Prehistoric pile dwellings around Lake Zurich

UNESCO World Heritage Site
Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List

Seedamm and reconstruction of the medieval lake bridgte at Rapperswil, Lake Zurich to the left, Obersee to the right, Hurden in the foreground; the area of three pile dwellings and the Neolithic lake crossing.

Type Cultural
Criteria iv, v
Reference 1363
UNESCO region Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 2011 (35th Session)

Prehistoric pile dwellings around Lake Zurich comprises 11 – or 10% of all European pile dwelling sites – of a total of 56 prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps in Switzerland, that are located around Lake Zurich in the cantons of Schwyz, St. Gallen and Zürich.[1]


These 11 – including one further on the nearby Greifensee and Robenhausen on Pfäffikersee lakeshore – prehistoric pile-dwelling (or stilt house) settlements were built from around 5000 BC to 500 BC and are concentrated within an area of about 40 square kilometres (15 sq mi), on Lake Zurich respectively Obersee lakeshore in the cantons of Schwyz, St. Gallen and Zürich.

They were added, as part of a series of in all 111 European prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps, to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2011. Archaeological excavations were only conducted in some of the sites, to preserve the heritage for future generations. Nevertheless, the excavations yielded evidence that provides insight into life in prehistoric times during the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Alpine Europe and the way communities interacted with their environment. The settlements are a unique group of exceptionally well-preserved and culturally rich archaeological sites, which constitute one of the most important sources for the study of early agrarian societies.[2][3]


Contrary to popular belief, the settlements were not erected over water, but on nearby marshy land, among them on the Seedamm respectively Frauenwinkel area, or, on the then swamp land between the Limmat and Lake Zurich around Sechseläutzenplatz on small islands and peninsulas in Zürich. The settlements were set on piles to protect against occasional flooding by the Linth and Jona. Because the lake has grown in size over time, most of the original piles are now around 4 metres (13 ft) to 7 metres (23 ft) under the water level of 406 metres (1,332 ft), giving modern observers the false impression that they always had been.

Sites on Lake Zurich lakeshore area

Of the transnational 111 serial sites are 56 – divided into 15 of 26 Swiss cantons – in Switzerland, where the excavations of the "Pan-European stilt house settlements" began. In spring 1855, in the context of work on land reclamation at Lake Zurich, the archaeologist Ferdinand Keller discovered the remains of the site Meilen–Rorenhaab.[4] Probably the majority of the important sites of the so-called Horgen culture are situated on lakeshore, including Grosser Hafner on a former lake island and Kleiner Hafner on a peninsula at Sechseläutenplatz respectively at the effluence of the Limmat, and Zürich–Enge Alpenquai within an area of about 0.2 hectares (0.49 acres) in the city of Zürich. Even worldwide unique are the prehistoric lake crossings on the upper lake (Obersee) between Rapperswil and Hurden on the Seedamm area, including the four pile dwellings Rapperswil-Jona-Technikum, Seegubel, Freienbach–Hurden Rosshorn and Freienbach–Hurden Seefeld. The settlement Robenhausen at the Pfäffikersee is also a unique site, discovered and researched by Jakob Messikommer at the end of the 19th century, as being even continuously inhabited for thousands of years; most of the settlements were inhabited for some decades and re-erected at a quite different location.

Native name Description Location Canton Coordinates Size (ha)[5] Buffer (ha)[5] Serial ID Approx. occupied (BC)[6] Image
Freienbach–Hurden Rosshorn Freienbach–Hurden Rosshorn provides early evidence of transport routes combined with special metal finds interpreted as sacrificial offerings. The site includes several lake crossings beginning in the Horgen culture. Several Early Bronze Age construction phases have been identified, as well as remains from the Hallstatt culture and Roman era providing dendrochronological dates about periods from which no other sites are known.[7] Hurden Schwyz 47°13′10.38″N 8°48′24.6″E / 47.2195500°N 8.806833°E / 47.2195500; 8.806833 (Freienbach–Hurden Rosshorn) 4.32 20.10 1363-027
Freienbach–Hurden Seefeld The early Corded ware culture in one of several settlement phases provided dates which is of particular scientific interest in terms of the emergence and dissemination in Switzerland. The layers are extraordinarily well preserved and hold valuable reserves of research material. Extending over 300 metres (984 ft) to 400 metres (1,312 ft) metres, the settlement is also of great interest due to its function and internal organization on this important transport route crossing the lake.[8] Hurden Schwyz 47°12′43.05″N 8°48′8.22″E / 47.2119583°N 8.8022833°E / 47.2119583; 8.8022833 (Freienbach–Hurden Seefeld) 2.40 16.12 1363-028
Rapperswil-Jona/Hombrechtikon–Feldbach Distinctive house plans and a cultural layer dating from the middle phase of the Corded Ware period, is of particular importance in that multi-phase settlement. The evidence of a settlement from the transitional phase between the Early and Middle Bronze Ages, is another interesting aspect of the site, yielded a date of 1490 BC, which is very late within the Early Bronze Age pile-dwelling period. The dates refer to the same period as the transport routes across the lake from Hurden-Rosshorn to Rapperswil (CH-SZ-01). and slightly post-date the neighbouring site Rapperswil-Jona–Technikum (CH-SG-02).[9] HombrechtikonKempraten Zürich 47°14′19.66″N 8°47′45.96″E / 47.2387944°N 8.7961000°E / 47.2387944; 8.7961000 (Rapperswil-Jona/Hombrechtikon–Feldbach) 7.50 15.50 1363-031
Rapperswil-Jona–Technikum Multiple palisades and a clear visible settlement structure located on a former island, characterise the Early Bronze Age site dated in the 17th century BC. It points to the same period as the early footbridges across the Seedamm between Rapperswil and Hurden-Rosshorn (CH-SZ-01). The settlement was certainly of great importance as the centre of the region, and it may even have played a role in controlling this important transport route.[10] Rapperswil St. Gallen 47°13′14.21″N 8°48′56.55″E / 47.2206139°N 8.8157083°E / 47.2206139; 8.8157083 (Rapperswil-Jona–Technikum) 0.92 49.10 1363-032
Erlenbach–Winkel From the Early Bronze Age (20th/19th centuries BC) are numerous finds and ground plans of Corded Ware houses of particular interest. The latter are associated with material from the final phase of the Corded Ware Culture marking a hiatus of 600 years in the period of constructing pile dwellings north of the Alps until the Early Bronze Age. In a European context, the house constructions are of particular interest, because the Corded Ware Culture is defined mainly by its grave finds, whereas settlements are usually missing from the archaeological record.[11] Erlenbach Zürich 47°17′49.91″N 8°35′46.31″E / 47.2971972°N 8.5961972°E / 47.2971972; 8.5961972 (Erlenbach–Winkel) 3.01 6.60 1363-050
Greifensee–Storen/Wildsberg Characterized is that settlement by a large settlement area on a very steep slope on Greifensee lakeshore. From a scientific point of view and besides the location, a particularly interesting aspect is a phase of occupation dating from the Late Horgen culture. Furthermore, a copper spiral coil and a copper dagger from the Pfyn culture bear early witness to the processing of metal in this region. The settlement is largely undisturbed and thus holds great scientific potential for future research.[12] Greifensee Zürich (Greifensee) 47°21′37.8″N 8°40′51.51″E / 47.360500°N 8.6809750°E / 47.360500; 8.6809750 (Greifensee–Storen/Wildsberg) 9.59 11.70 1363-051
Meilen–Rorenhaab As mentioned, this site was the starting point of pile-dwelling research and therefore interesting from the point of view of research history. It is one of several sites in a small area illustrating the typical settlement dynamics of a micro-region during the Neolithic. All periods are represented here, usually with several settlement phases, but particularly from the Early Bronze Age interesting are numerous dendrochronological dates, which allow to study the development of this period.[13] Meilen Zürich 47°15′50.14″N 8°39′36.82″E / 47.2639278°N 8.6602278°E / 47.2639278; 8.6602278 (Meilen–Rorenhaab) 0.70 4.80 1363-052
Wädenswil–Vorder Au Located on the Au Peninsula, the site has yielded special pottery from the transitional period between the Pfyn and Horgen Cultures. The Corded Ware settlement phase contained a bell beaker, which allowed to draw conclusions on the links between the Corded Ware and Bell Beaker Cultures. Since it has yielded a special type of pottery, the Early Bronze Age settlement phase is also important, and helps trace the distribution of Arbon style pottery in the region during the 17th century BC.[14] Au-Wädenswil Zürich 47°14′48.88″N 8°39′11.64″E / 47.2469111°N 8.6532333°E / 47.2469111; 8.6532333 (Vorder Au) 1.49 22.50 1363-053
Wetzikon–Robenhausen Robenhausen in the spacious area is characterized by the excellent preservation of organic remains, and the site is known for its evidence of textile production. It has yielded numerous excellently preserved organic finds assemblages, mainly of textiles as well as parts of a Neolithic loom. An unusual find was a board, which was probably a Pfyn-period door.[15] Wetzikon Zürich (Pfäffikersee) 47°20′9.05″N 8°47′8.16″E / 47.3358472°N 8.7856000°E / 47.3358472; 8.7856000 (Wetzikon–Robenhausen) 0.92 155.00 1363-054
Zürich–Enge Alpenquai Alpenquai in the city of Zürich is one of the most important Late Bronze Age lakeside settlements in Central Europe: its huge size and its almost uninterrupted occupation from 1050 BC to 800 BC, rich imports and the excellent state of preservation of the layers with unique organic finds and architectural elements mark it as a cultural heritage site of worldwide importance. In addition, the final phase dates from the transition to the Iron Age, a period otherwise rarely found.[16] Zürich-Enge Zürich 47°21′52.06″N 8°32′19.47″E / 47.3644611°N 8.5387417°E / 47.3644611; 8.5387417 (Zürich–Enge Alpenquai) 2.93 17.40 1363-055
Zürich–Grosser HafnerKleiner Hafner Once a former island or peninsula at the estuary of Lake Zurich lakeshore and the Limmat, the settlement Kleiner Hafner including the former island Grosser Hafner are very rare sites, because all periods of pile dwelling are represented. There are finds from the Neolithic Egolzwil, Cortaillod and Horgen cultures forming an important reference assemblage which allows to study the cultural development during the late 5th and early 4th millennia BC.[17] Zürich Zürich 47°21′58.19″N 8°32′38.66″E / 47.3661639°N 8.5440722°E / 47.3661639; 8.5440722 (Grosser und Kleiner Hafner) 0.64 16.56 1363-056

Sources, among them area, date and location as well as coordinates and ID, used in the table base on Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps, and are listed as references.[18][19] The list bases on the dates of December 2014.


Seegubel: Remains of the stone axe making, including tees, pieces with saw wafers, semi-finished products and finished blades, which show the manufacturing processes.

As well as being part of the 56 Swiss sites of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, each of these 11 prehistoric pile dwellings is also listed in the Swiss inventory of cultural property of national and regional significance as a Class A object of national importance.[20]

Hence, the area of each settlement is provided as a historical site under federal protection, within the meaning of the Swiss Federal Act on the nature and cultural heritage (German: Bundesgesetz über den Natur- und Heimatschutz NHG) of 1 July 1966. Unauthorised researching and purposeful gathering of findings represent a criminal offense according to Art. 24.[21]

See also



  1. "Prehistoric Pile Dwellings in Switzerland". Swiss Coordination Group UNESCO Palafittes ( Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  2. "UNESCO World Heritage Site – Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps". UNESCO. 2011-06-21. Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  3. "Six new sites inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. 2011-06-27. Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  4. Ferdinand Keller: Die keltischen Pfahlbauten in den Schweizerseen, Band 1. Mittheilungen der Antiquarischen Gesellschaft in Zürich, Zürich 1854.
  5. 1 2 Size includes the area of the settlement; buffer zone comprises also lakeshore area in hectares (ha) – 0.404687261 hectare = 1 acre.
  6. "Download Nomination File". Retrieved 2014-12-08.
  7. "Sites Switzerland: Freienbach–Hurden Rosshorn (CH-SZ-01)". Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  8. "Sites Switzerland: Freienbach–Hurden Seefeld (CH-SZ-02)". Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  9. "Sites Switzerland: Rapperswil-Jona/Hombrechtikon–Feldbach (CH-SG-02)". Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  10. "Sites Switzerland: Rapperswil-Jona–Technikum (CH-SG-02)". Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  11. "Sites Switzerland: Erlenbach–Winkel (CH-ZH-01)". Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  12. "Sites Switzerland: Greifensee–Storen/Wildsberg (CH-ZH-02)". Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  13. "Sites Switzerland: Meilen–Rorenhaab (CH-ZH-06)". Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  14. "Sites Switzerland: Wädenswil–Vorder Au (CH-ZH-07)". Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  15. "Sites Switzerland: Wetzikon–Robenhausen (CH-ZH-08)". Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  16. "Sites Switzerland: Zürich–Enge Alpenquai (CH-ZH-09)". Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  17. "Sites Switzerland: Kleiner Hafner und Grosser Hafer (CH-ZH-10)". Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  18. Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps, Locations accessed 12 August 2011. Due to errors in coordinates from this document, some coordinates come from other sources.
  19. Location and coordinates taken from nominating documents-Revised executive summary accessed 12 August 2011. Coordinates converted from UTM.
  20. "A-Objekte KGS-Inventar" (PDF). Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, Amt für Bevölkerungsschutz. 2015-01-01. Retrieved 2015-09-13.
  21. "Bundesgesetz über den Natur- und Heimatschutz (NHG)" (PDF) (in German). Hochbaudepartement Stadt Zürich. 2014-10-12. Retrieved 2015-08-21.
  22. Beat Eberschweiler (2004). "Ur- und frühgeschichtliche Verkehrswege über den Zürichsee (digitalized version)" (in German). ETH Bibliothek. Retrieved 2014-12-08.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Der See erzählt.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/18/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.