Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt
Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte
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Permanent exhibition

The State Museum of Prehistory in Halle is one of the most important archaeological museums in Central Europe. Its extensive collection of more than 11 million finds includes numerous objects of international importance, such as the famous Nebra Sky Disc. Saxony-Anhalt's archaeological finds are of exceptional interest and they are here exhibited in chronological order, from the beginning of the stone age to the early bronze age. Over the next few years, the permanent exhibition will be gradually extended. The chronological sequence will then end with the Middle Ages and the early modern period.

Palaeolithic period (early stone age)

The museum's collection of material from the early stone age - the palaeolithic period - is one of the oldest and most extensive collections of this type in Europe. Some of the best known items from sites like Bilzingsleben, Neumark-Nord, Weimar-Ehringsdorf, Gröbern, Königsaue and Ranis can be seen here. All these sites make a special contribution to our understanding of the palaeolithic era in Central Europe. Once you enter the exhibition, there is perhaps no better place to enter the world of the early palaeolithic than by encountering the finds from Bilzingsleben in Thuringia, which are arranged for the viewer in an area of around 40 m².


Mesolithic period (middle stone age)

Around 11,500 years ago, the climate rose in temperature in a few hundred years up to present-day levels. The last ice age ended and a temperate period began that still continues today. The reason for this was the Gulf Stream which now again pushed far into the north Atlantic. The environmental conditions once again changed entirely, as they had done at many previous changes in climate. Sparse stands of trees grew into thick forest, but as the open landscapes of the ice age retreated, so did the great herds of reindeer and horses that had been rich food sources for humans. Once again, humans had to adapt their survival strategies and behaviour; hunters of the tundra now became forest trackers and fishermen. It was the last phase of hunting and gathering in Europe, lasting more than 6,000 years: the so-called Mesolithic period, i.e. the middle stone age.

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Neolithic period (late stone age)

The transition from game hunting to agriculture and stock-raising marks the start of the neolithic period, that is, the late stone age. It is the most dramatic change in living habits in human history. In Central Germany it took place from 7,500 to 7,000 years ago. People began to exert control over the environment so that they were less dependent on the food resources available naturally. The new way of life was not an independent development among the peoples in this area. This fundamental shift first occurred around 11,000 years ago in the southern foothills of the Taurus and Zagros mountain ranges, in the present-day border region between Turkey, Iran and Iraq. From there, groups of farmers went in search of new land, reaching south-east Europe within about 2,000 years. After a phase of consolidation, sections of the agricultural communities again had to try their luck abroad. These immigrants arrived in Central Europe in a series of waves from the Danube region of south-east Europe. They brought along in their packs the whole new set of cultural practices: seeds, stock animals, building techniques, pottery, textiles, and polished stone, but also customs and beliefs. Over time, the local hunters, too, adopted the innovative technologies and survival strategies.

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Early bronze age

Towards the end of the third millennium BC, the local cultures gradually learned to work with a new material: bronze, an alloy of copper and smaller quantities of other substances, such as arsenic, antimony and later above all tin. There were two conditions that allowed this era of metal production to begin. Firstly, the region became included in the distribution networks for Alpine copper ore, and secondly, the technical know-how for working this metal spread from southeastern and southern Europe. The common archaeological feature that links the central European early bronze age is the custom of burying the dead in a contracted position (a 'crouched' position). This custom can be traced clearly as it is inherited from the local neolithic cultures and passed on into the first era of metal production, and so shows that religious concepts were retained across this technological divide

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