28 May 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Ice Age turtle finds near Magdeburg point to canned food from the Stone Age

Experts have recovered around 50,000-year-old turtle shell fragments from the Barleben-Adamsee gravel pit near Magdeburg. The turtles could have been easily transportable food reserves.

The numerous gravel pits in the middle Elbe valley near Magdeburg have already yielded many special archaeological finds from the period between the Middle Pleistocene (Ice Age) and modern times.

In the Adamsee lake area near Barleben (Börde district), gravel accumulation occurred over a period of several tens of thousands of years. Since gravel extraction is conducted with bucket dredgers below the water table, observing the find layers is not possible.

Dating is therefore only possible using the shape of tools or, especially in the case of organic finds, scientific dating, e.g. the radiocarbon method. The finds are usually recovered from the excavator’s conveyor belts. Here, the contribution of voluntary archaeologists, who invest great amounts of time in surveying the material for finds, is of paramount importance. In the case of the Barleben-Adamsee gravel quarry, the finds from recent years are especially attributed to Uwe Beye.

Not only around 180 flint artifacts have been recovered from the Adamsee (including hand axes, other tools, cores and flakes), but a very special find also came from the gravel pit. As early as 1998/99, a 41.8 centimeter long tip made from the rib of a bovid (aurochs or bison) was discovered. One end of the bone has been very carefully prepared in the form of a long, slender point approximately twelve centimeters long.

Radiocarbon dating places the animal’s time of death with 95 percent probability between 32,992 and 32,406 BC, in the late Middle or early Upper Paleolithic period. This makes the find one of the oldest ground bone tools in Central Germany. The stone implements belong to the same period. Among them is, for example, the fragment of a bifacial leaf point, which can be compared with finds from the Ilsenhöhle near Ranis in Thuringia.

The three carapace fragments of the European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) found in the Barleben-Adamsee gravel pit. Photo: Uwe Beye / Archäologie in Sachsen-Anhalt
The three carapace fragments of the European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) found in the Barleben-Adamsee gravel pit. Photo: Uwe Beye / Archäologie in Sachsen-Anhalt

A team of researchers with the participation of the Saxony-Anhalt State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology recently identified early modern humans as manufacturers of these devices 45,000 years ago. Previously, the leaf points had often been associated with Neanderthals.

Turtles – living tins?

Among the more recent finds from Adamsee, five fragments of turtle shells that can be assigned to the European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) stand out. All fragments were dated twice using the radiocarbon method. The age is between around 50,000 and 42,000 years BP. The turtles therefore lived during the Weichselian Glacial, a date that was unexpected for Central Europe.

The eggs of the European pond turtle, which are laid in the ground, require a temperature of more than 18 to 20 degrees Celsius for embryonic growth. The Barleben-Adamsee finds are therefore likely to be outside of the natural range of the European pond turtle at that time, which raises the question of their origin.

Ethnographic and historical comparisons show that people often took turtles with them when traveling as provisions, as “living tins” so to speak. The animals are easily transportable and provide a supply of fresh meat even if the hunt is unsuccessful.

It is possible that Ice Age hunters – Neanderthals or modern humans – brought the turtles with them to northern, cool regions. Future research will have to prove whether this is actually the case.

Archäologie in Sachsen-Anhalt

Cover Photo: Uwe Beye / Archäologie in Sachsen-Anhalt

Related Articles

A Special structure Contemporary to Göbeklitepe found at Gre Fılla Höyük in Eastern Turkey

4 August 2022

4 August 2022

Pit-bottomed structures dating to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period were found at Gre Fılla Höyük (Gre Fılla Mound) in the province...

Arkeologists decipher hieroglyphics of a vessel found in the archaeological rescue of the Mayan Train

16 May 2022

16 May 2022

Based on the analysis of eleven glyphic cartouches inscribed into a ceramic pot, discovered in October 2021 during archaeological rescue...

Found Home of the Legendary Viking Woman Who Crossed the Atlantic 500 Years Before Columbus

11 March 2021

11 March 2021

Archaeologists in Iceland recently excavated a farm believed to belong to the legendary Viking woman Gudrid Torbjörnsdottir. She is believed...

Excavation in Larissa finds a Hellenistic era sanctuary

27 November 2021

27 November 2021

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport reported on Friday the discovery of ancient Greek and Hellenistic era structures at...

Cosmic cataclysm 1,500 years ago may have caused downfall of the Hopewell Culture

3 February 2022

3 February 2022

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati find evidence of cosmic cataclysm 1,500 years ago at 11 ancient sites in three...

Archaeologists Unearth 78,000-Year Oldest Human Burial

5 May 2021

5 May 2021

A 78,000-year-old group of bones discovered at the mouth of a Kenyan coastal cave constitutes the oldest recorded formal human...

Habib-i Neccar Mosque, one of the first mosques in Anatolia, was destroyed in the earthquake

12 February 2023

12 February 2023

Antakya Habib-i Neccar Mosque, one of the first mosques built in Anatolia, was destroyed in the earthquake that killed tens...

Oldest Known Human Viruses Discovered In 50,000-Year-Old Neanderthal Remains

15 May 2024

15 May 2024

Researchers from the Federal University of São Paulo have managed to uncover the oldest known human viruses in a set...

In Pontefract, archaeologists have discovered Neolithic remains

18 June 2021

18 June 2021

Archaeologists working on the site of the former Carleton Furniture factory at Mill Dam Lane in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England,...

New study: Humans engaged in large-scale warfare in Europe 5,000 years ago ‘1,000 years earlier than previously thought’

3 November 2023

3 November 2023

Hundreds of human remains unearthed from a burial site point to a  warfare between Stone Age people long before the...

Research Team Identifies Oldest Bone Spear Point In The Americas

3 February 2023

3 February 2023

A team of researchers has identified the Manis bone projectile point as the oldest weapon made of bone ever found...

A Roman sarcophagus bearing the title of “Emperor’s Protector” was found for the first time in Anatolia

29 April 2022

29 April 2022

A sarcophagus carrying the title of “Emperor’s protector” was discovered in the province of Kocaeli in western Turkey. With the...

3D printing technology was used for the restored relic restoration of an ancient palace in Liangzhu Archaeological Site

11 July 2021

11 July 2021

Six rebuilt massive wooden pillars of an old palace have been exposed to the public for the first time at...

The mythical hero of Troy and Rome Aeneas’s peerless mosaic discovered in Türkiye

11 May 2023

11 May 2023

A large mosaic depicting the legendary Trojan hero Aeneas, the protagonist of Virgil’s epic poem “The Aeneid” and the ancestor...

Places to Visit in Oman

6 February 2021

6 February 2021

There are many places to visit in Oman. In this article, we wanted to talk about a wonderful country that...