UNESCO World Heritage
Caves and ice age art of the Swabian Jura
Forty thousand years ago, the ice age artists created unique mammoth ivory works of art in the caves of the Achtal and Lonetal valleys in the Swabian Jura. We also owe the oldest musical instruments to their skill. Nowhere in the world have older art objects and musical instruments been found.
Today you can experience the life of the Ice Age people up close and see their original works of art in the Achtal and Lonetal valleys. Let yourself be inspired and immerse yourself in the realm of ice age artists. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura and channel you inner ice age artist!
More information on the entire UNESCO World Heritage at
Ice Age and Art
The Lonetal valley 40,000 years ago – The Aurignacian culture
During the last Ice Age, the Lonetal valley looked completely different than it does today. Where we now see forests and meadows, a cold steppe spread out. The bare rocks stood out clearly in the open landscape. The Lone River meandered there, leading the meltwater from the plateau of the Jura to the Danube in spring. Nowadays the Lone mainly flows underground, leading water only sporadically and conveying little of its former size.
Forty thousand years ago, the anatomically modern man immigrated from the southeast, following the Danube upstream. Its culture, which was common in Europe and the Middle East from 40,000 to approximately 32,000 years ago, is known as the Aurignacian. This time stage was named after the Aurignac site in the Haute-Garonne department at the foot of the French Pyrenees.
The Finds – A world-class cultural and historical treasure
The Vogelherd Cave has a rich inventory of stone tools, ivory and antler tools. In the excavations, numerous jewellery objects and fragments of flutes, which are among the oldest in the world, were discovered. The unique animal sculptures from the Aurignacian not only impress with their aesthetics and their perfect craftsmanship, but they are also the oldest figurative works of art humanity has to offer. Gustav Riek found eleven figures in 1931, five more and numerous fragments were added in the excavations from 2005 to 2012 under the direction of Nicholas Conard.
One of the five figures from Nicholas Conard’s excavation is the little mammoth, which can be seen in the original treasury of the Archaeopark Vogelherd. The fully sculptural figure of a mammoth, just a few centimetres in size, not only testifies with its level of detail to the extraordinary manual skills of modern humans but also to its unique creative power. The discovery of this fully preserved, 40,000-year-old work of art was a scientific sensation that made the Vogelherd Cave one of the sites of the oldest figurative art in the world. Since then, the mammoth from the Vogelherd cave has been the symbol of the Archaeopark Vogelherd, which also adorns our logo.
These were 40,000-year-old, extremely elaborate works of art that had no practical function. Were they jewellery? A reverence for animals? Where they supposed to banish fears? Or did they symbolize group togetherness and identity? The exact meaning of the figures for our ancestors will probably remain a secret. However, we can directly recognize their beauty. You can admire the little mammoth and the cave lions in the treasury which is located in our information center!
The Vogelherd cave is one of the most vibrant sites in the UNESCO World Heritage area.
The cave was strategically located on a 20-meter-high rock plateau above the Lone and opened a perfect 180-degree view over the valley, which describes a small bend. The cave, with its three entrances, provided shelter and refuge for our ancestors for over 100,000 years. From this safe and dry position, they could already see animals or dangers from afar, go hunting and follow their prey as loose associations.
For thousands of years, the inhabitants left unique treasures layer by layer for posterity and made the Vogelherd cave one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in prehistoric times.
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