Valuable stone axes discovered at a 6,000-year old hilltop burial site in Germany suggest Neolithic societies were not as egalitarian as previously thought

  • The two rare weapons were found at a tumulus site west of Frankfurt in the 1880s
  • Experts have linked them to a burial mound recently found at the neolithic site
  • The presence of the valuable artefacts hints at an elite that accumulated wealth 

Valuable stone axes found at a 6,000-year old hilltop burial site in Germany have suggest Neolithic societies were not as egalitarian as once thought, experts said. 

The two weapons were found at the Hofheim-Kapellenberg site 140 years ago, but have only just been connected with the recently-discovered burial mound.

Their connection to the funereal mound indicates they came from a society in which elites were able to amass wealth. 

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Valuable stone axes found at a 6,000-year old hilltop burial site in Germany have suggest Neolithic societies were not as egalitarian as once thought, experts said. Pictured, the jade axe, which is believed to date back around 4200–4100 BC

Valuable stone axes found at a 6,000-year old hilltop burial site in Germany have suggest Neolithic societies were not as egalitarian as once thought, experts said. Pictured, the jade axe, which is believed to date back around 4200–4100 BC

The two weapons were found at the Hofheim-Kapellenberg site 140 years ago, but have only just been connected with the recently-discovered burial mound. Pictured, the second axe — carved from amphibolite — which is believed to date back around 4200–4100 BC

The two weapons were found at the Hofheim-Kapellenberg site 140 years ago, but have only just been connected with the recently-discovered burial mound. Pictured, the second axe — carved from amphibolite — which is believed to date back around 4200–4100 BC

The hilltop enclosure of Hofheim-Kapellenberg — one of the best-preserved above-ground sites remaining from the Neolithic — features an entire rampart system and was first studied in the late 19th Century.

Excavations in the enclosure had previously revealed evidence of a village — likely of around 900 inhabitants — that dated back to around 3750–3650 BC.

However, recent digs unearthed a 295 feet (90 metre) -wide burial mound that is thought to predate the village — hailing back from around 4500–3750 BC. 

Experts led by archaeologist Detlef Gronenborn of the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz have now linked to the mound two valuable stone axes that had been excavated from the area back in the 1880s.

One of the pair of weapons was made out of the green ornamental mineral jade — which must have been sourced hundreds of kilometres away, in the western Alps.

The presence of the grand axes and burial mound are indicative of members of an elite class — one capable of amassing the wealth and influence needed to construct such a monument.

‘The Kapellenberg tumulus indicates that a socio-political hierarchisation process linked to the emergence of high-ranking elites […] had extended into western Central Europe,’ the researchers wrote in the paper.

Excavations in the neolithic Hofheim-Kapellenberg enclosure had previously revealed evidence of a village — likely of around 900 inhabitants — that dated back to around 3750–3650 BC. However, recent digs unearthed a 295 feet (90 metre) -wide burial mound that is thought to predate the village — hailing back from around 4500–3750 BC

Excavations in the neolithic Hofheim-Kapellenberg enclosure had previously revealed evidence of a village — likely of around 900 inhabitants — that dated back to around 3750–3650 BC. However, recent digs unearthed a 295 feet (90 metre) -wide burial mound that is thought to predate the village — hailing back from around 4500–3750 BC

Experts led by archaeologist Detlef Gronenborn of the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz have now linked to the mound two valuable stone axes that had been excavated from the area back in the 1880s. One of the pair of weapons was made out of the green ornamental mineral jade — which must have been sourced hundreds of kilometres away

Experts led by archaeologist Detlef Gronenborn of the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz have now linked to the mound two valuable stone axes that had been excavated from the area back in the 1880s. One of the pair of weapons was made out of the green ornamental mineral jade — which must have been sourced hundreds of kilometres away

The presence of the grand axes and burial mound are indicative of members of an elite class — one capable of amassing the wealth and influence needed to construct such a monument. Pictured, archaeologists excavate the interior of the  Kapellenberg hilltop enclosure in 2019

The presence of the grand axes and burial mound are indicative of members of an elite class — one capable of amassing the wealth and influence needed to construct such a monument. Pictured, archaeologists excavate the interior of the  Kapellenberg hilltop enclosure in 2019

According to the researchers, similar burial mounds from this time period can also be found in Brittany, in the Carnac region.

This, they explained, could indicate that social hierarchies spread across Europe during the Neolithic period. 

It is not known, however, whether this was a consequence of conquests, migration, cultural interactions — or even mere  coincidence. 

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Antiquity.

'The Kapellenberg tumulus indicates that a socio-political hierarchisation process linked to the emergence of high-ranking elites [...] had extended into western Central Europe,' the researchers wrote in the paper. Pictured, the site, with past finds marked in red

‘The Kapellenberg tumulus indicates that a socio-political hierarchisation process linked to the emergence of high-ranking elites […] had extended into western Central Europe,’ the researchers wrote in the paper. Pictured, the site, with past finds marked in red

The two weapons were found at the Hofheim-Kapellenberg site west of Frankfurt some 140 years ago, but have only just been connected with the recently-discovered burial mound

The two weapons were found at the Hofheim-Kapellenberg site west of Frankfurt some 140 years ago, but have only just been connected with the recently-discovered burial mound



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