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Sirgenstein Cave - Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura

Blaubeuren, Germany
25.06.2018

The small Sirgenstein Cave, German: Sirgensteinhöhle is situated 565 m (1,854 ft) above sea level inside the 20 m (66 ft) high Sirgenstein, a limestone rock. The cave sits 35 m (115 ft) above the Ach River valley bottom in the central Swabian Jura, southern Germany. Archaeologist R. R. Schmidt excavated the site in 1906 during which he identified indices of prehistoric human presence. He recorded the complete stratigraphic sequence of Palaeolithic and Neolithic origin. In his 1910 analysis Schmidt inspired future archaeologists with his pioneering concept of including the excavation site within its geographic region, contextualizing it within a wide scientific spectrum and demonstrated valuable results as he correlated the Sirgenstein layer structure to those of prehistoric sites in France.

Modern humans first arrived in Europe 43,000 years ago during the last ice age. One of the areas where they took up residence was the Swabian Jura in southern Germany. Excavated from the 1860s, six caves have revealed items dating from 43,000 to 33,000 years ago. Among them are carved figurines of animals (including cave lions, mammoths, horses and bovids), musical instruments and items of personal adornment. Other figurines depict creatures that are half animal, half human and there is one statuette of a woman. These archaeological sites feature some of the oldest figurative art worldwide and help shed light on the origins of human artistic development.