The area surrounding the Heuneburg archaeological site is fairly high above sea level, and part of an extremely picturesque landscape which on clear days includes a panoramic view of the Alps. The monastery of Heiligkreuztal, which has Romanesque architecture and is part of the so-called "Romantic Road" tourist trail, is just a short distance from the site. Several small villages are located within a short drive of the Hohmichele; good food (including Swabian specialities like the tangy, long, thin bread loaves called "Seelen") and beer (always an essential part of fieldwork in Germany) are available in the towns of Hundersingen and Binzwangen, the closest of these villages. Gravel quarries in the Danube flood plain are open to the public during the summer months, and provide cold, clean water for swimming at the end of a long, hot day in the field. On cold rainy days the team can relax at the hotspring spa in Saulgau, about half an hours drive from Hundersingen.
Longer day trip destinations include the medieval university town of Tübingen, where the poet Hölderlin went insane and spent the last years of his life locked in a round tower overlooking the beautiful Neckar River (not that he was able to appreciate the view), and the town of Biberach on the Riss, with its museums, towers, and half-timbered houses.
Stuttgart, the nearest large city, with its museums, shopping arcades, and theater and arts scene, is also surrounded by a number of important early Iron Age sites that are worth a visit. One of the most important is the Hohenasperg hillfort, which is located in the Stuttgart suburb of the same name. Although the plateau was extensively disturbed by the construction of a large prison (in which Steffi Graf's father served time for tax evasion), fragments of imported Greek pottery have been found over the years by the farmers plowing the hillfort's slopes. There are several burial mounds associated with this settlement, including the Kleinaspergle tumulus.
The landscape around the Heuneburg itself has a high concentration of archaeological sites that are associated with the hillfort. If you stand on the hillfort plateau and look north-eastward, the Bussen immediately catches your eye across the Danube plain. It has a late bronze Age settlement on its summit, as well as a series of medieval churches.
There are several large burial mounds in the vicinity of the Heuneburg apart from the Hohmichele. Two of the better preserved mounds are the "Lehenbühl" and the "Baumburg". The "Baumburg" was modified during the Middle Ages into a "motte", with a castle on its summit which was subsequently razed. Neither mound has been extensively studied, and they probably both contain some intact burials. A chain of these small castle mounds dots the western terrace of the Danube to the north and south of the hillfort.
A group of four large mounds was constructed a few hundred meters from the hillfort itself later in the Iron Age occupation of the site. (A fifth tumulus was discovered at the end of the 1999 field season by LDA archaeologists Hans Teufel and his crew.) The erection of mounds closer to the hillfort may have been a response to the looting of central burials which was a major problem during this time period. Placing mounds like Tumulus 4 close enough to be seen from the plateau, the job of the tomb robbers would have been made more difficult. Many mounds were demarcated in some way, either with a stone ring or a ring of posts, or with a stela on the summit. One of the most interesting and best preserved of these stelae is the one from the Hirschlanden tumulus; it was broken off below the knees in antiquity, and ended up at the base of the mound where it was buried and later discovered by archaeologists. This stela is important because it gives us information about some of the markers of high status in the world of these early Iron Age peoples. The torque, or neckring, made of gold in elite burials, the dagger, and the conical hat are three status markers that have been found in excavated burials like the spectacular (and unlooted) Hochdorf grave, discovered in 1978 and excavated by Jörg Biel. The Hochdorf "prince" was buried with a conical birchbark hat very like the one seen on the Hirschlanden stela.
A number of other archaeological landscapes are within relatively easy driving distance, including the Federsee bog, which has produced some of the most spectacularly well preserved Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and bronze Age settlements ever found north of the Alps. The Federsee Museum and the lake itself, a glacial remnant surrounded by a nature preserve, is also worth a visit. The town of Blaubeuren, with its Blautopf spring, excellent museum and beautiful Benedictine monastery is located in some of the most geologically spectacular terrain in southwest Germany, while for those interested in the Roman period, the open air museum of Hechingen-Stein offers educational and entertaining activities for the whole family to enjoy.
Stay tuned - there's more good stuff to come!
Punts on the Neckar River
View of the Danube Plain