Behind the small Asva village on a low-lying hayfield is located one of the most archaeologically important bronze-age sites in Northern Europe. This site, Asva, has given its name to an entire culture. Asva culture was the westernmost reach of the Finno-Ugrian late Bronze Age culture. This culture was based on herding, seal hunting, the beginnings of agriculture and, bronze casting.
During the Bronze Age, the ridge on which the settlement was located was an islet or peninsula in a shallow bay. Today, the sea has retreated many miles, and the settlement reminds us of its old seashore location only during spring flooding. The area was first excavated in 1930-1931 by a local resident, O. Reis, then a student at Tartu University.
Later excavations verified the existence of the oldest (at that time) and the longest habited fortified settlement on Saaremaa. The entire settlement covers a 3,500 square meter area. Approximately one sixth of that area has been excavated, a total of 5,800 finds has been collected. The oldest dated settlement was destroyed by fire sometime during 685 to 585 B.C. Soon, rebuilding started. The natural rise of the bluff was refortified with a mixture of soil and clay. Unfortunately, that one also fell to fire.
There are signs of a continuing settlement from the beginning of the first millenium. More tensive building took place during the middle of the first millenium. The edges of the bluff were sharpened, walls were rebuilt and heightened. The site as we see it today dates to those years. Apparently, the site maintained its name, Hill Fort Field, in popular oral tradition, from those years dating back to the years around 500 A.D.References:
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 going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.