German Wishing Well

Digs & Discoveries May/June 2023

(Marcus Guckenbiehl/Bavarian State Office for Monument Protection)

People living in southern Germany around 3,500 years ago appear to have grown so concerned about dwindling water supplies that they deposited valuables in a well in an attempt to end the drought. Archaeologists working in advance of construction in the town of Germering found dozens of items at the bottom of the well, including 26 robe pins, needles, a bangle bracelet, two metal spirals, four amber beads, and a wooden ladle. There were also more than 70 finely crafted and decorated clay vessels of a type usually only found in Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1800–1200 B.C.) graves, a single button that was likely already hundreds of years old when it was put in the well, and an animal tooth wrapped in bronze wire, possibly as a ritual practice. “We think this was a sacrificial deposit, maybe to the gods,” says Jochen Haberstroh, an archaeologist with the Bavarian State Office for Monument Protection.

Archaeologists have discovered around 70 wells dating from the Bronze Age through the Early Middle Ages in an excavation area covering 17 acres, though none of the other wells were found to contain a similar concentration of valuable objects. This well is also 16.5 feet deep, several feet deeper than others in the area, suggesting that it was dug at a time when groundwater had dropped significantly due to drought.

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