The Wetterau in prehistoric time by county-archaeologist Dr. Vera Rupp
The Wetterau, between the heights of the Taunus in the west and the Vogelsberg in the northeast lain, counts to Germany's most important culture-landscapes and is populated for millennia. This was encouraged by the extremely mild climate, particularly fertile grounds and a widely ramified net of rivers.
One finds the oldest human tracks in the surroundings of Münzenberg. Over half a million years ago, narrow wind-protected grounds-terraces where the storing places of hunters and collectors, who manufactured stone-tools out of rock. These appliances, such as scrapers for the treatment of timber and leather, belongs to the oldest tools and was published several times. Lutz Fiedler’s book "Alt- und mittelsteinzeitliche Funde in Hessen” is a recommendable piece of work on this.
Only on the end of the medium stone age, the Mesolithic about 5500 before Christ, happened a revolutionary change of the unsteady economy to the advance-planning agriculture-stages. Agriculture and cattle-raising became peoples’ life-basis. The construction of new houses and stockpiling required new technologies. Groundwood and pottery were created. The Neolithic, the New stone Age, began. People built long wooden houses (30 metres long), protecting cattle and human life. During this time, the landscape changed persistently, because vast forest-areas for agriculture and the settlement had to be satisfied.
In the Wetterau, almost 200 finding-places are known meanwhile. They count to the oldest culture-group of the Neolithic. This group is called band ceramics. It is unknown who were the bearers in this late economic-sage. It is wondered about whether individual groups of the nomadising hunters and collector became sessile and an autonomous development-process existed. However, there is also the possibility that new population-groups immigrated, including tribes from France and the Danube.
An outstanding settlement-place of the band-ceramics was dug out in Bruchenbrücken under the direction of Professor Jens Lüning (lecturer on pre and early-history of the University of Frankfurt on the Main some years ago). 1993, a highly regarded thesis was written by Kneipp treating band-ceramics between Rhine, Weser and Main. On the basis of his examinations, one can assume that there were central housing projects of big expansion, that took an outstanding position, already over 7000 years ago. Beside this, smaller estates in the narrower surroundings existed.
Such a big-housing project of far over one hectare probably existed in Nieder-Mörlen near to "im Hempler." Findings of small idols from clay, symbolising human beings or animal-figures represented cultic rites. Also the pre-historic grave yard nearby is of scientific quality.
In the course of the young-stone age, the Rössener culture followed the band-ceramics, which can be seen in the Wetterau-Museum in Friedberg. The museum in Echzell provides findings from the Michelsberg-culture, dated into the time about 4000-3500 b.c.. They come from an excavation not far from Wannkopf. 1991, a commission for archaeological regional-research in Hesse with home office in Büdingen examined under the direction of Dr. Birgit Höhn a housing project on the "Alteburg" near Dauernheim, a high basalt-spur near the Nidda-Aue. The investigations showed a height-housing project with one of excellent gotten multiphase earthwork, whose ditches one could pursue on over 100 meters of length. Altogether, one expects a size of the plain of 20.000 to 25.000 square meters.
Approximately about 2000/1800 b.c. a new material came in Central Europe in use: The bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, gave its name to a whole epoch of mankind-history. The bronze age is subdivided into the Early Bronze Age (2400 - 1600 b.c), the hill-digger-Bronze Age (1600 – 1400 b.c) and the urn-field- Bronze Age (1200-800 b.c); the passages however always were flowing and dragged on over several generations. The most imposing base-monuments of this time are the numerous mounds of the hill-digger-Bronze Age, of which almost all were robbed in the 19th century.
Many archaeological collections of Wetterau’s museums show elements of the then clothing and official dress. From graves of women, above all the bronze-jewellery such as arm and leg-rings, long garment-needles and delicate pendants. Richly equipped graves reveal much of the social status and affluence.
While the conservation-status of the mounds in the forest is quite good, the ones on the field-grounds are often ploughed. One can see especially impressive cairns with a walk through the forest of Rommelhausen. Settlement-places of the medium bronze age are found exceptionally seldom; probably they lay directly at a water and cannot be found anymore in the floodplains.
A middle-bronze age-like settlement-place was discovered near Ober-Wöllstadt lately and a small section was dug out in the summer 1993. A big, approximately rectangular pit, in which thick packets of red burnt clay of a house-wall were found, can be regarded as the rest of house-cellars.
During the subsequent Urn-field-time, one interred the dead persons mainly in flat graves, therefore no more under mounds. The deceased was burned on a pyre, and the remains as well as the metals dress-accessory filled into an urn. Into the often quite big urns from sound, wide smaller vessels and the person’s belongings were added on top of this; everything together put in a grave.
Graves of this age could be vast, and with the observations of the honorary co-workers of the county-archaeology, the Wetterau could save these base-monuments numerous by need-rescues in the last years must similarly during the Urnenfelderkultur, as in the times of the band-ceramics, surface-covering populated has been, because the number of the registered finding-places constantly increases.
Approximately from the time about 800/750 b.c., objects made of iron were found in our area. The new raw material could become fast generally accepted, because tools of iron were essentially more robust than this out of bronze. The iron age is separated by the archaeology into two big sections: into the Hallstatt-time (about 750 - 500 b.c) and into the Latène-time (500 b.c. to 0 AD). The Hallstatt-time was generally embossed through the degradation of ferric-ore, its smelting and the art of smithing. In the Wetterau, the operation of the Salt refinery begins in this period in Bad Nauheim, that was continued until in 1st century b.c.. Virtually sensationally is an excavation that takes place near the former Hilberts Parkhotel in Bad Nauheimer Kurstraße. Here meter-high works of the Celtic saline-operation were exposed in several dig-sections and were documented. Detail-examinations of ovens helped to reconstruct setup and operation of early procedures. The new findings became published by Dr. Uwe Vogt in his publication "Die Kelten in Wetterau und Vogelsberg [The Celts in the Wetterau and Vogelsberg]”.The book will publish Bad Nauheim’s excavations from the Sparkasse [savings bank] Wetterau on the occasion of a special exhibition in 1992.
But also small housing projects, whose inhabitants lived on the agrarian-economic system, lie scattered over the entire Wetterau. Through field-prospection numerous new spots of discovery became known since 1990, that can be dated especially into the early Latène-time about 500 - 450 b.c.. Through the long-lasting management of the field-plains, one only however frequently finds refuse pits; the less deep cellars of the houses eroded in the course of time and were destroyed by the plough. Thus, it was a lucky coincident to find early-latène settlings near to the farmland "Im Deut" at the South-fringe of Bad Nauheim in the open fields, of which approximately all cellars and pits were preserved. In several dig-campaigns, financial support from by city Bad Nauheim, the regional-exchange of monument-care of Hessian and the Commission for archaeological regional-research in Hesse, three house-complexes, of which above all the Erdkeller is of big scientific interest, could be examined here in the years 1993/94. The houses even consisted of a wood-post-construction, whose post-holes stood out as dark discolorations of the pending base; the cellars were sized 4 x 2 meters.
The finding-material consists mainly of vessel-shards; there are indicators for textile production. wWith help of the commission for archaeological regional-research in Hesse, the examinations of the charred plant-remains and the numerous animal-bones in Wiesbaden shall widen the knowledge about flora and fauna of the time about 450 b.c.. With help of the Archeo-botanics conclusions of the at that time grain-types, but also information about the type of the nutrition over 2500 years ago, will be revealed. For example, chop-spurs at animal-bones can give information regarding type and volume of the consumed animals as well as methods of butchery.
Against the end of the 1st century b.c., when Roman influence started in the Rhein-area, the ancient history of the Wetterau ceased.
The discovery of a Celtic prince-grave of the late 5th century b.c. near Glauberg in Büdingen was found by the regional office of monument-care of Hesse in 1994. The grave celebrated as "century-finding" in the media was rescued in the block and is exposed in restauratoric precision in the workshops of the regional-office at present. The finding of a pitcher with Celtic adornment-elements is regarded as a sensation also by experts. From the equipment of the deceased things, a golden, richly decorated neck-ring of the Wiesbaden restorers became known as well.
However it stopped not only at the discovery of the prince-grave. During the further exposure of the grave-areal, at June 24th 1996, another important finding-piece of the 5th century b.c., was revealed. To their surprise, the excavators found a man's life-size full-plastic statue. This 1,86 m high, stone figure completely obviously represents the buried person as a warrior. The warrior carries a short armour of linen or leather; in the left hand, he holds a shield and a sword worked out of the stone is on his right side. His headgear looks rather extraordinary. One suspects that on that it is a leaf-crown, a cap with lateral mistletoe-leaves. Pieces of jewellery or dignity-insignia like a neck-ring are among the further equipment, three arm-rings at the right wrist and a ring at the ring-finger of the right hand. The statue belongs to the most important findings of the last decades in Europe.
In the present report, only the most important excavations and new researches could be introduced of the prehistoric time of the Wetterau in all the brevity. Numerous working employ themselves with the epoch of the Roman-time and the early Middle ages in addition. The Wetterau offers a rich activity-field for long-range archaeological and scientific researches also in future. The many engaged citizens of our district earn a high place value in the exploration of our past and for the protection of the archaeological monuments on that occasion.