Digging into the community's own history

Digging into the community's own history
More than 40 citizens of Schenefeld took part in the  campaign in May. Photo: Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS

How old is the municipality of Schenefeld in the district of Steinburg in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany? This is the question that more than 40 Schenefeld citizens addressed last weekend (20-21 May 2022). On Friday and Saturday, they carried out 15 archaeological testpit excavations all over the area of Schenefeld. They were supported by scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN), the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA), the Archaeological Museum Schloss Gottorf (MfA), the Schleswig-Holstein State Archaeological Office (ALSH) and the Kiel Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. 

"Such a joint archaeological project between science on the one hand and citizens on the other is unique in Germany so far," explains Professor Claus von Carnap-Bornheim. He initiated the project together with the State Archaeological Office. "In England, such citizen excavations have been common for a long time. We were inspired by colleagues there," he says. 

Schenefeld is an ideal location for the pilot project, emphasises von Carnap-Bornheim. In 2008, the State Archaeological Office discovered traces of two pit houses near the Bonifatius Church in Schenefeld. They could be dated to the 9th century AD and are indications of one of the longest settlement continuities in Schleswig-Holstein.

"In order to find out more about the structures and dimensions of an early settlement, one would have to carry out large-scale excavations around the church. Of course, this is not possible in the town centre," explains Ilka Rau from the ZBSA. The alternative is many small search excavations at precisely selected points around the church. 

In December 2021, the first information meeting took place with Schenefeld's mayor Johann Hansen, who was immediately enthusiastic. After the municipal council was also brought on board, the scientists determined the exact locations of the testpit excavations and recruited Schenefeld residents who wanted to become archaeologists themselves. They found great support also from Reinhard Heesch from Schenefeld, who has an excellent knowledge of Schenefeld history and archaeology. 

Last Friday morning, the campaign began with a visit of the archaeo:laboratory of the Kiel Science Factory at the community school in Schenefeld. Under the guidance of Dr. Katrin Schöps from the IPN and student assistants, a 6th and a 7th grade class alternately experienced archaeological theory and practice with three search excavations of their own.

The teams of volunteers started work on Friday afternoon. Despite heavy rain showers on Saturday morning, everyone was enthusiastic. The results of the two-day excavation were impressive: from modern heating covers to Early Modern potsherds and Stone Age flakes, a large number of finds were discovered. Among them were two medieval shards that could possibly support the thesis of settlement in the 8th or 9th century. "Of course, we now have to examine and date all the finds precisely before we can make detailed statements," Ilka Rau emphasises, "as soon as there are results, our volunteers will find out first."

On 10 and 11 June, further testpit excavations will be carried out in Schenefeld. The experiences from both dates will also be incorporated into further search excavations with citizens in the future. "We ask the volunteers about their experiences and evaluate the answers scientifically. In this way, we learn how we can better involve citizens in archaeology in the future," says Dr Katrin Schöps. "In any case, the atmosphere in Schenefeld was great and we thank Schenefeld very much for the great cooperation," Claus von Carnap-Bornheim emphasised at the end of the event. 

Digging into the community's own history
Ulrich Baschke, volunteer from Schenefeld, works on one of the testpits. Photo:  Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS

Digging into the community's own history
Ulrich Baschke, Freiwilliger aus Schenefeld: „Ich bin alter Schenefelder, und wohne hier schon das ganze Leben. Das hier ist unsere Ortsgeschichte.“ Foto Jan Steffen, Cluster Roots
Marei Küppers, Knut Küppers and Marlon Dohrmann found medieval sherds in their testpit. Photo: Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS


Digging into the community's own history
Success for the volunteer archaeologists from Schenefeld. Photo: Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS


Fieldwork + Activities


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