What is coming is better than what is gone. (Arabic proverb)
In Unteruhldingen, Germany, on Lake Constance, wooden posts in the water still serve as reminders of the houses that once stood there.
During the Neolithic Period (4,000 BC), the first farmers settled by the lakes around the Alps. They often built their villages directly in or by the water and protected themselves from the wet grounds and floods by building their homes on wooden stilts. These pile dwellings are an early form of settlement offering the people protection against enemies and predators. And the close proximity to water was also vital for survival by the direct access to the lucrative fishing grounds.
The pictures here were all taken some days ago at the Pile Dwellings Museum of Unteruhldingen, Lake Constance. This site comprises an open-air museum with 23 reconstructed houses from the Stone and Bronze Age (4,000 until 850 BC). After archeological excavations in the lake the first houses were reconstructed in 1922 based on replicas and original findings making a fascinating submerged world visible again.
Towards the end of the Bronze Age (approximately 850 BC), a dramatically worsening climate and rising lake level pushed the settlers back inland into the surrounding hills. Since then, the remains of the sunken villages have been resting well protected at the bottom of Lake Constance. Complex underwater excavations brought numerous finds of building parts which allowed for accurate reconstruction of the houses.
The term ‘heathen caves’ was firstly used in the middle of the 17th century, and the term heathen is here used to describe the fact that the origin of such caves in the Western region of Lake Constance is going back to the pre-Christian period in Germany while nobody knows for sure who did the construction and when. Also the original purpose of these caves is unclear while a lot of legends still exist such as the unproven theory of the local geologist Dr. Schmidle published in the 30s of the 20th century alleging that the heathen caves were erected by the Romans and serving as sanctuaries for their Mithras cult. Roman coins were found near such caves otherwhere in the region, but this implies no real evidence. Unfortunately today there are only some small remainings of these heathen caves existing near Goldbach because starting from the middle of the 19th century until the 50s of the 20th century explosives destroyed them mostly in order to create free space for streets and modern railway connections. The original impression can only be imagined on old pictures such as the steel engraving by Konrad Corrady shown here.