20 Schilling view of Semmering, © Niederösterreich-Werbung/ M. Liebert

The Gudenushöhle: one of the oldest dwellings in Central Europe

Historical sites


Frequented by a group of Neanderthals 70,000 years ago, the Gudenushöhle cave in the Kremstal valley is also one of Central Europe’s most important Stone Age sites.

The Gudenushöhle is located in the Kremstal at the confluence of the rivers Große Krems and Kleine Krems. It is what is known as a ‘through cave’ with three entrances, which was formed along a rock crevice by erosion. It now lies just over seven metres above the normal water level at the foot of a rock face directly below Hartenstein Castle. The cave has a total length of around 30 m; the passage is now approx. 4 m wide and 3.7 m high. The bedrock was originally covered with a thick layer of sediment, but this was gradually removed during the archaeological excavations.

Neanderthal resting place
The earliest excavations in the Gudenushöhle took place as early as 1883, but it was not until 1908 that the cave was excavated in more detail by Henri Breuil and Hugo Obermeier, one of the archaeologists who discovered the Venus of Willendorf. The last remaining sediment was finally investigated and removed in 1976.

The oldest cultural layer is around 70,000 years old and comes from Neanderthals, who appear to have regularly used the cave as a resting place. In addition to bone remains and charcoal, typical hand axes and stone flakes were also found.

Finds from the Palaeolithic era
The Gudenushöhle is one of the oldest known sites in Lower Austria where human artefacts have been found. Finds of a similar age have only been discovered in the Gudenus rock shelter about 30 m south of the cave, the Teufelsrast rock shelter in the Kremstal and in the lowest layer of Willendorf.

It is little known that it was not just Neanderthals who set up camp in the Gudenushöhle; many thousands of years later, during the Palaeolithic era, modern humans did so too. Finds from this layer, which is around 19,000 to 12,000 years old, include a tubular container made from an eagle bone engraved with the drawing of a reindeer. In addition to numerous stone tools such as scrapers, burins and borers, sewing needles made of bone and a bone pipe – from which high-pitched whistling sounds can still be coaxed today – were also found.

Tip: finds from the Gudenushöhle are on display in a number of museums, including MAMUZ Schloss Asparn/Zaya and the Natural History Museum Vienna.

Location and how to get there