It has long been presumed that the Wildkirchli caves were inhabited in earlier times. The first written mentions of traces are found in 1850: The second to last hermit made mention of animal bones and teeth, which he and his successor even sold as souvenirs.
The findings awoke scholarly curiosity, and so in 1903 the natural scientist Emil Baechler from St. Gallen carried out systematic excavations. A large number of animal skeletons were unearthed and – an archaeological sensation – stones that had been worked by Neanderthals. The conclusions drawn from this relating to bear hunters and a bear cult prompted years of discussions among academics.
In 1959, the Basel archeologist Elisabeth Schmid refuted these theories following a second excavation; the discoveries were however confirmed.
For the first time then there was proof that, more than 30, 000 years ago, people lived at this altitude in the Alpine foothills.