Research History

The research history of this significant burial chamber belonging to the Wartburg Culture is one of constant rediscoveries. In 1847 the tomb was burst open (with no supervision) which destroyed a large part and the bones were taken to i.a. a bone mill. This is the information gathered by K. Rossel in 1859 during the course of his research on three grave mounds that lay in the vicinity and was published that same year (Rossel 1859). Over a hundred years later, in April 1961, the report was used as a guide in order to rediscover the burial chamber. The excavation on the remnants, especially of the preserved chamber filling (approx. 5 m²) was conducted by H. Schoppa and his wife as well as I. Schmidt from the 2nd of October to the 30th of November of the same year (Wurm et al.  1963, 51, NB. 2). 

Towards the end of the chamber protected by vertical stone plates, was the filling of the chamber with a compact layer of human bones still preserved. This is where the few but special findings were made: 6 rolls of copper coils,  21 amber beads, 10 canines from dogs, two canine imitations carved from bones, two left and right mandible fragments from dogs,  four flint artifacts (including a simple triangular arrow head), a fossilized shell, three fragments of pottery and 15 bone fragments of i.a. Bovine. A preliminary report on the uncovered skeletal remains can be found at the end of the publication (Wurm et al. 1963). The anthropological processing of the finds are concluded with the dissertation by A. Czarnetzki (1966, wikipedia) abgeschlossen.

In a large scale dating study on the Neolithic transition in Europe (among many other sites) three samples were taken in different depths out of the burial of Niedertiefenbach (Breunig 1987, 304). The publication of this study was (at the time) a fundamental piece on radiocarbondating. Following an extensive study on the (in Hessia widespread) Late Neolithic Wartburg Culture and a dating study with radiocarbon dating, the three existing radiocarbon dates were combined with their corresponding depths into a dating model (wiggle-matching) (Raetzel-Fabian 2002, 5 ill. 4).

Since 2014 the burial site is once again part of a research study. This time the focus is on scientific analysis of the aDNA, the microbiology and dental medicine. Besides the issue of relations, the demographic development, the physical condition (parasitology) and the dental states (i.a. abrasions and morphological changes compared to extant samples) are topics of interest. The following collaborators are part of this cooperative research:

  • Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology at the Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel (Prof. Dr. rer. nat. B. Krause-Kyora)
  • Hospital for Conservative Dentistry and Periodontology at the Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel (Prof. Dr. C. Dörfer, J. Kopp)
  • The Hessian Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments (Dr. S. Schade-Lindig)
  • Institute for Pre- and Protohistory at the Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel (Dr. C. Rinne)



Breunig 1987:
P. Breunig, 14C-Chronologie des vorderasiatischen, südost- und mitteleuropäischen Neolithikums. Fundamenta A 13 (Wien 1987).

Czarnetzki 1966:
A. Czarnetzki, Die menschlichen Skelettreste aus vier neolithischen Steinkisten Hessens und Niedersachsens (Diss. Tübingen 1966).

Raetzel-Fabian 2002:
D. Raetzel-Fabian, Revolution, Reformation, Epochenwechsel? Das Ende der Kollektivgrabsitte und der Übergang von der Wartberg- zur Einzelgrabkultur in Nordhessen und Westfalen. Artikel vom 5. Januar 2002, 2002 <> (13.08.2014)

Rossel 1859:
K. Rossel, Das Steingrab bei Nieder-Tiefenbach. Periodische Blätter 9, 1859, 240–241 <> (13.08.2014).

Wurm et al. 1963:
K. Wurm / H. Schoppa / C. Ankel / A. Czarnetzki, Die westeuropäische Steinkiste von Niedertiefenbach, Oberlahnkreis. Fundber. Hessen 3, 1963, 46–78.