Station: [30] Palaeolithic and Mesolithic

The oldest traces of an early human presence in Central Europe and southern Germany date back to more than half a million years ago. At that time, during the Palaeolithic (or Old Stone Age), people hadn’t yet settled down. Instead, they were nomadic hunters and gatherers. However, there are enormous gaps in the archaeological record for the lengthy Ice Age period. Reliable finds from north-eastern Bavaria can only be dated to the last one hundred thousand years. That was when Neanderthals settled in the Middle Franconian basin and adjoining areas. They stayed there until about 40,000 years ago. The surviving sites are almost all located inside caves. From the archaeological finds, we know that these caves were probably only ever used for brief periods of time. There’s no evidence of burials from this period.

With the end of the last Ice Age and the beginning of the post-glacial period, the scope of the finds changed significantly. The climate grew warmer, the vegetation adapted, the environment changed. This period, the Mesolithic, lasted from around 9,600 to 5,200 BC. The time of the hunter-gatherers was coming to an end, and the groups roaming the landscape were small. Throughout the Middle Franconian region, increasing numbers of short-term resting places have been identified. People continued to live from hunting and fishing, while also gathering berries, herbs, fungi, nuts and fruit. But in addition, raw materials for stone tools had to be acquired from more distant areas.

Tools were also made, repaired or finished. Only what’s known as microliths have survived – they’re the stone parts inserted into tools and weapons. Organic materials such as fishing rods, bows, nets, bark containers, wooden bowls or baskets have not survived the millennia. And pottery was not yet known. Burials from the Bavarian Mesolithic are also virtually unknown.