Photographic reconstruction of a stone wall as a hunting structure in a glacial landscape

Michał Grabowski

A stone wall about a kilometer long has been found 21 meters below the surface of the Baltic Sea off the coast of Germany. The wall is believed to have been built around 11,000 years ago to move reindeer to places where they could be easily killed, and may be the largest. A stone age megastructure in Europe.

The discovery happened by chance. In 2021, on a training exercise with student geophysicists Jacob Gerson The Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde in Germany used multi-beam sonar to map the sea coast 10 km from the town of Rerke.

“Later, in the lab, we realized that there was a structure that didn’t look natural,” Gerson says.

So in 2022, he and his colleagues lowered a camera to the structure, revealing a row of rocks. “It was only when we contacted the archaeologists that we realized it might be something important,” Gerson says.

The team member says there is no reason or evidence to build a modern underwater structure at the site. Marcel BreidtmüllerArchaeologist at the University of Rostock, Germany. Nor could the team think of any natural process that could create such a structure.

This suggests that the wall was built. When this area was dry.Bradtmöller says this must mean between 8500 and 14,000 years. Earlier the area was covered by a sheet of ice which destroyed any stone structures, while later, Due to the rise in the sea level, the area was flooded..

The wall runs along what was once a lake. It has about 10 large stones up to 3 meters and weighing several tons, connected by more than 1600 smaller stones weighing less than 100 kg. The stones are placed close together rather than on top of each other, and in most places the wall is less than a meter high.

Large boulders are found where the wall slopes, so the team believes the structure was built by combining large boulders that were too heavy to move with smaller boulders that could be moved.

Bradtmöller thinks it probably was. Made by hunter gatherers. Known as the Kongimos culture, named after a site in Denmark where artefacts such as stone tools have been found.

The most likely explanation, he says, is that the structure was used for reindeer. “The hypothesis that fits best at the moment is a driving wall for hunting.”

Although these hunter-gatherers are thought to have lived and roamed in small groups, when the reindeer came to the area, they must have gathered in large numbers by the lake, says Breidtmüller. .

Similar low walls, sometimes Called desert kite.has been found in many places in Africa and the Middle East, and more Under the Great Lakes in North America. Some are up to 5 km long, and it is now widely agreed that they were used for hunting.

Although these walls are usually low enough that animals such as deer can jump over them, they usually avoid them when running in herds. Marlies Lombard At the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, who discovered similar structures.. “In such situations, they run parallel to obstacles like low fences rather than crossing them,” she says.

Lombard says many desert kites have two walls in a V-shape to trap animals, but one wall can still be an effective driving line. One possibility with the newly discovered wall is that it was used to transport reindeer into the lake, where they were hunted by boats, says Breidtmüller.

Gerson says it’s also possible there’s another sediment-covered wall nearby. He plans to conduct further investigations, including diving, to try to find direct evidence of Stone Age people, but, so far, the researchers have been thwarted by bad weather.

Other experts also agree with their findings. “I think the case was built as an artificial structure for the wall to channel the movement of migrating reindeer,” says the archaeologist. Jeff Bailey at the University of York in the UK.

“Finds like this suggest that extensive prehistoric hunting scenes may have survived in a manner previously seen only in the Great Lakes,” says Vincent Gaffney at the University of Bradford, UK. “It has great effects on areas of the coastal shelf that were previously habitable.”

Modern activities like Trollingcable laying and Wind farm construction Such sites can be destroyed, Gerson says, so more searches are needed to find them before they’re lost.

Bradtmöller says that no other structure of this type has been discovered in Europe. He thinks it’s possible that many once existed, but were destroyed by human activity.