The city of Krems is a gate to the Wachau, the valley of the top white wines and orange gold of Wachau apricots and a home of the Ice Age babies. It lies on the left bank of the Danube River in Lower Austria, 70 km west of Vienna. The city and surrounding area are very famous in the archaeological circles for its sites from the Stone Age. Famous Venus figurines, a Facebook censored Venus of Willendorf and the oldest known example of a depiction of a human being yet discovered - Venus of Galgenberg, were found here.
The excavation site Krems-Wachtberg is one of the most important and most intensively researched archaeological sites in Central Europe. Most of the findings from this site are from the Late Stone Age, before the advent of the agriculture, when anatomically modern human, i.e. Homo sapiens, expanded throughout Eurasia causing the extinction of the Neanderthals. The site is characterised by the large number of artefact findings that belonged to the Gravettians, which were hunter-gatherers who lived during the bitterly cold period of European prehistory. The eastern Gravettian, which used to live in Central Europe, were expert mammoth hunters. Because they have possessed a complex hunting culture, the most of the findings are hunting tools such as arrowheads, blunted black knives and boomerangs. Their burial rites included the burring of simple offerings, made for that purpose and personal ornaments owned by the deceased. They were always placed within the grave or tomb.
The earliest glacial findings on Wachtberg are from the 17th century, when the mammoth bones were uncovered, which were initially thought to be the "immense giant bodies". Since then, the extensive excavation has been done. The latest and the most important excavation from the 2000s yielded some sensational results. A baby twin grave was found.
The deceased new-borns were buried in an oval pit, sprinkled with a red chalk and covered with a mammoth scapula. An ivory pearl necklace, as a burial object, and a complex grave construction testify the importance of the infants in the society. During the excavation, at first, a mammoth shoulder blade was uncovered. On the underside of it, there were clear traces of handling. A grave in which the preserved skeletal remains of two infants of early Homo sapiens were buried, was discovered after the removal of the shoulder bone which was covering it. Two infants were probably the twins who had died during or shortly after the birth. These findings of a well preserved 32 000-year-old children's grave from the Ice Age are the oldest known in Austria. The tomb is considered world's oldest grave of this kind and is unique because the skeletons of toddlers up to three years, from the time of early Homo sapiens, have never been discovered before.
A year later, in the immediate vicinity of these findings, another less-preserved infant grave was excavated.
The reconstructed grave of the Ice Age babies from Krems can be seen in the Natural History Museum Vienna.
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.