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Echimăuţi , Moldova: Model of the hill fort from the 9th century, which was destroyed in an attack in the 11th century

As Wallburg ( ski jump or Spitz Wall ; Engl .: Hill Fort ) in the German-speaking ramparts from prehistoric and early historic times including the early Middle Ages called, including earthworks and Viereckschanzen and castles and ringwalls . Depending on the region and time period, a distinction is made between different types, such as Celtic Oppida , hilltop settlements from the migration period , Slavic ramparts or Hungarian ramparts . According to their function, they were designed either as refuges or as places for permanent settlement.

The ramparts are now mostly protected as ground monuments .


Many of these facilities are popularly known as Hun castles , Hünen castles , heather castles or the like. Since the 19th century the facilities have mostly been referred to as Schanze (from entrenchments ) and have often been ascribed to various recent war events ( Hunnenschanze , Römerschanze, Schwedenschanze etc.).

Plants of prehistory and early history

Early investments

Two ramparts in the Reitlingstal des Elms with 2.5 and 4 hectares of interior space from the La Tène period

Characteristic is the wall as an essential part of the former enclosure . The walling consisted of the wall as such or a wall made of stones or logs built into it. Pure stone walls are rare in Central Europe, but have been documented since the Urnfield Age. The wall, which was up to several meters high, prevented people from entering the ramparts. Usually existing trenches are now filled by erosion .

In its simplest form, the hill fort consists only of a natural elevation, the crown of which may have been leveled and possibly completed with an earthen wall or wall. One example is the Torsburg on Gotland . Within the walls there was sometimes an open space that was large enough to accommodate a village and the animals (½ to 4 hectares ), although traces of buildings are very rare. In general, the position of the main gate or gates was adapted to the respective topographical conditions or the cardinal points.

The size of many ramparts suggests that they served as refuges. Relatively well-preserved so-called jumps can be found in Upper Lusatia , e.g. B. the Ostroer Schanze near Panschwitz-Kuckau , but also in most of the other old settlements in Europe. Individual ramparts enclose villages and are many hectares in size. The material used for the wall was almost always taken directly, so that a ditch was created in front of (or behind) the wall, which is often documented by archaeological excavations. A palisade fence attached to the top of the ramparts shows the flowing transition to the castle in younger systems. Remnants of ramparts of this type can be found in today's Russia and Ukraine , for example .

The Iron Age hill fort

The function of fortifications is difficult to determine today. The so-called Viereckschanzen of the late Iron Age ( La Tène culture ) in southern Germany, eastern France and Switzerland probably served as temples or were simple settlements. Indications of this are the low wall heights and ditch depths as well as the defensive topographical situation of some systems.

In the case of larger Iron Age facilities, however, it may have been a question of permanent settlements that took on central functions such as administration and in which handicrafts and trade were concentrated. The late Iron Age oppida represent a special development, the fortifications of which may reveal a Mediterranean influence. An outstanding, impressively preserved example of a large Latena fortification is the largely unwooded Ipf near Bopfingen (Ries). A somewhat later complex is the famous English Maiden Castle .

The type of fortification was also common in the Germanic cultural area. Wall castles were of very different sizes. In the course of history functions as refuge fortresses as well as rulers' seats and temples come into question.

In a broader sense, the term Wallburg is used to designate Rhaetian hilltop castles, which sometimes had no earth wall or only a short earth wall section.

Migration period

During late antiquity and the time of the migration of peoples , a whole series of hilltop settlements from the time of the migration of peoples emerged both on Roman imperial soil and on Germanic territory . This term describes quite different settlements on elevated places. In the Germanic area, too, at least some were provided with fortifications. In contrast to the Romans, however, the Teutons did not use mortar at that time. The most famous hilltop settlements in Germany include the Runde Berg near Bad Urach and the Gelb Bürg near Dittenheim. Numerous systems of this time are also known in areas far away from the Roman Empire, for example in southern Sweden.

Wall castles in the early Middle Ages

Vryburg in Essen, dates to the 9th or 10th century

While numerous, partly fortified hill settlements are known from the first half of the migration period, there is hardly any reliable evidence of fortifications in Germany on the right bank of the Rhine from the middle of the 6th century. Fortifications only reappeared in the 7th century, which can be assigned to this period through accompanying finds. One of the first is probably the Wallburg in Aldinburg, today's Oldenburg in Wagrien (East Holstein), which is considered the first Slavic Wallburg of the Wagri or Wangrier and was built around 680 to protect against the Franks. Aldinburg was previously a Waringer settlement. The area was taken over by Vikings from Haithabu several times during the 7th century.

In the Westphalian region, for example, these are a system with a wood-earth wall on the Gaulskopf near Warburg, the findings of which date back to the middle of the 7th century. Other facilities in this area, which were probably already in use in the 7th century, are the Babilonie near Lübbecke, the Eresburg in Obermarsberg and the Oldenburg on the Fürstenberg near Ense. In the Alemannic area, too, some hilltop settlements from the Migration Period, such as the Runde Berg, were reactivated in the 7th century. Around the middle of the 7th century, the first post-Roman mortar castles were built in Germany. One of the first systems was the Amöneburg in what is now Hesse.

In the early Middle Ages, there were also often mixed types of solid castle and hill fort. Often the local rulers had a wooden ( moth type castle ) or stone tower built on a raised mound and surrounded the main mound with an outer bailey consisting of earth walls and palisades. The Slavic ramparts represent a special form as a typical medieval form of settlement in Eastern Central Europe .

In the 9th and 10th centuries the Hungarians threatened southern and southwestern Germany . As protective castles, numerous older ramparts were reinforced or new, sometimes huge, ramparts were raised. The largest of these Hungarian walls have an inner surface of several hectares, so they could serve as refuge for hundreds and thousands of people. Sometimes the protective castles consist of double or triple moat systems, 10 to 15 meter high ramparts with corresponding trenches and ingenious riders approach obstacles in advance. In the year 955 the Hungarians were defeated on the Lechfeld near Augsburg , the danger was eliminated. Several of the large complexes continued to be used as Gaugrafenburgs, others were partly left unfinished. Some of the most impressive castles of this type can be found around the battlefield. Those interested are particularly recommended the castle near Wagesenberg ( Pöttmes ), the Haldenburg near Schwabmünchen and the Büschelberg near Fischach . Countless smaller ramparts also bear clear characteristics of their function as Hungarian fortresses. Often this last expansion was the end of millennia-long development. The purpose of all these systems was to force the attackers into unfamiliar footfighting.

Wall castles in the classical sense were - albeit rarely - built or expanded in the late Middle Ages. The Stein an der Traun cave castle in Bavaria, for example, is connected to the upper castle by a tunnel several hundred meters long, the earth wall of which was reinforced in the 14th century . The old ramparts were still used until modern times as cattle mountains and hiding places in times of need ( Schwedenschanzen ). Many high and late medieval castles are built into older, much larger ramparts. The old ramparts were often used as additional obstacles to approach.

Important fortifications

German area (without Slavic castle walls)

Iron age

Also early Middle Ages :

North and Baltic Sea coasts

See also


  • Albrecht Jockenhövel (Ed.): Older Iron Age fortifications between the Maas / Mosel and Elbe (= publications of the Antiquities Commission for Westphalia. Vol. 11). International colloquium on November 8, 1997 in Münster on the occasion of the centenary of the Antiquities Commission for Westphalia. Aschendorff, Münster 1999, ISBN 3-402-05036-6 .
  • Joachim Henning, Alexander T. Ruttkay (Ed.): Early medieval castle building in Central and Eastern Europe. Nitra conference from October 7-10, 1996. Habelt, Bonn 1998, ISBN 3-7749-2796-0 .
  • Hansjürgen Brachmann : The early medieval fortifications in Central Europe. Investigations into its development and function in the Germanic-German area (= writings on prehistory and early history. Vol. 45). Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-05-001995-6 .
  • Wilhelm Schneider: The south-west German Hungarian walls and their builders (= work on Alemannic early history. H. 16). W. Schneider, Tübingen 1989, DNB 900340827 .
  • James Dyer: Hillforts of England and Wales (= Shire Archeology. 16). 2nd revised edition. Shire, Aylesbury 2003, ISBN 0-7478-0180-0 .

The archaeological state offices in several German federal states and other European countries publish corpus works on the site monuments, for example:

  • Hans-Wilhelm Heine: The prehistoric and early history castle walls in the administrative district of Hanover (= material booklets on the prehistory and early history of Lower Saxony. Series A: monographs. H. 28 = material booklets on the prehistory and early history of Lower Saxony. Series B: inventories. H. 3) . Hahn, Hannover 2000, ISBN 3-7752-5645-8 .
  • Archaeological monuments in Hessen. ISSN  0936-1693 .
  • Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation , Department for Prehistory: Material booklets on Bavarian prehistory. Row B: Inventories of Site Monuments. ZDB ID 534010-x .
  • Atlas of archaeological site monuments in Baden-Württemberg. ZDB ID 2024110-0 .
  • Karl-Heinz Koch, prehistoric and early historical castle walls of the Trier administrative district and the Birkenfeld district . Mainz, from Zabern 1994.

Individual evidence

  1. Christoph Grünewald: Archeology of the early Middle Ages from the 5th to the 9th century in Westphalia - an overview. (Slightly modified version of a lecture on the occasion of the Westphalian History Day on April 24, 2004 in Herne, pp. 71–86. (PDF) )

Web links

Commons : Wallburg  - Collection of images, videos and audio files