History within your grasp: steles explain the archeology of Munich – Munich

The construction sites for the second main S-Bahn line are generally not something that most people in Munich are particularly happy about. The archaeologist does. In particular, the Marienhof behind the town hall has developed into a treasure trove for research into Munich’s early history thanks to the digging work of the railway builders. This is explained on one of the blue steles that the State Archaeological Collection has set up in the city center to point out finds and locations.

There’s the thing about the cow. At some point in the 13th century, the animal got into a well that had just been dug in 1261 or immediately afterwards and was neatly lined with wood. Whether it was an accident or a deliberate act of sabotage, an attack on the critical infrastructure of the young city of Munich – this question probably remains unanswered.

A cow fell into this well – and ensured that the building had to be removed from its original purpose. (Photo: Florian Peljak)

But what the archaeologists can say is that what happened with the cow changed everything, at least for the owner of the well. Because the water source was contaminated, the certainly expensive well could only be used as a waste pit and latrine. A small catastrophe for the residents of the property, but a stroke of luck for science.

History buffs can find out details like this, cheerfully prepared, on the 13 archaeological steles. Locations are cleverly linked virtually with the corresponding finds in the museum, but also with scientific work on the respective topic. For example in the inner courtyard of the Munich imperial residence.

Imperial residence? You read that right. In the 14th century, the Roman-German Emperor Ludwig resided in the Old Court, whom his opponents loyal to the Pope called “the Bavarian” with disrespectful intentions. A blue stele tells the history of the castle. If you then turn around, you only have to climb a few steps up and down a few more to find yourself under the “Museums and Castles Info Point” directly in the remains of the residence. And to be amazed at what the ground of Munich’s old town, which has been dug up hundreds of times, is still willing to reveal.

The steles are part of the research project, which has been extended until 2028 “Archaeology Munich”which is funded by the city with 80,000 euros annually. In addition to the State Archaeological Collection in Lerchenfeldstrasse, which was magnificently reopened in April after years of renovation (a tour of the city’s archaeology is there next Wednesday), the State Office for Monument Preservation, the Institute for Prehistory and Early History at Ludwig Maximilian University, the City Museum, the City Archives, the State Collection for Paleoanatomy, the Lower Monument Protection Authority and the Regensburg Office for Monument Preservation are also involved.

A special feature of the research project: scientific papers that provide new insights into Munich’s city history do not gather dust in some cupboard – they are published online and are prepared in such a way that even laypeople interested in the city’s history can do something with them. For example, when project manager Elke Bujok writes about “The Nuns of Max-Joseph-Platz” or “Wilhelm IV’s pleasure garden on today’s Marstallplatz”.

Together with Brigitte Haas-Gebhard, the head of the Middle Ages and Modern Period department, and museum director Rupert Gebhard, she presented the stele project on Thursday morning. The blue street furniture is itself an artefact: it was originally used to mark the Munich Olympic sites, but was brought out again for the archaeology project. Until late autumn, that is the plan. And after that? Permanent information boards at the sites are not just the wish of the museum’s organizers.

One of the panels, the one from Odeonsplatz, tells the story of an ancient grave relief that Haas-Gebhard, together with a colleague explored A wild story. The gravestone was recycled in ancient times by a certain Eutaktos. Then the find (“God knows how,” wrote the astonished architect Leo von Klenze to his king in 1822) came to Munich, where it was probably displayed in the ducal art chamber.

Prof. Rupert Gebhard, Director of the State Collection. (Photo: Claus Schunk)

At some point the grave relief was probably moved from the residence’s antiquarium to one of the ducal gardens, where, however, the weather took a toll on it. When the old city wall was demolished 200 years later to create today’s Odeonsplatz, the stone appeared again. The quintessence of archeology, so to speak, as Rupert Gebhard says with a smile: “Everything you bury, someone will dig it up again at some point.”

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