March 29, 2023

German archaeologists from the city of Halberstadt in the East German state Saxony-Anhalt reported on an unusual find during excavations at the construction site of a logistics center for the German automobile company Daimler Truck. Scientists have discovered a 1.7-meter ritual well, at the bottom of which were individual bones and whole skeletons of various animals – bulls, dogs and hares.

According to the news agency dpa, the age of the find is estimated at about 4800 years. According to historians, the well was dug and used for one or more fertility rituals and belongs to the so-called globular amphora culture.

This archaeological culture existed around 3200-2800 BC during the Copper Stone Age (Eneolithic) – the transitional period from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age.

Ritual well in Halberstadt

Animal bones found in Halberstadt Photo: Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/dpa/picture alliance
Archaeologist Anke Herrmann at the excavation sitePhoto: Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/dpa/picture alliance
Rabbit skeleton found in a ritual wellPhoto: Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/dpa/picture alliance
The lower jaw of a bullPhoto: Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/dpa/picture alliance

The globular amphora culture originated in what is now Poland and spread further westward to what is now the German state of Lower Saxony. So far, only such wells have been known to scientists, belonging to the earlier Baalberg culture – the culture of funnel-shaped goblets that existed in the upper and middle parts of the Elbe River around 3800-3500 BC.

According to archaeologist Susanne Friederich, during excavations in Halberstadt, individual bones of four bulls were first found in the upper layer. Under them was the skeleton of a whole bull, then the skeleton of a dog, then the skeletons of three young hares. The skeleton of another whole bull was found in the next layer. All this testifies to the development of animal husbandry and agriculture in these places.

The sacrifice to the gods of hares, which are particularly prolific – bearing offspring two or three times a year, up to five hares at a time, confirms the hypothesis that the well was used for a ritual or rituals of fertility.

Other archaeological finds

stone tombPhoto: Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/dpa/picture alliance
Stone ax found in the tomb Photo: Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/dpa/picture alliance

Earlier, during excavations, a stone tomb (stone box) was found a few meters from the well – most likely, the grave of some important member of this society from the time of the globular amphora culture. The upper part of the tomb, located at the highest point of this site, was only 25 centimeters from the surface.

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