Hanse: Urbanisation and Urbanity

The urbanisation at the Southern Baltic coast between the 11th/12th and 13th/14th century.

Urbanisierung und Urbanität The Baltic region experienced a fundamental change between the 11th/12th and 13th/14th century, which is boldly circumscribed as „Europeanisation“ or „Hanseatinsation“ and neutrally described as the „structural transformation of the High Middle Age“. Since time immemorial the sea has unified the human fascination and fear of the elements. A coastal city is an expression of this ambivalent relationship and in it economic and power political processes encounter natural conditions.

This is true of modern as well as medieval seaside towns. Some of these lie directly at the sea coasts, others at riverbeds, but their mutual feature was and is, that they are landing points in maritime and inland transport zones. Lake- and seaports at the Baltic coast are open to the ocean, their development was determined by the possibilities as well as the dangers of the sea.

From the Kiel Fjord to the Baltic States all along the southern Baltic coast “city-law” emerged on autochthonic roots and on the wings of colonization and territorialisation, extensive Christian expansions and new economic forms. By adopting and modifying or developing town concepts of Western Europe, the new type “civitas maritima” emerged, which was the actual novelty based on the earlier initiated urbanising processes.

The goal of the research project is to illustrate not only the structural similarities of urbanisation on the Southern Baltic coast but also their differences and variability, in order to single out the players of “local level strategies”. A current article can be found here.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Ulrich Müller

Semantics of material cultures

Who among us is not familiar with - the question, how does the remote control work or where are things stored on a mobile phone? Objects – material culture – are not static. Admittedly my remote control does not yet speak to me however objects can very well induce particular actions in their users. This is true for present as well as past societies. Beyond that objects have very different meanings for their users, which are not only varied based on anthropological (age, gender, etc.), but also social categories (e.g. rank, occupation, faith) and the specific associated situations. 

Semantiken materieller Kulturen

Reviewing semantics and describing communicative structures in a model is also an important part of archaeological sciences. The Kiel project is focused on objects for hand washing: a topic which was of central meaning in medieval societies, since the washing of hands combined both the concept of cleanliness (physically) and purity (ethically). Hand washing was practiced ritually in actions such as greeting, eating and bidding goodbye. A short introduction can be found here. An overview of the bronze basins can be downloaded here.

Industrialization and Infrastructure

With the industrial revolution and the emergence of large-scale industries, there was an increasing need for efficient logistics. The transport of people and goods by rail played a decisive role here. The construction of new railway lines was initially carried out by private companies. One of these "groundbreaking" projects is a project of the "Cöln-Minden-Thüringer Verbindungs-Eisenbahngesellschaft". This private company planned the construction of a railway line between the Hessian state border and Lippstadt in 1846.

The route also led through the Eggegebirge, which was a challenge, at least for the course of the railway. The passes between the up to 464 meter high crests could not be mastered with the machines available at that time. Instead of an elaborate approach loop or other constructions, a tunnel project was planned. The approximately 560m long tunnel was planed to be build with the most modern construction technology and represented a century-long structure for the agricultural region of the Eggegebirge.

Today, only collapsed shafts and dumps have survived from what more than 500 construction workers started exactly 170 years ago and never completed. One of the mighty cuts as access to the former tunnel is even completely under water. It is being investigated in a cooperative project between the LWL (Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe), the working group for limnic and maritime archaeology (AMLA) at the Institute for Prehistory and Early History of the CAU Kiel and the chair. 

The excavation managers Fritz Jürgens and Nils Wolpert already prospected the site with students and volunteers in December last year (2016) and subaquatically examined the tunnel access road. Among other things, the entrances to the shafts, which are preserved as hollows in the forest floor, are above active. At the end of March / beginning of April 2017 a building floor plan was uncovered as part of an educational excavation, which is addressed by the excavations as the house of construction management. 

A current article can be found in Blickpunkt Archäologie 4, 2017(publisher Pfeil)

Press information about the projec:

Glassworks in Schleswig-Holstein

It is known from written sources that since 1575 glassmakers mainly from Hesse and southern Lower Saxony came to Holstein, especially Ostholstein, since here the raw material necessary for glass production, especially beech wood, was still abundant and at the same time the landowners were anxious to expand their yard fields at the expense of the forest. As a result, a large number of glassworks have been built in this area, and their locations and products are thus much more well-known than for other trades. Northern Germany plays a rather marginal role in previous glassworks research.


After the war, glassworks research was carried out in the Plön area in particular by the Plön museum director and archaeologist Hucke. In the 1970s to 1990s, the Plön Museum in particular under its director Kruse as well as numerous honorary collectors systematically visited sites, especially in the East Holstein area and the regions between Neumünster and Rendsburg.  In 2009, the "Peter Besel Collection" was acquired by the State Archaeological Museum. These are flat and hollow glass, glass seals, glass fragments, glass slag, vascular ceramics and technical ceramics, which were recovered during site visits focusing on the eastern hilly region of East Holstein and the Lower Geest. Thus, not only is extensive find material available, which offers a unique insight into the forms and functions of early modern glass in northern Germany, but the collection also provides a deep insight into the glassworks landscape of eastern Schleswig-Holstein. Although the distribution of the sites reflects the catchment area of the collector, it must also be seen as evidence of the importance of the glass industry in eastern Schleswig-Holstein.


Brink to Ballum. A forgotten castle in Sønderjylland (Ballum Sogn, Tønder Amt, DK)

Situated on the beach, everyone wonders: Where did Ballum Castle stand? 

Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein are rich in castles, manor houses and fortresses. However, the latter are not always preserved above ground, but are hidden underground. If the delivery is favourable, the relatively small systems are only visible in the terrain or can be recorded by LIDAR scans.

The fortress Brink near Ballum on the west coast of Sønderjylland is a special complex. Brink Castle was first mentioned in 1379. At that time the complex had a central function in the local administration of the estates of the diocese of Ribe. For castle research, the complex is also of the utmost importance due to the accounting book - a unique document containing detailed information about the administration and thus providing a comprehensive insight into the internal organisation and operation of castles of the 14th century. During the 15th century, the original castle seems to have been demoted to a larger country estate before it was dismantled in 1562.

The origins of the plant are unknown to date, but could date back to around 1300 AD. In a joint project with Prof. Dr. Rainer Atzbach, Section for Medieval and Renaissance Archaeology of the University of Aarhus and the Museum Sønderjylland, the castle is once again undergoing archaeological investigation. Initially, a geomagnetic signature under the direction of Dr. Christoph Rinne of the I UFG in January 2017 produced important results. 

In 2017 several cuts were made in a four-week excavation campaign, which, in addition to numerous finds, provided important information on the trench system and the buildings. The excavations will continue in 2018. First impressions can be found at