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Central German Enclosures

Description of the Project

Fig. 4  Topographical situation of the sites of Belleben I and Belleben II. From: Amtliche Topographische Karten. © Landesamt für Vermessung und Geoinformation Sachsen-Anhalt.

The investigated roundel Belleben I is situated between the modern villages of Belleben (Salzland district) and Gerbstedt (Mansfeld-Südharz) on ground gently sloping towards the south. The magnetometry plot (Fig. 2) shows the enclosure as a slight oval with a diameter of roughly 92 m from east to west and 93 m from north to south. The largest diameter of ca. 97.5 m was measured from northeast to southwest. At its northernmost point, the ditch coincides with the hilltop.

The site is attributed to the Baalberge Culture (4000/3900 – 3400/3300 BC) and according to AMS dates falls into the interval between 3600 and 3400 cal BC. The Baalberge Culture is the first archaeological culture in Saxony-Anhalt which can be assigned to the Funnel Beaker sphere. S

axony-Anhalt, just as northern central Germany in general, is an important region for our understanding of the Funnel Beaker period, since influences both from northern, eastern and southeastern central Europe, as well as from western Europe, can be recognised here.

General project information

Start of Project:


Duration to date:

18 months (as of December 2010)

Excavation seasons:

2 (14 weeks in 2009 und 11 weeks in 2010)

Size of excavation team:

12 students and 8 assistants provided by the state employment agency (2009)
10 students and 4 assistants provided by the state employment agency (2010)
3 assistants provided by the state employment agency (10/2009-12/2009)

Area investigated:

6658 m2 of the ca. 10600 m2 of the site’s total extent

Length of ditch investigated::

185 m of the roundel (total length 289 m)

Soil shifted:

5400 m3 by machine and ca. 350 m3 manually

Area field walked:

250 ha

Geomagnetic prospection:

4.5 ha


Fig. 5  Belleben I. A slanting, wedge-shaped fill is clearly visible above the base of the ditch. The sharp distinction between this and the subsequent fill is notable.

Our focus is the investigation and study of monumental Late Neolithic construction projects, as expressed through the roundels and trapezoidal enclosures of the time.

Our main aim is to first systematically excavate, study and comprehensively analyse the Baalberge roundel of Belleben I. One of the questions posed by the project concentrates on the origin of the enclosure on the one hand and on fill mechanisms on the other. For this purpose, a working group consisting of staff of the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Halle (State Heritage and Archaeology Service Halle) and participants of the Priority Programme 1400 was founded. Concerning the filling of the ditch, the question is whether there were anthropogenic influences for this process or whether it occurred naturally. At the current state of research there are increasing indications that the ditch was probably filled anthropogenically and intentionally during a short timeframe (several months) (Fig. 5). Discussion with Mrs Mechthild Klamm, Olaf Kürbis (both LDA Halle) and Prof. Dr. Hans Rudolf Bork, Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel, is ongoing. For now, a directed filling of the feature followed by processes of subsidence is suggested. Further observations during excavation, micromorphological analyses and the study of finds distributions will contribute to answering these question.


Function of the enclosure

Fig. 6  Belleben I. Jaw fragments were repeatedly found in niches at the edges of features or immediately above the base of a cut.

The significance of the Belleben I site, compared to the roundels of Glöthe and Dederstedt, which also date to the Baalberge period, lies in the evidently complex situation within this micro-region. Here, only a few hundreds of metres apart, there are at least two roundels which in terms of both relative and absolute chronology date into the late Baalberge Culture. The shape and surface finds of a third enclosure at Lodderstedt I, discovered in September 2010 in the course of the geomagnetic prospection of the surrounding area, also appear to date it to the same horizon.

A structural and chronological comparison is vital for an interpretation of these sites. Even at the current stage of research, the available magnetogram of Belleben II allows to draw attention to the fact that Belleben I and II share the same number of access points and the presence of large pits in their interior. This begs the question of whether the pits at Belleben II will also yield a similar stratigraphy and finds assemblage and will show signs of structured deposits, as assumed for Belleben I (Fig. 6).

Fig. 7  Belleben I. The majority of animal bone from pit 14 could be retrieved. Cut marks, probably caused by several different cutting instruments, are clearly visible.

In addition, the following observations can help to elucidate the function of these enclosures: the majority of animal bones showed cut marks or were partly found in a very fragmented state (Fig. 7). In general, ceramics were notable for the way in which the sherds of the same vessel were spread across several, mostly adjacent, enclosure segments.

At this point, we must also mention the posts which probably protruded diagonally from the ground, but the function of which is as yet unexplained. A summary of all observations and results to date suggests that the enclosure’s function lay in both profane and sacred spheres.

Only systematic excavation can clarify the function of such sites. In addition, we would like to continue our programme of geophysical prospection in order to discover as many sites as possible in the surrounding area and hence gain an insight into the entire micro-region. The integration of this kind of micro-regional study is highly relevant for an assessment of the function and significance of enclosures in the context of the Funnel Beaker sphere.

Overall, investigations so far show a structured, hierarchical settlement landscape within which the monument type of the ‘roundel’ plays a special role.