New Bronze Age settlement unearthed in Heimberg, Switzerland

Prior to commencing a construction project in Heimberg, the Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern undertook a rescue in autumn 2023. While the anticipated Roman site did not yield much new information, the investigation unveiled remnants of a previously undiscovered settlement from the .

Spanning over three months, the excavation at Schulgässli in Heimberg meticulously documented various settlement remains across nearly 1000 m² of land. Among the findings were evidence of a usage horizon characterized by a significant abundance of heat stones and a relatively large quantity of Bronze Age ceramics, alongside numerous post positions and pits. Notably, two pits were found filled with heat stones, indicating their potential use for heat storage in cooking or heating pits—a characteristic feature of the Bronze Age.

A pit filled with heat stones from the rescue excavation in Heimberg. Fosse remplie de pierres de chauffe mise au jour lors the fouilles de sauvetage réalisées à Heimberg. © Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern, Guy Jaquenod

Furthermore, some pits likely served as clay extraction sites. During the Bronze Age, clay held immense significance as a raw material, utilized for plastering wicker walls of houses and crafting vascular ceramics. This is corroborated by the presence of a layer of hillside clay measuring up to 35 meters thick in the excavation area. Subsequent extraction pits, belonging to a much later period, suggest that the clay deposit was later exploited by the renowned Heimberg potters of modern times. A brickworks excavation conducted in Heimberg in 1964 uncovered similar evidence dating back to the Roman period.

The excavation in Heimberg, on the right edge of the area, there is a pit filled with heat stones. Les fouilles à Heimberg : une fosse remplie de pierres de chauffage se trouve sur le côté droit du site. © Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern, Daniel Breu.

The Heimberg site is just one of several recent Bronze Age discoveries in the region between Thun and Bern. Since 2014, the lower Lake Thun basin, adjacent to Schadau Castle, has revealed preserved remains of pile dwellings. Rescue excavations in Thun-Schoren, Richigen, and Kehrsatz/Chlywabere have also unearthed extensive Bronze Age settlement remnants. These newfound Bronze Age sites underscore the significance of the Aare Valley as both a habitat and a vital transport route linking the Alps (passes) with the Swiss plateau.

Source: Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern

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