Magdalenian from S-Germany: The Kaufertsberg Site


The Abri on Kaufertsberg at Lierheim at the Nördlinger Ries  was  excavated by F. Birkner and E. Frickhinger in 1913. Three layers were separated, the lower yellow, followed by a brown and gray-brown stratum above and  the recent humus layer on top. While the top layer yielded post Mesolithic discoveries, two late Magdalenian ensembles were present in the yellow and yellow-brown layer. The upper Magdalenian  ensemble showed a clear Epipaleolithic trend with several arched backed knifes (“pen-knifes”; Azilian points), but without displaying the reduced artefactual spectrum of a typical Azilian.

Regarding the size and spectrum of the displayed artifacts in this post (a simple burin, two becs and a double backed knife; largest artifact: 3,5 cm long), they may come from the brown layer (very late Magdalenian).

A very interesting finding at the Kaufertsberg site was an isolated head burial with the two topmost neck vertebrae still  in correct anatomic position which was stratigraphically older than the Neolithic and younger than the lower Magdalenian stratum.  This burial is now suggested to be Late Mesolithic (according to C-14 dating and the stratigraphy).

Head burials (or “skull burials”) are known since the late Paleolithic in Europe. The oldest example comes from the Azilian of Mas d’Azil (Dep.  Ariege, France).  Slightly younger are the head burials from Jericho and other sites of the PPNB in the Middle East.

Head burials are an important feature of the Late Mesolithic in Central Europe. They were first documented during the spectacular excavations by R.R. Schmidt at Grosser Ofnet Cave near Nördlingen in 1908, just 60 km apart from the Kaufertsberg site ( Here 34 skulls were found  arranged in solid circles in the immediate vicinity of the cave entrance. Nineteen of them belonged to children, ten to women, and only five to men. Along with the skulls were, in most cases, the two topmost neck vertebrae, the axis and atlas. Many skulls had injuries which could not be attributed to decay or post-depositional events. The heads had been deposited as a secondary burial in two pits which were situated within the Magdalenian layer VI. The skull clusters came from the Mesolithic layer VII and are interpreted as ritual and/or documents of Mesolithic warfare. Similar Mesolithic scull burials are known from the Mannlefelsen at Oberlarg (Haut-Rhin, France; n=1) and the Hohlenstein-Stadel (Lone Valley; Baden Württemberg, Germany; n=3; site of the famous Aurignacian “Löwenmensch”).

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome!

About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University.

Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.

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