A late antique hilltop settlement in the Palatinate Forest

On the approx. 1.6 ha plateau of the “Großer Berg” (big mountain) there was a hilltop settlement from the end of the 3rd century to the middle of the 4th century AD, about 2/3 of which was excavated in the 1980s under the direction of Helmut Bernhard.

The site was initially unfortified and received a defensive wall of house stones and some spolia around 350 AD, which was reinforced by an earthen wall heaped up behind it and had a simple gate on the south side.

In view of the rich find material, the site was permanently inhabited at least in the 2nd quarter of the 4th century. The thin cultural layer that had formed on the rocky subsoil contained numerous finds, including much pottery, glass, non-ferrous metal and iron objects as well as well over 1,000 coins.

The series of coins begins with mintages from the 3rd quarter of the 3rd century, the most recent coins date from 350-353 AD.

Numerous workings and postholes carved into the sandstone show that especially the northern half of the plateau was densely built with wooden buildings.

In the past, fortified hilltop settlements were generally interpreted as military. Today, research takes a more differentiated view of this. Especially in the case of large Palatine sites such as the “Große Berg”, where any evidence of regular troops is lacking, it may also be a case of newly founded civilian settlements that were defended by their inhabitants or, on a case-by-case basis, hired armed men.

In view of the row of coins and numerous burn marks on the plateau, it seems likely that the settlement was forcibly destroyed after 352/53 and subsequently abandoned.


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