ARCHEOLOGY BEYOND ARCHAĪOS

ARCHEOLOGY BEYOND ARCHAĪOS

Dawid Kobiałka, Mikołaj Kostyrko, Kornelia Kajda


ARCHEOLOGY BEYOND ARCHAĪOS. A CASE STUDY OF A PRISONER OF WAR AND INTERNMENT CAMP IN TUCHOLA (KUJAWY-POMERANIA PROVINCE)

KEY WORDS: archaeology of the recent past, prisoner of war camp, memory, heritage, materiality, remote sensing, LiDAR, Tuchola

SUMMARY

The starting point for this paper is a growing archaeological interest in the studies of material culture and landscapes from the recent past. It is argued that traditional approach towards archaeology as science that studies the ancient and the very old is too narrow to embrace the whole diversity of the archaeological research in the contemporary times.

Within contemporary archaeological discourse, there are a few terms that try to account for archaeology beyond archaīos. One can just refer to: the archaeology of us, archaeology of the contemporary past, archaeology of the recent past, archaeology in and of the present or archaeology of the contemporary world. Not being synonymous, these term nonetheless share a conviction that it is material culture, no matter how old or new, that is the constitutive element of archaeological practice.

The discussion concerning recent reconfigurations in archaeological theory and fields of interest is used in the article as a background for the practical presentation of the epistemological potential of archaeology oriented on material culture and landscapes from the recent past. As a case study, the authors use the remains of the prisoner of war and internment camp in Tuchola (Kujawsko-Pomorskie Province, Poland). The camp was run between 1914 and 1923: during the First World War, by Germans and then, during the Polish-Soviet War, by the Poles.

First, the paper shortly discusses the history of the camp on the basis of the available historical data. Second, following archaeological interests in the transformations of landscapes related to modern armed conflicts, the authors analyse and document the remains of the camp using LiDAR-derivatives. The article concludes with the thesis that the materiality of twentieth-century landscapes should become the subject of closer archaeological attention. Along these lines, LiDAR technology can be also a useful tool in the context of approaching such landscapes.

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The article was originally published in Polish at Folia Praehistorica Posnaniensia.

Summary and photos are published with the permission of the Authors.

Miedzianka/Kupferberg. Memory of the town

Miedzianka/Kupferberg. Memory of the town

2017

Winner of Asymptote Journal’s 2016 Close Approximations Translation Contest and Shortlisted for the Ryszard Kapuscinski Prize, Filip Springer’s History of a Disappearance is a fascinating true story of a small mining town in the southwest of Poland – Miedzianka that, after seven centuries of history, disappeared.

Lying at the crucible of Central Europe, the Silesian village of Kupferberg suffered the violence of the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, and World War I. After Stalin’s post-World War II redrawing of Poland’s borders, Kupferberg became Miedzianka, a town settled by displaced people from all over Poland and a new center of the Eastern Bloc’s uranium-mining industry. Decades of neglect and environmental degradation led to the town being declared uninhabitable, and the population was evacuated. Today, it exists only in ruins, with barely a hundred people living on the unstable ground above its collapsing mines.

In this work of unsparing and insightful reportage, renowned journalist, photographer, and architecture critic Filip Springer rediscovers this small town’s fascinating history. Digging beyond the village’s mythic foundations and the great wars and world leaders that shaped it, Springer catalogs the lost human elements: the long-departed tailor and deceased shopkeeper; the parties, now silenced, that used to fill the streets with shouts and laughter; and the once-beautiful cemetery, with gravestones upended by tractors and human bones scattered by dogs. In Miedzianka, Springer sees a microcosm of European history, and a powerful narrative of how the ghosts of the past continue to haunt us in the present.

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2011

Miedzianka: Historia znikania [Miedzianka: Story of Disappearing] published by Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2011

Coppferberge, Kopferberg, Kupferberg, and later Miedzianka. A town; and in the town – a church, bakery, pharmacist’s, inn, brewery, paper-mill, forge and hairdresser’s. There were weddings there, children were born, somebody died. Supposedly, the town was cursed as at some point, a man murdered his own brother. And two crosses were put up beside the road: one of them read: ”Memento”, so the tragedy would not go forgotten. ”History has never really arrived here; more adequately, it just kept wandering about the neighbourhood”, writes Filip Springer in his debut book about the town which used to exist but does not anymore. The process of disappearing started with a cherry tree, devoured one time by a crack in the ground; the tree still had fruit on its top branches. Houses, tombs, started to sink deeper and deeper into the ground. People would vanish into thin air. Girls played with crystals from church chandeliers and boys reached into old, derelict graves to take out old skulls buried long before. What made the town, the seven-centuries-old town, cease to exist? Are the damages resulting from Uranium excavations conducted by the Russians between 1948 and 1952 to blame? Or, maybe, the underlying cause was the Evil Woman mentioned by the one-time Miedzianka inhabitants who fled the town? This polyphonic story of Miedzianka does not provide answers for all posed questions but the memory of the town has been preserved.

Filip Springer (b. 1982 in Poznań) is a photographer and journalist, whose works are published in all-Poland magazines such as ”Polityka” weekly. In 2010, he received a grant awarded by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage and in 2012, he was included in the ”Młoda Polska” (”Young Poland”) grant programme of the National Cultural Centre. Filip Springer co-created a project under the name “Ill – Bred” (”Źle Urodzone”), dedicated to documenting historic buildings of the post-war Modernist era in Poland and presenting them to broad audiences; in March 2012, a book covering this issue was published by Karakter. ”Miedzianka: Story of Disappearing” (”Miedzianka. Historia znikania”) is Filip Spinger’s début in the field of literature.

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References:

http://www.europenowjournal.org/2017/04/03/history-of-a-disappearance-the-forgotten-story-of-a-polish-town-by-filip-springer/

http://www.kulturalna.warszawa.pl/kapuscinski,6,1776.html?locale=en_GB

http://wrzenie.pl/reportaz/451-miedzianka-wersja-angielska-history-of-a-disappearance.html

 

 

Balkan Erotic Epic and memory of the body

Balkan Erotic Epic and memory of the body

Dąbrówka Stępniewska


In the Balkan Erotic Epic (2005) multi-channel video installation Marina Abramović – the Grandmother of the Performance, as she calls herself – combines performance with ritual. She returns to the pagan roots, reffering to Balkan beliefs and practices, in which the body and sexuality play the key role. By recreating ritual activities , she shows the body in dialouge with nature. According to ancient beliefs fertility of the soil is inextricably linked to human fertility. Abramović’s monumental installation sublimates human vital and erotic functions – we find here the expression of pleasure drawn from visually aggressive sexual practices displaced by culture, and especially religion.

The installation can be seen within the BEYOND THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE/ AFFECTIVE OPERATIONS exhibition in Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland, 09.05 – 02.07.2017.

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Affect is construed here as the body’s automatic reaction to external stimuli or internal processes. These reactions, pleasant or not, occur beyond consciousness and the rational mind, and are not immediately subject to cognitive reflection. Affect is commonly identified with emotions, but in the context of this exhibition it is a proto-emotion: an experience of ‘intensity’ (anxiety, tension, tremor, uncertainty, experienced in the body, under the skin) that – when cognitively worked through, made conscious – triggers off specific emotions such as joy, fear, disgust, shame, anger, and many other related emotional nuances.

I sincerely recommend to see Marina Abramović’s installation and the whole BEYOND THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE/ AFFECTIVE OPERATIONS exhibition (17 artists), although reception of it is not easy, indeed. In confrontation with the majority of the works I felt the above mentioned negative emotions and strong discomfort.

Cemitério dos Prazeres and Memory of the Dead

Cemitério dos Prazeres and Memory of the Dead

Cemeteries are one of the most impressive reflexes of an historic moment in a certain culture. Therefore, it is rather understandable why southern Europe cemeteries present features that cannot be easily found in Great Britain cemeteries, for example. However, if we look closer to Portuguese cemeteries, we can easily distinguish it from the Spanish, the French or even from the Italian ones.

Francisco Queiroz

Dabrowka Stepniewska


The rainy and gloomy November especially encourages to do some reflection and meditation on the transience, the death and the fragility of human life. This is the best time for remembering the dead and visiting cemeteries. The Western world celebrates in this particular time of the year the Halloween, the All Saints’ Day, the All Souls’ Day from 31st October to 2nd November. At that time cemeteries are illuminated by thousands of candles and sunk in flowers, like in Poland. However, during the rest part of the year the final resting places are usually empty.

In the last week of October this year I visited the famous Prazeres Cemetery in Lisbon, just before the upcoming holidays. Portuguese transport has switched already to the winter timetable, but the temperature was still high (ca. 27-29 degrees Celsius) and the sun was shining beautifully. So there was not a bit of the so called “November atmosphere” which I described above. It was completely different, in fact. The Prazeres Cemetery was almost empty. I saw only a few tourists and I met two old ladies, who were taking care of the graves of their dead spouses. We had some conversation  and frankly they complained a bit that since the cemetery has become a monument the cost of upkeeping the graves increased significantly.
I walked around the cemetery around 1.5 hours and I really felt myself like visiting a ghost town, a city of the dead. The plan of the streets, squares, monuments, mausoleums, chapels and avenues with the houses of the dead corresponds 1:1 to the normal city plan, a living city. Nevertheless, the net curtains in the tombs’ windows looked a little spooky and caused me a bit of an unpleasant shudder. And the coffins visible directly through the glass… This is not a daily view, even at a cemetery. Modernly, we are more accustomed to burying the coffin with the body in the ground or to a discrete cremation rather then exposure of coffins with corpses. A certain order of things had been infringed and that was probably the reason why I felt a bit strange and slightly uncomfortable.
Beyond the beautiful nineteenth century romantic architecture and the scenic location, the Prazeres Cemetery is also well known from the oldest and largest concentration of the cypresses on the Iberian Peninsula. These long-lived trees bring incredible peace and dignity by their presence and are the characteristic elements of this landscape. And the cats are the only living inhabitants of the Prazeres Cemetery, I suppose. They behaved very calmly and very freely, so you could conjecture that the cemetery is probably their living environment, their home. It is significant that the more we move to the south of Europe, the greater dominance of the cats in the cities we observe. Sometimes they took such a pose that they looked like a guardians, absolutely focused and concentrated. Just like the mythical Cerberus,  guarding the entrance to the underworld…
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The Prazeres Cemetery was originally created to handle the thousands of victims of the cholera epidemic in 1833-34.  By 1839, wealthier families began to build monuments.  Several hundred tombs were build between 1839 and1850 alone.  Many important names figures of Portuguese arts and politics are buried here.  The Prazeres Cemetery became the model for most cemeteries in the center and south of Portugal, and is the most cosmopolitan cemetery still existing in the nation.

Before the grounds were converted into a cemetery, it was a collective of farms by the name of Quinta dos Prazeres in which you could find gardens, vineyards and orchards. It’s location, with a beutiful view of the Tejo river, was noble indeed, positioned near Dom Pedro II’s Royal Palace in Alcântara and the other royal parties.

In the XVI century the farm was converted into a refuge for people suffering diseases like smallpox, the plague and yellow fever. Eventually, thanks to the the cholera morbus epidemic in the 1830s, the whole area was designated as a final resting place for the local aristocracy. It was run by the nuns from the Convento de Boa Morte (Good Death Convent) until 1834.

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References:

http://portugalconfidential.com/10-intriguing-cemeteries-of-portugal/

http://www.cm-lisboa.pt/en/equipments/equipment/info/cemiterio-dos-prazeres

http://www.cm-lisboa.pt/equipamentos/equipamento/info/museu-cemiterio-dos-prazeres

http://www.ucityguides.com/cities/10-famous-cemeteries.html

http://www.atlaslisboa.com/cemiterio-dos-prazeres/

http://queirozportela.com/cemetpo.htm

Tannenberg-Denkmal and the cult of memory

Tannenberg-Denkmal and the cult of memory

History, is devoted to its memory. It is built from collected fragments of information, the detritus of knowledge about the past, and the relics of memories lost.

Memory, in this case it is not a record of experienced recollections but an attempt at an orderly re-assembling of lost memory. It is memory arranged in the form of an archive.

Oblivion, is tantamount to the erasure of the memory of the monument. Devastation experienced years ago, pillage and the dispersion of its unwanted (alien) remains provokes a set of basic questions:

Should one speak about the Tannenberg-Denkmal now?
How should one speak about it?

Dorota Nieznalska, Tanneberg-Denkmal. The cult of memory!

Dabrowka Stepniewska


The Tanneberg – Denkmal, built in 1925-1927, was once a monumental building, located between Olsztynek and Sudwa villages, in former East Prussia and present Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship of Poland. It commemorated the victory of the Prussian army over the Russian in the Battle of Tannenberg 1914. Later on it became also the mausoleum of Paul Hindenburg, a German military man, a field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) and politician – the President of the Reich during the Weimar Republic and the early Third Reich in 1925-1934.

In 1934, Hindenburg’s body was ceremoniously buried in a special crypt in the monument. Adolf Hitler, appointed by Hindenburg to be the Chancellor in 1933, participated in the funeral. In 1935, Hindenburg’s remains were transferred to the specially prepared mausoleum located in one of the Tannenberg-Denkmal towers.

In January 1945, the Germans, fearing the possibility of the profanation of his remains by the Russian army, managed to take his coffin at the last moment and transport it deep into German territory. A few days later, the mausoleum was partially destroyed by an explosion caused by retreating German troops. Currently, Hindenburg’s remains rest in St. Elisabeth’s Church in Marburg, Germany.

Some of building blocks of the Tannenberg-Denkmal were used for the construction of the stairs at the building of The Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party in Warsaw (1948), for the construction of The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw (1952–1955) and the Monument of the Liberation of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn (1954).

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Dorota Nieznalska, a Polish visual artist engaged in critical art, creating installations, sculptural objects, vide art and photographs, accomplished her project “Tannenberg-Denkmal. The cult of memory!”, supported by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and devoted entirely to history – remembrance – oblivion issues.

Dorota Nieznalska’s works – the movie and the website, juxtapose archival documents, photos and videos of the Tannenberg-Denkmal monument with Wagner’s music and the words of Pierre Nora, a French historian and precursor of studies on “the sites of memory”. The project is an attempt to deal with the memory of the historical and cultural heritage of former East Prussia.

Kult pamięci! Tannenberg-Denkmal | Dorota Nieznalska 2014
“Kult pamięci! Tannenberg-Denkmal”, 2014

References:

http://www.tannenberg-denkmal.com/

http://muzeum.olsztynek.pl/en/about-museum/

http://ninateka.pl/film/kult-pamieci-tannenberg-denkmal-dorota-nieznalska

http://www.visit.olsztyn.eu/article/319/nieznalska-z-pasja-o-tannenberg-denkmal

Irena Saława. The Guardian of Place of National Remembrance

Throughout her life Ms Irena Saława takes care of the World War I cemetery in the Nieprześnia village. There lie bodies of 123 fallen soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian armies. Together with her husband, 8 other people and a couple of horses, they built the graves with their own hands.

After years, she wrote a beautiful and poignant poem dedicated to a 22 year old soldier, who died ‘in hero’s death for the Fatherland’ on 10 December 1914 nearby  Sobolów village, one among many sites of a tragic warfare in present-day Lesser Poland Voivodeship.

Irena also shares  a memory of grand famine and great poverty she, her family and many others experienced during the war and post-war  times. She tells a short story about picking berries in the wood and hunting for a deer, which eventually passed into the hands of the landlord.

For her noble attitude and taking care for many years of the cemetery in Nieprześnia, she enjoys the recognition and gratitude of the Austrian Black Cross – Österreichisches Schwarzes Kreuz.

She has been also awarded by the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites with the Golden Medal of Guardian of Places of National Remembrance on the 100 anniversary of the cemetery and her 80th birthday.

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Production – Joanna Kowieska
Filming- Jakub Stoszek
Editing – Joanna Kowieska, Jakub Stoszek

The Great War and Its Landscapes Between Memory and Oblivion: the Case of Prisoners of War Camps in Tuchola and Czersk, Poland

The Great War and Its Landscapes Between Memory and Oblivion: the Case of Prisoners of War Camps in Tuchola and Czersk, Poland

Dawid Kobiałka, Mikołaj Kostyrko, Kornelia Kajda


Abstract

Many sites related to the First World War are forgotten and neglected in today’s Poland. This paper shortly presents the ways of practicing “conflict archaeology” in Poland and it discusses results of the non-invasive archaeological survey conducted in Tuchola and Czersk, places where during the First World War Germans built and run prisoners of war camps. In the article the material remains of the camps that have survived in the local landscapes till the present are analyzed. Both sites are at the same time remembered and forgotten by local communities. This paper tries to account for oblivion as an inherent part of local landscapes that adds a unique value to them.

Prisoners of War Camps structures in Tuchola Poland
Contemporary landscape of the former PoW camp in Tuchola: an integration of different types of data. Photo by Dawid Kobiałka, Drawing: Mikołaj Kostyrko
The Prisoners of War cemetery in Czersk. Photo by Dawid Kobiałka
The Prisoners of War cemetery in Czersk. Photo by Dawid Kobiałka

 

The full article available at SpringerLink International Journal of Historical Archaeology

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Reusing the abstract under the Springer License

All photos published with the Authors’ permission.