A Culture Leap
The cultural roots of Europe’s Upper Paleolithic lay in the valleys of the rivers Ach, Blau and Lone. The caves at the southern border of the Swabian Alb belong to the most important Paleolithic sites worldwide. Neanderthals and Early Modern Man lived here during the last Ice Age.
In July 2017, six of these caves have been inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List.
40.000 years ago, Early Modern Man not only developed new tool technics here, but also created animal- and human figurines made of mammoth ivory, which belong to mankind’s eldest known works of art.
Besides the Ice Age Art, finds of music instruments and a great amount of Ice Age ornaments prove of the new self-awareness of Modern Man.
TREASURE CHAMBERS OF THE ICE AGE
The Museum of Prehistory in Blaubeuren – named “urmu” – is the central museum for the paleolithic finds of this region. We show you, how Neanderthals and early Modern Man lived during the last Ice Age and what happened, when both met over 40.000 years ago.
The worldwide unique Ice Age Art is thematically introduced in Treasure Chambers, which open an entirely new approach to mystic Ice Age Art.
The animal and human figures of the Aurignacian of southwestern Germany make up a unique assemblage of the oldest art in Europe. These figures come from four cave sites on the Swabian Alb: Vogelherd and Hohlenstein-Stadel in the Lone Valley and Geißenklösterle and Hohle Fels in the Ach Valley.
The animal sculptures are made primarily out of ivory, but bone and stone were also used. Large and impressive animals such as mammoth and rhinoceros, as well as swift and dangerous animals like lions, play a special role in this art. One of the most impressive pieces of the southwest German Aurignacian is the Vogelherd horse.
Masquerading - The lion men
The oldest surviving examples are the Lion men of the Swabian Alb. It has been determined that these figures are between 33,000 and 40,000 years old. Thereby, for the first time creative work manifested itself as a fundamental social and cultural change.
Around 50 examples of hybrid creatures are known from the Upper Paleolithic.
It is difficult to decipher the symbolic rituals or mythological meanings of the Therianthropes exactly, due to the lack of written sources. In the earliest examples man has combined himself with the image of his greatest hunting competitor, the lion.
Manhood - THE PHALLUS FROM HOHLE FELS
One of the oldest depictions of the male sex is the phallus from the Hohle Fels. The phallus is between 30,000 and 27,000 years old (Gravettian). It was carved out of a very fine grained stone (siltstone). The elongated form was fabricated on purpose, polished and finally marked as phallus with an annular notch.
There are different interpretations for the use of the phallus. Besides a pure symbolic meaning, the stone could also be used as a tool. This is indicated by some scratches and bulbar scars at the ends and the backside. The eye-catching strong polished surface was probably developed during working with leather. A usage as a tool for sexual stimulation is also imaginable.
Femaleness - THE VENUS FROM HOHLE FELS
The Venus from Hohle Fels is actually the oldest figurine of a woman made by human kind.
The statuette is around 40,000 to 35,000 years old and was carved from mammoth ivory.
The Venus broke to pieces during the time she laid in the sediment. Six fragments could be put together to a pretty complete figurine. Instead of the head there is a thread guide at the neck. The Venus from Hohle Fels was once carried as an amulet or a pendant.
The over exaggerated sexual characteristics are an eye catcher. The breast is exuberant and strongly protruded. The pubic with the open vulva is clearly visible. The waist is comparative slender. Therefore it is not the depiction of a pregnant woman.
SOUND SPACE - THE FLUTES FROM GEISSENKLÖSTERLE AND HOHLE FELS
The earliest evidence of musical instruments is about 40,000 years old. They are flutes made of bird bone and mammoth ivory. They were excavated in the caves of the Ach and Lone valley on the southern rim of the Swabian Alb. With these musical instruments, man created self-designed sound spaces for the first time. These are in contrast to the surrounding sounds of nature, which cannot be controlled by humans. Flutes provide expressions that go far beyond the possibilities of singing.
50 YEARS URMU - MUSEUM OF PREHISTORY BLAUBEUREN
In 2015, the urmu (Urgeschichtliches Museum Blaubeuren/ Museum of Prehistory Blaubeuren) celebrates its 50th anniversary! 1965 the archaeologist Gustav Riek - at that time excavating the now famous Brillenhöhle and Große Grotte - proposed to the city of Blaubeuren to establish a small museum to preserve and present his finds.
Today, the museum is considered the center of Ice Age art in Germany. It has been completely redesigned last year and presents in originals the oldest art and the oldest musical instruments of mankind, found in the caves of the Swabian Alb, in the immediate vicinity of the museum.