On November 5, 1963, an enigmatic stone sculpture dating back almost 2,600 years was discovered in Hirschlanden, now a district of Ditzingen in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg.
It is a statue of a warrior measuring 1.50 meters in height and depicting the figure in an upright position and with clear signs of his high social rank.
Unearthed during archaeological excavations for field development in the Holzheim area, about 2.2 kilometers southwest of the urban center of Hirschlanden, it was found in a small burial mound measuring around 32 meters in diameter and just two meters in height.
Enclosed by a circle of stones and a dry stone wall, the mound contained up to 16 burials of men and women dating from the early Iron Age to the La Tène period, between the 7th and 5th centuries BCE.
Due to its location on the wall surrounding the mound, it is believed that the statue may have originally crowned it. The degree of erosion on the stone surface suggests that the statue may have been exposed to the elements for a long time before being buried.
The sculpture is carved from clayey sandstone native to the Keuperbergland region, located about 6 kilometers south of the discovery site. At the time of its finding, the statue lacked feet and part of the legs, leading to an estimated original height of around 1.70 meters.
The statue depicts a nude warrior adorned with symbols of high social status: a torque around the neck, a belt from which a dagger hangs, and a conical hat on the head, similar to one made of birch found in another burial of the period. Interestingly, the character is represented ithyphallic (with an erect member), possibly symbolizing vigor and fertility.
The legs are realistically and musculously crafted, while the torso and head exhibit a more schematic style. Facial features appear slightly displaced downward, possibly indicating the use of ceremonial masks found in other tombs of the period. The arms are close to the body and crossed over the chest, likely related to the funerary context.
This unique statue is part of the Hallstatt culture that thrived in this German region between the 8th and 5th centuries BCE. However, its style is more reminiscent of statues found in the Adriatic and central Italy from the same period, suggesting Mediterranean influences likely brought through trade.
However, others argue that Greek influence is absent, emphasizing that while the warrior of Hirschlanden is a fascinating and enigmatic work, it should not be cited as evidence of the Hellenization of the late Hallstatt Celts.
Currently, the Warrior of Hirschlanden is exhibited at the State Archaeological Museum of Württemberg in Stuttgart, making it a unique piece and the oldest life-sized anthropomorphic sculpture from the Iron Age found north of the Alps.
This article was first published on our Spanish Edition on December 5, 2023. Puedes leer la versión en español en El guerrero de Hirschlanden, la escultura antropomorfa de tamaño natural de la Edad del Hierro más antigua al norte de los Alpes
Constanze Maria Witt, Hirschlanden “Warrior” | Julius Besser, Der Kouro-keltos von Hirschlanden | Der späthallstattzeitliche Bestattungsplatz von Hirschlanden (Landesamt für Denkmalpflege im Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart) | Wikipedia
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