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© Wieslawa Czerpinska


Chair of Pre- and Protohistory, University of Leipzig

Prehistoric archaeology in Leipzig

The University of Leipzig, second oldest university in Germany, was founded in 1409 - l ong before archaeological artefacts became object of public interest . This only happened in the 18 th century, but the first interest focussed on classical antiquity. One of the pioneers of prehistoric archaeology came from Saxony: Earl Johann Friedrich von Dallwitz (1742-1796), who excavated an Urnfield on his estates in Königswartha and eternalised it in a splendid volume. As a university discipline in Saxony - like in most other German regions - prehistoric archaeology was established much later. Albeit first efforts in the late 1920ies, the chair of Pre- and Protohistory was founded in 1934, within the context of the science policy in the "Third Reich". The chair was provided with considerable funds to promote the German "Ostforschung" , which was expected to scientifically legitimate the Eastern expansion of Nazi-Germany. The first chair holder became Kurt Tackenberg, who immediately began to set up a teaching collection. The basis of this collection was formed by older inventories from the 18 th and 19 th century, for example by the collection of the venerable " Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Erforschung vaterländischer Sprache und Altertümer" (German Society for Research on the German Language and Antiquities). In the Second World War the institute was badly damaged. Reopend in 1949, the institute couldn't regain its importance within the centralisation policy of the GDR. As a consequence of the general reorganisation of the East German universities the chair lost its autonomy in 1968. Only in 1993, after the German Reuinfication, a new Chair of Pre- and Protohistory was established as a part of the historical departement of the University of Leipzig.

It's resear ch focusses both on the European Iron Age and on the history of archaeology. In 1995 the institute began its acitvity in the excavations of the Centre Archéologique Européen (CAE) du Mont Beuvray in the celtic Oppidum of Bibracte (Burgundy). Since 2005 we examine in cooperation with the CAE in the framework of the EU's Culture 2000 programme "Les premieres villes européenes" not only the archaeology of the Oppida but also the history of their exploration. While fortifications have so far been given priority in reconstructing the political and national or nationalistic history, another project examines " The hillforts research in Saxony and eastern Central Europe between 1927 and 1995. Objectives and methods of 20th century archaeology". All studies focus on questions concerning the role of archaeological sources in the construction of tradition and identity as well as the interaction between the history of the subject and political and social history.

Power and Politics in the history of German archaeological collections in the 19 th and 20 th century

Within the AREA-project we intend to investigate the history of archaeological collections in Germany, with special emphasis on their political and social context in the period from c. 1815 until 1945. It is claimed that - due to their important role in the dialogue between professional archaeologists and a wider public - collections are especially susceptible to the instrumentalization for political purposes. To verify this assumption collections from the following former or present regions of Germany will be examined: Schleswig-Holstein, the Rhineland, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Silesia and Brandenburg with Berlin. Especially border regions are taken into acount, because in these areas the upheavals of history generally become more visible. The chosen period of time enables us to follow the history of archaeological collections over different political systems and thus to reveal ideological continuities and ruptures in the collecting practice. For this purpose from each selected region two or three collections will be investigated. The chosen examples represent different types of archaeological collections, such as princely collections, private collections, collections of antiquarian associations, university collections, 'Heimatmuseen' (museums of local history), regional museums and central museums. We will investigate in which way different (financial) dependencies and purposes led to a more or less intensive influence by politics and current events. The aim of the study is not to write "biographies" of single collections but to display the historical development of the different types of collections and to outline the general trends of archaeological collecting in Germany.