Archaeologists working in Germany

An adventurous visit on a forbidden peninsula

Alas, on this very last Day of Archaeology I was on leave (yes, indeed, there are some of us who really can afford such luxury as having several days off from work!). Yet, despite vacation and weekend, I went off to explore a site on Saturday – and it had almost all in it that made me decide for this job: adventure, hidden places, and the great feeling of finding something someone has left behind several years or maybe even decades, centuries, millenia ago.

On my last post I still had been a post-doc in the UP-NORTH project at UCL and writing about another exciting trip – back then the team went to Jersey. Well, summertime is a very likely time to find archaeologists out in the field! Since last year I’ve been back working in Germany as a post-doc in a collaborative research centre, the CRC 1266 “Scales of transformation – Human-Environmental Interaction in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies” at Kiel University ( The project I’m working in is about the “Pioneers of the North: Transitions and Transformations in Northern Europe evidenced by high-resolution data sets” and actually hosted at the Centre of Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology at Schloss Gottorf in Schleswig ( where I used to work before.

After a presentation about the project at a conference in spring this year, a colleague came up to me stating that he had been informed about a potential Late Upper Palaeolithic site in north-eastern Germany. Thus far, he had only seen photos of artefacts that appeared confincing to him but his time had not allowed him to take up this lead, Now he heard the presentation, he thought he could show us the photos, make a connection to the collector for our team, and maybe something comes out of it. Yay, great! Why not?

To explain why this suggestion was of particular interest for my new team, I have to introduce some details about this bit of archaeology: The first people (pioneers) to enter northern Germany after the last glaciation (c. 26,000-19,500 years ago) are archaeologically associated with the so-called Hamburgian – no, no burgers but reindeer hunters who left a whole lot of wastes near Hamburg that were found and in the 1920s firstly categorised by Hamburg university scholar Gustav Schwantes and termed Hamburgian by him. The Hamburgian is similar to the British Creswellian a Late Upper Palaeolithic entity that clearly arose from a Magdalenian ( substratum and also dates to the beginning of the Lateglacial Interstadial (appr. 14,700 – 12,700 years ago – the beginning comprises c. the first 700 years). In that period temperatures rose rapidly, precipitation increased, and vegetation and fauna reoccupied the northern regions that were more or less recently freed from the large inland glaciers. Traditionally two variants of the Hamburgian are distinguished based on their projectile typology: The classic Hamburgian with shouldered points that is considered slightly older and the Havelte Group with large but slender tanged points. Most sites of this archaeological group are found in the northern Netherlands, north-western Germany, Denmark (though only the Havelte variant), and Poland (here only the classic variant). Surprisingly, there seems to be no site in eastern Germany. Therefore, the idea that there might be a potential site in north-eastern Germany made us quite excited – what might there be between the classic Hamburgian areas in Poland, the Havelte Group material in Denmark and the diverse material in NW-Germany?

Yet, entering the site wasn’t as easy and straight forward as one might expect: The findspot is located on a private peninsula that also is in parts a natural conservation area. So the owner and the environmental protection agency had to agree on our coming. The latter is something we also know very well from sites in our part of northern Germany where somehow the relevant archaeological sites are also frequently located in natural protection zones with different degrees of excluding archaeological field works – but that’s an entirely different story that partially explains the scarcity of modern excavations of this period in the State of Schleswig-Holstein.

Back to the NE-German peninsula. Finally, this Saturday everything was arranged by our colleague and we had the permission to enter the peninsula. The trip began at 7.30am in Schleswig to arrive at the appointed time 10.45am at the gates to the private property. Well, at least that was the plan – not considering motorway closures due to accidents… the arrival time was finally at 11.30am but – thanks to modern communication media – the colleague was contacted early enough about the late arrival. So after a 4hrs ride, everybody already waited at the gates that were closed behind my car again displaying a large sign about danger of unadjusted ammunition… I learned then that prior to German unity and the decampment of the Russian troops in 1990, the area had been a military base since the 1930s with still some material of the Nazi tank shooting training remaining in the grounds. Eh, nice!? I was asked to leave my car with all that is dear to me and not waterproof at the gates and join the others in the car of the ranger. Luckily, the first swarm of mosquitos attacked me there already so that quickly I sprayed the parts without clothes – so hands and face (in the end it’s northern Germany – we had about 15°C all day) but also all my clothes with anti-mosquito spray because these nasty creatures were already trying to get through my trousers… Our ride then took us past the former airfield and the barracks village that were left to nature since 1990 but also past the former estate of those who owned the peninsula for some 650 years before the Nazis overtook it. To see nature at work on those buildings was also quite an amazing modern lesson in archaeology!

When the cars came to a stop at the coast, I found out why I had to leave everything behind – the next part of the way was taken by boat (kayak) to the other side of a little bight filled with reeds. At this point even the smartphones that were brought along – just in case and to have at least a chance to take some photos were left behind (alas – no photos to the text!). Well, it was still stormy but we gave it a try to reach the shore close to the site but having passed half the way and the main deep, our guide decided that it was too dangerous to go on and we landed on a sandy ground from where we could also reach the site by foot. Alas, through the reeds that were growing about half a meter taller than me and that were the home of the mosquitos… and the waves of the Baltic Sea splashing into the kayak had made me not just wet to the bones but had also washed away all mosquito protection… I have to admit it gave me a bit of a jungle feeling trying to keep pace with my guides through this thick and high reed forest attacked by nasty clouds of blood thirsty creatures – I guess if I had been a bit more claustrophobic and / or akarophobic that would have been a moment of pure panic! Finally, after several minutes we reached a little oak forest and after some metres that was cut by the coast exposing only a little beach and giving space to a cool wind from the sea that blew away the mosquitos.

And there we were: Several hundred metres of land cut by the coast revealing archaeological finds of several thousands of years. Once I started looking, the beach and the littoral water was filled with flint artefacts – mostly flakes but also some nice scrapers. You could see how the coast worked on the land and even see artefacts in the exposed sections of different thicknesses. In these, you could also see how the land had developed on top of the glacial moraines and tills from the last Ice Age to a fairly enriched peaty soil over millennia. Well, but the material we found that day did not resembled the potential Hamburgian artefacts that had brought us here. Yet, we were only granted a small time window to visit the site and have a look around – certainly not enough time to start a proper survey. The finds that we had made were packed up and given to the collector who will report them to the State authorities. So after a good look around, we had to return through the reed and to the boat that took us only over the main depth this time and dropped us off in another reed jungle but not as tall as the first one with some grass islands in between and not that many mosquitos. We followed a way cut into these reeds by the large wild boar population on the island until we came back to the car.

On our way back to the gates, we still made a little detour to climb up the former airfield tower to enjoy a grand view over the peninsula – and find out that after only 27 years and admittedly little knowledge about Russian army architecture, we could no longer tell what several of the rooms in the basement were used for… making us think what we do with remains that are several thousand years old and processed far more intensively by natural forces…

Finally, we arrived back at the gates and were released to our own cars and back to modern day civilisation and at this point it really felt like we had just been on a trip through time.

Though this sounds like a good end to an adventure story, a good archaeological excursion does not end at the gates. We looked for a nice café where we could sit together and talk about what we’ve seen, how we interpret what we’ve seen and how to proceed further. We remained undecided whether we come back here – we first plan to examine the original artefacts that brought us here in more detail. However, if we do come back we will hopefully have more time and then we will certainly have a more systematic survey plan. Only after another two hours there discussing and warming up with soup, coffee, tea, and cake we finally started our several hours long trips back home.

Though not as long a day as in last year’s report, I still collapsed into bed after the 13 hours day that was physically far more demanding than last year’s trip with a terrible headache, really itchy mosquito bites, still a bit wet, and dirty but still happy that my job allows me to have such adventurous, almost Indiana Jones like days.



I still cannot believe it’s the last Day of Archaeology… this is too sad.

However, as many others did before me, I want to thank the volunteering team so much for giving us all the opportunity to describe our very diverse daily lives as archaeologists. It’s been a real pleasure taking part in it and reading all the many interesting insights into other colleague’s worklife and reminding me how blessed I am with such job offering this magnitude of possibilities. Thank you, Day of Archaeology!

Landscape archaeology and reproducible research at the 2017 Berlin Summer School

For this year’s Day of Archaeology, I’m writing about what I was up to the week before. This is because on the actual Day of Archaeology I am quietly working alone on my computer to prepare a lecture for undergraduates, write some text into a few publication drafts, and send/receive a bunch of emails. Not very exciting to look at and much less fun than what I was doing last week. Last week, I was at the 2017 Summer School on Reproducible Research in Landscape Archaeology at the Freie Universität Berlin (17-21 July), funded and jointly organized by Exc264 TopoiCRC1266, and ISAAKiel. With a group of 16 archaeologists and geographers from Berlin, Kiel and Cologne, we spent the week learning how to make our research more reproducible, and learning advanced geostatistics.

Auf der Suche nach dem ältesten Hafen Rostocks (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern)

Die Bedeutung Rostocks als Hafenstadt ist unbestritten, alleine ein Hinweis auf die Stellung Rostocks im spätmittelalterlichen Hanseverbund mag hier genügen. Die Anfänge Rostocks liegen dagegen vermutlich bereits in der frühen Wikingerzeit (8. Jahrhundert) als am Nordufer der Warnow ein Handelsplatz von überregionaler Bedeutung existierte. Dieser Handelsplatz wird derzeit im Rahmen eines Forschungsvorhaben der DFG interdisziplinär untersucht; das Augenmerk liegt dabei auf dem Hafen der Siedlung, der als Schnittstelle zwischen Wasser und Land – also zwischen See- und Landverkehr – eine besondere Bedeutung besaß.

Die archäologischen Arbeiten im Feuchtbodenbereich (Abb. 1) erfolgen mit Hilfe von Schaufeln, Kellen (Abb. 2) und Pinseln, aber auch technische Geräte – wie das Tachymeter (Abb. 3) – kommen in Rahmen der Dokumentation der Befunde und Funde zum Einsatz. Studentinnen und Studenten aus Rostock, Hamburg und Berlin graben in Rostock auch am „Tag der Archäologie“ ehemalige Bebauungsreste und andere Strukturen aus: sie tiefen archäologische Schichten ab (Abb. 4), untersuchen Ofenanlagen (Abb. 5) und Flechtwerkzäune, dokumentieren diese und bergen diverses Fundmaterial aus allen Teilen des Ostseeraumes und darüber hinaus. Das Erdmaterial wird zusätzlich in Siebanlagen mit Wasser geschlämmt (Abb. 6), um auch kleinste Funde – wie Perlen, Münzen oder Bernstein – zu erkennen. Auf diese Weise entsteht im Laufe der mehrwöchigen Grabung aus vielen Einzelbildern ein immer detaillierteres Bild des ehemaligen Handelsplatzes und Vorläufer der Hansestadt Rostock.  In diesem Zeitraum ist jeder Tag dann für uns ein „Tag der Archäologie“.


1 Martina Karle, NIhK
2-6 Sebastian Messal, DAI

Abb. 1

Abb. 2

Abb. 3

Abb. 4

Abb. 5

Abb. 6



My day as archaeological researcher and as archaeological educator

[Für die deutsche Übersetzung bitte nach unten scrollen]

Hello, I am Carmen and I working as an archaeologist in Germany.

When I got registered for #dayofarchaeology I actually did planned to tell you something about my education program ErlebnisArchaeologie, all around re-experienced history and archaeology. But meanwhile unfortunately it showed up, that the new two-days-course about paper and writing will not come into being. And therefore I don’t have anything to prepare for this and as a consequence I can’t write about that.

But even though those education programs for sure are a matter of heart for me, it’s not my only area of work in archaeology. In fact at the moment I still earn most of my money as a researcher in regular field work. I also do complementation work for an excavation that ended some weeks ago, and that’s what I’m working on today.Fotor_146982390776327_wm

This means, that I have to check all the written and graphic documentation for the project. For example, I assess each drawing to ensure it includes the feature number, measuring point(s), orientation/north point and scale. In some case there is also additional information like strata numbers needed. I also double-check that every feature at the site has been described. I check hundreds of lists to ensure every feature and every step was documented correctly. If anything is missing, I try to complete information by comparing existing data: the site plan drawing, the photographic records, the daily field notes, and every existing entry about that specific feature in the aforementioned hundreds of lists. In the end I usually find the missing information in another location. And if it really can’t be found, I make a note in the margin.Fotor_146982411705960_wm

What archaeologists aim for with this kind of work is to documentat the site as thoroughly as is possible. This is a necessary labour because archaeology always destroys its original sources, and also because in many cases the excavator himself is not doing the final analysis for the project, or the same sitw is re-explored by a different researcher some years after. I have been working on these final records checks for the last few days. But just today I finished!

For the rest of the day, I worked on an archaeological education program about what it is like to be an archaeologist. I have two programs thar I call “To be an archaeologist once”. During this half-day program, children “excavate” a prepared area in a sandbox, them try to assemble their finds, maybe do some conservation and restoration.


To help the children along, I prepare the artifacts for the sandbox dig such that I know some will fit back together, and tjat is what I will do this afternoon: I will take flowerpots and carefully break them. I use the age of the participants to choose how many pieces I break the pots into: younger kids will find a pot shattered maybe only in 3 or 4 parts, older ones can handle a puzzle with up to 7 or 8 parts. And of course I always have also to think about how many of the pieces should be missing, because in reality we do not find complete vessels that often, do we? I plan the mock dig so every child will find a “feature” denoted with her or his name, containing shards of an incomplete pot. The children then have an assembly competition which will hopefully be doable because of the age-appropriate setup.DSC_3619_wm_2016To know more about me and my work please have a look to



Mein Tag als Archäologin in der Feldforschung und als Museumspädagogin

Hallo, meine Name ist Carmen und ich bin als Archäologin in Deutschland tätig.

Als ich für #dayofarchaeology registrierte, plante ich eigentlich etwas über meine Bildungsprogramme mit der ErlebnisArchäologie rund um erlebbare Geschichte und Archäologie zu berichten. Vor allem ein neu entwickeltes Programm rund um das Thema Papier und Schrift sollte Inhalt sein. Aber in der Zwischenzeit ist es leider so, dass dieser neue Zwei-Tage-Kurs nicht zustande kommen wird. Und deshalb brauche ich hierfür keine abschließenden Vorbereitungen treffen und kann daher auch nicht darüber berichten.

Aber auch wenn diese Bildungsprogramme sicher eine Herzensangelegenheit für mich sind, sie stellen nicht mein einziges Betätigungsfeld in der Archäologie dar. In der Tat erwirtschafte ich im Moment den Großteil meines Auskommens immer noch mit klassischer Feldarbeit. Und heute um genau zu sein mit der Abschlussarbeiten für eine Ausgrabung, die vor einigen Wochen endete.Fotor_146982390776327_wm

Das bedeutet, dass ich die komplette schriftliche und zeichnerische Dokumentation überprüfe. Zum Beispiel überprüfe ich jede Zeichnung auf Vollständigkeit: dies bedeutet im Regelfall, dass zumindest Angaben zur Befundnummer, Meßpunkten, Orientierung/Nordung und Maßstab vorhanden sein müssen. In einigen Fällen werden auch zusätzliche Informationen wie schichtnummern benötigt. Ich kontrolliere auch, ob jeder Befund beschrieben wurde. Und überprüfe gefühlte Hunderte von Listen, ob jeder Befund und jeder Arbeitsschritt korrekt dokumentiert wurden.

Falls etwas fehlt versuche ich Informationen zu vervollständigen, indem ich vorhandene Daten vergleiche: ich werfe einen Blick auf den Gesamtplan und die fotografischen Aufzeichnungen, ich überprüfe das Grabungstagebuch und jeden vorhandenen Eintrag zu diesem Befund in in den Querverweislisten. Am Ende findet sich so normalerweise die fehlende Information in einem anderen Zusammenhang. Und wenn es sich wirklich nicht rekonstruieren lässt, dann wird auch das in einer Randnotiz erwähnt.Fotor_146982411705960_wm

Archäologen bezwecken mit dieser Sisyphusarbeit, eine möglichst vollständige Dokumentation zu erhalten. Dies ist eine wirklich notwendig, weil Archäologie immer die ursprünglichen Quellen zerstört und auch weil in vielen Fällen nicht der Ausgräber selbst ist die endgültige Analyse vornimmt bzw. eine Ausgrabung auch zu einem späteren Zeitpunkt neu betrachtet werden kann.

Und deshalb habe ich diese Abschlussprüfungen in den die letzten Tagen durchgeführt. Aber gerade bin ich damit fertig geworden. Und so kann ich doch noch ein wenig von meiner anderen Seite der Arbeit als Archäologin im Bereich Museumspädagogik berichten:

Denn in der Tat hatte ich in der kommenden Woche nicht nur das Programm zu Papier und Schrift auf dem Plan stehen. Ich halte auch zwei Mal „Einmal Archäologe sein“ ab. Während dieser Halbtagesveranstaltung können Kinder einmal selber in einer vorbereitete Fläche, z.B. in einem Sandkasten, “ausgraben”. Danach versuchen sie, ihre Fundstücke zusammenzusetzen und diese dann auch zu restaurieren.Fotor_146982459795758_wm

Aber damit sie dies alles tun können, muss ich natürlich auch sicherstellen, dass es überhaupt Fundstücke gibt. Und das ist, was ich nun in der zweiten Hälfte des Tages tue: Ich nehme Blumentöpfe und zerschlage sie sorgsam. Es ist tatsächlich sehr wichtig, sie nicht nur in irgendeiner Weise zu zerteilen. Ich habe immer einen Blick auf das Alter der Teilnehmer. Für jüngere Kinder wird der Topf vielleicht nur in 3 oder 4 Teile zerscherbt, ältere erhalten ein Puzzle mit bis zu 7 oder 8 Teilen. Und natürlich muss ich auch immer die fehlenden Stücke mit einplanen, denn in Wirklichkeit finden wir ja auch nicht allzu oft komplette Gefäße. So werden dann am Dienstag alle Kinder einen „Befund“ vorfinden, der nicht durchnummeriert ist, sondern mit ihrem oder seinen Namen gekennzeichnet wurde. Und im Inneren werden Scherben eines unvollständigen Topfs sein, dessen Zusammensetzen und Ergänzen nach Möglichkeit den altersgerechten Fähigkeiten entsprechen.DSC_3619_wm_2016

Wenn ihr noch mehr über mich und meine Arbeit wissen wollt, schaut doch mal bei mir auf der Homepage vorbei