Study Group

Archaeological monuments in the Rhineland -
the archaeological memory of cities


“The deed belongs to the past, the monuments remain. - Factum abiit, monumenta manent“ (Ovid, Fasti 4,709)


(Photo: U. Karas,© Römisch-Germanisches Museum Köln)

Archaeological monuments – which is to say immovable or movable monuments that are located or were located in the soil – face special problems above all in cities. In these conurbations of human interaction space is limited, interests are heterogeneous and the economic implications considerable. This has repercussions for the maintenance, upkeep and presentation of archaeological monuments.

Especially in the Rhineland, where many locations can look back on a long, continuous history – at their nucleus are often Roman settlements or defensive forts – archaeological and building monuments contribute to the formation of identity as witnesses of previous cultural history by creating a bridge into the past. That is why the cities of the Rhineland serve as the point of departure for analyses and studies by the working group. The focus is on Ancient Rome and the Early Middle Ages, but this area is not strictly delimited in chronological or geographic terms.

With archaeological monuments, the key issues largely revolve around the authenticity and integrity of these monuments in their respective environment and the possibility to directly experience these monuments. Archaeology as an interpretive science of material legacy offers a method that allows these legacies to communicate a message in an effective manner. Linking into this is the general question as to the manner in which emotional and rational qualities, historical dimensions and the reference framework of monuments can be communicated in the present-day environment. With their compact, dense buildings structure, cities present a special challenge here if only because the building environment generally does not match up with the monument and space is much more limited in urban as opposed to rural areas.

Representatives from different disciplines (archaeology, archaeological monuments, building research and architecture) are engaged in an intense discussion under the auspices of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation about key questions and perspectives. The aim is to explore various aspects of archaeological memory and the prospects based on where the preservation of archaeological monuments is to be focused in the Rhineland and strategies developed for appropriate, long-term solutions to dealing with these. At the same time, the intent is also to strengthen the dialogue between the groups involved, i.e. representatives from the field of monument upkeep and care, various scientific disciplines, the political and administrative spheres and agencies in charge of urban development and planning.