Voelkers At Friedrichshafen & Uhldingen (Am Bodensee)

  1. Alvaro Soler is back with Sofia. This morning, the sky looked like a cat had run all over it and scratched the clouds out of shape — footprint-like cirrocumulus and altocumulus and wispy cirrus.
  2. We went to Friedrichshafen, where we saw a gigantic zeppelin land before making our way to a bike show. There, we were introduced to Tuscany cycling trails, Airlok, and chain-less bikes!
  3. Dad stopped at roadsides so I could jump out of the car and take close-ups of grapes and apples. There were tons of them in Bodensee (occasional banana trees as well!) because this is the warmest part of Germany and they grow incredibly well here. Besides in the apple farms, apples grew wildly by the roadside too — they are owned by the government and are auctioned off to any locals who may want them. Dad says he wouldn’t buy them, though… they’re  polluted with tar.
  4. Farmers don’t use scarecrows here, they use kites!
  5. My family had pizza for lunch and enjoyed it SO MUCH. It brought me back to when Miriam and I shared Marinara pizzas from Gino’s in Naples.
  6. We drove to Uhldingen where a 6000 y/o village exists!

Of course, despite the durability of the oak they used for the village’s construction (originally constructed between 973 – 970 and 862 – 850 BC), it isn’t completely original anymore. Houses, footbridges, and village fences/ palisades were reconstructed in 1931, 1939 and 1977. The reconstruction plans were based on the results of archaeological excavations during the 1920s at the “Wasserburg Buchau” Federsee Moor.

We visited a few huts and learned that…

Some of the huts’ walls were made of braided twigs and plastered with clay or loam (wattle and daub) while others were made out of mountain pine logs. Some of the huts were built in 1000 BC while others were built in about 3500 BC (concluded with the help of dendrochronology, aka. tree-ring dating).

Before the invention of the refrigerator and canned food, storage of food was a major challenge. Food such as cereals, storage vegetables, dried fruits, dried or smoked fish and meat had to be stored in a way that prevented them from being eaten by insects, mice, rats, or birds. Mould and moisture also had to be prevented. For these reasons, there were storage houses/ attics in every village, which had good ventilation and simultaneously kept away pests. Food was stored in leather or linen bags, barrels, clay pots, and baskets. Some foods, such as cereals (e.g. emmer, einkorn wheat (single wheat), barley, and naked wheat), were also stored over the winter on land by burying it into dugout holes that were previously burnt to destroy fungus or pests. Foods were preserved by drying, smoking and curing with salt. Airtight pottery dishes also allowed foods to be stored over a longer period. Airtight pottery in 1000BC?! Talk about advanced!

Around 1000BC, a complete set of tableware included bowls, dishes, pots, and cups. Grey clay vessels and simple ornaments were clearly distinguished from special items such as the black “Sunday dishes” that were decorated with chalked up, white patterns. The black colour was created by a special firing technique in a pottery kiln. The black gloss (which they thought modernised their ceramics) was produced by many days of polishing with slick stone.

Fishing hooks, nets of flax fibres, harpoons, and fish traps were used in the Stone Age. Bones of bear, deer, elk, aurochs, wild boar, beaver, otter, frogs, hedgehogs, and birds were found in the mud under the Stilt houses. These were hunted with bow and arrow, or wooden throwing clubs and spears. Domestic animals of the lake dwellers were cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and dogs.

For the production of stone tools, the pile dwellers used amazing techniques: stones were ground into shape on sandstone, and with help of a bow, a wooden stick and sand a hole was drilled into the shaped stone. The stone blades were attached with an adhesive made of distilled birch bark (birch tar, which, our guide added, was also chewed as ‘gum’ when one had toothaches) and strings onto the wooden shafts — this was how hammers, axes and hatchets were made. Smaller tools such as knives, drills, scrapers, or arrowheads were made of flint.

Around 2300BC, a new invention changed life in Europe: By adding some tin to smelting copper, bronze alloy was produced. The shiny golden material was harder than copper. A new profession came into being: the bronze casters. With the help of bellows, they heated charcoal at 1100°C, melted and cast the two metals by means of sandstone and clay moulds into aces, sickles, arrowheads and spearheads, knives or swords. After casting, they forged the objects with hammer and anvil into the desired final shape. Stone tools were “out”, bronze tools were “in”, a status symbol. Bronze jewellery was also very much in demand. Pendants, bracelets, rings, hairpins, and brooches were made “in series”, that is, several pieces were made in one mould.

The clothing of the pile dwellers consisted not only of skins and of leather, but  also of woven or braided textiles from tree bast, nettles, or flax. Sheep wool appeared only in the Bronze Age in the Lake dwellings. The production of the threads for the fabric was very costly and cumbersome. Linum (flax) had to be harvested, dried and beaten and then left to rot for 2-3 weeks in a water-filled pit. It was then crushed, combed, and was finally spun into a thread with spindle whorls (a wooden stick with a round weight of clay). The threads were dyed yellow, brown, and red with plant dyes and then worked into fabric both on small as well as on large looms. Garments were sewn with fine bone needles. Due to the complete exclusion of air, the remains of these textiles were preserved until today in the sunken remains of the pile dwelling villages.

An important animal motif in the Late Bronze Age/ Urnfield culture (1300 – 750 BC) is the duck bird. As an aquatic animal, it appears on armor, on horse harnesses, as drawing on vessels, on musical instruments, ritual objects, as a figure in clay and bronze, and as a drinking vessel. Hybrids, part fish, part duck, part bull, are at the end of the Bronze Age and could symbolise the basic elements: water, air, earth.

There were many uncertainties even with the most precise observations and examinations because there weren’t any written records of anything thousands of years ago. There were unusual bird figures which could have served as baby bottles or oil lamps. There were crescent-shaped horns, called moon idols, which could have been parts of domestic altars, and the smaller ones were probably amulets. There were crescent-shaped clay objects with lines and circles (30 circles!) provoked many generations of scientists to think of a type of lunar calendar… or did they serve as fire dogs intended to hold wooden logs or incense sticks? There were clay rattles which were presumably used for music and religious purposes. There were clay stamps with different patterns which could have been used for removable tattoos or bread stamps…

One thing that caught my eye was a bent bronze pin that, the scientists reasoned, could have been a result of a mishap or whether it can be construed as having been the first safety pin in history!

“In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.” — Edmund Burke

111 of over 1000 pile dwelling sites from the Stone and Bronze Age (4000 – 800 BC) are world heritage sites. They are located in six counties: Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, and Germany. An entire archive of human history is buried under water and in the wetlands. Not only piles and poles, but also floors, walls, and parts of roofs were found in the excavations. The special artefacts in the lake dwelling settlements are organic settlements are organic materials — cloth, lace works, 5000 y/o wooden vessels, bread, apples, burned grain mush and porridge — which, had they not been buried under water, would have quickly decayed. All these things provide great insights into the life of the lake dwellers.

Oh and! I saw what I thought was ‘purple kale‘ growing in the middle of a little garden!

More pictures from Sunday!


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