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The ancient wishing well of Germering

3 min read

In the Bavarian village of Germering, just west of Munich, Southern Germany, archaeologists have excavated about 70 wells dating from the Bronze Age to the early Middle Ages, but one stood out clearly from the rest.
And this was not only due to the exceptionally good condition of this well, but also to the unusual items it contained: 26 bronze clothing pins, metal spirals, an animal tooth pendant with metal decorations and more than 70 intact clay pots.

This wooden water point is dated to be more than 3000 years old and reached particularly deep into the ground compared to others.
The earthenware pots are not simple, everyday tableware, as they feature detailed decoration and are therefore reminiscent of the type of ceramics that were used as burial gifts in the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1800-1200 BCE).
In addition, many of the pots are still largely intact, which is remarkable given that the well was about 5 meters deep.
Combined with the quantity and high quality of the artifacts, this indicates that the objects were not ‘just’ thrown into the well.
Rather, they seem to have been placed in it with care and intention. 

The archaeologists therefore conclude that this well was not only used to collect water, but that it also served as a wishing well.
The most obvious is that the wishing well was intended to be used to place offerings for a good harvest, a theory that also closely matches what archaeologists have discovered about the area.
Earlier archaeological research shows that people have been farming in the area around Germering for more than 4,000 years. The area of today’s town in Upper Bavaria was a settlement area early on, and numerous finds from prehistory and early history bear witness to this.
However, analysis of the pit’s sediments showed that groundwater had dropped significantly 3,000 years ago, about the same time period when the artifacts were placed in the pit.
The archaeologists therefore suspect that there was a long drought in the area at the time, resulting in poor harvests and hunger.
This probably inspired people from the surrounding communities to sacrifice so many valuable artifacts into the pit.

Either way wishing wells have been a staple of European folklore since prehistoric times.
Usually, the magical mechanism of wishing wells was activated by people throwing gold coins into them in the hope of granting a wish, a tradition that is still maintained today.
In fact, still today, fountains have something magical about them for many people who drop coins in the hope that their wishes will be granted.
While superstition claims it is potentially lucky to throw a coin in a well, in some version of the story the manifestation of one’s wish depends on how the coin lands.
Generally, when a tossed coin lands heads up, the divine guardian of the well would grant the wish, while tails up coins are ignored.
However, stripping back all of the magic, many archaeologists believe that ancient people had unwittingly discovered the biocidal properties of both copper and silver.
In fact, in sufficient quantities these two metals, that are traditionally used in coins, can make impure water safer to drink, thus, more “fortunate”….

Images from web – Google Research

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