New research on the Mesolithic ‘skull nests’ of Ofnet cave, SW Germany


Since their discovery in the early twentieth century, there has been controversy over the chronology of the two ‘skull nests’ found within Ofnet cave in southwest Germany. Initially the focus was on whether they dated to the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic or Neolithic. The first radiocarbon dates at least resolved this issue in favour of the Mesolithic, but the considerable range obtained fueled a second debate: were the skulls deposited in a single event, which, together with the peri-mortem injuries present on many of the skulls, would suggest a massacre; or, alternatively, was this part of a regional mortuary rite given to certain members of the community, resulting in repeated deposition over some centuries? Here, we report the preliminary results of a new project aimed at resolving the chronology of Ofnet through a series of new 14C dates, and, in doing so, to address the nature of the head-related rituals that are clearly implicated whichever scenario is accepted, though with rather different consequences both for the people involved, and for our understanding of Central European Mesolithic hunter-gatherers.

Cite this Record

New research on the Mesolithic ‘skull nests’ of Ofnet cave, SW Germany. Rick Schulting, Jörg Orschiedt, Dani Hofmann, Gisela Grupe. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403811)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;