Minister of State Maria Böhmer, Special Representative of the Federal Foreign Office for UNESCO World Heritage, UNESCO Cultural Conventions and UNESCO Education and Science Programmes, visited the Ice Age cave, Hohle Fels, near Schelklingen in Swabia in southwest Germany on 28 August. The Ice Age artworks found in this and four other caves in the region were inscribed as World Cultural Heritage last month. The objects found in the caves are between 32,000 and 43,000 years old ‑ and thus the oldest artworks in the world.
Protecting cultural and natural heritage worldwide
Minister of State Böhmer commented as follows. “These objects – the oldest in the history of humankind – are breathtaking. Not only was the ‘Venus of Hohle Fels’, the world’s oldest depiction of a woman, found here, but also a large number of other artworks and several musical instruments. These finds are evidence of humankind’s first major cultural breakthrough. The World Heritage designation is not only an award, but also an obligation to protect cultural heritage of outstanding universal value. We want to protect cultural and natural heritage worldwide. This is a task in which we in Germany and the international community must work in concert.”
Constant research work
In her speech, Minister of State Böhmer thanked all those who had worked to secure the site’s recognition as World Cultural Heritage and congratulated the people of Schelklingen. She underlined the importance of the long tradition of research in the region. Archaeological digs were first carried out in Hohle Fels cave in the 1860s. Without this constant research work, it would not have been possible to prove the caves’ outstanding universal importance, she said.
The challenge was now to enable the large number of interested visitors to view the sites and research findings without damaging the archaeological sites. For this reason, it was important to have good visitor centres and several small museums in the region.
Inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List
At the 41st meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Kraków on 9 July, it was unanimously decided to inscribe the caves and Ice Age art in the Swabian Jura in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The site is the latest addition to the 42 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Germany. The world’s oldest examples of figurative art and musical instruments made of ivory and bones were discovered in the six caves. These include the “Venus of Hohle Fels”, the oldest depiction of a woman, as well as the ivory mammoth figurine from Vogelherd Cave and the half‑lion, half‑human figurine from Höhlenstein‑Stadel.