Germany Prehistory – Paleolithic Age

By | January 16, 2022

The prehistory of Germany does not coincide with the prehistory of the Germans, much less with that of the Germans. The real prehistory of Germany – based almost exclusively on archaeological documents – has nothing to do with the Germans, since it only reaches up to the beginning of the Common Era, and for the southern and western regions up to age of Julius Caesar: it therefore deals with both the Germans and the Celts, who together with the Germans inhabited German soil.

The older the period the houses date back to, the more they are affected by the natural conditions of the place, that is to say the climate and the geological conformation of the soil and subsoil. Other differences derive, given the situation of Germany in the middle of Europe, from the geographical position of the different localities. Central and southern Germany present a certain homogeneity in the events of their prehistory, thus distinguishing themselves from northern Germany, which is linked with the group of Nordic civilizations, as well as from eastern Germany and especially from eastern Prussia and Silesia. Through the mountain passes and river valleys, very soon isolated merchants or tribes or entire populations, who then settled in the country for a longer or shorter period, made people feel in Germany, with the introduction of goods, the influences of foreign countries. In this way, as early as the second millennium a. C. trade routes were formed, through which amber from the North Sea reached the Mediterranean, routes that in ancient times moved from the mouth of the Elbe, later from those of the Vistula.

Man makes his appearance in Germany with homo geidelbergensis, of which a very primitive lower jaw was found in a bend of the Neckar near Heidelberg: it geologically belongs to the penultimate interglacial period, but it is impossible to assign an absolute date; just as it is impossible to fix in exact figures the date of the Paleolithic period, of which we can only say that it lasted for a few millennia. The transition from the Palaeolithic to the Mesolithic appears clearer, the maximum development of which is around 8000 BC. C. Follow the Neolithic (fourth and third millennium BC), the Bronze Age (second millennium), the Iron Age, which is divided into an older period, up to the beginning of the century. V, and in a more recent period that goes up to the beginning of the Common Era, and which can also be called Celtic in the strict sense.

Paleolithic age. – According to, the ice ages had a strong influence on Germany. The glaciers descending from Sweden covered it approximately up to the fiftieth parallel, and those coming from the Alps up to the Danube. In the regions of central and southern Germany, only a strip of limited width remained free from the glaciers, connecting the two large arable areas of alluvial formation, the western one, which embraced France and Spain, and the eastern one, which it occupied the middle and lower basin of the Danube. The first represents a center of civilization of its own, while Germany, united with the other, forms a second. An archaic Paleolithic is distinguished, characterized by the predominance of large axes and a tropical fauna, during which the Neanderthal man lived as a nomadic hunter (so called from a location near Düsseldorf, where his remains were found), and a more recent Paleolithic, characterized by smaller and more delicate instruments and a human type thinner, the man of Aurignac and Cromagnon. In this second period, the forests, favored by the hot and humid climate, are replaced by the steppe with a cold and dry climate; instead of the primeval elephant, the hairy mammoth with other animals of the polar zone, such as the reindeer, the wild horse, the caving bear, etc. All the phases of the Paleolithic are represented in Germany, with the exception of the most ancient; the findings were mostly made in caves, more rarely in open air stations. The material products of this civilization consist of stone objects of all kinds, bone objects and even art products, such as carved bones and ivory statuettes from the Aurignacian (recently found) and Magdalenian periods. From an economic point of view it can be said that men live in this period of what they find, and eat not only the products of hunting, but also the roots and bulbs that they dig from the earth. There were also remains of burials, already perfectly arranged. The territories in which the main discoveries took place are Rhineland, Westphalia, Thuringia (Ilm valley), Hesse, Baden, Bavaria, and above all Württemberg, in the area very rich in caves of the Swabian mountains.

It is Mesolithic. – The transition from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic is carried out, as is natural, very slowly, given the slowness with which the glaciers shrunk in the post-glacial period. In this regard, the observations and findings of the Baltic area are important, the level of which has changed several times over the course of millennia. The primitive open sea was first transformed into a closed lake, to then turn again, thanks to a new lowering, into an open sea, in which oysters lived in large quantities. Immense piles of food scraps, consisting of oyster shells, revealed for the first time the existence of this Mesolithic fishing civilization, represented by small arrowheads, knives, awls, scrapers, pins, and, in the northernmost regions, from bone hooks and vases of the oldest type. These “microliths” have recently been found in large parts of Germany; primitive dwellings were also found sporadically. To the leftovers of indigenous civilizations are added those imported, which bear the names of Tardenoisiano and Paleo-Campignano and later the mixed ones, such as the Brazilian, the Azazio-Tardenoisiano and the Neocampignano.

Germany Prehistory - Paleolithic Age