Germany's landmarks are not archaeological

Die Zeit published recently (Nr. 11, March 2006) a Special on Germany’s landmarks. Among the 11 top tourist destination are Weimar, Neuschwanstein, Schloss Sanssouci in Potsdam, the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, the Dome in Cologne, and the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. None of them could be called ‘archaeological’ (which is not to say that they could not profitably be studied by archaeologists!). Indeed, none is older than approximately 250 years (except the Black Forest, the Loreley and Helgoland)!

Image of HermannsdenkmalThe only listed landmark with some archaeological connotations is the Teutoburg Forest with its Hermannsdenkmal (near Detmold). In the Zeit article, Andrea Böhm reveals that she first thought of the Statue of Liberty in New York when she suddenly made out the imposing monument in front of her.

The Hermannsdenkmal commemorates in fact the Cherusci war chief Arminius and the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in which germanic tribes under Arminius recorded a decisive victory in 9 CE over three Roman legions under Varus. The sword carries the following inscription:

Deutschlands Einigkeit meine Stärke – meine Stärke Deutschlands Macht.
Germany’s unity (is) my strength – my strength (is) Germany’s power.

According to the Wikipedia entry, construction for the 53.46 m tall statue was started in 1838, but not completed until 1875 with the help of substantial funds from the state of Prussia. The genesis of the sculpture has to be understood in the context of the German political situation in the 19th century. Under the impression of the repeated defeats at the hands of the French and the fractured nature of the German states, Germans began to orient themselves toward the ancient past as a source of national pride. The statue is today one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany with over two million visitors a year.

So what happened to Germany’s other archaeological landmarks? Why are there no archaeological tourist meccas in Germany, or are there? Where is Germany’s Stonehenge or Lascaux, Pompeii or Olympia? Suggestions for what Die Zeit may have missed are very welcome.

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