Archaeologists in the canton of Bern have discovered a large stone that they believe to be a menhir that would have been part of a place of worship during the Bronze Age.
The stone – two metres long and 1.3 metres wide, and weighing up to three tons – was found as part of excavations of a known Bronze Age site at Breitenacher near Kehrsatz on the outskirts of Bern, said the cantonal authorities in a press release.
Judging by its size and shape, the stone is a menhir – a single standing stone, often unmarked, that was used to indicate a place of worship or meeting area.
Marks on the ground where it was found suggest the stone had once stood vertical, said archaeologists. Its placement near several Bronze Age houses could mean it played a role in the construction of the town. It could even have been used in the older Neolithic period and moved to its current site during the building of the Bronze Age town.
Until now only 15 menhirs have been found in Switzerland. The discovery is exciting for archaeologists because little is currently known about the population living around Bern at the time.
Once the stone has been fully examined, it will be put on public view nearby, said the canton.
The discovery came as part of excavations prior to the building of a new housing complex between Bernstrasse and the Gurten mountain.
The excavations, which will continue until next year, have uncovered the remains of a Bronze Age village dating from 3,500 years ago.