Schmiede ─ Heiligtum ─ Wassermühle. Cham-Hagendorn (Kanton Zug) in römischer Zeit. Ausgrabungen 1944/45 und 2003/04

Schucany, Caty; Winet, Ines (2014). Schmiede ─ Heiligtum ─ Wassermühle. Cham-Hagendorn (Kanton Zug) in römischer Zeit. Ausgrabungen 1944/45 und 2003/04. Antiqua: Vol. 52. Basel: Archäologie Schweiz

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In 1944/1945 a water-mill was excavated in Cham-Hagendorn which, because of the extraordinarily good state of preservation of its wooden components, has long occupied a prominent place in research. In 2003 and 2004 the Archaeology Department of Canton Zug once again carried out archaeological examinations at the site. These uncovered not only further remains of the water-mill, but also traces of earlier and later installations: an earlier (horizon 1a) and a later smith’s workshop (horizon 3) and a sanctuary with two phases (horizons 1a/1b). All these installations can now be fitted into the stratigraphic sequence observed during the recent excavations (s. App. 2). Thanks to the good state of preservation of the wood most of the phases could be dated using dendrochronological methods (see Fig. 490): Horizon 1a yielded felling dates between AD 162(?)/173 and AD 200, horizon 1b around AD 215/218 and horizon 2 around AD 231. Moreover, samples were taken during the recent excavations for micromorphological and archaeobotanical analyses (Chap. 2.2, 3.11). This publication presents the features and building structures (Chap. 2) and all the stratified finds as well as a comprehensive selection of the finds recovered in 1944/1945 (Chap. 3). Thanks to joins, we have now been able to fit some of the latter into the stratigraphic sequence.
The micromorphological and archaeobotanical examinations (Chap. 2.2, 3.11) have shown that during the Roman period the site was surrounded by a landscape characterised by forest and the River Lorze. No settlement or individual dwellings could have been located nearby and the installations were only used for commercial or sacred purposes. They stood beside a stream, which was probably the same as the one that still drains the Groppenmoos area and flows into the River Lorze at Cham-Hagendorn to this day (s. Fig. 37). The ancient stream swelled repeatedly; a total of five phases of severe flooding were identified (Chap. 2.2, 2.4). Probably caused by raised lake levels due to the River Lorze spilling into the stream, these floods must have developed into a massive force of nature, which the individual installations fell victim to.
As was suggested by a study of the Roman-period settlement landscape around Lake Zug (Chap. 6 and Fig. 521) the installations at Cham-Hagendorn probably belonged to a villa assumed to have been located at Cham-Heiligkreuz, one of five fairly large estates in the area.
There was no evidence of any predecessor structures which could have been associated with a small number of finds dating from the 1st century AD (Chap. 4.5). They were probably washed out of their original locations upstream by one of the floods and deposited further downstream at Cham-Hagendorn.
The occupation of the site (horizon 1a; s. App. 6) began around AD 170 with a smith’s workshop (Chap. 2.5.1). The finds, which mainly included a particular type of smithing slag (Chap. 3.9), showed that the workshop was used for the small-scale production and repairing of various implements (Chap. 5.2). It had probably already been abandoned and fallen into disrepair by the time a sanctuary was built (Chap. 5.3) on an island between the stream and an arm of the River Lorze in AD 200 (Chap. 4.2.4). At least one peach tree, attested by pollen, a piece of wood and more than 400 peach stones, point to the sacred status of the island (Chap. 3.11). The boundary between the sacred site and its secular surroundings, which coincided with the stream, was additionally marked by a row of piles (Chap. 2.5.3). It incorporated a narrow longitudinal building (Chap. 2.5.2) which was reminiscent of the porticoes that are often found built onto the temenos walls of ancient sanctuaries and probably served the same function; it was thus used as a storage space for votive offerings and ritual implements (Chap. 5.3). A large proportion of the rich assemblage of finds recovered from the layers of the first flood, which had destroyed the sanctuary around AD 210/215 (s. Fig. 509), particularly the numerous fragments of pottery (Chap. 3.2.4) and the small finds, some of which were remarkably valuable (Chap. 3.3.3), were probably stored originally in this longitudinal building. A stratified artefact interpreted as a clapper from a bell suggests that the five large iron bells found in 1944/1945 stacked on top of one another were perhaps also associated with the sanctuary (Chap. 3.4). The animal bones, which included an above-average amount of burnt bones, also fit into this context (Chap. 3.10).
After the flood an embankment was constructed in AD 215 (Chap. 4.2.4) to reinforce the undercut bank of the stream (Chap. 2.6.1). In AD 218 the sanctuary was rebuilt in a similar form by constructing another longitudinal building in the stream (Chap. 2.6.2; horizon 1b; s. App. 7). However, only a few piles survived out of an entire row which had once again formed the boundary between the sacred island and its secular surroundings. The sacred character of the structure is, however, well-established. Besides the still thriving peach tree, further evidence is provided by an assemblage of at least 23 terracotta figurines (s. Fig. 381) consisting of eleven veneres, ten matres, a youth wearing a hooded cloak and a childlike risus, which were displayed in front of the longitudinal building (Chap. 3.6; s. also Chap. 2.6.3). The building fell victim to the second flood around AD 225/230 and several ceramic vessels (Chap. 3.2.4) and small finds, some of which were quite valuable such as a glass bead with gold foil (Chap. 3.8.2) and a silver brooch (Chap. 3.3.3), were found in the sediments deposited by the flood. The finds had probably originally been stored in the building (Chap. 5.3.2 and Fig. 511). Other finds, which were at least possibly of sacred character, were found among the artefacts recovered in 1944/1945 (s. Fig. 512), for instance a silver finger ring with an inscription to Mercury, a silver lunula pendant, a silver skillet (Chap. 3.3.3), a glass bottle with applied trailing (Chap. 3.8.2) and a number of rock crystals (Chap. 3.8.4). Furthermore, several coins (Chap. 3.7) were found near the terracotta figurines and may have been placed there intentionally.
After the second flood a water-mill was built around AD 231 on the banks of the stream (horizon 2; Chap. 2.7; App. 8; Fig. 152). Due to a lack of evidence it remains unknown whether the sanctuary was rebuilt on the island or whether it was abandoned. Several extant piles from the preceding horizons 1a and 1b were reused in the construction of the raised influent channel of the water-mill. Although, based on the 28 annual flooding horizons (Chap. 2.2) and the finds (Chap. 4.3.2, 4.4.4, 4.5), the water-mill only existed until approximately AD 260, i.e. for one generation, it had to be renovated at least twice. Evidence was found of three water-wheels, three pairs of mill stones and probably three platforms to support the grinding mechanism. These renovations were probably necessary due to the soft and unstable subsoil shifting, causing the interaction between the wheel-shaft, hub and gear-wheel to malfunction and the entire installation to break apart. Palynological analyses carried out on samples from the occupation surface revealed that some type of wheat was ground at the mill (Chap. 3.11.4). The badge of a beneficiarius (Chap. 3.3.2 and Fig. 325,B71) perhaps suggests that the grain processed was intended, at least in part, for the Roman army (s. also Chap. 3.3.3). A writing implement found in horizon 2 and other styli as well as weighing scales with a capacity of up to 40 kg recovered in 1944/1945 may suggest that grain was weighed and registered at the site (Chap. 3.4.2). Shortly after AD 260 the water-mill fell victim to yet another flood.
The subsequent horizon 3 (App. 9) consisted of gravel paving and a small building (Chap. 2.8). This building probably again served as a smith’s workshop as is suggested by large amounts of plano-convex slags (Chap. 3.9) which came to light in the vicinity of the small structure. Based on the finds (Chap. 4.4.4, 4.5) the workshop can only have existed for a short period, until AD 270 at most, before it fell victim to the fourth flood overall.
The most recent probably Roman-period installation (horizon 4; App. 10) was only represented by a structure consisting of large stone slabs (Chap. 2.9.1). The purpose of the feature remains unknown. The limited amount of finds also suggests that the occupation of the site, at least the Roman-period occupation, was slowly coming to an end (Chap. 4.5).
The most recent features were several pits (Chap. 2.9.2) which may have been used for extracting clay. Due to the lack of finds, however, their date remains uncertain. Most notably, we do not know if they date from Roman times or from a later period. The site was abandoned around the time of the fifth flood at the latest, which probably occurred in the early post-medieval period and caused the area to silt up, and was not re-occupied until the construction of the existing Baumgartner window factory.

Item Type:

Book (Monograph)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of Archaeological Sciences > Archaeology of the Roman Provinces

UniBE Contributor:

Schucany, Caty


900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)






Archäologie Schweiz




Caty Schucany

Date Deposited:

08 Sep 2014 12:38

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2014 12:38

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Holzerhaltung, Dendrochronologie,Aussenstation eines Gutshofes (Schmiede, Heiligtum, Wassermühle), ca. 170-270 n. Chr., Eisenschlacken, Terrakota-Figurinen


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