Driving along Lake Constance (Bodensee) one encounters a collection of huts on stilts jutting into the lake at Unteruhldingen, midway between Meersburg and Uberlingen.This is an open air museum of primitive pile dwellings, and has been in existence since 1922. It throws light on the lives of people who lived between 4000 -850 B.C. A Stone Age village and a Bronze Age village were constructed on the basis of archaeological findings around Lake Constance and Federseemoor between 1872 and 1930. The museum has no government sponsorship and is the initiative of members of the Lake Dwellers Society, to educate people on the history, culture and life styles of a primitive people.
The huts were built of wattle and daub on a strong building platform supported on sturdy wooden piles. These were secured to the ground, because the area around was moist, with frequent flooding of the lake. Pallisades or defence walls bordered the village against storms and waves. Stone Age dwellers were short in stature and also in life expectancy. They were stone masons, wood cutters, weavers and fishermen.
The Bronze Age village shows a remarkable transition from stone to bronze. Bronze was an alloy of copper and tin and was used along with wood for implements. Knives, sickles, arrowheads, articles for ornamentation like pendants, beads and hair pins were produced. Their settlements were large and huts were reinforced with logs of wood. These log cabins were decorated with patterns etched in wood like, sun, moon, birds animals and zig-zag designs. A village took about three years to build. The entire community shifted to a new location every twenty years. Woods were cleared and land cultivated. They built boats and established trade connections with other communities. The community acquired a heirarchical structure. The headman’s house as depicted in the museum, shows better standards of living with tables and benches, pottery and coats. Specialization of crafts took place. The potter’s house, the herdsman’s house, storage houses for millet, grain, flax, and poppy seeds, everyday tools in use, animals they reared, customs they followed give us a glimpse into their lives. They even acquired a totem – a bronze composite animal with a duck head, bull horns and a dove’s tail.
By the side of the open-air museum is an exhibition room. The ‘Man at the lake’ exhibiton displays original finds and artifacts from the lake dwelling areas. One can also buy literature, information, post cards and replicas at the adjacent sales room.
The Phalbau or Open-air Lake Dwellers’ Museum is an excellent place to visit.
By Eva Bell
Other Information on Lake Constance maybe found at: