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Buntsandsteinabri (here Abri IX at Bettenroder Berg near Reinhausen )
Abri by Laugerie-Basse

A Abri ( masculine , more rarely, neuter , French abri . Swiss Balm, shelter, protection, shelter) is a by erosion incurred, mostly in the valleys of red sandstone - or Jurakalkgebieten situated rock overhang . Such shelters are also called semi-caves ( English rock shelter ), depending on the shape also "rock roof", "rock niche" or "rock ledge".

A local word is Balm (Gallo-Roman).


Abrises offered people protection from wetness, cold and wind in earlier times, which is why they are of great relevance for archeology with regard to Stone Age settlement traces on the one hand, and for zoology for the detection of food remains or winter resting places of certain animals on the one hand. Historically, in France and Switzerland, houses were built under large demolitions and lived in until the 20th century.


Abris are caused by the leaching and weathering of hard, middle red sandstone . On free-standing rock, the hygroscopic structure of the material, which is differently sensitive depending on the layer and water supply, leads to weathering of honeycombs and sand. Frost weathering and, depending on the location, also corrosion effects (wind erosion) occur particularly in the glacial phases . This not only creates rock roofs, but also coves and, in rarer cases, mushroom rocks .

Red sandstone

In the red sandstone area of ​​the southern Leinebergland between the places Nörten-Hardenberg , Heiligenstadt and Göttingen is the largest group of abrises in Central Europe. In the ravine-like rocky valleys between the Leine and the Eichsfeld, you can often find them in a very small space. In an area of ​​around 30 km in length and 6 to 10 km in width, around 1,600 curbs have been recorded today.

Abri in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains (Goldbachtal near Sebnitz )

Chalk sandstone

In the quartz sandstones of Saxony and Bohemia from the Cretaceous period , weathering also resulted in numerous demolitions.


In the rock walls of valleys in the limestone mountains in south-west France (e.g. in the Vezère valley ), rocky outcrops were created by the increased erosion of weak rock layers or by scouring during the formation of the valley.


Between 1978 and 1998, an interdisciplinary survey and research project by Göttingen District Archeology with a series of test excavations in Lower Saxony led to the discovery of over 100 abrises that were inhabited in prehistoric times. Good archaeological and geostratigraphic findings in the sediment layers under the rock roofs, which are up to two meters thick, were found for the older periods of the Upper and Late Palaeolithic and for the Mesolithic. Finds made of stone, bones and antlers, well-preserved fireplaces, pits and stone paving and charred botanical remains made it possible to take very differentiated snapshots of the camps used by hunters and gatherers . Devices found in successive cultural layers (e.g. the Abri-Audi tips ) form the basis of Paleolithic chronologies .

Most of the traces under the rock protection roofs that have been visited come from the last glacial period ( Vistula glacial period ). They may have served hunters as a base camp. In view of the fauna, regular collecting activities can hardly be assumed or only seasonal. Such a place was used more seasonally until the larger herd animals moved on.

There is evidence that the open side of Abris may have been closed with tent-like structures made of organic material. Fireplaces and hearths apparently indicate that food was also prepared.

Since 1978 abrises have been archaeologically investigated in northern Bohemia under the direction of the Czech prehistorian Jiří A. Svoboda.

Known demolitions

In German-speaking countries

Abri in the Gorges du Briant near Minerve , Hérault , France; the opening is closed with piled rubble stones .
Model of the Abri of Roque Saint-Christophe in the Vezère valley with early modern use



America and Africa

The buildings of the Anasazi Indians, called Cliff Dwellings , in Mesa Verde National Park in the US state of Colorado are mostly under large rocky outcrops; the same applies to many adobe buildings and rock paintings of the Dogon in Mali .


  • Claus-Joachim Kind : The rock stables. A Upper Palaeolithic-Early Mesolithic Abri-Station near Ehingen-Mühlen, Alb-Donau-Kreis. The excavations 1975–1980 (= research and reports on prehistory and early history in Baden-Württemberg. Volume 23). Theiss, Stuttgart 1987, ISBN 3-8062-0777-1 .
  • Klaus Grote : The Abris in the southern Leinebergland near Göttingen. Archaeological findings on life under rock protection roofs in prehistoric times (= publications of the prehistoric collections of the State Museum in Hanover. Volume 43). 3 volumes. Isensee, Oldenburg 1994.
  • Jiří A. Svoboda (Ed.): Mezolit severních Čech. Complexní výzkum Skalních převisů na Českolipsku a Dĕčínsku, 1978–2003. In: Dolnovĕstonické study. Volume 9, Archeologický ústav Av ČR, Brno 2003, ISBN 80-86023-52-4 (Czech; English: Mesolithic of northern Bohemia. Complex excavation of rockshelters in the Česká Lípa and Děčín areas, 1978-2003 ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Abri  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Schweizerisches Idiotikon , Vol. 4, Col. 1215 f.
  2. * balmâ 'grotto' . In: Uwe Friedrich Schmidt: Praeromanica der Italoromania on the basis of the LEI (A and B). Volume 49 of Europäische Hochschulschriften , Series 9 Italian Language and Literature , Verlag Peter Lang, Frankfurt a. M./Berlin/Bern 2009, ISBN 978-363158770-6 , pp. 160–170 (detailed overview of the research; Google eBook, full view ).