Urgeschichte und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie

The Middle Palaeolithic site Wallertheim: A short introduction

The Middle Palaeolithic open air site of Wallertheim is located in Rheinhessen, about 25 km southwest of Mainz, on the former banks of the river Wisbach. 

The first excavations were conducted in 1920 by palaeontologist O. Schmidtgen. One archaeological horizon was documented, which yielded mostly bison remains. These finds imply that Neanderthals at Wallertheim were already specialising in hunting during the last interglacial period from 120,000 to 100,000 BP. The most recent excavations took place from1991 to 1994 and focused on an area 60 m south of the first trenches. Nearly 300 m² were excavated. 

These excavations uncovered six archaeological horizons (Wal A-F) as well as 10.000 stone artifacts and more than 600 finds of faunal remains. In these layers, different aspects of stone tool production and their use could be reconstructed. Some stone artifacts as well as some of the faunal remains have been put together. All finds are currently being examined in Tübingen. 



While our analyses of the Wallertheim collection are not yet complete, and continued study will undoubtedly yield more valuable information, we have been able draw several preliminary conclusions with respect to specific archaeological horizons. Wal A appears to represent a brief summer camp with a hearth in which production oriented stone knapping took place and remains of fallow deer and large bovid were processed and consumed. We believe Wal D also represents a brief summer camp at which production and maintenance oriented stone knapping took place and remains of small and large equids were processed and consumed. Here evidence for artifact curation and transport allow us to address questions such as mobility, land-use patterns and planning depth. Low density background accumulations of lithics combined with rich but largely unmodified faunas dominated by bovids (Wal E) and equids (Wal F) have been identified and remain challenging to interpret. These four well-preserved archaeological horizons provide a wealth of data with which to address many issues concerning Neandertal settlement, subsistence and behavior in the Rheinland during the last interglacial. For a more detailed look at Wallertheim and related sites please consult several of the references listed below.