Researching the history of your own city anew – this is currently possible in Kronach: volunteers have already dug under the guidance of an archaeologist in the autumn, and another project is planned for next year. The results provide exciting questions about the history of the city and the region. The starting point are two towers from the Salian period and ceramics from the early Middle Ages. “The excavations near Friesen are classified as one of the most important research objects in Upper Franconia,” said Mayor Angela Hofmann. “The uniqueness of the oldest ceramic finds in the Kronach district and the Salian castle raise interesting questions regarding the earliest Kronach town history.”
And that’s what it’s all about: In 1989, Gregor Förtsch discovered ceramics from the 8th to 10th centuries near the Friesen district of Kronach. First of all, it had to be ruled out that the ceramics had gotten there by chance – for example through soil exchange. “I really wanted to get to the bottom of this find,” said Förtsch, head of the Kronach Archaeological Working Group. They financed the first excavation themselves and initially came across a paved dirt road. And then finally the foundations of two stone buildings were discovered, each with a square floor plan measuring ten by nine meters and a wall thickness of 2.40 meters. It was a Salian castle with a palace and a defensive tower. In Förtsch’s assessment, this was probably no ordinary building, “it was something better, reserved for the imperial nobility or bishops.”
The Salian period goes back to the East Franconian Salian family, which had kings and emperors from 1024 to 1125. Their main areas were on the Rhine. So how did the Salian architectural style come to what was then a remote area, far from the Rhine? This is one of the many questions raised by the archaeological finds near Kronach. A specialist conference next year is intended to provide deeper insights into the assessment of the finds and also the extent of the settlement.
According to the State Office for Monument Preservation, it is rare for volunteers to be involved in archaeological projects in the Free State. “The majority of archaeological investigations in Bavaria are rescue excavations as part of construction work and are carried out by professional excavation companies,” said a spokeswoman. Nevertheless, there are always teaching or volunteer excavations, but they are always under professional archaeological supervision.
Voluntary commitment to the preservation of archaeological monuments has a long tradition in Bavaria. “Private individuals, local guardians, working groups and associations make an important voluntary contribution to the recording, preservation and communication of the Free State’s archaeological heritage.” In the specific case of Kronach, the municipality, volunteers and the State Office for Monument Preservation worked in close coordination with each other, assured everyone involved.
And what exactly should happen next for the foundations of the two Salier towers in Kronach? The excavation was for documentation purposes; the foundations have now been professionally covered again. Förtsch would like to provide detailed information at the site of the finds, for example with plaques: “This is our history, it is interesting and important,” he said. “And it still puzzles us.”