UNESCO World Heritage Site #219: Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps

UNESCO World Heritage Site #219: Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps
UNESCO World Heritage Site #219: Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps

From the World Heritage inscription:

The series of 111 out of the 937 known archaeological pile-dwelling sites in six countries around the Alpine and sub-alpine regions of Europe is composed of the remains of prehistoric settlements dating from 5,000 to 500 BC which are situated under water, on lake shores, along rivers or in wetlands. The exceptional conservation conditions for organic materials provided by the waterlogged sites, combined with extensive under-water archaeological investigations and research in many fields of natural science, such as archaeobotany and archaeozoology, over the past decades, has combined to present an outstanding detailed perception of the world of early agrarian societies in Europe. The precise information on their agriculture, animal husbandry, development of metallurgy, over a period of more than four millennia, coincides with one of the most important phases of recent human history: the dawn of modern societies.

In view of the possibilities for the exact dating of wooden architectural elements by dendrochronology, the sites have provided exceptional archaeological sources that allow an understanding of entire prehistoric villages and their detailed construction techniques and spatial development over very long time periods. They also reveal details of trade routes for flint, shells, gold, amber, and pottery across the Alps and within the plains, transport evidence from dugout canoes and wooden wheels, some complete with axles for two wheeled carts dating from around 3,400BC, some of the earliest preserved in the world, and the oldest textiles in Europe dating to 3,000 BC. This cumulative evidence has provided a unique insight into the domestic lives and settlements of some thirty different cultural groups in the Alpine lacustrine landscape that allowed the pile dwellings to flourish.

This is a massive, serial world heritage site with 111 locations scattered across six different countries. The site I visited was the Federsee location in the town of Bad Buchau.

As with all archeology sites, you have to temper your expectations for what you are going to see. This world heritage site is devoted to bronze age people around the Alps. Needless to say, there isn’t a whole lot remaining from their time. Almost everything made out of organic matter (cloth and wood for example) have long since disappeared.

The Federsee museum has a surprisingly good collection of artifacts found from the area, including pottery and metal items. Because the Federsee was a bog, many things which fell into the waters were preserved by the lack of oxygen.

In addition to the museum there is also a small reconstructed village which give you an idea of what life was like there 5,000 years ago.

The Federsee Museum in Bad Buchau is one of the better locations to vist this site just because there is a museum and interpretative center available. From the reports I’ve read from other travelers, some of the other locations consist of nothing more than a sign with little or nothing available to see.

As I travel through other countries in the region, I’m going to keep my eyes open to visit more of the locations listed under this world heritage site.