Monrepos (archaeology)

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Monrepos Archaeological Research Center and Museum for Human Behavioral Evolution
Monrepos Logo
Established 1984
Location Schloss Monrepos, 56567 Neuwied
Director Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser

Monrepos is an archaeological research centre and a museum for the human behavioural evolution located at Schloss Monrepos in Neuwied. On the one hand, the development of our modern human behaviour in the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic is studied at the research centre and on the other hand, the findings of these studies are conveyed to the public in the museum. Monrepos is one of the leading institutions for the research of early human history.


Monrepos is part of the Romano-Germanic Central Museum (Mainz) a member of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Scientific Community. Another provider for Monrepos is the Prinz Maximilian zu Wied-Stiftung, supported by the Förderkreis Altsteinzeit e.V., which assists with research, teaching and the conveying of research results. Monrepos collaborates closely with the Institute for Prehistoric Archaeology of the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz.


Monrepos (French: "my rest") is a historical recreation area located on the hills above the town of Neuwied in a transition zone between the Middle Rhine valley and the Westerwald. In the extensive forests of Monrepos several long-distance hiking trails cross such as the Rheinsteig, the Rheinhöhenweg Trail, and a trail along the remains of the Limes. The previous summer residence of the princes of Wied is today the centre of an ensemble of historic buildings from the 18th and 19th century.


Monrepos after finished reconstruction works in 2013

Until 2012, Monrepos had been named "research unit Palaeolithic“ (Forschungsbereich Altsteinzeit) of the RGZM and "museum for Ice Age archaeology“ (Museum für die Archäologie des Eiszeitalters). The discovery and study of famous Palaeolithic sites in the Neuwied Basin such as Niederbieber, Gönnersdorf, and Bad Breisig led to the foundation of the research unit Palaeolithic of the RGZM in 1984. Along with the museum for Ice Age archaeology the research unit has been located on Schloss Monrepos since 1988. The house was built in 1909. It was originally named "Waldheim" (forest home) and served as home for the princely widows. In 1986, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Wied brought the Schloss into the foundation Prince Maximilian of Wied [1]

Besides functioning as the head of the Forschungsbereich Altsteinzeit, Gerhard Bosinski, the founder of the institute, was also professor at the institute of prehistoric archaeology of the University of Cologne. Since 2003 Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser has been the head of Monrepos and she is also the professor at the institute of prehistory and early history of the University of Mainz.

2005 the exhibition of the museum for Ice Age archaeology was modernised but in 2011 the museum had to be closed temporary due to extensive renovation and reconstruction works of Schloss Monrepos. The museum is re-organised currently and will be re-opened with a new concept, probably in late 2013.[2]

Temporal and geographic frame of research[edit]

The research at Monrepos encompasses the early human history of the Old World from its beginnings to the invention and spread of agriculture and stock farming. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the studies focused particularly on the rich archaeological sites from the Neuwied basin and its vicinity.:[3] The Lower Palaeolithic site at Miesenheim is approximately 600,000 years old and among the oldest settlement sites in Central Europe.[4] Sites in former volcano craters in the eastern Eifel such as the Schweinskopf, the "Wannen“ volcano group, the Tönchesberg, and the Plaidter Hummerich are worldwide the only settlement sites of this type inhabited by Neanderthals [5] Important sites of the Magdalenian were excavated and studied at Andernach-Martinsberg and Gönnersdorf. Many sites studied at Monrepos such as Niederbieber, Bad Breisig, Kettig, Urbar, and the upper horizons of Andernach-Martinsberg were attributed to the so-called Federmesser groups which are a similar behavioural development as the French Azilian in the late Ice Age. Their remarkably good preservation due to the cover by tephras of the Laacher See volcanic eruption made exceptional insights into the land-use of this period possible [6][7][8] Since the late 1990s the geographic frame of research at Monrepos has been broadened. In international cooperation projects sites such as Ubeidiya and Gesher Benot Ya'aqov in Israel have been examined.[9][10] In Dmanisi in Georgia, Monrepos has excavated the oldest Eurasian site with hominid remains.[11] Current excavation projects are conducted in Romania where the oldest sites in Eastern Europe are recovered and at the Taforalt in Morocco where the behaviour of early modern humans is studied and the oldest pieces of human adornment were found.[12] Analyses of Mesolithic sites such as Duvensee [13] or Bedburg-Königshoven [14] are chronologically the youngest studies performed at Monrepos.

Guiding principle of research[edit]

The research and the conveying of its results aim at understanding the essential behavioural characteristics of modern humans and the development of these characteristics during the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods from 2.5 Million years to approximately 7,500 years ago.

Monrepos is among the few archaeological research institutions which are guided by an own principle of research. This principle defines the objectives of research and the strategy necessary to achieve these objectives. The principle of research is based on an integrative, holistic understanding of science. Thereby, it merges the traditional dichotomy of Social and Natural Sciences. Different sources of evidence and variable contexts are connected diachronically in the principle of research. They are pooled in three research units: "time slices“, "strategies”and “social organisation”. "Time slices“ relates to the group of questions of where, when, and in which frame of references human behaviour evolved. The research units "strategies“ and "social organisation“ try to identify survival strategies and behavioural patterns as well as their social embedding. The research principle is oriented diachronically and perspectively. That means that the research is systematically looking at different time periods and levels of resolution. Large frames allow for an orientation, whereas more detailed frames allow for a punctually high resolution. By the use of a synthetic comparison of the three research units and the comparative transfer between the different time periods and levels of resolution, it is possible to reconstruct the development of human behaviour in the Palaeolithic and Mesolihic.[15]

Research foci[edit]

Sculpture of a Gönnersdorf venus figurine

Particularly relevant research foci in the study of the behavioural development of early humans and hominids are the processes relating to subsistence patterns, mobility, settlement behaviour, and land-use patterns of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers.[16]

Calibration and Dating programmes[edit]

Since the mid-1980s, Monrepos has been involved in the construction and improvement of an absolute chronology of the European Palaeolithic. In this process, comprehensive dating programs of the Upper Palaeolithic were initiated [17] Innovative methods of radiocarbon calibration were developed by Olaf Jöris (Monrepos) and Bernhard Weninger (University of Cologne). These methods became constantly better and made precise calibration of increasingly older radiocarbon dates possible by the connection with high-resolution climate data sets. The calibration program CalPal [18] is based on this approach and was first created by Olaf Jöris and Bernhard Weninger in the mid-1990s.


Hunting of big game is an important ability in the development of early hominid subsistence. Monrepos has set an international standard in the study of hominid hunting by the use of an elaborated set of archaeozoological methods and a diachronic perspective. For instance, big game hunting by early hominids and its evolutionary relevance was demonstrated for the first time in the archaeological record by a member of Monrepos [19][20][10][21][22][23] Currently, the research mainly focuses on Neanderthals' hunting behaviour in the context of land use. This behaviour is examined particularly in cave sites such as the Balve cave or the Moravian Kůlna Cave and at the largest Middle Palaeolithic open air site in Neumark-Nord.[24] Further research projects relating to subsistence concentrate on the late Ice age and the early Holocene. Studies from concentrations at the Mesolithic site of Duvensee were the first to show the significance of vegetation resources (hazelnuts) in the early Holocene subsistence.[25]

Settlement behaviour[edit]

The investigation and analysis of the evolution of settlement and land use behaviour represent another research focus at MONREPOS. Since its inception the systematic analysis of extensively-excavated open-air sites and settlement structures has always been a focus at MONREPOS. Current research involves the application of GIS supported geo-statistical approaches that allow for quantitative and verifiable analyses of settlement dynamics. .[26][27] The wide spectrum of investigated sites allows for a diachronic comparison of settlement and land use behaviours and their links with environmental change and socio-economic factors. Current projects involve the sites of Neumark-Nord, Bilizingsleben, Niederbieber, Breitenbach, Magdalena-cave, Gönnersdorf, Andernach, Oelknitz and Duvensee.[28][29]


The analytic-integrative approach to Palaeolithic art is another defining feature of work at Monrepos that was developed coinciding with the discovery and investigation of the famous engraved Magdalenian slate plaquettes from Gönnersdorf through Gerhard Bosinski. It was thus possible to conclusively demonstrate that art was a major component in the Palaeolithic of Central Europe and “type Gönnersdorf” figurines represent a major category in art studies.[30] The particular manner in which art is studied at MONREPOS is characterised by a contextualised approach that aims to understand the principles and rules behind patters in design and production. The plaquettes are currently part of a detailed 3-D analysis.[31][32][33]

Experimental archaeology[edit]

Since the 1980s controlled experiments relating to hunting techniques, processing of carcasses, and taphonomy have been conducted in Monrepos under laboratory conditions.[34][10]

Education and promotion of young scientists[edit]

Members of Monrepos regularly give lectures and seminars about the evolution of human behaviour in the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic at the Institute of Prehistory and Early History at the university of Mainz.[35] The archaeological education is supplemented by internships, excursions, und field schools allowing for direct participation in science and conveying. Junior scientists are promoted individually by a mentoring programme and also financially by scholarships such as the Prince Maximilian of Wied-scholarship.[36][37][38]


The mammoth sculpture 'Max' outside Monrepos

The permanent exhibition presents the results of archaeological research into the origins and early evolution of human behaviour. Due to the renovations the museum was closed in 2010. It is expected to re-open with a new concept and exhibit at the end of 2013.[39]


In addition to the Museum and its teaching involvement at the Institute for Pre- and Early History at Mainz University, Monrepos has also developed other formats of public outreach. The Rudolf Virchow lecture is one of the most longstanding public archaeological lectures in Germany. This annual event honours the accomplishments of an eminent researcher in the field of Palaeolithic archaeology, who presents the results of his or her research in a popular lecture held at Neuwied castle. The “SteinZeitReise” (“Trip to the Stone Age”) is an annual „hands on „event held on Pentecost Sunday at Monrepos. Members of staff demonstrate various aspects of Palaeolithic life and the public is invited to try out flint-knapping, atlatl-throwing and archaeological excavation.[40] Innovative special exhibits, for example, GANZ ALT - die Archäologie des Eiszeitalters umgesetzt von Otmar Alt“ connect Palaeolithic art with modern art and current affairs.[41]


Osteological collection[edit]

The comparative collection is primarily made up of animal specimens, which are complemented by a small inventory of human remains. The faunal inventory consists primarily of European ice age faunas and/or their extant representatives. In addition to large mammals (mammoth, rhino, bison horse), the collection also includes remains of extant smaller mammals and birds. The taphonomic collection includes modern and archaeological materials that exhibit various pathologies and show signatures of specific taphonomic processes and agents, as well as experimentally modified bone.

Lithic raw material collection[edit]

The raw material collection includes samples of flint, which served as raw material for the production of artefacts during the Middle- and Upper Palaeolithic. The collection currently houses approximately 230 samples from various locales, with the majority of samples coming from locales in the Rhineland.

Collection of archaeological artefacts[edit]

The artefact collection is made up of approximately 4500 artefacts from the Middle- and Upper Palaeolithic. Specimens include both authentic pieces as well as copies made by restoration department at the RGZM. An important component of the artefact collection is the Venus statue archive. With over 50 specimens the venus collection is the biggest of its kind world-wide. It includes originals and copies of all female figurines known from the Mid-Upper Palaeolithic.[42] The artefact collection also houses engraved schist plaquettes from Gönnersdorf and figurines from the early and late Upper Palaeolithic.


The library at Monrepos contains more than 70,000 titles on Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology. It is complemented by a comprehensive collection of special editions and an electronic database of periodicals.


  • Bosinski, Gerhard (1988). "Eiszeitsiedlungen vom Bims konserviert. Die Entstehungsgeschichte des Museums für Archäologie des Eiszeitalters in Monrepos.". Westerwald. 81: 185–187. 
  • Street, Martin (1995). "The Forschungsbereich Altsteinzeit des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums, Mainz.". Newsletter of the Osteoarchaeological Research Group. 9: 7–10. 
  • Hannelore Bosinski: 15 Jahre Museum für die Archäologie des Eiszeitalters. Eine ganz persönliche Rückschau. In: Heimatjahrbuch des Landkreises Neuwied. 2005, S. 53–60.
  • Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser, Olaf Jöris (Hrsg.): 600.000 Jahre Menschheitsgeschichte in der Mitte Europas. Begleitbuch zur Ausstellung im Museum für die Archäologie des Eiszeitalters, Schloss Monrepos, Neuwied. Verlag des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums, Mainz 2006, ISBN 9783795419684.


  1. ^ Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser, Olaf Jöris (Hrsg.): 600.000 Jahre Menschheitsgeschichte in der Mitte Europas. Begleitbuch zur Ausstellung im Museum für die Archäologie des Eiszeitalters, Schloss Monrepos, Neuwied. Verlag des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums, Mainz 2006, ISBN 9783795419684.
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  3. ^ M. Baales 2005, Archäologie des Eiszeitalters. Archäologie an Mittelrhein und Mosel 16, Koblenz 2005
  4. ^ E. Turner, Miesenheim I. Excavations at a Lower Palaeolithic Site in the Central Rhineland of Germany; with contributions by F. Bittmann, W. Boenigk, M. Frechen, D. Muller and U. Schweitzer (2000) ISBN 978-3-88467-049-1
  5. ^ S. Gaudzinski-Windheuser, O. Jöris (Hrsg.), 600.000 Jahre Menschheitsgeschichte in der Mitte Europas. Verlag des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz, Mainz 2006, 18-26
  6. ^ Baales, M.; Street, M. (1996). "Hunter-gatherer behavior in a changing late glacial landscape: Allerød archaeology in the Central Rhineland, Germany". Journal of Anthropological Research. 52 (3): 281–316. doi:10.1086/jar.52.3.3630086. 
  7. ^ Street, M.; Gelhausen, F.; Grimm, S.; Moseler, F.; Niven, L.; Sensburg, M.; Turner, E.; Wenzel, St.; Jöris, O. (2006). "L'occupation du bassin de Neuwied (Rhénanie centrale, Allemagne) par les Magdaléniens et les groupes à Federmesser (aziliens)". Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française. 103 (4): 753–780. doi:10.3406/bspf.2006.13504. 
  8. ^ S. Gaudzinski-Windheuser, O. Jöris (Hrsg.), 600.000 Jahre Menschheitsgeschichte in der Mitte Europas. Verlag des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz, Mainz 2006
  9. ^ S. Gaudzinski-Windheuser, Subsistenzstrategien frühpleistozäner Hominiden in Eurasien. Taphonomische Faunenbetrachtungen der ‘Ubeidia Formation (Israel) (2005); ISBN 978-3-88467-079-8
  10. ^ a b c Rabinovich, R., Gaudzinski-Windheuser, S., Kindler, L., Goren-Inbar, N., 2011. The Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov. Mammalian Taphonomy. The assemblages of Layers V-5 and V-6. Springer, Dordrecht
  11. ^ O. Joris, Der altpaläolithische Fundplatz Dmanisi (Georgien, Kaukasus). Archäologische Funde und Befunde des Liegenden Fundkomplexes im Kontext der frühen Menschheitsentwicklung (2008); ISBN 978-3-88467-121-4
  12. ^ Bouzouggar, A.; Barton, N.; Vanhaeren, M.; Collcutt, S.; Higham, T.; Hodge, E.; Parfitt, S.; Rhodes, E.; Schwenninger, J.-L.; Stringer, C.; Turner, E.; Ward, S.; Moutmir, A.; Stambouli, A. (2007). "82,000-year old shell beads from North Africa and implications for the origin of modern human behaviour". PNAS. 104 (24): 9964–9969. PMC 1891266Freely accessible. PMID 17548808. doi:10.1073/pnas.0703877104. 
  13. ^ D. Holst,Hazelnut economy of early Holocene hunter gatherers: a case study from Mesolithic Duvensee, northern Germany" Journal of Archaeological Science 2010; 37, 2871-2880
  14. ^ M. Street 1991: Bedburg-Königshoven: A Pre-Boreal Mesolithic site in the Lower Rhineland (Germany). In: N. Barton, A. J. Roberts & D. A. Roe (eds.), The Late Glacial in north-west Europe: Human adaptation and environmental change at the end of the Pleistocene (London 1991) 256-270.
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  17. ^ Jöris, O.; Street, M. (2008). "At the End of the 14C-Scale: Scenarios at the Transition from the Middle to the Upper Palaeolithic". Journal of Human Evolution. 55 (5): 782–802. PMID 18930513. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2008.04.002. 
  18. ^ "Ausstattung - Archäologisches Forschungszentrum und Museum für menschliche Verhaltensevolution". Retrieved 2017-01-20. 
  19. ^ Gaudzinski, S (1995). "Wallertheim Revisited: a Re-analysis of the Fauna from the Middle Palaeolithic Site of Wallertheim (Rheinhessen/Germany)". Journal of Archaeological Science. 22: 51–66. doi:10.1016/S0305-4403(95)80162-6. 
  20. ^ Gaudzinski, S (2004). "Subsistence patterns of Early Pleistocene hominids in the Levant - Taphonomic evidence from the 'Ubeidiya Formation (Israel)". Journal of Archaeological Science. 31: 65–75. doi:10.1016/S0305-4403(03)00100-6. 
  21. ^ The Role of Early Humans in the Accumulation of European Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Bone Assemblages. Ergebnisse eines Kolloquiums (1999) ISBN 978-3-88467-044-6
  22. ^ Gaudzinski-Windheuser, S.; Kindler, L. (2012). "The evolution of hominin food resource exploitation in Pleistocene Europe: Recent studies in Zooarchaeology". Quaternary International. 252: 1–202. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2011.10.017. 
  23. ^ Gaudzinski-Windheuser, S.; Kindler, L. (2012). "Research Perspectives for the study of Neandertal subsistence strategies based on the analysis of archaeozoological assemblages". Quaternary International. 247: 59–68. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2010.11.029. 
  24. ^ "Neumark-Nord - Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt / Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte Halle". 2010-12-16. Retrieved 2017-01-20. 
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  26. ^ S. Gaudzinski-Windheuser, O. Jöris, M. Sensburg, M. Street, E. Turner (Hrsg.) 2011, Site-internal spatial organization of hunter-gatherer societies: Case studies from the European Palaeolothic and Mesolithic. RGZM – Tagungen, Band 12 (2011), ISBN 978-3-88467-190-0
  27. ^ E. Cziesla, S. Eickhoff, N. Arts und D. Winter (Hrsg.), The big puzzle. International symposium on refitting stone artefacts. Kolloquium Monrepos 1987. Studies in Modern Archaeology 1. Bonn
  28. ^ Tagungsheft der 53. Jahrestagung der Hugo Obermaier Gesellschaft in Herne 2011, ISBN 978-3-933474-75-9
  29. ^ Tagungsheft der 53. Jahrestagung der Hugo Obermaier Gesellschaft in Leipzig 2010
  30. ^ Die Kunst der Eiszeit in Deutschland und in der Schweiz. Habelt, Bonn 1982, ISBN 3-7749-1832-5.
  31. ^ A. Güth: New scientific findings confirming "The Oldest Representation of Childbirth". A 3D-Re-Vision of an engraved slate plaquette from the Magdalenian site of Gönnersdorf (Neuwied/Rhineland). In: Programmheft zur 53. Jahrestagung der Hugo Obermaier-Gesellschaft, (Herne 2011), 20-21. (online)
  32. ^ S. Gaudzinski-Windheuser, O. Jöris: Contextualising the Female Image – Symbols for Common Ideas and Communal Identity in Upper Palaeolithic Societies. In: F. Wenban-Smith, F. Coward, R. Hosfield, M. Pope (Hrsg.): Settlement, Society, and Cognition in Human Evolution. Matt Pope. Cambridge University Press
  33. ^ G. Bosinski: Tierdarstellungen von Gönnersdorf. Nachträge zu Mammut und Pferd sowie die übrigen Tierdarstellungen. Mit Beiträgen von Alexandra Güth und Wolfgang Heuschen. Umzeichnung der Schieferplatten von Gisela Fischer und Petra Schiller. Monographien der Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Band 72, 2008
  34. ^ "Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt". Retrieved 2017-01-20. 
  35. ^ "Institut für Vor- und Frühgeschichte". 2011-12-14. Retrieved 2017-01-20. 
  36. ^ Ausbildung des wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchses. Jahresbericht 2008 des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums, Mainz 2010, S. 106–111
  37. ^ Ausbildung des wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchses. Jahresbericht 2009 des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums, Mainz 2010, S. 110–115
  38. ^ Ausbildung des wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchses. Jahresbericht 2010 des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums, Mainz 2011, S. 116–122
  39. ^ [3]
  40. ^ “Steinzeitreise: Pfingstsonntag in Schloss Monrepos“. In: Jahresbericht 2009 des Römisch-Germanischen-Zentralmuseums, Mainz 2010, S. 142–143, ISBN 978-3-88467-166-5
  41. ^ Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser, Regina Höfer, Olaf Jöris (Hrsg.) Wie bunt war die Vergangenheit wirklich? Ganz Alt – die Archäologie des Eiszeitalters, umgesetzt von Otmar Alt. Eine ungewöhnliche Gegenüberstellung von jägerischer Archäologie und zeitgenössischer Kunst. 2007, ISBN 978-3-88467-107-8
  42. ^ S. Wolf 2009. Eine neue Venusstatuette vom jungpaläolithischen Fundplatz Dolní Vĕstonice (Mähren). Jahrbuch des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums 2008., Mainz 2011, 1-42

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°28′52″N 7°26′35″E / 50.48111°N 7.44306°E / 50.48111; 7.44306