Esbeck earthworks

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The earthwork of Esbeck was a in the 6th millennium BC. Chr. Built fixing and settlement system at Esbeck in Lower Saxony . It is attributed to the ceramic band culture as the oldest rural culture of the Neolithic , whose members came to northern Germany from south-eastern Europe about 7,000 years ago and settled on fertile loess soils . The system, which consists of a double trench, is considered the oldest earthworks in Lower Saxony. It was discovered in 1974 and archaeologically examined by a rescue excavation in 1982 . After extensive excavations were completed, the site was built over with a water retention basin for the Buschhaus power plant .


The earthwork was on a slight hillside at about 115 meters above sea ​​level on the Nachtwiesenberg as a foothill of the Elm . Today the B 244 runs to the west in a north-south direction and the Schöningen opencast mine is located to the south . In the area of ​​the earthworks, a water retention basin was built for the Buschhaus coal-fired power plant in the 1980s . The earthwork was on a four-meter-thick loess soil , which in the Esbeck area is pronounced as black earth and parabrown earth . The facility consisted of two parallel trenches that were no longer visible on the surface because they were filled with soil a long time ago. The trenches formed an almost rectangular area of ​​1.7 hectares with a length of about 190 meters and 175 meters. The parallel trenches ran irregularly to each other at intervals of 12 to 21 meters. They were between 1.6 and 4 meters wide and between 0.5 and 1.3 meters deep. The bottom of the trench was flat. Earth bridges or culverts could not be reliably detected in the trenches. Post pits in the course of the trench suggest that a wall was built up on the inside from the excavation of the trench, which was secured against slipping with palisades .

The trenches enclosed a settlement area, although the settlement probably existed before the excavation of the earthworks trench. The settlement area extended over the ditches to a total of probably three hectares and was excavated over an area of ​​about one hectare. Post holes in post structures and a large number of waste and storage pits of various sizes and shapes were recognized as settlement remains . The found pottery suggests a settlement in the time of the older band pottery around 5500 BC. Until the phase around 5000 BC. Close. The settlement on the square did not exist continuously, but at least in two phases, during which it had fallen desolate at times . As can be seen from the placement of blades in sickles , predominantly right-handed people lived in the settlement .

Discovery and excavation

The earthworks lay in the area of ​​today's water retention basin of the Buschhaus power plant on the B 244

In 1974 a farmer found prehistoric fragments in his field , which led to the first investigations by the Braunschweig district archaeologist Hartmut Rötting . When the farmer had to give up his arable land at the beginning of the 1980s because of the construction of the Buschhaus coal-fired power station , he again pointed out the site to the preservation authorities.

As a result, the Hanover Institute for Monument Preservation carried out an exploratory excavation in 1981 on an area of ​​500 m². After ceramic fragments, stone artefacts and bones as well as storage pits were found there as settlement remains, an area of ​​around 10,000 m² was examined in 1982 under the direction of the archaeologists Hartmut Thieme and Mamoun Fansa from the Institute for Monument Preservation. The uncovering of a further 5000 m² area in the same year served to clarify the course of the trench of the earthwork. The finds obtained through excavations in the 1980s include around 3,000 pieces of ceramic vessels, 8,000 flint artifacts and 3,000 rock objects. Around 1200 settlement findings were found. This included about seven simultaneous houses, an infant grave as well as pits, ovens, clay and stone paving. The evaluation of the finds as well as their processing and publication as a monograph by a research project led by the Lower Saxony State Office for the Preservation of Monuments lasted over 30 years until 2015.


The discovery and excavation of the Esbeck earthworks was the first evidence of such a system by the band ceramics in what is now Lower Saxony. These first permanently settled people in Europe are named after their ceramics because they decorated their vessels with ribbon ornamentation. Their sedentary way of life led to the " Neolithic Revolution ".

When the Esbeck earthworks were discovered in the early 1980s, ceramic earthworks were largely unknown in Lower Saxony, although settlements of this culture on loess soils north of the low mountain range threshold had already been proven. Currently (2015) 32 earthworks are known in Braunschweiger Land alone .

Esbeck's earthworks are located in the extreme northern area of ​​distribution of the ceramic band culture, where there was neighborhood to the hunter-gatherer groups living further north . Comparative observations with earthworks in central Germany suggest that southeastern Lower Saxony was neolithised from there .

As with most earthworks, the function of Esbeck's work and the motivation of its builder is unclear. It could have been a protective system for desirable objects such as seeds, or a place of worship. Archaeologists do not see a fortification purpose to protect the settlement within the earthworks, or if only temporarily. They exclude warlike events, as no human bones were found in the earthworks trenches.

The excavation of the earthworks that took place in 1982 initiated the long-term project of archaeological focus investigations in the Helmstedt lignite area , which began in 1983 and ended in 2013 . The project of the Institute for Monument Preservation with the Braunschweig coal mines led by the archaeologist Hartmut Thieme led , among other things, to the discovery of the Schöningen spears in 1994, which are exhibited in the Schöningen Research Museum.


  • Werner Freist: A new ceramic band settlement on Nachtwiesenberg near Esbeck, town of Schöningen, district of Helmstedt. in: News from Lower Saxony's Urgeschichte 44, 1975, p. 323ff.
  • Mamoun Fansa, Hartmut Thieme: The linear ceramic settlement and fortifications on the "Nachtwiesen-Berg" near Esbeck, town of Schöningen, district of Helmstedt. Preliminary report. in: News from Lower Saxony's Urgeschichte 52, 1983, p. 229ff.
  • Hartmut Thieme : The ceramic earthworks and other findings from Neolithic ditch systems from the Helmstedt brown coal field near Schöningen. in: Annual Journal for Central German Prehistory 73, 1990, p. 357ff.
  • Pascale B. Richter, Gesine Schwarz-Mackensen: Band ceramics on the periphery. Erdwerk und Siedlung von Esbeck-1 (City of Schöningen) , Rahden, 2015, in the series Materialhefte on the prehistory and early history of Lower Saxony, vol. 45

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Elke Heege, Reinhard Maier: Neolithic. In: Hans-Jürgen Häßler (Ed.): Prehistory and early history in Lower Saxony. Stuttgart 1991, pp. 121-122
  2. Melanie Specht: The first farmers were right-handed in Helmstedter Nachrichten of February 27, 2016
  3. ↑ The publisher's description of the book

Coordinates: 52 ° 10 ′ 8 ″  N , 10 ° 58 ′ 25 ″  E