ProLOEWE faces

Professor Dr Rüdiger Krause Searching for traces of the Bronze Age

© Tanja Desch/ProLOEWE

Professor Krause, you and your colleague Svend Hansen are the initiators of the LOEWE cluster on prehistoric conflict research and you are its spokesman: do you see a connection between your research work and current issues in our day? For the first time, LOEWE funding has enabled medieval historians, sociologists and even archaeologists to examine conflict research in the 2nd millennium BC using an innovative and new approach in our field of study: as prehistorians, we are conducting our research on Bronze Age fortifications or castles dating from the 2nd millennium together. This interdisciplinary approach allows us to go even further: ranging from early medieval castles to the theoretical principles up to the modern age and current conflicts. We can only learn how to understand conflicts and conflict events in their overall context for the prehistoric and especially Bronze Age periods by adopting this all-round method. The ability to investigate and analyse processes in a long-term perspective within the framework of archaeology and ancient civilisations, however, definitely enables us to draw conclusions about our age too. In terms of avoiding conflicts, it is possible to recognise patterns of behaviour that diminish the outcome of conflicts and prevent any escalation.

In addition to teaching, much of your work includes excavations, e.g. in the Urals (Russia), in the Montafon area (Austria) and at Sängersberg near Fulda at the present time. How do you find these places and how can laypeople gain some idea of what happens at these excavations? Favoured regions and less favoured (settlement) areas already existed in pre-Christian times due to different economic structures and access to important resources such as salt, copper or tin, but also to fertile soils for agricultural use. Research into the formation of hierarchical structures in the Bronze Age provides the common thread here, from an archaeological point of view. Answering a specific scientific question is the crucial factor when selecting an excavation project. However, new ideas about excavation sites often occur as a result of personal connections or networking between potential partners too. In most cases, a thorough prospecting phase precedes the excavation itself: this includes preparing a terrain model or a topographic survey plan, taking geophysical measurements, visualising underground structures and interpreting them. But it also includes site inspections, during which we normally make our first finds and they provide information about dating the site. Based on this information, we select an excavation area and uncover the layers by hand. The findings exposed in this process, e.g. the discolouration of pits or stone structures or the foundations of former wooden structures or fortifications, are documented and interpreted together with our artefacts. With scientific data, such as radiocarbon dating to determine age, they provide mosaic stones to interpret and reconstruct an (overall) picture of a settlement or a fortification.

What do you see as the central theme running through your excavation work and what has been the most surprising thing that you have encountered so far? In recent years, I have been most interested in the now infamous discoveries of 21 gold plates and two decorated amber stones from the large Bernstorfer Berg fortification in Upper Bavaria. They are generally viewed as fakes, but that is not true. My Munich colleague, Rupert Gebhard, and I are therefore fighting against the presentation of alleged facts, as practised by those who oppose our view. I am convinced that the finds are quite extraordinary objects from the 14thcentury B.C. and come from the Eastern Mediterranean region; they provide wonderful evidence of the extensive contacts and relations that existed in this period.

You were born in Baghdad (Iraq), a country that is rich in archaeological sites - it seems absolutely clear that this had a major effect on your professional career. Did you have some kind of key experience that made you want to become an archaeologist? Unfortunately, I cannot remember my time in Baghdad any more, because I only spent the first 16 months of my life there. But the many reports and wonderful black-and-white photos of my father show clear scenes and confirm my early visits to Babylon, the capital of Babylonia on the river Euphrates, or the Kassite royal city of Aqar Quf with its famous ziggurat. The desert sand and meeting Bedouins may have played a part in it all too...(laughs). 

About the Person

  • Spokesman of the LOEWE cluster on prehistoric conflict research