Bronze Age ‘wishing well’ discovered in Bavaria

Bronze pins, a bracelet, metal spirals, amber beads, and more than 70 pottery vessels were recovered from the well remains.

A well-preserved Bronze Age well, dated to around 3,000 years ago and containing a number of ritual deposits, has been uncovered in Germany.

Marcus Guckenbiehl The wood-lined well was found to be excellently preserved. IMAGE: Marcus Guckenbiehl

Since 2021, excavations across an area of seven hectares in the Bavarian town of Gemering – conducted ahead of the construction of a letter distribution centre – have unearthed a wealth of finds and settlement remains spanning from the Middle Bronze Age (c.1800-1200 BC) to the early medieval period, including a number of wells once used as water supplies.

One well, however, differed significantly from the others.

Marcus Guckenbiehl The well was found during excavations at a site in Gemering, Upper Bavaria. IMAGE: Marcus Guckenbiehl

A rich assemblage of high-status artefacts was unearthed from what would have been the base of the well, which is estimated to have reached a depth of around five metres (16 feet).

This included 26 bronze clothing pins, a bracelet, metal spirals, a mounted pendant animal tooth, amber beads, and more than 70 pottery vessels.

Marcus Guckenbiehl Among the artefacts recovered were a number of bronze garment pins and a bangle (pictured at the centre). IMAGE: Marcus Guckenbiehl

As many of the vessels were found completely intact, it is though that they had been deposited with care, rather than simply thrown in.

Marcus Guckenbiehl Decorated bowls, cups, and pots were found. and Image: Marcus Guckenbiehl

β€˜It is extremely rare for a well to survive more than 3,000 years so well. Its wooden walls have been completely preserved at the bottom and are still partly damp from the groundwater,’ said Dr. Jochen Haberstroh, archaeologist at the Bavarian State Office for the Preservation of Monuments (BlfD).

β€˜This also explains the good condition of the finds made from organic materials, which are now being examined more closely.’

Marcus Guckenbiehl Amber beads. Image: Marcus Guckenbiehl

According to archaeologist Marcus Guckenbiehl, β€˜The depth of this well shows that it was used at a time when the groundwater level had dropped considerably, which indicates a long drought and certainly poor harvest yields.’

β€˜We cannot exactly explain what motives our ancestors 3,000 years ago had to offer jewellery and other valuable gifts. But it can be assumed that they were intended as sacrifices for a good harvest,’ added Mathias Pfeil from the BlfD.