Wartberg culture

The Wartberg culture (German: Wartbergkultur), sometimes: Wartberg group (Wartberggruppe) or Collared bottle culture (Kragenflaschenkultur) is a prehistoric culture from 3,600 -2,800 BC of the later Central European Neolithic. It is named after its type site, the Wartberg, a hill (306m asl) near Niedenstein-Kirchberg in northern Hesse, Germany.

Wartberg culture
Geographical rangeGermany: Northern and Central Hesse, Westphalia, South Lower Saxony, West Thuringia.
PeriodLater Neolithic
Dates3,600–2,800 BC
Characteristicscollared bottles, strap-handled cups, hilltop settlements, gallery graves, enclosures
Preceded byMichelsberg culture
Followed bySingle Grave culture


Wartberg near kirchberg
The Wartberg near Kirchberg

The Wartberg culture is currently known to have a distribution in northern Hesse, southern Lower Saxony and western Thuringia; a southern extent as far as the Rhein-Main Region is possible, but not definitely proven at this point.[1]


The term Wartberg culture describes a group of sites with similar characteristic finds from circa 3600-2800 BC. The Wartberg culture appears to be a regional development derived from Michelsberg and Baalberge culture antecedents. It is contemporary, and in contact, with Bernburg culture and Funnel Beaker (TRB). The Corded Ware and Single Grave cultures succeed it.[2]


Lohne und Hasenberg
Fritzlar Plain and the Hasenberg (left) seen from the Wartberg


Its best known sites are Wartberg, near Kirchberg,[3] Hasenberg, a hill near Lohne,[4] as well as Güntersberg[5] and Bürgel,[6] hills near Gudensberg (all of the above are located on basalt outcrops in the fertile Fritzlar basin), and from the Calden earthwork enclosure.[7] Nearly all settlements identified so far are in hilltop locations: an enclosed site at Wittelsberg near Amöneburg is an exception. Virtually all the known settlements appear to have come into existence several hundred years after the development of Wartberg pottery (see below); early Wartberg settlement activity remains mostly unknown as yet.[8]

Finds from the Wartberg and its sister sites included fragmented bones, mainly of cattle, pig, sheep/goat and deer, but also of other wild animals, like bear or beaver; human bone fragments also occur in some of the settlements.[9] Originally, the Wartberg (first excavated in the later 19th century) was interpreted as a cult place,[10] but the remains of coarse handmade pottery and of mud wall cladding do suggest settlement activity.[11]

Megalithic tombs

Züschen tomb1
The tomb at Züschen

Wartberg material is also found in a number of gallery graves (a type of megalithic tomb). Their connection with the Wartberg settlements was only recognised in the 1960s and 1970s, thus the tombs are sometimes treated separately as the Hessian-Westphalian stone cist group (Hessisch-Westfälische Steinkistengruppe).[12]

These include the tombs at Züschen near Fritzlar, at Lohra, at Naumburg-Altendorf, at Hadamar-Niederzeuzheim (now rebuilt in a park at Hachenburg), at Beselich-Niedertiefenbach, at Warburg, Rimbeck and at Grossenrode, as well as two tombs near the Calden enclosure.[13] A tomb at Muschenheim near Münzenberg may also belong to the same type,[14] as may a further one at Bad Vilbel near Frankfurt am Main which was destroyed after 1945.[15] The best known of these tombs are those of Züschen, Lohra, Niederzeuzzheim and Altendorf. They normally contained the inhumed remains of multiple individuals (the Altendorf tomb contained at least 250 people) of all ages and both sexes. Lohra is an exception insofar as there the dead were cremated. Gravegoods are scarce but include pottery (collared bottles), stone tools and animal bones, especially the jawbones of foxes, which may have played a totemic role. The Züschen tomb is also remarkable for the presence of rock art.[16] Some of the tombs can be directly associated with nearby hilltop sites or settlements,[17] that is, the Züschen tomb with the Hasenberg and the Calden tombs with the earthwork. According to the German archaeologist Waltraud Schrickel, the association with gallery graves suggests a west European influence, perhaps from the Paris Basin in France, where very similar tombs occur.[18] The Wartberg tombs appear to start developing around 3400 BC, earlier than most of the known settlements.[19]

Standing stones

A loose distribution of standing stones occurs in northern Hesse and west Thuringia. Although their dates are unknown, their geographic spread appears to coincide with that of Wartberg material, perhaps suggesting a connection.[20]


The Calden earthwork, a large enclosure northwest of modern Kassel, was built around 3700 BC. It is an irregular enclosure of two ditches and a palisade, encompassing an area of 14 hectares. The enclosure has five openings, perhaps comparable to British Causewayed enclosures. Although it can with some certainty be seen as derived from the Michelsberg tradition, material associated with its early phases suggests a close connection with early Wartberg. It appears to have been a tradition for several centuries to bury animal bones (food refuse?) and broken pots in pits dug into the partially filled-in earthwork ditches. The ditches also contain the remains of many human inhumations. This activity continued until circa 2000 BC and was particularly intensive during the Wartberg period. Two nearby graves postdate the earthwork by several centuries, but coincide with that activity. While the original function of the earthwork is not necessarily explained by these finds, it appears likely that at least during later phases of its use it had a ritual significance, perhaps connected with a cult of the dead.[21] In contrast, the enclosure around the settlement at Wittelsberg appears to be simply protective/defensive in nature.[22]


Wartberg bottles
Collared bottles from the Züschen tomb
Wartberg pottery
Typical Wartberg pots in Kassel museum


Wartberg pottery is handmade and mostly very coarse. Typical shapes in the mid-4th millennium include saucepans with inturned rim and deep incisions, cups with strap handles, collared bottles (Kragenflaschen). The presence of pottery with deeply incised patterns as well as of clay drums suggest connections with the Funnel Beaker culture (TRB) of Central Germany.

In the later Wartberg, strap-handled cups, funnel beakers, varied bowls, large pots with holes below the rim and collared bottles occur. The frequent presence of collared bottles, not least in the tombs, is of special interest. The bottles are made with somewhat more care than other vessels; their very specific shape suggests a special function, often suggested to be connected with the storage of special material, like vegetable oil or sulphur, perhaps for healing purposes.[23]

Stone and bone tools

Slate axes are very common, slate blades also occur. The Wartberg culture produced fine stone arrowheads with well defined tangs and "wings". A variety of bone tools, mainly points, has been found both in tombs and settlements.[24]


Little can be said about the economy of the Wartberg group. The location of sites and certain finds suggest a broadly sedentary society susbsisting from agriculture and animal husbandry, but hunting may play a considerable economic role. The Wartberg area appears to be in general trade contact with its neighbouring regions.

Social aspects

The presence of earthworks and of collective tombs indicates different levels of collective effort, thus implying a considerable degree of social organisation.[25]


Wartberg material is on display at the following museums:

  • Hessian State Museum (Hessisches Landesmuseum), Kassel
  • Heimatmuseum Fritzlar


  • Joseph Bergmann: Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche Sammlung im Heimatmuseum Fritzlar. Ed. v. Hessischer Museumsverband Kassel. Thiele und Schwarz, Kassel 1975, S. 24-25.
  • Albrecht Jockenhövel: Die Jungsteinzeit. in: Fritz-Rudolf Hermann & Albrecht Jockenhövel (eds.): Die Vorgeschichte Hessens, Theiss, Stuttgart 1990, p. 121-194.
  • Lutz Fiedler: Eine befestigte Siedlung der Jungsteinzeit bei Wittelsberg, Kreis Marburg-Biedenkopf. Zur Archäologie des 4. Und 3. Jahrtausends vor Christus; Denkmalpflege in Hessen 2/1991; 23-27.
  • Eduard Pinder: Bericht über die heidnischen Alterthümer der ehemals kurhessischen Provinzen Fulda, Oberhessen, Niederhessen; Herrschaft Schmalkalden und Grafschaft Schaumburg, welche sich in den gegenwärtig vereinigten Sammlungen des Museums Fridericianum zu Cassel und des Vereins für hessische Geschichte und Landeskunde befinden. Zeitschrift des Vereins für hessische Geschichte und Landeskunde, suppl. 6; Cassel (Kassel) 1878.
  • Dirk Raetzel-Fabian: Die ersten Bauernkulturen. Jungsteinzeit in Nordhessen. Vor- u. Frühgeschichte im Hessischen Landesmuseum in Kassel. Vol 2. Kassel 2000, p. 105-138. ISBN 3-931787-11-7
  • Dirk Raetzel-Fabian: Calden. Erdwerk and Bestattungsplätze des Jungneolithikums. Bonn 2000(b). ISBN 3-7749-3022-8
  • Dirk Raetzel-Fabian: Absolute Chronology and Cultural Development of the Wartberg Culture in Germany, www.jungsteinsite.de, 2002 Pdf
  • Waltraut Schrickel: Westeuropäische Elemente im neolithischen Grabbau Mitteldeutschlands und Die Galeriegräber Westdeutschlands und ihre Inventare. Beiträge zur Ur- und Frügeschichtlichen Archäologie des Mittelmeer-Kulturraumes 4; Bonn 1966.
  • Waldtraut Schrickel: Die Funde vom Wartberg in Hessen. Kasseler Beiträge zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte. Vol 1. Elvert, Marburg 1969.
  • Waltraud Schrickel, 1976: Die Galeriegrab-Kultur Westdeutschlands; Ensteheung, Gliederung und Beziehung zu benachbarten Kulturen. In: Fundamenta A3, Die Anfänge des Neolithikums vom Orient bis Nordeuropa, Vb; Köln & Wien: Böhlau, 188-239.
  • Winrich Schwellnuß: Wartberg-Gruppe und hessische Megalithik; ein Beitrag zum späten Neolithikum des Hessischen Berglandes, Materialien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte von Hessen, Vol. 4, Wiesbaden 1979.
  • Winrich Schwellnuß: Nachuntersuchungen auf dem Guntersberg bei Gudensberg Kr. Fritzlar-Homberg. in: Fundberichte aus Hessen. Bd 9/10. Habelt, Bonn 1970, p. 102-104. ISSN 0071-9889
  • Winrich Schwellnuß: Untersuchung einer spätneolithischen Höhensiedlung auf dem Hasenberg bei Lohne, Kr. Fritzlar-Homberg. Fundberichte aus Hessen. Vol 11. Habelt, Bonn 1971, p. 118-121. ISSN 0071-9889

See also


  1. ^ Raetzel-Fabian 1990, 112, 121
  2. ^ Raetzel-Fabian 2002
  3. ^ Schrickel 1969
  4. ^ Schwellnuß 1971; 1979: 21-24
  5. ^ Schwellnuß 1970; 1979, 16-20
  6. ^ Schwellnuß 1979: 24-28
  7. ^ Raetzel Fabian 2000(b)
  8. ^ Raetzel-Fabian 2000, 122-3, 130
  9. ^ Pinder 1878, 10-11; Schwellnuß 1970; 1971; 1979
  10. ^ Pinder 1878, 11
  11. ^ e.g. Schrickel 1969; Schwellnuß 1979
  12. ^ Schrickel 1976
  13. ^ Jockenhövel 1990, 162-166; Raetzel-Fabian 2000, 112-129
  14. ^ M. Menke, "Neue Ausgrabungen in der Magalithanlage 'Heilige Steine' bei Muschenheim (Lkr. Gießen): Vorbericht über die Ausgrabungskampagnen 1989 bis 1992" in: Germania 71/2, 1993, p. 279-314
  15. ^ K. Fritz: Nachlese zum Vortrag "Das Verschollene Hünengrab vom Heilsberg". in: Heilsberger Nachrichten, Mitteilungsblatt des Bürgervereins Heilsberg e.v. (Bad Vilbel), 48/28, 1998, p. 3-4.
  16. ^ Raetzel-Fabian 2000, 123-129
  17. ^ Schwellnuß 1979, 57-60
  18. ^ Schrickel 1966
  19. ^ Raetzel-Fabian 2000, 122
  20. ^ Jockenhövel 1990, 170-173; Raetzel-Fabian 2000, 136-148
  21. ^ Raetzel-Fabian 2000(b)
  22. ^ Fielder 1991
  23. ^ For whole pottery section: Raetzel Fabian 2000, 122, 131
  24. ^ Raetzel-Fabian, 2000, 132
  25. ^ Raetzel-Fabian 2000, 113

External links

36th century BC

The 36th century BC was a century which lasted from the year 3600 BC to 3501 BC.

Altendorf (megalithic tomb)

The Altendorf tomb (German: Steinkammergrab von Altendorf) was an important megalithic tomb at Altenburg near Naumburg, northern Hesse, Germany. It was a gallery grave belonging to the Late Neolithic Wartberg culture. The Altenburg tomb is of special significance in Central European prehistory because of the large number of individuals it contained.

Gallery grave

A gallery grave is a form of megalithic tomb built primarily during the Neolithic Age in Europe in which the main gallery of the tomb is entered without first passing through an antechamber or hallway. There are at least four major types of gallery grave (complex, transepted, segmented, and wedge-shaped), and they may be covered with an earthen mound (or "tumulus") or rock mound (or "cairn").


Gudensberg is a small town in northern Hesse, Germany. Since the municipal reform in 1974, the nearby villages of Deute, Dissen, Dorla, Gleichen, Maden and Obervorschütz have become parts of the municipality.


Hadamar is a small town in Limburg-Weilburg district in Hessen, Germany.

Hadamar is known for its Clinic for Forensic Psychiatry/Centre for Social Psychiatry, lying at the edge of town, in whose outlying buildings is also found the Hadamar Memorial. This memorializes the murder of people with handicaps and mental illnesses during National Socialist times at the NS-Tötungsanstalt Hadamar.


Hesse ( or ) or Hessia (German: Hessen [ˈhɛsn̩], Hessian dialect: Hesse [ˈhɛzə]), officially the State of Hesse (German: Land Hessen), is a federal state (Land) of the Federal Republic of Germany, with just over six million inhabitants. Its state capital is Wiesbaden and the largest city is Frankfurt am Main.

As a cultural region, Hesse also includes the area known as Rhenish Hesse (Rheinhessen) in the neighbouring state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Lohra (megalithic tomb)

The Lohra tomb (German: Steinkammergrab von Lohra) was a megalithic monument outside Lohra near Marburg in north central Hesse, Germany. It is one of the lesser known among its type in Central Europe. It dates to the late Neolithic, probably just after 3000 BC. It belongs to the gallery graves of the Wartberg culture, but is unique among them because of its rich ceramic assemblage.

Megalithic entrance

A megalithic entrance is an architectonic feature that enables access to a megalithic tomb or structure. The design of the entrance has to seal the access to the cultic structure in such a way that it is possible to gain access to the interior again, even after a long time, in order to perform rituals. To that end, the practitioners of Nordic megalith architecture, the Wartberg culture and Horgen culture, used several variants, that are also found in other megalithic regions in identical or slightly modified form.

As the solutions were refined in detail, they all had in common the aim of sealing the structure that its re-opening was possible under difficult but manageable conditions by the tribal community.

In general the following forms of entrance may be differentiated:

Simple dolmens (upper image)

1. no entrance

2. entrance on the top

3. half-height entrance sealed with a closure stone

4. full height half-width stone (with passage)Dolmens (except No. 4)

5. squared entrance (eingewinkelter Zugang)

6. additional entrance to the external passagePassage graves (lower image)

7. triangular entrance

8. portal entrance (with lintel)

9. low passage entrance in front of a portalGallery graves and stone cists

10. round (or similarly shaped) port-holeVariation 7 has its focus in the Swedish Bohuslän (Dolmen of Haga). The stones forming the entrance were so selected or fashioned that together they form a triangular entrance (top left). This special form, which effectively replaces the lintel, is also found in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon, e.g. at the dolmen of Banelle, which lies near Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort in the southern French department of Gard.

The portal entrance used a lintel, a horizontal block placed over two lower supporting stones in order to level out the distance to the capstone. This enabled access, usually only by crawling, through a trilithon opening (top centre), and may be seen across the whole area where Nordic megalithic architecture occurs.

In portal-like openings in the chamber wall, which, for example, have been made by leaving out a supporting stone, (bottom image: above right and below right), a passage in front of the chamber allows the cross-section of the entrance to be reduced. An example of this type of construction is the Sieben Steinhäuser in Lower Saxony. Such "chambers without (detected) passages" may be found in the Netherlands and Schleswig-Holstein. The entrance location and size determines, ultimately, whether the structure is a passage grave or a dolmen (J. Ross). In the Netherlands (Drenthe), where this form is very common, structures with no passages are known as portal graves; which otherwise, as portal tombs form a sub-group of megalithic tombs on the British Isles but structurally have nothing in common with the sites in the province of Drenthe.

Variation 7 is not dissimilar to the so-called port-hole (bottom left), in which the front stone or, as in the diagram, two front stones are hewn out so as to create a circular access hole. The slabs were made of a material that enabled contemporary methods and tools to be used to fashion them. This version occurs Central Europe at sites built by the Wartberg and Horgen cultures in Baden-Württemberg and Switzerland. Some Swedish so-called megalithic stone cists also have port-holes. In German, such a hole is known as a Seelenloch ("soul hole"), a name that originated because of the erroneous assumption that holes were created with the intention of releasing the soul of the deceased (in the minds of the builders). In the Bronze and Iron Age sites on Sardinia and the Iberian Peninsula, similar openings are found, that are also narrow, but nearer the ground, and apse-like, (recess-shaped) with embedded closure stones.

Another feature of ground-level entrances is a so-called stone sill (Schwellenstein). This separates the secular or profane area of the passage from the sacred burial chamber. In some cases, it also serves to support the closure stone or slab. In some embedded simple dolmens and portal tomb it is so high that it forms a half-height front stone, enabling access above it, and is thus part of the wall of the chamber.

Michelsberg culture

The Michelsberg culture (German: Michelsberger Kultur (MK)) is an important Neolithic culture in Central Europe. Its dates are ca 4400-3500 BC. Its conventional name is derived from that of an important excavated site on Michelsberg (short for Michaelsberg) hill near Untergrombach, between Karlsruhe and Heidelberg (Baden-Württemberg).

The Michelsberg culture is dated in the late 5th and the first half of the 4th millennium BC. Thus, it belongs to the Central European Late Neolithic. Its distribution covered much of West Central Europe, along both sides of the Rhine. A detailed chronology, based on pottery, was produced in the 1960s by the German archaeologist Jens Lüning.

Niedertiefenbach (megalithic tomb)

The Niedertiefenbach tomb (German: Steinkistengrab von Niedertiefenbach) is a megalithic tomb located near Beselich-Niedertiefebach in Hesse, Germany. It belongs to the Wartberg culture of the Central European Later Neolithic. It is of special importance in Central European prehistory because of the sequence of collective burial layers contained within it.


Wartberg may refer to:

Wartberg ob der Aist, municipality in Austria

Wartberg an der Krems, municipality in Austria

Wartberg im Mürztal, municipality in Austria

the German name for Senec, Slovakia

Wartberg (Niedenstein), a mountain of Schwalm-Eder-Kreis, Hesse, Germany

Wartberg (Stuttgart), a mountain of Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Wartberg (Heilbronn), a mountain of Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Wartberg culture, aka Wartberg group

Züschen (megalithic tomb)

The Züschen tomb (German: Steinkammergrab von Züschen, sometimes also Lohne-Züschen) is a prehistoric burial monument, located between Lohne and Züschen, near Fritzlar, Hesse, Germany. Classified as a gallery grave or a Hessian-Westphalian stone cist (hessisch-westfälische Steinkiste), it is one of the most important megalithic monuments in Central Europe. Dating to the late 4th millennium BC (and possibly remaining in use until the early 3rd), it belongs to the Late Neolithic Wartberg culture. The presence of incised carvings, comparable to prehistoric rock art elsewhere in Europe, is a striking feature of Wartberg culture tombs, known so far only from Züschen and from tomb I at Warburg.



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