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The Palaeolithic: 400,000 – ca. 8,000 years BC

Wildpferdjäger, Bild: Artus Atelier
Wild­p­fer­d­jäger, Bild: Artus Atelier

How It All Began – Hunters and Gatherers in the Ice Ages

Did you know that his­tory of human­kind, which began around 2.5 mil­lion years ago in Africa, can be traced back approx­im­ately 400,000 years in Thuringia? The pres­ence of people coin­cides with the gla­cial epoch. Traces of pre­his­toric people belong­ing to the spe­cies Homo erectus have been found at the 340,000 year old site of Bilzingsleben (Muni­cip­al­ity of Soem­merda). In the ALT you can see a model Homo erectus based on the fossils found there, along with numer­ous ori­ginal arte­facts and fossils, includ­ing skull pieces and flint tools, that typify a camp­ing site of a group of pre­his­toric people. They could use fire, make tools of antler, stone or bone, and lived a nomadic hunter-gatherer life­style, spe­cial­ising in large animal prey. On their menu, for example, were straight-tusked ele­phant and rhinoceros.


These were favoured large game that were also hunted by proto-Neander­thals liv­ing in the area char­ac­ter­ised by travertine lime­stone around Wei­mar-Ehrings­dorf more than 200,000 years ago. Hearths, human rel­ics, animal bones, and plant remains were pre­served so well in the travertine lime­stone that in the ALT we can present fas­cin­at­ing inform­a­tion about the pre­vail­ing cli­matic con­di­tions and flora of the period, as well as about the every­day life of the Neanderthals.

Evid­ence of fully mod­ern humans dat­ing back to ca. 40,000 BC has been found in caves near Doebritz, in the Muni­cip­al­ity of Saale-Orla, and in the Saale Val­ley near Oelknitz. This evid­ence includes small depic­tions of humans and anim­als, which played a role in hunt­ing and fer­til­ity magic. Step back into the Stone Age in a life-size recon­struc­tion of a cave, or study the carved pic­tures and styl­ised fig­ures of the Thuringian Ice Age artists!


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