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Steigelfadbalm cave

Mt. Rigi is home to a small archaeological sensation. Central Switzerland’s first stone artefacts proven to have been produced by Neanderthals were discovered in Steigelfadbalm cave. Excavations in the early 20th century also revealed the bones of a huge number of cave bears.

Description

Steigelfadbalm has long since been forgotten by science. However the cave remains an important source of information about the ice age. Excavations led by Wilhelm Amrein between 1913 and 1937 unearthed several important discoveries. Several of the stone artefacts found by his team were clearly identified as tools used by the Neanderthals. The most important item is a small stone with a sharp tip made from pure quartz. The triangular point shows evidence of rough workmanship on both sides. Similar sharpened tips are characteristic of the Middle Palaeolithic period, the time of the Neanderthals, between around 300,000 and 35,000 years ago. This type of quartz is not found locally and must have been brought here by the stone age inhabitants of the cave – from the Uri Alps, for instance. The existence of Neanderthals in Central Switzerland was first able to be verified as a result of these findings at Mt. Rigi.
Further discoveries, like a knife made of silex (a type of flint) and an arrow head made of bronze, proved that the cave also provided shelter to hunters in the Neolithic Period (5,500 – 2,000 BC) and the Bronze Age (2,200 – 800 BC). Alongside these traces of human life, the excavations also revealed over 3,000 bones and bone fragments. 90% of the bones were from cave bears. Only pieces of the skulls remained, however there were plenty of lower jaws and canine, incisor and molar teeth to be found. It is assumed that it would be possible to unearth all the pieces of an entire bear skeleton. The cave bear was an impressive beast: around 3.5 metres long, with a shoulder height of up to 1.75 metres and weighing in at 1,500 kg. They lived between 130,000 and 20,000 years ago. The bears probably became extinct due to dwindling sources of food during the peak of the last ice age.
The cave can be reached on foot via a mountain hiking trail from Hinterbergen or from the Rigi Bahnen station Mittlerschwanden. There is an information board at the cave filled with archaeological facts.

free entry
freely accessible / always open

Map

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