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Excavating Nations

Excavating Nations: Archaeology, Museums, and the German-Danish Borderlands

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Excavating Nations
    Book Description:

    Excavating Nationstraces the history of archaeology and museums in the contested German-Danish borderlands from the emergence of antiquarianism in the early nineteenth-century to German-Danish reconciliation after the Second World War. J. Laurence Hare reveals how the border regions of Schleswig-Holstein and Sønderjylland were critical both to the emergence of professional prehistoric archaeology and to conceptions of German and Scandinavian origins.

    At the center of this process, Hare argues, was a cohort of amateur antiquarians and archaeologists who collaborated across the border to investigate the ancient past but were also complicit in its appropriation for nationalist ends.Excavating Nationsfollows the development of this cross-border network over four generations, through the unification of Germany and two world wars. Using correspondence and site reports from museum, university, and state archives across Germany and Denmark, Hare shows how these scholars negotiated their simultaneous involvement in nation-building projects and in a transnational academic community.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1695-0
    Subjects: History, Archaeology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. xv-2)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    The German-Danish borderlands bear the marks of deep roots in the ancient past. Across the southern half of the Jutland Peninsula, where the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein touches the Danish county of Sønderjylland, thousands of sites, from Stone Age tombs to Iron Age towns, offer proof of a rich prehistoric legacy. Some lie unnoticed, encircled by hedges and roads and the trappings of modern life. Others lie unseen, hidden beneath layers of marshy peat. A few, however, are celebrated, like the Danevirke, the medieval walls that stretch across Schleswig to the Treene River, or Haithabu (Hedeby in Danish), the...

  8. 1 Antiquarians and Patriots
    (pp. 17-43)

    In the 1830s, a new passion for the past awakened in the Kingdom of Denmark. Across Jutland, the Danish islands, and the southern duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, a cohort of enthusiasts scoured the countryside for the relics of a lost heritage. They explored ancient structures: passage graves descending into deep vaults, rocky cairns crowning hillsides, and solemn barrows ringed with stone. They collected, bought, and sold the artefacts they found. They corresponded with fellow collectors, and they formed associations to advance common understanding. More than mere curiosity seekers, this band of antiquarians yearned to know the past and strove...

  9. 2 National Prehistories in the German-Danish Wars
    (pp. 44-67)

    The Nydam Boat has long been a centrepiece of Schleswig-Holstein archaeology. Currently nestled in an exhibition hall at the Schleswig-Holstein State Archaeology Museum in Schleswig, this funerary craft bears witness to the cultural sophistication of prehistoric northern Europe. Measuring 23 metres in length, the vessel conveys to thousands of visitors each year the shipbuilding skills of the European Iron Age. Yet, the modern saga of its discovery often eclipses interest in its ancient history. The Nydam Boat, after all, was uncovered in 1863 in the midst of an open rivalry between German and Danish antiquarians. Its discoverer, the Danish schoolteacher...

  10. 3 Discovery and Rediscovery at Haithabu
    (pp. 68-88)

    In the years after the German-Danish Wars, the search for the ancient past in Schleswig-Holstein began anew on the shores of the Schlei Inlet across from the town of Schleswig. This bucolic setting of tilled fields and grazing cattle marks the eastern end of the Danevirke, whose linear works give way in its final metres to a curious semicircular ring of earth and rock. Long known as the Oldenburg, this feature reaches to the wind-swept inlet waters and shelters a grassy meadow. Here, at the turn of the century, archaeologists from Kiel and Copenhagen came together to discover the remains...

  11. 4 Nationalism, Science, and the Search for Origins
    (pp. 89-113)

    The summer of 1878 was an exciting time for supporters of the Kiel Museum. In August, Kiel hosted the Ninth General Convention of the German Society for Anthropology, Ethnology, and Prehistory (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte). When it opened, the convention welcomed members from across the nation and abroad, including such respected scholars of German anthropology as Rudolf Virchow (1821–1902) and Hermann Schaafhausen (1816–1893).¹ Much was at stake in this gathering. For Virchow and Schaafhausen, the convention served as a chance to reach out to the provinces and fulfil the Gesellschaft’s mission of promoting the human...

  12. 5 Prehistory and the Popular Imagination
    (pp. 114-136)

    In April 1909, Johanna Mestorf at last decided to retire as director of the Schleswig-Holstein Museum in Kiel.¹ The Danish newspaperBerlingske Tidendemarked the occasion by mentioning the special commendation she received from the German government and remarking, “There is also reason to express warm thanks from the Danish side for many years of faithful work.”² Certainly, there was much to commend. Both Germans and Scandinavians took note of a career rich in scholarly contributions and pioneering advances for women in academia. Above all, their shared admiration spoke to a broader legacy within a discipline that she had helped...

  13. 6 Creating Nazi Archaeology
    (pp. 137-156)

    In the 1930s, a renewed passion for the past appeared in Schleswig-Holstein. One hundred years had passed since the first great effort to uncover the region’s ancient remains, and the new decade recalled those early days with fresh fervour for the fruits of archaeology. This time, however, the trend took on a wholly different character. It did not confine itself to select private interests, but reached out to all through established institutions. It did not rest solely in the realm of local curiosity, but stood at the heart of a national trend. The enthusiasm for antiquity now responded to the...

  14. 7 The Fate of Archaeology in the Borderlands
    (pp. 157-180)

    Borderlands archaeology changed dramatically in 1944. In that year, the city of Kiel endured tremendous air attacks that threatened the region’s principal academic institutions. The naval bases and wartime industries dotting the Kiel Fjord were tempting targets for Allied bombers, and the nearby city centre was often not spared. This strategic geography proved devastating for the Kiel Museum, which had the misfortune of standing so close to the city’s harbour. A series of assaults on 4 and 5 January destroyed the Kiel Palace but just missed the museum. And then, after a few months of relative calm, a second attack...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 181-192)

    A simple stroll through the centre of present-day Copenhagen invariably leads to contact with reminders of northern European antiquity. In the shadow of the Parliament building (Rådshuset), two sculpted Bronze Age “lure-blowers” (Lurblœserne) look down from a high pedestal. On the surrounding streets, souvenir shops greet passersby with displays of plastic horned helmets and Viking dolls with fuzzy beards. In a similar way, the past is a popular attraction in Schleswig-Holstein. Visitors leaving the train station in Schleswig are greeted by a sign bedecked with the image of a long ship commemorating twelve hundred years of the town’s history. It...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 193-232)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-248)
  18. Index
    (pp. 249-260)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-261)