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A Choice of ancestors - the mechanisms of ethnic ascription in the age of patriotic antiquarianism (1815-1850).

Sommer, U; (2008) A Choice of ancestors - the mechanisms of ethnic ascription in the age of patriotic antiquarianism (1815-1850). In: Schlanger, N and Nordbladh, J, (eds.) Archives, Ancestors, Practices, Archaeology in the lights of its history. (233 - 246). Berghahn Books: Oxford, UK.

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Abstract

The years after the Vienna Congress (1815) saw the first systematic attempts at an ethnic ascription of archaeological finds in the German territories. A common 'patriotic' past was seen as an incentive to create a unified German national state. In the climate of political oppression and tight censorship after the Carlsbad Decrees, an idealised past served as a model for a more democratic future yet to be achieved. Numerous antiquarian and historical societies started a programme of enthusiastic if not very systematic excavations that were intended to illuminate the prehistoric past and to clarify the ethnic identity of the makers of the 'heathen urns' thus discovered. The criteria used for these ascriptions were ethnic stereotypes taken from historical and folkloristic sources. Folklore, linguistics, especially place-name studies, the history of law, history and personal empathy were seen as equally valid sources for a reconstruction of a 'heathen' past the chronological depth of which had not yet been perceived. Contrary to common opinion, it was not always a Germanic past that was referred to. In the East of Germany, the industrious and cultured Slavs were preferred to the nomadic and uncouth Germanic tribes. Three German territories, the Duchy of Reuß-Schleiz, the kingdom of Saxony and the Prussian province of Silesia exemplify the regionally specific nature of these concepts. It can be shown that the localized nature of many interpretations prevented the formation of a specific archaeological typology and terminology. This raises the question if archaeology had to become nationalist in order to reach the status of an autonomous scholarly discipline.

Type: Book chapter
Title: A Choice of ancestors - the mechanisms of ethnic ascription in the age of patriotic antiquarianism (1815-1850).
ISBN-13: 9781845450663
Publisher version: http://www.berghahnbooks.com/title.php?rowtag=Schl...
Language: English
Keywords: Antiquarian societies, history of archaeology, History of archaeology Nationalism
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/19463
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