An Early Halemannic Burial Site
In 1976, during a modernisation of the cave lighting, a piece of bone was found in the cave clay. The Sontheim Cave Society immediately reported this strange find to the Landesdenkmalamt Baden-Württemberg (today: Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Baden-Württemberg), Tübingen branch. Two excavation dates are set in 1977. The excavation is led by Dr. Hartmann Reim, during which the clay layer is removed down to the overlying rock and slurried so that smaller finds can also be secured. Bones, rotten wood, pieces of coral and bronze wire were excavated from an area of about 4 x 4 metres between stalagmites, sinter crevices and broken ceiling.
The bones are completely disorganised and smashed. This suggests that the burial site had already been looted and destroyed by grave robbers in earlier years – probably in the Middle Ages. The bones belong to at least 14 individuals, including an infant and five children and adolescents. Traces of decayed wood suggest that the dead were buried either in wooden coffins or on wooden boards – so it can be assumed that it was a dignified burial. The question of why the burial was made in the cave will certainly never be clarified.
Fig. 14: Excavations 1977
Among the dead, 169 beads were found, some made of primitive glass, with yellow decorations and various diameters, others of blue and green glass, as well as tubular pieces of coral, small bronze fragments and four iron nails. With the help of the beads, the age of the burial site can be determined on the basis of comparative pieces. According to this, the dead must have been buried in the 4th century AD.
In May 1977, more human bones were found during extension work in the cave: a male skeleton whose bones were already covered with a thick layer of sinter. The head is missing and there are no grave goods to be found. The bones are dated with the 14C method to the period from 845 to 715 B.C. – thus this find is 1 000 to 1 200 years older than the Alemanni grave mentioned above.
Fig. 15: Pearl necklaces from the Archeological Store Museum Baden-Württemberg/Ulm Museum
Barbara Kreuzer (abridged)
Further information in the brochure on Sontheim Cave, available at the cave ticket office.