Steinkuhlenberg. A fortified Bernburg domestic site near Derenburg

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Christoph Rinne


The fortified settlement of the Steinkuhlenberg is an important archaeological site of the Central German Late Neolithic period (Bernburg, 3.100–2.800 cal BC) and has been investigated in several excavations conducted by the University of Halle between 1960 and 1966. Holding several settlements, grave sites, and numerous menhirs, it forms part of an outstanding settlement area in the Neolithic landscape of the northern Harz foreland. The enclosure is formed by two surrounding and several adjacent ditches, encompassing an interior area of approximately 2.5 ha, a superstructed area of 3.2 ha and a total ditch length of 1,482 m. Relying on the pottery finds, the ditches of the enclosure were gradually filled during the Bernburg colonisation of the settlement. On the excavation area of 2,000 m² 113 pits and 253 postholes were documented, revealing about 17,500 fragments of pottery in total, and more than 1,400 animal bones. The pits with finds and the postholes can be grouped in six clusters of higher density that are interpreted as distinct areas of activity or yards of app. 250 m². Unfortunately, only one rectangular house could be reconstructed by the related postholes. The new typochronological analysis of the pottery again reveals the heterogenity of the find contexts and confirms the previously outlined two phases of the Bernburg settlement. As a new result, the spatial distribution of the two phases shows a reduction and agglomeration of the settlement on the plateau near the southern steep slope. A first-time analysis of the findings regarding their functional origin indicates towards a differentiation of the pit inventories according to the different activities. This development can be attributed to processes of production versus consumption, with each either taking place in a more private or collaborative context. Find inventories belonging to these economic spheres, which may be described as domus and agrios, are present in every reconstructed activity or living area. The analysis of the settlement structure and the finds indicates individually operating, yet equitable yards. Their social cohesion is underlined by the collective act of building the enclosure and its function as a visible border.


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Rinne 2014: C. Rinne, Steinkuhlenberg. A fortified Bernburg domestic site near Derenburg. JNA 16, 2014, 1–62. DOI: