An enclosed Bandkeramik village and cemetery from the 6th millennium BC near Vaihingen/Enz (Baden-Württemberg, Germany)
Vaihingen in the context of Bandkeramik ditched enclosures
Ditched enclosures dating from the earlier phase of the Bandkeramik and later are distributed throughout central Europe, from Transdanubia to the Paris Basin. Several of these earthworks have been excavated, either completely or partially. The central enclosed area either produced evidence of buildings, or it appeared to be empty. The interpretation of these sites is equally varied, ranging from fortifications to cult places. The best known of the ditch contructions are those in Köln-Lindenthal and Langweiler in the Rhine area, and Schletz near Asparn in Lower Austria. The size of the enclosure varies from 1-3 ha up to several hectares in extent.
The form and depth of these earthworks ranges from wide and deep ditches of V-section to those less deep or with a flat bottom. Their appearance today depends greatly upon their state of preservation. Ditches (with or without posts) appear intermittently throughout all phases of the Bandkeramik, and thus it is unlikely that the phenomenon was governed by some kind of control or ordering from above.
The system of palisades and ditches in Vaihingen was already present in the Flomborn phase of the earlier Bandkeramik. Its interpretation as a cult place can be convincingly rejected in favour of a function as a village enclosure, perhaps comparable with simple medieval ditches for defence. Palisades were evidently built around the settled area to serve as a boundary between this and other settlements (for defence?). In this case they also could have served as a protection against wild animals. However, they also may have distinguished the site as the principal settlement in the region.
The earthwork did not serve as a fortification for long; after only a few decades, its primary function was apparently abandoned for use as a cemetery. The final use of the Vaihingen settlement ditch as a cemetery seems to been pragmatic in nature; it was easier to dig grave pits in the relatively loose fill of the ditch rather than in the natural loess or clayey soil. Yet the probability seems apparent that the graves location in the former enclosure of the settlement was of a symbolic character: a spatial as well as contextual relevance was created between the living and the dead. As on other sites, the phase during which the Vaihingen settlement was enclosed by a ditch was relatively short; in other words, sites distinguished by a system of ditches (and palisades) within the settled area are invariably a temporary phenomenon.
The excavation at Vaihingen will be continued in 1999.
(Text Dr. Rüdiger Krause, Translation by Emily Schalk)
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6 March 1999 - If you have any comments or questions, please contact me: Wolfgang M. Werner firstname.lastname@example.org