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Stone Age Copper Pendants from Degersee Lake, Southern Germany

Degersee / 2004 - 2009 - Martin Mainberger

Keywords: Copper Pendants; Metallurgy; Stone Age; Underwater Archaeology;

The exploration history of the Degersee Lake artefacts is curious, confirming that “you can´t find what you don´t know”. The area is today used as a popular bathing site. When a first, peculiar-looking copper sheet was found during the initial survey it was stored and magazinised amongst lost jewelry, fishery implements, and other modern age metal objects. Only two years later, when a second, similar object was recovered, we identified the two objects as prehistoric artefacts. A systematic survey with a metal detector resulted in two more objects. All objects were documented in close neighborhood, with distances of less than two meters to each other, in the loose sediment cover at the lake floor. It remains open if they belonged to the inventory of a house or if they were hidden in a depot.

Triangular Copper Pendant. Foto: LAD / Martin Mainberger
The respective object differ in dimensions and forms, with the largest 14,6cm maximum length and the smallest, which is distorted, about 12cm. One has a triangular form, one is rectangular, two are tongue-shaped. As a common feature they show loops, which are formed by rolled-up edges. This suggests, in accordance to finds in graves, that the objects are pendants, originally attached to a strap or a thread. Copper pendants with comparable metallurgical and formal features are distributeted in a space between Kujawy in today´s Poland and the northern pre-alpine foreland. The type of copper of the Degersee artefacts - copper enriched with silver, antimony and arsenic portions - is characteristic for the initial phase of Central European metallurgy at the turn from the 5th to the 4th millennium BC. At the Degersee site they should therefore be linked to Degersee I phase A. The Degersee finds are in any case witnesses of a huge communication network and represent archaeological objects of outstanding scientific importance.

Degersee Copper Pendants. Photo Courtesy Landesamt für Denkmalpflege im Regierungspräsidium StuttgartMonika Erne

More reading / literature:

M. Mainberger, J. Merkt, A. Kleinmann, Pfahlbausiedlungen am Degersee. Archäologische und Naturwissenschaftliche Untersuchungen. Mit Beiträgen von J. Affolter, J. Bank-Burgess, T. Baum, A. Billamboz, J. H. Dickson, A. Dufraisse, M. J. Kaiser, G. M.-J. Lécrevain, U. Maier, S. Million, H. Müller, C. Vieth, R. Vogt, H. Schlichtherle, E. Stephan, M. Wessels, L. Wick, I. Wiesner Materialhefte zur Archäologie in Baden-Württemberg 102, Berichte zu Ufer- und Moorsiedlungen Südwestdeutschlands VII (Darmstadt 2015) (pages 85 and following).

M. Heumüller, Der Schmuck der jungneolithischen Seeufersiedlung Hornstaad - Hörnle IA im Rahmen des mitteleuropäischen Mittel- und Jungneolithikums Siedlungsarchäologie im Alpenvorland X Forschungen und Berichte zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte in Baden-Württemberg 112 (Stuttgart 2009) (Pages 191 and following).

I. Matuschik, M. Merkl, C. Strahm, Neuer Werkstoff Kupfer. In Archäologisches Landesamt Baden-Württemberg, Landesamt für Denkmalpflege im RP Stuttgart (Hrsg.), 4000 Jahre Pfahlbauten (Ostfildern 2016) (Pages 379-383).