Hailed as a sensation find, researchers report they have discovered the official entrance to an Ice Age cave near Engen, Germany, that nobody has entered for 16,000 years! Archaeologists are naturally very excited about the discovery as it offers a unique opportunity to gain knowledge into the life of late Ice Age hunter-gatherers in this region and perhaps even unearth some artifacts.
Entrance to Ice Age cave discovered near Engen.
Scientists have been aware of the cave’s existence since 1970, but it has not been possible to explore it until now. About 50 years ago, a hole was accidentally blasted into the cave ceiling during the construction of a sewage pipe, but the cave was not investigated further.
During geophysical measurements of the underground in April of this year, which were carried out in cooperation with the University of Heidelberg, the researchers found that the cave is much larger than previously assumed. It is estimated to be around twenty meters deep and several meters high. The research team managed to locate the entrance to the cave, which was previously underground.
Archaeologist Yvonne Tafelmaier from the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments in Baden-Württemberg describes the find as a sensation. According to Tafelmaier, it is a unique situation. To find a site that researchers have hardly explored is a rare experience.
The Engen Ice Age cave is a treasure trove for archaeologists who hope to obtain unique data about the life of people in the region in the late Ice Age.
“The new find belongs to a whole series of caves in the so-called Ice Age Park near Engen. There is also the Gnirs Cave and the well-known Petersfels, also a late Ice Age site and a popular hiking destination today. The Petersfels is about 13,000 to 15,000 years old. Astonishing finds from the last Ice Age were already being made when it was discovered. The archaeologists are now hoping for the same from the new large cave,” SWR reports.
“We already know that settlement remains from the late Ice Age are there, and we hope to find even more, such as stone tools, perhaps jewelry and art remains,” Tafelmaier says.
Scientists are eager to explore the cave.
Archaeologist Gerd Albrecht had the chance to visit a small part of the Ice Age cave when it was found in the 1970s, and it was an unforgettable event. “It was madness for a prehistorian, a completely undiscovered cave. We then poked four meters in the direction and four meters in the direction, and then we just took samples,” he recalls.
Later the cave was closed. Funds to cover such a large project were lacking, but now everything has changed, and scientists may finally uncover the secrets of the Ice Age cave.
“The potential of the thing is enormous,” Albrecht says.
The Ice Age cave in Engen is still closed by a thick layer of earth. Scientists are investigating the cave entrance. The plan is to explore the cave in 2024.
To avoid destruction of any kind by unauthorized persons, a decision has been made to keep the entrance closed until the next year, when experts will study the cave’s interior.
It is currently unclear when and whether the cave will be made accessible to visitors.