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300,000 finds during excavations at Molkenmarkt

  • Ausgrabungen am Berliner Molkenmarkt

    Archaeologist Anna Schimmitat during the excavations at Molkenmarkt.

  • Ausgrabungen am Berliner Molkenmarkt (2)

    Excavation work at Molkenmarkt.

  • Ausgrabungen am Berliner Molkenmarkt (3)

    Eberhard Völker, project manager of the Molkenmarkt excavation, holds a worked piece of antler from the 13th or 14th century during excavation work.

  • Ausgrabungen am Berliner Molkenmarkt (1)

    Excavation worker Benni Oster uncovers a piece of wood during the excavations at Molkenmarkt.

Around 300,000 objects have been found and documented so far during the large-scale archaeological excavations at Berlin's Molkenmarkt, the historic center of Berlin, which began in 2019.

The objects include testimonies of most different epochs from the Middle Ages to the modern times, as the scientific project leader Eberhard peoples told the DPA. Some prehistoric findings also suggest that people were already living here 8,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Gold ring from around 1400 found

"Probably our most spectacular find was a gold ring with a gemstone from around 1400," reported the expert from the State Monuments Office. "Until then, no find of a ring from that time had been documented in Berlin. We call it the Berlin ring for that reason." In a large pit that may have been used as a latrine hundreds of years ago, the excavation team discovered an unusual number of everyday objects from the mid-15th century. These included a silver-studded belt, more than 1,000 leather objects such as shoe and clothing remains, high-quality stove tiles, 200 kilograms of window glass that was very expensive at the time, vessels of all kinds, combs, coins, a stone doll, dice or marbles.

Remains of a power plant opened in 1889 uncovered

Right next to the Red Town Hall, the remains of a power plant opened in 1889, called Centralstation, were uncovered. "The building complex bears witness to the beginnings of Berlin's electrification," Völker said. For 30 years, electricity was generated there from steam; later, the plant served as a conversion plant, i.e. it converted direct current into alternating current.

800 years of settlement history

Molkenmarkt is the oldest square in Berlin and looks back on around 800 years of settlement history. The development with stone houses dating from the 18th century sank into ruins towards the end of the Second World War. Subsequently, large parts of the two-hectare area were filled in; among other things, today's Grunerstraße was created as a wide magistrale between the town hall and the Stadthaus.

New urban district planned at Molkenmarkt

Within a decade, the Berlin Senate intends to build a new urban quarter with apartments, commerce, culture and recreational facilities on the Molkenmarkt. Before that, it's the turn of the archaeologists, who are systematically and step-by-step investigating the area at a depth of three to five meters. An excavator will be used, but a lot of manual work with shovels, sieves, spatulas, brooms and other tools will be necessary as well.

Excavations expected to last until 2025

"Our excavations are expected to last until 2025," Völker explained. His 18-member team includes archaeologists, excavation technicians, and assistants, finds processors, draftsmen and documentalists, among others. Their task is to recover, photograph and document the finds and finally to inventory them. They are then stored at the State Monuments Office in the Stadthaus directly on Molkenmark or in premises in Charlottenburg.

Largest urban core excavation in Germany

Even old building structures that are not salvaged and later disappear in the course of the new construction are to be preserved for posterity to some extent. An important role is played by the so-called SFM documentation technology, with the help of which the entire area is recorded three-dimensionally for a virtual image. According to Völker, the processing and analysis of the vast majority of the material obtained will not begin until 2026. Until then, the priority is excavation, which is taking place on a tight schedule. "We are dealing here with the largest urban core excavation in Germany," Völker said, classifying the work. "This is the settlement core of Berlin, which is very important for urban history. We are virtually excavating everyday life at the time."

Finds to be presented from 2024

A big task still lies ahead for all those involved on site. The next excavation section will be opened next year under Grunerstrasse. "By the end of our investigations, I expect to find many more finds," Völker estimates. As early as 2024, he says, a first somewhat broader presentation of finds is planned in the Archaeological House at Petriplatz, which will open then. Later, in the new city quarter, the long urban history of Molkenmarkt will become visible in so-called archaeological windows, where the results of the excavations will be shown.

Author: dpa/
Publication date: 12 September 2023
Last updated: 12 September 2023

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