A room with a view has always been a coveted thing. Over the millennia, humans discovered that it could be achieved by simply staying put over generations and not picking up the garbage. By building and rebuilding on the rubble of their own architectural remains, sedentary humans managed to achieve an impressive height.
The result of this process, known to archaeologists as a dwelling mound, is most commonly associated with the Middle East; in Iraq, the structures reach a height of 40 meters. They are also known in the Balkans and South America, but not in Germany -- at least until now.
Hence the discovery of a dwelling mound near Oberröblingen in Saxony-Anhalt has caused something of a stir in the German archaeological establishment. Thought to be 7,000 years old, the oval-shaped mound, which is roughly 100 meters long, 60 meters wide and 1.8 meters high, consists of the clay remains of centuries of previous structures.
"This is a unique find in Germany," Robert Ganslmeier of the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle told the news agency DPA. "People have been living and building here since the early Stone Age."
Discovered during highway construction work, the mound is now the site of harried archaeological activity. "We don't have any time to lose," says Ganslmeier. "The bridge builders are breathing down our necks."
The archaeologists believe that various rituals took place on the mound, including sacrifices. "We found two beheaded young people and next to them, the fragmented skeleton of a horse, minus skull and hind legs," explains Ganslmeier. Dog skulls and the remains of a calf were also found. One of the young people was wearing a bone bracelet, and the animal skeletons were surrounded by ceramic vessels. "Either these people were sacrificed or executed," says Ganslmeier.
For unknown reasons, the mound was abandoned about 5,500 years ago, Ganslmeier explains. "3,000 years ago, people of the late Bronze Age came and re-occupied it for another 300 years."
It's pure coincidence that the mound has been so well preserved. The recent diversion of a nearby river spared it from erosion. Ganslmeier believes there could well be more dwelling mounds in Germany, "but they'll be hard to find."