings of the XVth UISPP World Congress, Lisbon, 4-9 September 2006, Session C 61, vol. 42, Oxford, J. & E. Hedges (BAR International Series 2040), 5-20. academia & researchgate

Conard N.J. & Bolus M. (2008): Radiocarbon dating the late Middle Paleolithic and the Aurignacian of the Swabian Jura. Journal of Human Evolution 55, 886–897. academia & researchgate

Conard, N.J. & Malina, M. (2010): Neue Belege für Malerei aus dem Magdalénien vom Hohle Fels. Archäologische Ausgrabungen Baden-Württemberg 2009. Theiss Verlag, Stuttgart, 19-22.

Conard, N.J., Malina, M. & Münzel, S.C. (2009): New flutes document the earliest musical tradition in southwestern Germany. Nature Vol. 460, 737-740. nature.com, academia & researchgate

Conard, N.J. & Malina, M. (2009): Spektakuläre Funde aus dem unteren Aurignacien vom Hohle Fels bei Schelklingen, Alb-Donau-Kreis. Archäologische Ausgrabungen Baden-Württemberg 2008, 19-22.

Conard, N.J. & Malina, M. (2008): Die Ausgrabung 2007 im Hohle Fels bei Schelklingen, Alb-Donau-Kreis, und neue Einblicke in die Anfänge des Jungpaläolithikums. Archäologische Ausgrabungen Baden-Württemberg 2007, 17-20.

Münzel S.C., Stiller M., Hofreiter M., Mittnik A., Conard N.J. & Bocherens H. (in press): Pleistocene bears in the Swabian Jura (Germany): Genetic replacement, ecological displacement, extinctions and survival. Quaternary International xxx (2011) 1-13. academia & researchgate

Münzel, S.C. & Conard, N.J. (2004a): Change and Continuity in Subsistence during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic in the Ach Valley of Swabia (South-west Germany). Int. J. Osteoarchaeol. 14, 225–243. academia & researchgate

Münzel, S.C. & Conard, N.J. (2004b): Cave bear hunting in Hohle Fels Cave in the Ach Valley of the Swabian Jura. Revue de Paléobiologie, Genève (décembre 2004) 23 (2), 877-885. academia & researchgate

Schiegl, S., Goldberg, P., Pfretzschner, H.-U. & Conard N.J. (2003): Paleolithic Burnt Bone Horizons from the Swabian Jura: Distinguishing between In Situ Fireplaces and Dumping Areas. Geoarchaeology: An International Journal Vol. 18, No. 5, 541-565. academia & researchgate