The first humans arrive at the Middle Rhine about 800 000 years ago. At the confluence of Rhine and Lahn they find a fertile territory for hunting, fishing and gathering food. In the following millennia they traverse this landscape in small groups searching for food and shelter.
About 8000 years ago the first people begin to settle at the mouth of the Lahn valley. The landscape here offers ideal conditions with fertile soils and a favourable climate. In the Bronze Age (approx. 2000 – 800 BC) there are several settlements on Lahnstein territory. Tools and implements provide evidence of this, as do burial mounds with funerary vessels.
In about 800 BC Celts from the tribe of the Treveri begin to spread along the Middle Rhine. Their iron tools and weapons revolutionise people’s lives. When chieftains or warriors die, they are buried together with valuable artifacts. One burial site in the forest of Oberlahnstein rises to prominence when it is found to contain not only spear- and arrowheads, but the remains of a twowheeled chariot.
In the end it is the Romans who play the decisive role in the cultural development of the region. The Rhine forms an important transport route. The Limes runs only a few kilometres to the east of the river. This is the line of frontier fortifications which protects the northern border of the Empire. Agriculture and trade flourish. Amongst the numerous testimonies to Lahnstein’s Roman past, the Burgus – a fortified tower and harbour at the mouth of the Lahn – is of outstanding importance.
We owe most of our detailed knowledge of Lahnstein’s pre- and early history to Prof. Dr. Robert Bodewig. Born in 1857, he teaches history, geography, Latin and Greek at the Realprogymnasium in Oberlahnstein from 1890 until shortly before his death in 1923. During this period he carries out intensive research into the history of his adopted hometown. Amongst other things he oversees the excavations of the Celtic chariot burial site and the Roman Burgus. During his time as chairman of Lahnstein’s Altertumsverein (Historical Society) the ‘Local History Museum for Oberlahnstein and the District of St. Goarshausen’ is built and many of his finds are put on display there between 1914 and 1945. Today part of the collection can still be seen at the Town Museum in the Hexenturm.