In the middle of the Teutoburger Wald three rocks suddenly stick out from the trees – the Externsteine. Thousands of visitors come here every year to gaze in wonder at the natural phenomenon of the rocks with a slight hope of solving their secret.
Millions of years ago the rocks were formed from sandstone. While everything around it was cleared away by wind, water and weather, the Externsteine remained. In the course of time, the stones were time and time again processed by people: stairs and viewpoint were added, caverns and chambers were created as well as a relief depicting the descent from the cross and a replica of the grave in Jerusalem. No wonder, that several mysteries and myths surround the use of the site.
Prove of human activities in history
"Descending from the Cross" relief at the Externsteine; the crooked Y on the right of the cross is often regarded as a irminsul
During the Paleolithic age hunters already spent time here and might have used the rocks for cover, whereas there is no proof that humans lived or worked here in the Neolithic age and subsequent centuries. The next real proof is from the Middle Ages. Ceramics and metals from this period were found on the stones. It is believed that during that time the rocks were used as a resting place. In the 12th century, the relief is said to have emerged. It is considered to be the oldest high relief north of the Alps. Later, hermits and monks lived in the caves. When exactly these caves or even the stairs and other changes were added to the rocks, is still unclear. Every year, around half a million tourists come to see the formations for themselves and admire the scenery.
A mythical site?
Already in the 16th century the Externsteine were considered a Germanic sanctuary. A cultic site of the Teutons or Celts is said to have been located here. Some people also believe that the site is astronomically significance, because the hole in the rock points exactly in the direction of the sunrise during summer solstice. There is no evidence of cultic activities. Nevertheless, these interpretations were used time and time again. Especially the Nazis wanted to use the Externsteine for their mythical status. Still today the rocks are thought of as a true place of power by esoterics. During summer solstice as well Walpurgis Night a large number of visitors meet to celebrate at the rock formation.
Die Externsteine aus der Luft
Research at the Externsteine is not yet concluded and maybe we will not ever learn all its secrets. Nonetheless, the rock formation is most certainly something extraordinary – no matter whether you regard it as “the Stonehenge of the Teutoburg Forest”, a mythical site or just a great natural phenomenon.