My local history research continues apace, but it was blown out of the water last [week] when I (FINALLY) discovered the interactive aerial satellite map that marks and describes all the archaeological sites in Bavaria. It’s called the BayernViewer-Denkmal.
It doesn’t contain very much specific information, though, and as I was reminded [the day I started writing this post], it lists everything (I think) that has ever been logged — not which sites are visible today. This is obvious when it comes to graves or settlements paved and built over with street grids and new houses. But not so obvious when it’s something in the middle of the woods or a field — and since the Google Satellite images seem to be significantly out of date, I often can’t tell whether something will be there or not when I show up. Theoretically, that is okay; it’s exciting just to be in a place where I know something was once upon a time. But in practice, when you’ve walked a couple miles out into a field and you find nothing, and aren’t sure if you are in the wrong place or just aren’t seeing something or whether there’s nothing left to see, and then have to turn around and walk back — it’s a bit deflating. That’s what happened to me [the day I started writing this post] — and then I got lost in the woods because of my dumb map — so to cheer myself up I’m going to post about some of my recent successful finds!
So, let’s see. Sometime in the spring I visited another three Keltenschanzen (Celtic ring forts), a different part of the Roman road, and my first ever BARROW MOUNDS or grave mounds with Peter-language-exchange-friend, but in a terrible stroke of unluck (as the Germans would say) I had forgotten to bring my camera that day. So I don’t have pictures of those first mounds — I might go back by myself in the two weeks before I leave, just because those schanzes and the road were more impressive than others that I’ve seen, and I’d like pictures of them. But in the meantime, I finally did my homework and found out (pre-BayernViewer) that I had some in my own backyard: in the woods near Allach, the village just to the north of my own.
Actually, as I mentioned on Facebook, I read through my books and found maps and located where I thought the grave mounds would be, and then as I was leaving the house, I took along the map of Munich that I bought on my first day in Germany. And it was marked: “Grabhügel.” So much for my research skills! And I still got lost, as you’ll see.
This was the first wrong turn I took, but it was a pretty one. It was about 5pm, and these are fields and bushes around the edges of the town, right behind some kind of construction/warehouse place, I don’t know. You can go very quickly from modern development/ugliness to idyllic countryside woods and fields.
Here I am on the right path, heading into Allacher Forst, a nature reserve. There is another set of Grabhügel (barrow mounds) to the southeast of the current forest area that I’ll visit soon. That set yielded finds from the Hallstatt period, the early Iron Age, from the 8th-6th centuries B.C. This set in the woods doesn’t seem to have any info attached.
The thing is, I’m a map lover, and always have been, but my real-world sense of direction and distance is awful. So I can read a map like a champ, but after that I’m almost useless. If only I were a member of the 21st century and had a smartphone with a GPS function. That would really be amazing. But as useful as it would be, I think I might miss the process of wandering somewhere with a paper map, with scribbled notes from Google Maps, and inevitably getting muddled and anxious, and then the sudden joy of stumbling across a Thing.
There was lots of woods walking and a little bit of creepiness — it was getting later in the evening and at least some part of me is always aware of being a girl alone in the woods without a cell phone, although I’ve never had anything even slightly unsafe happen to me in Germany…
After lots of guessing and backtracking, I noticed a barely discernible path (not pictured) through the undergrowth, and followed it, on the principle that Paths Are There For a Reason.
There’s a good sign. People tend to build forts near these kinds of places.
Soon I stumbled across them. The great majority of them had been dug out to this extent — not just a cut into the middle or making it into a crescent with the middle dug out, but huge craters in the earth. It was probably done sometime in the past one or two hundred years.
Such burial mounds can be found all over the world, and were almost everywhere in Europe. These mounds were undated, at least according to what I found. But grave mounds in southern Bavarian were mostly built between roughly 1500 B.C. and 400 B.C. Around the Starnberger See and its river valley (the Würmtal), the majority of grave mounds date to the Hallstatt period, between 800-500 B.C. So it’s likely that these are between 2500-3000 years old, but possibly up to 3500 years old. In other words: sometime between the invention of alphabetic writing and the death of Socrates, but probably contemporaneous with the rise of the Greek city states, the fall of Assyria and rise of Persia, the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians, the birth of Confucius, and the founding of the Roman Republic.
Here I am inside one.
Here’s another, not quite so easy to make out. It’s really very tricky taking pictures of hills and holes; the grass or earth always blends together and it’s hard to get a sense of the depth.
I am awestruck in these places. I climbed down into the holes and said some prayers for the people who were here because it seemed the most instinctive and appropriate thing to do. I had the very pious idea of doing that in each one, but after I found the third, and then the fourth, and the fifth and sixth and seventh holes, I reconsidered.
The floor of one hole.
Meanwhile, the sun was on its way down.
This picture barely shows the hole… disappointing, because they were very large.
I kept finding more and more. There’s one, where the plants get darker.
There seemed to be a winding crevice through this part of the woods, maybe an old creek or something, but it wasn’t running.
Here are three more — one I’m standing in, you can see it dip down in the lower right corner — the other dips down to the lower left, and the third is in the background.
I tried to count, but lost my bearings and double-counted at some point. But I estimate between 10 and 12 graves — at least, that many that were excavated. There could and may be more of the smaller ones which were left as mounds.
Eventually I left and rode out of the forest, not without getting lost again. My map really sucked.
So that was a couple weeks ago. Then, as I wrote above, I went trying to find other places, where there’s really nothing left to see.
One evening I biked around Untermenzing and Allach along the west bank of the Würm. These fields were surrounding a settlement and burial ground from the La Tene culture, from 450 B.C. to the Roman conquest in the first century B.C.
This footpath, and the street it’s attached to, follow the old road, very possibly a Roman road, along the Würm. There were Roman roads going north and south of Munich (the southern one from Salzburg to Augsburg, and then one breaking off at around Dachau and heading up to Freising.) It would make sense if there was a road connecting the two strands, going along the Würm. But these roads were used as principle travel ways throughout the middle ages, so perhaps the road isn’t quite that old. It’s called Stieglstrasse, or rising/upward-way.
Site of another prehistoric settlement and burial ground.
Further north, just south of the freeway, there’s a group of fields that is the site of another settlement and burial ground from prehistoric times. But there is also a “Kreisgrab,” or a circle ditch, which you can actually see better on the satellite than in person. These could have been built up really in any period up through the early middle ages, and I’m not sure how much they know about these particular ones. You could only see a faint rise in the field.
But it was certainly there. I’m looking down along one part of it here.
So that was a cool evening. I love biking around “my” neighborhood and feeling at home in it.
Here is a small square in Pasing (just to the south of Obermenzing) where they discovered 30 early medieval, Bavarian graves (from the 5-6th centuries).
This is Maria-Geburt in Pasing, a neo-Gothic revamp of a real Gothic parish church, with a medieval cemetery which sits right next to:
The remains of a Wasserburg, or castle with a moat. I haven’t done much research into this site yet. But currently it is part of the grounds of a religious order, the Congregatio Jesu. The two roads that run along side it have the pleasant names of “Am Klostergarten” (along the convent garden) and “Am Wasserschloß” (along the moated-castle).
Of course here is the Würm, flowing along behind both these sites. We’re following it south, to…
The village of Steinkirchen (named after its church which, at some point, was made of stone). Here is an old farmhouse that sits along the Würm, right next to the church and its cemetery.
Lest you start to get too rosy a picture of the Munich metropolitan area, this is what you see when you turn 180 degrees from where I was standing.
Construction and new development galore, God save us all. Yet I am still tickled that the road sign points to Starnberg and Gauting — Gauting being an old stop on the Roman road, where it crosses the Würm, site of a Roman villa and not far from my first Keltenschanz.
More of this old house. Sigh. It was still being put to use as a farm, by the way. They had horsies!
Entering the churchyard.
St Georg in Steinkirchen, no longer visibly recognizable as a stone church, thanks to a Baroque renovation of (at the time) its simple Romanesque loveliness.
The day I didn’t really find anything but got very tired walking around was the day I went to Langwied, a short ride away on the S-Bahn.
A sweet little place,
their church was expanded and rebuilt in the early 20th century, but the apse is original late Gothic.
It still shocks me, as an American and a northwesterner, that now I walk into a church decorated like this and think, “unremarkable” or “pretty typical.”
Even a very nice late 19th or early 20th c. stained glass of St Michael.
Then I walked out in the fields, in the bracing wind, and found roughly the place where there was once a prehistoric settlement, not sure of the date.
This is not the Würm — we are further west of the river now. This is just a little field irrigation brook.
Like I said, not much to see. But still cool.
Here were once some ditches/earthworks from the Hallstatt period and a Viereckenschanze (rectangular ring fort) from the La Tene period. With the wheat growing I couldn’t really see any sign of it. Maybe it was flattened at some point.
Then I tromped even further out in the fields to see if I could find some grave mounds. It looked like I would be able to see something, just from the satellite images. Here, have a look. Amidst the weird wavy-patterns of I don’t know what in some of the surrounding areas, you can clearly see a handful of little circles. I don’t know, this site might have only been logged in the first place because these were discovered through aerial photography.
After that, I walked over to Aubinger Lohe, well-known to you because of my snowy Keltenschanz adventure, trying to find the Burgstall (ruins/foundations of a castle) which should be there. But again, my maps failed me and the trails all seem different. I’ll have to go again and really find it. (I also looked for the second, bigger, Keltenschanz, and couldn’t find that, either. But now I know exactly where it is.)
So I have these pretty pictures of the hills, but nothing more.
This past weekend, I was much more successful. On Saturday I went to Grünwald (I’ll make a whole post on the castle there… sometime…) and walked south along the cliffs above the Isar to find a Burgstall which was likely built in the 10th century as defense against the Hungarians (like at Birg), but was also the site of a Roman fort.
Once again I found it very difficult to photograph, especially since the only way you can even get an idea of the shape is by walking around it. The woods are dense enough that you can never see very far in front of you.
But again we have the deep trenches encircling a central area where the fort must have been set.
On the side facing the Isar, there is a steep drop-off to the river valley. This is near where the Roman road crossed the Isar, so this Roman fort controlled a lot of trade and could keep an eye on the river crossings. After Roman withdrawal from Germany in the 4th century, an early medieval wooden fortification was built on the site of the settlement, and developed later as defense against the Hungarians. As far as I know, since that time, a thousand years ago, it was not used.
Always someone around with an active imagination.
The next day, Sunday, I met up with language-exchange-friend, historical-site-fellow-expeditioner Peter and although he meant to show me a church he knew of in the tiny village of Keferloh which has its original Romanesque interior, it was locked, and apparently the graveyard outside was undergoing construction, and had been all torn up and layered with gravel — the strangest thing. We actually found human bones lying in the gravel. I can’t believe that they could be so careless in a cemetery.
But since the church was locked and we’d have to go ask for the key in a reasonably faraway parish center, we decided just to go find more grave mounds in the woods.
For once, a useful map!
These ones were pretty big. Here’s one with Peter as a size reference. I’m standing about where the slope begins, and he’s on top.
This was another big group, but spread out further than the ones I found in Allach, and, obviously, still in the shape of mounds or hills instead of completely dug out. I’d say there were around a dozen of them, probably more than had been weathered away and become less noticeable.
The CRAZIEST THING was that one of the mounds had been turned into a huge system of animal burrows, maybe foxes. The holes were everywhere and went deep into the hill.
This meant that there was fresh earth from the middle of the grave mound turned up onto the surface, and we were able to search through it.
Now, I’m the furthest thing from an expert, but these pieces felt lighter than stone and had a reddish and flattish shape. I wasn’t completely convinced, though, except for the one on the top right. We put the rest back, but I took that one home with me, and I’m still pretty sure it is a shard of pottery. Although the rich and important people were buried in the center, later or less important members of the group were sometimes cremated and put in urns around the outer parts of these grave mounds — so I’ve read. I don’t know enough yet to say if that arrangement was common in this area, or even if they have excavated enough of them to know. But if that theory is right, and if my pottery is really pottery, I might have a 2500-3500 year old souvenir.
NOTE: Amateurish grave robbery might be illegal in Germany, or at best unethical. I am trusting you all not to report me.
It’s crazy, but not far from the grave mounds were a series of deep divots — not excavated barrows this time, but craters from Allied bombs.
It’s astonishing to thing of something hitting the ground and doing that.
And here’s one more grave mound — looking at the top of this one, which was leveled off or scooped out in the center for excavation. I’m not sure how many of these have had professional excavations… some were amateur jobs in the 19th and 20th centuries, or farmers driving their tractors straight over the fields.
Well, that’s the results of my wandering so far. I have more planned for this week. Then on the weekend, I’m going to a Ritterspiel Tournament (sort of like a Renaissance Fair with actual fighting on horseback, whaaat), hahah, my birthday gift from my host mom. I can’t say I’ve ever been much into historical reenactments or dress-up fairs, but it might be pretty cool, and it’s a good gift because it’s not the sort of thing I would buy tickets for on my own. Then on Sunday Peter and I will go to Burghausen, “the longest castle in Europe,” and then I’ll be in my last week in Germany, probably going crazy trying to mail books home (ugh! too expensive) and pack and see absolutely everything I can and finish the little project I’m making for the family, and so on. I fly home August 7th.