The Glasberg (oppidum Glauberg) in Hessen

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De Glauberg

In the past, the Glauberg was also known as the Glasberg (Glass Mountain). This is due to the discovery of an old reinforcement; the material has become glassy due to high temperatures. The Celtic fortifications around the settlement were constructed from wood, basalt and earth. A huge fire melted the material. The cause of the fire is unknown, perhaps the fire was started by enemies. In any case, what is known is that the walls were rebuilt later.

The Glauberg area was already inhabited in the Stone Age and remained in use until the Middle Ages. The hilltop forms an almost horizontal plateau of 800 by 80 to 200 meters. The Glauberg Plateau was first inhabited in the Neolithic period (ca. 4500 BC) by people from the Rössen culture. This was followed by a large settlement of the Michelsberg phase (ca. 4000 BC). Finds from the area can be seen in the ‘Keltenwelt am Glauberg’ museum, such as a Neolithic ax and a boar’s head.

An ax found while plowing (4800-4550 BC) and a boar’s head (5300-5000 BC), own photo March 2024

The Glauberg was a Celtic oppidum. An oppidum is a large fortified settlement or city from the Iron Age. Oppida are mainly associated with the Celtic late La Tène culture that emerged during the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. The word is derived from the earlier Latin ob-pedum: ‘enclosed space’, possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *pedóm-, ‘occupied space’ or ‘footprint’. Archaeological discoveries in the 1990s place Glabuberg among the most important early Celtic centers in all of Europe.

The reconstructed Royal Burial Mound with posts that may have had a calendar function. The end of the reconstructed procession road is still just visible; originally this procession road was about 200 meters longer and ran to the country road where another burial mound was found. Own photo, March 2024.

By chance, a royal burial mound was discovered next to the Glauberg. Due to a severe drought in 1988, local historians saw the outline of this prehistoric burial mound in a grain field during a flight over the site. Archaeological research began in 1994. The mound originally had a diameter of almost 50 meters and a height of 6 meters. It was surrounded by a circular ditch 10 meters wide. A rectangular area was also found, closed off from the surroundings by a ditch. Two men were buried in the mound.

Two ditches run from the Royal Burial Mound, they form a procession route. This is directed towards the place where the southern lunar standstill takes place, which occurs once every 18.6 years. Further analyzes have shown that other ditches and sixteen large postholes associated with the burial mound may have been used to observe various astronomical phenomena, such as the solstices. The whole thing would then function as a calendar. 250 meters away was another burial mound, where one man was buried.

Stone Age burials were discovered in the red circle. The burial mound and a small part of the procession route have been reconstructed. Own photo of information panel at the site, March 2024.

Near the enormous Celtic Royal Burial Mound, an area was used for burial as early as the Stone Age. The remains of four men were found during archaeological research. A sandstone statue was found in the trench near the area where burials took place in the Stone Age. Fragments of three similar statues have been discovered in the Glauberg area. It is suggested that all four statues once stood in the rectangular space and may have been associated with an ancestor cult.

Sculpture found in one of the ditches near the Royal Tomb near the Glauberg. Own photo, March 2024.
Replica of the grave of the ‘monarch’, the torc and bracelet are easily recognizable. Own photo, March 2024.
The torc, bracelet and ring. Own photo, March 2024.

The mustached statue wears a torc with three pendants, which are remarkably similar to the pendants on the torc found in the room in Mound 1. The statue also wears several rings on both arms and one on the right hand. On his head he wears a “leaf crown”, a hood-like headdress topped by two protrusions, resembling the shape of mistletoe leaves. Such a headgear was also found on the buried man. The mistletoe is associated with predictions and mythological stories, see Baldr’s Stone and Midwinter.

Short swords similar to those depicted in the statue have been found in central and western Europe, with lunar symbols believed to represent different stages of the lunar cycle or lunar eclipses. These swords have been associated with a priestly class, or druids, who had knowledge of astronomy.

Sword, own photo March 2024
Remains of the “leaf crown” (a hood-like headdress), own photo March 2024
The statue also shows a sword, own photo March 2024

The presence of ancient ruins on the Glauberg Plateau has long been known, although they were long attributed to the Romans. The discovery of a fragment of an early La Tène torc in 1906 confirmed the prehistoric character of the site. There were probably fortifications on the plateau in pre-Celtic times. The fortifications peaked in terms of size and elaboration around the 6th or 5th century BC. They remained in use until the 2nd or 1st century BC.

During the Roman occupation of Germany, Glauberg remained unoccupied (probably because of the fortified Limes Germanicus border that ran some 5 kilometers from the site). In the 4th and 5th centuries AD the plateau was reoccupied and became a regional center again, as the seat of a local king of the Alamanni (a confederation of Germanic tribes). From the 7th to the 9th century the Glauberg was the site of a large Frankish fortress.

Only a small area has been excavated (shown in red). Perhaps even more spectacular remains around the museum are waiting to see the light of day again… Own photo, March 2024.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, Glauberg was incorporated into the Staufer system of castles, perhaps in an attempt to promote the growth of an urban center. The fortifications were again renovated and a tower-like castle was built on the edge of the plateau; the arched Romanesque doorway has been preserved. The entire plateau was inhabited at that time; medieval foundations of walls, wells and cellars have been preserved, especially on the northern edge. The destruction of that castle, and with it the end of human habitation on the hill, probably took place in 1256.

There is a folk tale associated with the medieval destruction of the city. The Haus Staufen was defeated and after a long siege the women were allowed to leave the city. They could take whatever they wanted, as long as they could carry it themselves. The women took their men on their shoulders and escaped from the enemies.

Marinda Ruiter

The ‘Glauberger Weibetreu’: the women carry their men on their shoulders, own photo of information panel, March 2024

This is a translation of a Dutch article, sources can be found in De Glasberg (oppidum Glauberg) in Hessen

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