Steigelfadbalm Cave on the southern flank of the Rigi

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View from the Steigelfadbalm cave

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Steigelfadbalm cave

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Artifacts from the Steigelfadbalm cave


Although Steigelfadbalm has long since been shelved by researchers, the cave is still a significant find full of Ice Age treasures.

Excavations by Wilhelm Amrein between 1913-1937 brought a number of major findings to the fore. A number of stone artefacts, for example, were recognised as tools used by the Neanderthals. The most important item is a little tip made of rock crystal. The triangular tip has a rough finish on both sides. Similar tips are characteristic of the Middle Palaeolithic age: the Neanderthals existed between 300,000 and 35,000 years ago. Rock crystal does not occur locally and must have been brought in by the Stone Age inhabitants of the cave, e.g. from the Uri Alps.

These finds on the Rigi provided first proof that Neanderthals were indigenous to central Switzerland.

Other finds, such as a flint knife and bronze arrowhead, show that the cave also offered protection to hunters in the Neolithic Age (5500 - 2000 BC) and Bronze Age (2200 - 800 BC). Besides evidence of a human presence, archaeologists have also discovered over 3000 bones and bone fragments, 90% of which are from cave bears. Although only fragments of skulls were found, there were numerous lower jaws as well as canine, incisor and molar teeth. It's assumed that an entire bear skeleton was present.

The cave bear was an imposing animal: 1500 kg in weight, approx. 3.5 m in length and with a shoulder height of up to 1.75 m, it lived between 130,000 and 20,000 years ago. The animals probably died out due to lack of food in the last Ice Age.

The cave can be reached on foot by following a path from Hinterbergen or from the Rigi Railway's Mittlerschwanden station. An information board by the cave provides details of the archaeology.


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