2,500-year-old woman’s grave discovered during construction work in central Germany


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A chance find that was not to be expected: A 2,500-year-old woman’s grave was discovered during construction work at Jena-Lobeda in the central Saale. The jewellery in the grave allows a very precise chronological classification. The Thuringian archaeologist Tim Schuler calls the grave a historical find.

2,500-year-old woman's grave discovered during construction work in central Germany
Finds from the woman’s grave: parts of the skull and jewellery
[Credit: MDR/Anke Preller]

During excavation work for the new sports swimming hall in Jena-Lobeda, an approximately 2,500-year-old woman’s grave was discovered. The bronze jewellery found in it is unique for the Saale Valley. Thuringian archaeologist Tim Schuler calls it an outstanding historical find.

A good three weeks ago, an excavator driver came across human and animal bones while digging the excavation pit. It was soon clear that this was not a case for the criminal investigation department, but for the archaeologists. The skeleton found is almost completely preserved. Only feet, hands and bones from the rib cage are missing. The skull can be reconstructed well, says Tim Schuler from the Thuringian State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and Archaeology. It is the grave of a woman about 30 years old. She was about 1.55 metres tall. The skeletal remains reveal that she survived pneumonia and probably suffered from sinusitis as well as meningitis. But what is really remarkable are the jewellery grave goods.

2,500-year-old woman's grave discovered during construction work in central Germany
Archaeologist Tim Schuler with a find explains that the green colouring on the skull
comes from a headdress [Credit: MDR/Anke Preller]

Comparable jewellery has so far only been known from southern Germany and southern Europe. The green colouring on the skull bones points to a headdress with small bronze ball pendants. This jewellery not only suggests a higher status of the woman, it also allows a rather precise chronological classification of the find. It dates from the Early Iron Age, around 500 BC, which is also called the Hallstatt period by archaeologists. 

According to Schuler, this type of jewellery with bronze pendants has not yet appeared as grave goods in the Saale Valley, but is only known from finds in southern Germany or southern Europe. For him, this is evidence of the already extensive trade relations of the people at that time. Besides pottery shards, bones of two animals were found in the grave. According to Schuler, one of them was most likely a cow. The bones of the other animal are still being examined.

2,500-year-old woman's grave discovered during construction work in central Germany
The excavation pit in Jena-Lobeda from above [Credit: Jenaer Bader/Frank Langer]

Further systematic excavations in the three- to five-metre-deep excavation pit are not really viable, according to the archaeologist. The site in the middle of the Lobeda residential area has already been built on several times. Most recently, the Lobeda-West cultural centre was located here. Since October, construction work has been underway for the new sports swimming hall, which should be ready in two years. Now the construction of the building shell is beginning to progress. It is now up to the archaeologists and anthropologists to gather all the details about the rare grave find and classify it scientifically, so that the secret of the Lobeda bones can then be revealed in a publication.

Author: Anke Preller | Source: MDR [trsl. TANN, November 25, 2020]

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