Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Germany

Hedeby

Hedeby is the Southernmost Nordic town, and played an important role as a key trading center in the viking age. It is at the crossroads of the Slien Fjord and the Baltic Sea to the East, streams that led to the Atlantic running close by to the West and the main land route, the Army Road running along the Jutland high ridge up along the Eastern side of Jutland. The city area is surrounded by a 1300 meter long city wall in ...
Founded: c. 770 AD | Location: Schleswig, Germany

Externsteine Stones

The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC. In a popular tradition g ...
Founded: 10000 BC | Location: Horn-Bad Meinberg, Germany

Hohle Fels

The Hohle Fels is a cave in the Swabian Alps that has yielded a number of important archaeological finds dating to the Upper Paleolithic age. Artifacts found in the cave represent some of the earliest examples of prehistoric art and musical instruments ever discovered. The cave consists of a tunnel of about 15 m (50 ft) and a hall holding about 6,000 m3, making the cave hall one of the largest of Southern Germany. The fi ...
Founded: 40,000-30,000 BC | Location: Schelklingen, Germany

Trier Imperial Baths

The Trier Imperial Baths (Kaiserthermen) are a large Roman bath complex, designated as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The impressive ruins of the baths, along with the derelict rooms and the walls of previous structures, are among the most important to have been discovered in Trier. Today a visit to the thermal baths, which can also be explored below ground, is like stepping back in time. The walls of the hot bat ...
Founded: 0-200 AD | Location: Trier, Germany

Trier Amphitheater

The Roman Amphitheater in Trier is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The arena, built in the 2nd century A.D. for cruel games with gladiators and animals, had a seating capacity of about 20,000. When you enter the premises you walk through the ruins of the entrance gate. This was used as a quarry in the Middle Ages. The arena itsel ...
Founded: 100-200 AD | Location: Trier, Germany

Boppard Roman Fort

Boppard’s most famous sight is a castrum, a Roman Fort. The military camp of Bodobrica was established here in 360 AD. It is thought to be the best preserved example north of the Alps today. It once had 28 towers, and was a commercial centre as well as a fort. It was 308 × 154 metres and formed a rectangle of 4,7 hectare. The walls were 3 metres thick to the land side and 2,5 metres thick to the Rhine side. W ...
Founded: 360 AD | Location: Boppard, Germany

Roman Theater

Mainz, known as Mogontiacum, was Rome’s most important city in Germania. In fact, the stage and auditorium of the Mainz theater was the largest anywhere north of the Alps. More than 10,000 audience members could be accommodated. The theater proportions were gigantic: The stage measured 42 meters wide. The audience area was 116 meters in width. The Roman Theater is located just above the Mainz-South Station adjacent ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Mainz, Germany

Garz Slavic Fort

Garz Slavic fort was an ancient burgwall. The earthworks have an oval shape, are about 200 metres long and 140 metres wide. There is an entrance roughly in the middle of the western side. Towards the lake of Garzer See to the south the ramparts are lower. The castle was mentioned in 1165 as Borgar Gardz, when there were small-scale skirmishes with Danish warriors in front of the castle. The castle itself does not appear ...
Founded: 8th-9th century | Location: Garz, Germany

Jaromarsburg

Jaromarsburg was a cult site for the Slavic tribe of Rani dedicated to the god Svantovit and used from the 9th to the 12th century. It was located on the northeastern tip of the German Baltic Sea island of Rügen at Cape Arkona, and was protected on two sides by the cliffed coast and from the land side by a Slavic burgwall. The name of the temple hill is derived from the Rani prince, Jaromar I, who became a vassal of ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Arkona, Germany

Drususstein

The Drususstein (Drusus stone) is a nearly 20 metres high masonry block of Roman origin on the grounds of the citadel of Mainz. It was originally cast in marble. Researchers now largely accept that this is the structural remnant of the cenotaph mentioned by writers like Eutropius and Suetonius, erected in 9 BC by Roman troops in honour of the deceased general Drusus, in Mogontiacum (now Mainz) as part of the roman funerar ...
Founded: 9 BC | Location: Mainz, Germany

Heidetränk Oppidum

The Heidetränk Oppidum near Oberursel is one of Europe"s most important Celtic oppida. The oppidum was surrounded by ramparts which encircled the settlement of opposite sides of a ravine called the Heidetrankthal. This imposing rampart where 10 km long and had six gates. The high point of the settlement was in the late La Tène period, but lost its importance in the mid first century BC. Archaeological finds fr ...
Founded: 200-300 BC | Location: Oberursel, Germany

Goseck Circle

The Goseck circle is a Neolithic circle structure. It may be the oldest and best known of the Circular Enclosures associated with the Central European Neolithic. It also may be one of the oldest Solar observatories in the world. It consists of a set of concentric ditches 75 metres across and two palisade rings containing gates in places aligned with sunrise and sunset on the solstice days. Its construction is dated to c. ...
Founded: 4900 BC | Location: Goseck, Germany

Badenweiler Roman Baths

The Badenweiler Roman bath ruins (Römische Badruine Badenweiler) are among the most significant Roman remains in Baden-Württemberg. To this day, the complex remains the best pre-served Roman spa north of the Alps. When the Romans conquered this region in what is now southwestern Germany, they brought with them their established custom of bathing. Many of the thermal springs that had been used by the Celts becam ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Badenweiler, Germany

Barbara Baths

The Barbara Baths (Barbarathermen) are a large Roman bath complex designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Barbara Baths were built in the second century AD. The extensive ruins were used as a castle in the Middle Ages, then torn down and recycled as building material until the remains were used for constructing a Jesuit College in 16 ...
Founded: 100-200 AD | Location: Trier, Germany

Kastell Biriciana

Kastell Biriciana was a former Roman military camp. It was occupied from the 1th century AD to the mid-3rd century as a part of Limes Germanicus (a line of frontier fortifications that bounded the ancient Roman provinces). There was first a wooden fortifications, which were later replaced with a square stone fort. The known internal buildings are marked by stone slabs. There is today a reconstructed north gate, the large ...
Founded: 90 AD | Location: Weissenburg, Germany

Ipf Hill Fort

The Ipf is a mostly treeless mountain (668 metres)with a prehistoric hill fort on its top. The fort is situated on an isolated hill, with a flattened summit surrounded by a stone wall, ditch and large counterscarp (outer bank). The overall diameter is about 180 metres. There are also extensive ramparts traversing the slopes to protect a large enclosed area and entranceway. There is evidence of occupation from the Bronze A ...
Founded: 1200-300 BC | Location: Bopfingen, Germany

Aalen Kastell

After abandoning the Alblimes (a Limes generally following the ridgeline of the Swabian Jura) around 150 AD, Aalen"s territory became part of the Roman Empire, in direct vicinity of the then newly erected Rhaetian Limes. The Romans erected a castrum to house the cavalry unit Ala II Flavia milliaria; its remains are known today as Kastell Aalen. The site is west of today"s town centre at the bottom of the Schille ...
Founded: c. 150 AD | Location: Aalen, Germany

Riesenberg Barrow

Nobbin village is best known for the megalithic tomb known as the Riesenberg. The tomb was constructed of glacial erratic boulders and dates back to the New Stone Age in Rügen. It is one of the largest stone graves in North Germany and lies just a few metres from the steep coast on the bay of Tromper Wiek, immediately by the cliff top path. The trapezoidal enclosure, which originally had 53 large boundary stones, is ...
Founded: 4300-2800 BC | Location: Putgarten, Germany

Kriemhildenstuhl

The Kriemhildenstuhl is an old Roman quarry, which was worked by the 22nd Legion of the Roman Army, who were stationed in Mogontiacum (Mainz) around 200 AD. Immediately above the quarry is the Heidenmauer, a 26 hectare fortified Celtic settlement from the late Hallstatt era. The Brunhildisstuhl a little below the Kriemhildenstuhl was probably another a Roman quarry. Other old Roman quarries in the vicinity are found in th ...
Founded: 200 AD | Location: Bad Dürkheim, Germany

Danevirke

The Danevirke is a system of Danish fortifications. This important linear defensive earthwork across the neck of the Cimbrian peninsula, was initiated by the Danes in the Nordic Iron Age at some point before 500 AD. It was later expanded multiple times during Denmark"s Viking Age. The Danevirke was last used for military purposes in 1864 during the Second War of Schleswig. The Danevirke stretches for 30 km, from the ...
Founded: 500 AD | Location: Kleindannewerk, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.