The earliest research into the Palaeolithic in Baden-Württemberg is closely connected to the earliest excavations in the caves of the Swabian Jura. However, much has changed since the first excavations in the 1860s - at that time still within the framework of paleontological queries. With the constant advance of excavation methods and scientific analyses our knowledge about the earliest modern humans has increased significantly. Today's insights allow for many interpretations and profound research discussions about art, culture and religion of Ice Age hunter-gatherers.
As early as the 1860s Oscar Fraas examined, within the framework of paleontological queries, the Bärenhöhle and the Stadel Cave in the Hohlenstein as well as the Hohle Fels. He also recognised the archaeological relevance of the sites during these excavations.
Robert Rudolph Schmidt examined in the year 1906 the Sirgenstein and, shortly thereafter, further Palaeolithic archaeological sites in the Swabian Jura. He adapted the designations for the chronological sequence of layers of the archaeological sites that he dug to those of established terminology previously established for the French Palaeolithic sites. Even though Schimidt's labelling have partly been revised according to results of more recent research activities, it remains without doubt his poineering achievement to have recognised these trans-regional correlations.
Further central excavations for the Palaeolithic in Europe were executed by Gustav Riek in the Vogelherd Cave in 1931 and in the Hohlenstein by Robert Wetzel and Otto Völzing between the years 1935 and 1939. At this time, the first of the world-famous ivory carvings was discovered. Not least due to these discoveries, the outstanding significance of the caves for Aurignacian research in the Swabian Jura was shown.
Robert Wetzel also continued to conduct further research on Hohlenstein and on the Bockstein complex after the war had ended. These projects, at the latest, confirmed that the archaeological sites are also of central significance for the research conducted on the Neanderthal era.
The 1970s and 1980s were characterised primarily by the research of Joachim Hahn. The results from his systematic excavations and the discoveries made in the Geißenklösterle and in the Hohle Fels underscored the international significance of the archaeological sites in the Swabian Jura.
The most recent research period is characterised by extremely precise documentation of the discoveries, findings and strata. Thereby, even the smallest fragments and artefacts are discovered. In particular in this regard, the work of Nicholas Conard in the Geißenklösterle, in the Hohle Fels and in the backdirt from the Vogelherd excavations of Gustav Riek, as well as Claus-Joachim Kind’s excavations in the Hohlenstein Stadel, are noteworthy. From these excavations, on the one hand, numerous new ivory figurines came to light and, on the other hand, other outstanding discoveries, for example the Lion man, were able to be completed. Equally significant is the discovery of several bone and ivory flutes in the strata of the Hohle Fels, the Geißenklösterle and the Vogelherd cave.