Heilbronn-Klingenberg “Schlossberg”

Klingenberg "Schlossberg" before the excavation, photographed from the air by Otto Braasch

Klingenberg “Schlossberg” before the excavation, photographed from the air by Otto Braasch

The Heilbronn-Klingenberg “Schlossberg” enclosure lies in Baden-Württemberg, in southern Germany. Its layout consists of two parallel segmented ditches cutting off 2.5 ha of a loess-covered promontory between the river Neckar and its tributary the Klingenbach. It is one of about 100 enclosures known from the Michelsberg culture. That is an entity defined by its characteristic undecorated, round-bottomed pots and remarkable for its extent, and thought to have spread from an original core in the eastern part of the Paris basin in the late fifth millennium cal BC to cover most of the Rhineland, and other parts of Germany, even reaching Bohemia in the Czech Republic; it lasts into the first half of the fourth millennium cal BC.

The enclosure was discovered in 1985 by aerial photography, which showed that there were numerous pits, both within and beyond it. The entire site was excavated by the former Landesdenkmalamt Baden-Württemberg under the direction of Jörg Biel in 1986–87 and it remains one of the most extensively excavated Michelsberg enclosures.

Klingenberg "Schlossberg": overall plan showing pits, ditches, palisade and distribution of complete or semi-complete dog burials.

Klingenberg “Schlossberg”: overall plan showing pits, ditches, palisade and distribution of complete or semi-complete dog burials.

The 650 pits included a few which date, on the evidence of the pottery which they contained, to the earlier stages of the Michelsberg culture, MK II, III and IV. Their numbers increased to hundreds at the MK IV/V transition, to be followed by the construction of the earthworks in MK V, probably in the second quarter of the fourth millennium cal BC. The earthworks consisted of two closely spaced ditches. The inner one was backed by a post- and plank-built palisade which was burnt, collapsing into the inner ditch soon after its construction, and leaving charred timbers and burnt earth a little above the base. After this, both ditches seem to have silted naturally. Over thirty dog burials, most of them in pits and some in the ditches, are a remarkable feature of the site, far out-numbering burials of whole or semi-complete carcasses of other species.

Many questions remain to be answered, even after thorough publication of the site by Ute Seidel and colleagues and an initial dating programme. It is hoped that the present project will, by providing a more precise chronology, resolve some of them, including the following:

  • What was the relation between the enclosure and the occupations?
  • How many occupations were there? The so far undifferentiated late Michelsberg occupation could amount to hundreds of pits, a density without parallel in the Michelsberg culture so far. Can it be divided into several short-lived episodes, some perhaps even post-dating the enclosure? This has a bearing on the nature and scale of unenclosed settlement in the wider period.
  • Do certain phenomena belong to single horizons, or were they intermittent throughout the life of the site? These include: the dog burials; metal-working, evidence for which, in the form of crucible fragments and objects of arsenical ‘Mondsee copper’, is confined to pits outside the enclosure; and the use of breast-shaped fired clay house ornaments, which occur throughout the area.

It is hoped to begin sampling later in 2013.

Selected references

Schlenker, B., Stephan, E. and Wahl, J. 2008. Michelsberger Erdwerke im Raum Heilbronn. Neckarsulm-Obereisesheim “Hetzenberg” und Ilsfeld “Ebene”, Lkr. Heilbronn, Heilbronn-Klingenberg “Schlossberg”, Stadkreis Heilbronn. Band 3: Osteologische Beiträge. Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart-Landesamt für Denkmalpflege. Materialhefte zur Archäologie in Baden-Württemberg Heft 81/3. Stuttgart: Konrad Theiss Verlag.

Seidel, U. 2008. Michelsberger Erdwerke im Raum Heilbronn. Neckarsulm-Obereisesheim “Hetzenberg” und Ilsfeld “Ebene”, Lkr. Heilbronn, Heilbronn-Klingenberg “Schlossberg”, Stadkreis Heilbronn. Band 1: Text, Literatur und Anhänge, Band 2: Kataloge und Tafeln. Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart-Landesamt für Denkmalpflege. Materialhefte zur Archäologie in Baden-Württemberg Heft 81/1, 81/2. Stuttgart: Konrad Theiss Verlag.


Local Partners: Ute Seidel and Elisabeth Stephan (http://www.denkmalpflege.de) and Dr. Hans-Peter Stika (Institute of Botany, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart)
UK Team: Frances Healy, Alex Bayliss, and Alasdair Whittle