The Hellweg zone: Transfer of technology and raw materials between the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes.

The non-ferrous metal finds of Kamen-Westick – a study of metal imports, metal handling and recycling.

This dissertation project focuses on the settlement of Kamen-Westick, which is situated in what is known as the Hellweg zone. This term refers to the area between the Ruhr and Lippe rivers in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, and derives from a historical trading route called the Hellweg.

During the Roman Iron Age, several settlements existed in this area which proved to be rich in Roman imports. These settlements reached their zenith in the 4th and early 5th century AD. In Kamen-Westick the first excavations took place in 1926. Further scientific surveys followed in the 1930s, from 1998-2001 and in 2005. The settlement developed in the confluence between the Seseke, a tributary of the Lippe, and the Körne. Among the numerous settlement features, excavations produced three aisled houses, several post holes, rubbish pits, wells and remains of iron smelting.
The inventory of finds includes animal bones, Roman as well as Germanic pottery shards and metal objects. Among the copper alloy artefacts are more than 100 Roman and Germanic brooches, which date from the 1st to the 5th century. Largest in number are the crossbow-brooches of the 4th and early 5th century. The inventory also includes hairpins, around 1500 Roman coins, parts of belts, fragments of Roman metal vessels, Roman military equipment and objects for everyday use.
This will be the first time that the non-ferrous and precious-metal finds of Kamen-Westick have been examined and published. Of special interest are the imported Roman items. The analysis of these objects will help to answer questions about when the Roman-Germanic contacts led to a flow of imports into the Hellweg zone, and how these objects came into the possession of these Germanic people. The dissertation will also discuss what access the inhabitants of this settlement had to metals and what value these had. Who had access to metal imports and therefore also to raw materials? Was it only a few individuals, or did a large proportion of the population have access to these Roman commodities?
Cut fragments of metal vessels, crucibles and melted scrap metal testify to a nonferrous metal production based on the recycling of Roman objects.
The project will investigate how the recycling process worked, what was melted down, whether there was a preference for particular alloys at certain times, and whether Roman techniques were used during the production of stylistically Germanic objects. These questions will be examined in an interdisciplinary manner, using archaeological, historical and scientific methods.


Patrick Könemann/ Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Responsible body

Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum

Ruhr-Universität Bochum


Ruhr-Universität Bochum


2011 - 2014


  • Könemann, P., 2013. Political and cultural approaches for the procurement and use of raw materials concerning Germanic groups. Metalla 20.2, pp. 68-74.