Wandering Unteruhldingen, BW

Federsee Museum – Upper Swabia

Driving home from Lake Constance (Bodensee), we made a detour to check out a prehistoric site, touted to be from the stone and bronze age. It was well worth the detour.

At the Federsee Museum, at Unteruhldigen, we were met by a fascinating scene.  A village built on stilts; each house connected by an elevated boardwalk, offered a glimpse to a distant past – presumably from roughly 4300 BC to 800 BC.  At Lake Constance alone, 100 such dwellings have been found recently, and there are many more.

Pfahlbauten - Baden Württemberg

Prehistoric Lake Dwellings – Unteruhldingen (BW)

Some houses are actual archeological finds and built on this location, especially those that were excavated in 1996, 1998, 2002 and 2007. Earlier dwellings were reconstructed, based on materials found on location, and at the guidance of scientific experts. The first such reconstruction took place in 1922. The houses originate from various lakeside locations, mostly around Lake Constance.  These pole villages would have stretched from the Bavarian Pre-alps, to Switzerland, France and Italy.

Built on the shores of various lakes, they stood about five metres above water.  The most likely reason, to stem rising water when snow started melting in March.  Water levels could quickly rise to three metres and flood the shoreline. By extending above the calculated rise, houses would remain safe and dry.  Depending on the type of wood, these structures could last between ten and fifteen years.  Even if hardwood had been used that could last thirty years, such as oak; the seasonal erosion by water, storms and other climate-related events, would considerably diminish the longevity of these dwellings.

Pfahlbauten - Baden Württemberg

Prehistoric Lake Dwellings – Unteruhldingen (BW)

Fertile farmland, access to trade routes, and fresh water were locations of choice when deciding on a settlement.

Unfortunately picture taking inside the houses was not allowed. Some have a show-and-tell educational purpose, e.g. how to carve a canoe using stone tools. For school-age children, preparing segments of roof thatching, mixing clay, working a kiln, and getting involved in other prehistoric activities (in as far as we can deduce how they lived!) brings history to life and leaves a vivid and memorable experience.

Pfahlbauten, Unteruhldingen (BW)

Prehistoric Lake Dwellings – Unteruhldingen (BW)

The block houses are large enough for a family of six. From excavations, there might have been a few dwellings, large enough to accommodate two families (who knows, maybe the original multi-generational homes). One house in particular has a large floor-plan, which could mean that the house belonged to a chief. On the other hand it may have been a central meeting hall or a religious gathering place. High quality dinnerware, finely worked bronze jewelry, and other delicate artifacts  found at the original site, seem to support the premise that the house dweller was wealthy or that the house had a high function in the village. Remnants of tools from archeological finds, could establish the transition point from the stone to the bronze age.  The introduction of tin to smelting copper produced a bronze amalgam, which replaced the now old-fashioned stone implements. Modern era set in!

I had some fun trying to picture living in those times, raising a family.  Cooking, would take the better part of each day, never mind trying to fashion items of clothing, even if this was a concerted effort with other village women. Looking at the four walls – no privacy, traipsing outside for the catch of the day, while the men were hunting somewhere; or were they farming?  Which means the women were in the fields as well. In all kinds of weather. Forget having time for a kaffeeklatsch or a siesta. Hmmm, methinks I’m quite happy living in the 21st. Century, enjoying my (stove-top) espresso in the morning, and my stove, period. . . And books, of course!

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