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The Venus of Die Rote von Mauern - the Red Venus from the Weinberghöhlen near Mauern

Die Rote von Mauern is a venus statuette in limestone, 27 000 years old, covered with red ochre when found at the Weinberghöhlen caves near Mauern, Bavaria. Lothar Zotz, on 24th August 1948, found the 72 mm tall limestone venus figure on the outer slope between cavities two and three of the Weinberghöhlen. During 1937-38, 1947-49, 1967 and 1974 bone fragments and traces of mammoth, cave bear, woolly rhinoceros, reindeer and 20 other different animals were found at the caves, as well as high quality Blattspitzen or leaf points of Mousterian / Neanderthal origin.

Neanderthal caves of Mauern

The Weinberghöhlen Caves near Mauern, Bavaria, in which the Rote von Mauern was found.
Photo: jokreu via Panoramio

Die Rote von Mauern venus Die Rote von Mauern venus Die Rote von Mauern venus

Die Rote von Mauern venus Die Rote von Mauern venus Die Rote von Mauern venus

Die Rote von Mauern venus Die Rote von Mauern venus
Die Rote von Mauern

A venus statuette from Bavaria, 27 000 years old called "Die Rote von Mauern" ("The red one of Mauern")

'Die Rote von Mauern' ein Fruchtbarkeitsidol aus Kalkstein, Weinberghöhlen bei Mauern, Lkr. Neuburg a. d. Donau. Ca. 25 000 v. Chr.

The red venus of Mauern is a fertility object of limestone, from the Weinberghöhlen caves near the vineyards of Mauern, district of Neuburg an der Donau. Approx. 25 000 BC

Photo: Ralph Frenken
Source: original, exhibited at the Archeological Museum Hamburg (Ice Age - The Art of the Mammoth Hunters from 18 October 2016 to 14 May 2017)
On loan from the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Die Rote von Mauern venus  Die Rote von Mauern
Die Rote von Mauern

In 1948/1949 Lothar Zotz, University of Erlangen, Germany, directed excavations in the the Weinberghöhlen caves, and on 24th August 1948 found the Rote von Mauern, a 72 mm tall, red ochre coloured limestone venus figure, on the outer slope between cavity two and three.

During 1937-38, 1947-49, 1967 and 1974 bone fragments and traces of mammoth, cave bear, woolly rhinoceros, reindeer and 20 other different animals.

Michael Eckstein (1903-1987) conducted research at the Weinberghöhlen and brought a lot of artifacts to the museum in Neuburg. Unfortunately, the caves remain closed due to rock fall hazard.

Photo (left):
Photo (right):,95

Usually the venus of Mauern is located in the "Archäologische Staatssammlung München". It stems from the Gravettien, and is 72 mm in length, covered with red ochre, made of limestone.

The leader of the excavations was Professor Dr. Lothar F. Zotz (* 6th December 1899 in Heitersheim; † 1967) a German Prehistorian of the university of Erlangen.

Date of discovery: 24th August 1948. The actual discoverer was Graf Christoff von Vojkffy.

The location of discovery is the Weinberghöhlen (= vineyard caves) near Rennertshofen-Mauern in the Landkreis (District of) Neuburg-Schrobenhausen, Bavaria

Mauern (Rennertshofen)
Coordinates: 48 ° 46 '18 "N, 11 ° 3' 44" E
Population: 242 (30 June 2011)
Zip Code: 86643 86 643

Mauern is a village and parish of the district market of Rennertshofen in the district of Neuburg-Schrobenhausen in Upper Bavaria.

Upper Mauern and its districts are located north-northeast of the capital at the beginning of the Rennertshofen Wellheimer dry valley in the hilly landscape of the Southern Franconian Alb.

The nearby towns south of Mauern are Stepperg , Hatzenhofen and the capital Rennertshofen.

Settlement traces indicate an early settlement of the Mauern area. In the Weinberghöhlen caves are numerous relics of the human past. On the southern outskirts, there were remains of a Neolithic settlement and a Celtic iron-smelting centre. Within today's church was a Roman estate (there is still a Roman grave monument in the church). There are still remnants of a Roman wall in the area.

 Die Rote von Mauern

View of the Weinberghöhlen and the steps leading up to it.


 Die Rote von Mauern

A good photo of the venus, from the excellent Aggsbach's Paleolithic Blog.

Source: Figurine from Mauern (Original: Prähistorische Staatssammlung, München, Germany; Facsimile: Kirchhoff Collection; University Göttingen))

weinberghol plan

The Weinberghöhlen caves plan.

This shows the metal grids put up to keep visitors from being injured or killed by falling rocks as dotted lines on the plan.


mauern venus mauern venus

Other views of the Mauern Venus.

Photo: Adam and Kurz (1980)

 Die Rote von Mauern  Die Rote von Mauern  Die Rote von Mauern

 Die Rote von Mauern

Die Rote von Mauern

Note the depression in the head of the figure. The figure is in some ways enigmatic so far as gender is concerned, it has elements of a phallic figure, and this depression on the head is a possible pointer to its double meaning.

Photo: © Ralph Frenken
Permission: Used by courtesy of Ralph Frenken.

 Die Rote von Mauern
Mauern from the inside of one of the Weinberghöhlen .

From the caves there is a great view of the wide opening of the valley and of approaching prey. During the last ice age people lived in the entrances of the caves and hunted game from there.

The valley in which Mauern is situated has been mostly dry for about 130 000 years, after changes in watercourse drainage occurred.

In the south, the entrance of the Rennertshofen dry valley is very wide, while further north, the valley narrows gradually.

Just past the entrance to the valley lies the small town of Mauern with its high steeple.

Photo: besiwell via Panoramio
Text: Translated and adapted from Kurt Scheuerer,

Neanderthal caves near Mauern
Behind the village you can see from the road in the middle of the western slopes at an altitude of 20 metres above the valley floor, the openings of the Weinberghöhlen caves.

In the ice age summers in the marshy valleys of the Jura there were too many mosquitoes, so the reindeer stayed at the glacier's edge in today's Munich. In the winter, the uplands provided good protection. Therefore in the spring and fall there were migrations of herds across the Danube to the area.

Photo: randyrosy via Panoramio
Text: Translated and adapted from Kurt Scheuerer,

Neanderthal caves near Mauern
The interior of the caves is now barred, because large blocks spall from the ceiling unexpectedly. The wire mesh can be seen in this photo at the entrance to the cave on the right.

During archaeological investigations in the late 30s, most of the floor of the caves and entrances, several feet thick in places, was excavated. There was hardly anything left for the 1947-1949 follow-up excavation.

The caves are still dangerous. A large block fell unexpectedly and killed a volunteer helping to excavate the Mauern deposits. In his honour a large lime tree was planted at the entrance to the first cave.

In 1977 the Weinberghöhlen had to be barred. No one is able to enter the caves with safety.

Photo: jokreu via Panoramio

The excavations revealed five zones:
  1. The lowest layers yielded Mousterian (Neanderthal) stone tools from the middle Palaeolithic during the last ice age.
  2. The second layer gave "leaf tips" or from the late Middle Palaeolithic, and two storage pits with hearths were found on the forecourts of the lower and upper caves.
  3. The third layer was sterile, which is also observed in other caves of our region. During this period, it was probably too cold to support human life here.
  4. Then follow a few sporadic traces of modern man from the earliest Upper Paleolithic culture stage.
  5. The overlying Gravettian layer showed four different, probably not simultaneous occupations, two of which were longer lasting, in the vestibule of the third cave.
The Gravettian layer yielded some noteworthy findings:

At the entrance to Cave 3, A. Bohmer in 1937/38 found the skull of a juvenile mammoth. In addition, there were several parts of the spine, ribs, shoulder blades and two front leg bone. Another 14 items included a perforated ivory pendant as well as perforated teeth of arctic fox, wolf, bear and reindeer.

A comparable group skeleton was discovered in the previous excavation close by 1937, with a follow-up showed that there were bones of various animals, which had been placed on a layer of red earth in an anatomically correct position.

Outside of the hillside cave between 2 and 3 is also during the excavation by L. Zotz in 1948/49 the statue of a woman, "Rote von Mauern" was found.

All three findings were interspersed with red ochre, which suggests that ritual and spirituality in the ice age was not uncommon.

Text above: Translated and adapted from Kurt Scheuerer,

Leaf tip or Blattspitzen

This is one of the famous and extremely fine Blattspitzen or leaf points from Mauern which come from an Interstadial and are clearly associated with middle Paleolithic material.

The Weinberghöhlen near Mauern in Bavaria are one of the most important reference sites for the leaf points-complex in Germany. Two horizons, zone 5 and, above all, zone 4 have yielded bifacial leaf points in the context of a late Mousterian with some affinities to the Keilmessergruppen (Middle European Micoquien) during an Interstadial (Hengelo or earlier during OIS3). Because most of the leaf point-ensembles were excavated many decades ago, contextual data are not available.

Many of these artifacts are highly sophisticated and indicate an advanced level of stone knapping abilities, putatively those of Homo Neanderthaliensis. The function of leaf points is not known (Hunting spear tips, knives, prestigious objects?).

Photo and text:

Mauern Cave Plan
Weinberghöhlen near Mauern (Germany). Plan view of the cave system showing the few tools having been found inside the caves. After von Koenigswald et al. (1974)

The Weinberghöhlen near Mauern in Bavaria, one of the most important reference sites for the Blattspitzen complex in Germany, is especially characteristic of this group of sites. Two horizons, zone 5 and, above all, zone 4 have yielded Blattspitzen. While 609 artifacts, 89 of them tools, came from zone 5, the overlying zone 4 yielded only 398 artifacts, among them 111 tools. Cores and blanks are rare. Both horizons yielded rich faunal remains but according to Wighart von Koenigswald, there is little unambiguous evidence for hunting activities (von Koenigswald et al. 1974). A revised analysis of the fauna from Weinberghöhlen is now being undertaken by P. Krönneck in Tübingen.

It must be stressed that the highest density of finds lay in the entrance areas and the areas immediately in front of the caves, while inside the caves only isolated Blattspitzen and a few other artifacts have been found (fig. 7a). In addition, the fire places were found exclusively outside the caves (fig. 7b).

Photo and text: Bolus (2004)

Mauern Cave Section
Profile C-D of the entrance area of cave 5 with fire places in the Blattspitzen layer F. After Bohmers (1951)

For the position of the profile see figure 7a above.

It should be stressed that there are strong arguments for the assumption that the richer layers in the caves, or, in many cases, in front of the caves, are simply the result of repeated short-term stays, as Hansjürgen Müller-Beck already assumed for zone 5 of the Weinberghöhlen (von Koenigswald et al. 1974).

This correlates with the fact that cores and evidence for an intensive blank production are rare, that the proportion of tools is high and that Blattspitzen are dominant among the tools, which indicates that the assemblages are related to hunting activities. Given that the areas in front of the caves had not been excavated in Mauern, the find density inside the caves themselves would show only slight differences to the caves mentioned in the third group.

Photo and text: Bolus (2004)

Occurrence of mammalia relicts at Weinberghöhlen/Mauern

Koenigswald and Wighart (1974)
License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

Fauna found at the Weinberghöhlen
Scientific NameCommon Name
Alopex lagopusArctic or Hare-footed Fox
Apodemus sp.Wood Mouse
Arvicola terrestrisWater Vole
Bos vel BisonEuropean Bison
Canis lupusTimber Wolf
Capra ibex-pyrenaicaPyrenean Ibex
Castor fiberEurasian beaver
Cervus elaphusRed Deer
Chiroptera sp.Bat
Clethrionomys glareolusBank Vole
Coelodonta antiquitatisWoolly Rhinoceros
Cricetus cricetusCommon Hamster
Crocidura leucodon-russulaAsian Lesser White-toothed Shrew
Crocuta crocuta spelaeaCave Hyena
Dicrostonyx torquatusArctic Lemming
Eliomys quercinusGarden dormouse
Equus sp.Horse
Felis silvestrisWildcat
Glis glisFat Dormouse
Gulo guloWolverine
Lemmus lemmusNorwegian lemming
Lepus sp.Hare
Lepus timidusMountain Hare
Mammuthus primigeniusWoolly Mammoth
Martes martesEuropean Pine Marten
Megaloceros giganteusGiant Deer, Irish Elk
Meles melesEuropean Badger
Microtus arvalis-agrestisCommon Vole, Field Vole
Microtus gregalisNarrow-headed Vole
Microtus (Chionomys) nivalisEuropean Snow Vole
Microtus oeconomusTundra Vole
Mustela ermineaErmine
Mustela nivalis minutaDwarf Weasel
Neomys fodiensEurasian Water Shrew
Ochotona pusillaSteppe Pika
Panthera leo spelaeaCave Lion
Putorius eversmanniFerret
Rangifer tarandusReindeer
Sicista sp.Birch Mouse
Sorex araneus-alpinusCommon Shrew or Alpine Shrew
Sorex kennardiShrew
Sorex minutusPygmy Shrew
Spermophilus superciliosusGround Squirrel
Talpa europaeaEuropean Mole
Ursus spelaeusCave Bear
Vulpes vulpesRed Fox


  1. Adam, K., Kurz, R., 1980: Eiszeitkunst im süddeutschen Raum, Theiss.
  2. Bohmers, A., 1951: Die Höhlen von Mauern I. Kulturgeschichte der altsteinzeitlichen Besiedlung. Palaeohistoria 1. Groningen: J. B. Wolters.
  3. Bolus M., 2004: Settlement Analysis of Sites of the Blattspitzen Complex in Central Europe. In: J. N. Conard (ed.): Settlement dynamics of the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age II, 201–226. Tübingen.
  4. Koenigswald, W. von, Müller-Beck H., and Pressmar E., 1974: Die Archäologie und Paläontologie in den Weinberghöhlen bei Mauern (Bayern). Grabungen 1937-1967Archaeologica Venatoria 3 Tübingen: Institut für Urgeschichte.
  5. Koenigswald, W. von and Wighart, 1974: Die pleistozäne Fauna der Weinberghöhlen bei MauernArchaeologica Venatoria Tübingen, 3, 53-106
  6. Rieder , K. et al., 1989: Steinzeitliche Kulturen an Donau und Altmühl, Ingolstadt 1989, p. 50-59.
  7. Müller-Karpe, H., 1966: Handbuch der Vorgeschichte I, Altsteinzeit, , München 1966, p. 299-301.

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