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2016-06-17 03:52:31   •   ID: 1399

The Gravettian Figurine from Mauern

Figure 1
This is the Figurine from Mauern (Original:  Prähistorische Staatssammlung, München, Germany; Facsimile: Kirchhoff Collection; University Göttingen) The Weinberghöhlen is a cave complex consisting of five cavities near Mauern in Bavaria near the Danube.

During the last ice age people lived in the entrances of the caves and hunted game from there. The valley in which Mauern is situated has been mostly dry for about 130 000 years, after changes in watercourse drainage occurred. First excavations were performed by R.R. Schmidt from the University of Tübingen in the 1930ies. He recognized several Paleolithic layers, (see: 1157 , the lower belonging to an occupation by Neanderthals about 50-40 k.a. BP , the upper strata were used during the Gravettian about 29 k.a.BP years ago.

Schmidt was a scientist, who was not in line with the National socialists, who gained the power in Germany in 1933. Therefore he was forced to lay down the supervision of the archaeological dig. He was replaced by A Bohmers, a gifted Dutch archaeologist, who made his career in Nazi-Germany under the Protection of the “Ahnenerbe”-organization of Heinrich Himmler.

He worked not only at Mauern, but also at other important sites in the occupied Czechoslovakia (Dolni Vestonice, Predmost) during the WW II. After World War II, L. Zotz, University of Erlangen continued the work at Mauern.

The figurine was found in the Gravettian layers, dated to 29 k.a. BP on 24th August 1948. The lithic industry has affinities both to the Pavlovien and eastern Gravettian at Kostenki (Microgravettes, Flechettes, splintered pieces which are only known from the eastern Gravettian) but there are also affinities to the Swabian sites on the basis of similar kinds of personal ornaments, in particular the presence of abundant ivory pendants of tear-drop shape known also from the Gravettian layers of the  Brillenhöhle, and the Obere Klause near Kelheim.

The so called “Rote von Mauern” is a 72 mm tall, red ochre colored limestone figurine, found on the outer slope between cavities two and three. In the 1950-80ies there were unverified stories, that the figure could be a fake. A detailed report to exclude this possibility has unfortunately never been published. This figurine can be interpreted in different ways: as a stylized woman but it have also elements of a phallic figure. The same principle has been used by Gravettian people 1800 km away in the Vezere Valley (Dordogne) at the archaeological site at Tursac near Les Eyzies in the Vezere valley ( Noaillian during the Tursac oscillation).

The use of red ochre  points to a religious / ritual context, known from other Paleolithic figurines (Willendorf, Ostrava, Kostenki..).

The exhibition Digging for Germania – Archaeology under the Swastika of the Focke Museum in 2013 highlighted a topic that has so far received little attention – the cooperation between archaeology and politics.

Archaeologists willingly served political purposes and their work laid some of the foundations of National Socialist ideology. The exhibition uncovers the myth of Germania and shows how even today this myth is still very much alive in the minds of not only the right-wing extremists but also in the minds of ordinary people living in Germany as I noticed during many discussions.