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Exhibitions in Retrospect

In April 2002 the museum was opened. Together with our fictitious investigator Stahnke, visitors of the former permanent exhibition conducted their »search for evidence«.

Seven years later, first conclusions were drawn based on the investigation. The new permanent exhibition, which opened its doors in May 2009, features a first stocktaking of the facts and provides an overview of 20 years of archaeological research in Kalkriese, putting all the facts on the table. You can find more detailed information under the menu »The Varus Battle Exhibition«.

Between 2002 and 2007, several special exhibitions were shown. Due to the lack of suitable exhibition space, they were conducted at the park, in the lounge and in the tower. They were always a bit improvised, but made up for it with their originality and uniqueness. This has also been confirmed by the Art Directors Club, who honored our special exhibition about Theodor Mommsen with an award in 2003.

The new visitor center exists since 2009. In the future, special exhibitions will be shown here on 450 square meters on the upper floor. The exhibition series started in 2009 with »Conflict« – an exhibition about wars, conflicts and their consequences in the Germanic world.

You can find further information about our exhibitions since 2002 here under »Looking Back«.

ICH GERMANICUS! Feldherr - Priester - Superstar

Eine schillernde Persönlichkeit und die Jahre nach der Varusschlacht

Vom 20. Juni 2015 bis 1. November 2015 widmeten Museum und Park Kalkriese dem Feldherrn Germanicus eine große Sonderausstellung mit internationalen Leihgaben. Der designierte Nachfolger des Kaisers Tiberius sollte als neuer Oberbefehlshaber nach der Varusschlacht »aufräumen« und die endgültige Eroberung Germaniens bewerkstelligen.

Die Ausstellung  vollzog diese sogenannten Rachefeldzüge nach. Zugleich zeichnete sie das Bild einer schillernden und prominenten Persönlichkeit und die familiären Verbindung des designierten Thronfolgers Germanicus nach. Die Schau vereinte Leihgaben aus Häusern wie dem Louvre und dem British Museum mit Grabungsfunden aus Kalkriese, allen voran den Knochengruben, die als das einzige bekannte archäologische Indiz der Germanicusfeldzüge gelten.

Neben einem abwechslungsreichen Führungs- und Vortragsprogramm wurde die Veranstaltung von einem wissenschaftlichen Symposium begleitet. Auf Einladung des Varusschlacht-Museums, der Universität Osnabrück und der niedersächsischen Landesarchäologie diskutierten Wissenschaftler aus Deutschland, Österreich, der Schweiz und den Niederlanden Probleme und Strategien zur archäologischen Erforschung des „Germanicus-Horizonts“.

 
Die Ausstellung wurde gefördert von

... und zahlreichen Exponatpaten, die die uns bei den Kosten für die Transporte der internationalen Leihgaben unterstützt haben!

Mumien – Reise in die Unsterblichkeit

Sonderausstellung führte in die Welt des Alten Ägyptens

Vom 10. Mai bis 5. Oktober 2014 präsentierte Museum und Park Kalkriese die Sonderschau »Mumien – Reise in die Unsterblichkeit«. 80 Originalexponate aus dem Ägyptischen Museum in Florenz eröffneten Einblicke in die religiösen Jenseitsvorstellungen im Alten Ägypten.

Als wichtigste archäologische Quelle für das Verständnis der rätselhaften Götterwelt dienen die prachtvoll ausgestatteten Gräber. Bis heute zeigen die faszinierenden Fundstücke den Alltag, das Leben und die Glaubensvorstellungen der Ägypter. Im Mittelpunkt der hochkarätigen Ausstellung standen das religiöse Konzept des Jenseits, die aufwändigen Bestattungen und die Prozesse der Balsamierung und Mumifizierung in den rund drei Jahrtausenden vor Christus.

Ein Programm mit Führungen, Kinderangeboten und Vorträgen begleitete die Sonderausstellung in Museum und Park Kalkriese. Die Wanderausstellung wurde von expona museum exhibition network (Bozen) und Contemporanea Progetti (Florenz) in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Ägyptischen Museum in Florenz realisiert.

 

 

GLADIATORS – Death and Triumph at the Colosseum

From June 8 until October 13, 2013, VARUSSCHLACHT im Osnabrücker Land presented the special exhibition »Gladiators – Death and Triumph at the Colosseum«. On the 500 square meter large floor space at the visitor center, this exhibition highlights everyday life and gladiator fighting culture at the Colosseum against an impressive backdrop. Based on exhibits, replicas and information stalls, a vivid image of both myth and real life of these glorious fighters is created.

The special exhibition at Museum und Park Kalkriese took us back to the time between 70 and 80 AD – the period when plans for building the Colosseum emerged, as well as the time of the first staging of gladiator fights there. Gladiator fights were known before, but staged at the Colosseum, the bloody tournaments and duels soon rose to cult status and became part of the Roman Empire’s self-staging. The Colosseum, which serves as a blueprint of modern sports arenas until this very day, has been dedicated an entire thematic section of the special exhibition. The Colosseum was the biggest building of its period, and as such it was not only architecturally imposing, but also served as a technically and functionally sophisticated stage, perfect in every detail. Moreover, the Colosseum was a political symbol reflecting the hierarchical order of society, integrating all social classes while indulging them in the illusion of being involved in decision-making processes – if only in the arena – where they were personally consulted in matters of life and death. Based on original fragments of the Colosseum, which are exhibited outside of Italy for the first time, a tangible impression of this imposing building is conveyed in this section of the exhibition.

But who were these celebrated professional fighters really? And what did their everyday life at gladiator schools look like? The answers can be found at the different exhibition stations about the gladiators’ living conditions. During their round tour of the exhibition, visitors will learn that, in most cases, gladiators specialized on a certain type of weapon, and that gladiator fights were regulated by a strict set of rules. Therefore, the outcome of their bloody fights was not coincidental. These high-performance athletes observed displicined training routines to improve their stamina, strength and dexterity. The gladiator was not just a fighter; he was also taking on a particular role. Gladiators were also assigned their opponents based on rules: For example, the retirarius, equipped with trident, cast-net and a dagger, always fought against the secutor, who was outfitted with a Roman sword (gladius), a tall shield and a massive helmet. Impressive exhibits and stations demonstrate how slaves, prisoners and outcasts of society became gladiators – the myth of super heroes, who voluntarily jumped into the arena to fight as gladiators, begins to crumble. The majority of fighters had not chosen this fate and rarely ever lived beyond the age of 20: In spite of relatively good nutrition and medical care, only very few gladiators survived the fights without permanent damage to their health. Hardly anyone of them rose to fame, was held in high esteem or became prosperous.

This exhibition has been arranged by Dr. Rosella Rea, director of the Colosseum, Rome. The exhibits on loan were kindly provided by the Museo Archeologico Nazionali Napoli, the Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna and the Colosseo Roma, Museo Civico Archeologico di Roma. Among the featured highlights are a helmet and a leg guard from Naples. Worldwide, few more than ten gladiator helmets have survived. An original find, a helmet from Naples, will be on display in Kalkriese from June onward. The design concept of this exhibition was created by the Museum Exhibition Network Expona in collaboration with Contemporanea Progetti.

 

 

 

 
 
 

Stone Age Massacre. Crime Site Talheim

Special exhibition, September 17, 2011 until January 8, 2012
Archaeologists and Coroners Investigate

In 1983, Mr. S. from T. discovers 34 human skeletons in his garden. Archaeologists, anthropologists and coroners immediately begin to investigate. They are taken 7,000 years into the past – right into the Stone Age. What happened here – an accident, a natural disaster or murder? With the latest research methods, the investigators uncover a crime. The exhibition presents their latest research results from the Talheim crime site and provides insights into life and everyday routines of the Neolithic period.

This exhibition is based on a cooperation with Städtische Museen Heilbronn (City museums of Heilbronn) and Landesamt für Denkmalpflege im Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart (State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments Stuttgart).

A Heaven on Earth – The Secret of the Nebra Sky Disk

From November 20, 2010 until April 10, 2011, Varusschlacht im Osnabrücker Land takes you on a journey into the mysterious world of our ancestors with the traveling exhibition »A Heaven on Earth – The Secret of the Nebra Sky Disk«.

The Nebra Sky Disk shows the worldwide oldest concrete representation of astronomical phenomena known to mankind until today. The bronze disk, which is adorned with details made of gold, was found in 1999 on the Mittelberg, a hill in Wangen near Nebra in Southern Saxony-Anhalt, by illegally digging amateur archaeologists. The spectacular odyssey of the Sky Disk from the hands of shady dealers to its arrival at Saxony-Anhalt’s state museum is as exciting as the insights won about the unique archaeological find itself, which was deposited on top of the Mittelberg together with valuable weapons, jewelry and other artifacts 3,600 years ago.

The traveling exhibition »A Heaven on Earth – The Secret of the Nebra Sky Disk« conveys the world view of the people who lived about 3,600 years ago. 16 points of interest provide insights into religious beliefs, customs and social order, into arts, crafts and trade relations of the people who lived around 1,600 B.C. They also allow us to gain an understanding of analytical methods used by archaeologists and natural scientists to decode this mysterious image of a Bronze Age world.

»A Heaven on Earth – The Secret of the Nebra Sky Disk« is a traveling exhibition organized by Saxony-Anhalt’s State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments/the State Museum for Ancient History Halle. Varusschlacht im Osnabrücker Land presents the traveling exhibition based on a cooperation with the City of Osnabrück, the Museum am Schölerberg and its planetarium. Museum und Park Kalkriese  also received a contribution by Duni GmbH, Bramsche.

In addition to the traveling exhibition »A Heaven on Earth – The Secret of the Nebra Sky Disk«, Museum und Park Kalkriese offers a diverse program consisting of lectures, guided tours and “Family Sundays” all focusing on this unique find of the century.

MARCUS CAELIUS – Death in the Varus Battle

Special Exhibition March 7 until July 11, 2010

The Roman Centurion Marcus Caelius had had many adventures during his long service in the legion.
He had been awarded several times for his courage and bravery in battle, but when he participated in Varus’ campaign deep in the Germanic woods on the east side of the Rhine, all his experience was of no avail …

At the center of the exhibition is the only proven archaeological testimonial to a victim of the Varus Battle – the memorial stone of Marcus Caelius.

»He fell in the War of Varus,« the inscription of the memorial stone, found in 1620 near Xanten, tells us. The mortal remains of Marcus Caelius were never found.

CONFLICT

Special Exhibition May 15, 2009 until January 10, 2010

What was the role of warfare and armed conflict in the Germanic world after the Varus Battle? This is the central question around which the special exhibition has been designed. Based on extraordinary exhibits, it is going to present a multi-facetted portrait of the Germanic tribes, outlining the development from the Germanic warrior around the time of Christ’s birth to the Germanic rulers of the 5th century AD. Warfare and armed conflicts played a pivotal role in this process. They brought about significant changes in the centuries after the Varus Battle. The Imperium Romanorum lost more and more of its influence, whereas in Germania certain parts of society became increasingly powerful. They eventually aspired to leadership and would come to determine the political fate of the Roman world later on.

So what made the Germanic tribes seek out further confrontations with the Romans, whose military was, after all, superior to theirs? The answer can be found in Germania: It was about power, but whoever wanted to gain power had to find followers – men fit for battle. In order to ensure the consistent loyalty of such followers, their leader had to offer them quite a bit, because these men needed to be fed and kept in good spirits. Germania did not have the economic means to guarantee this. Raids were a more promising option, and thus the rich neighbor to the South became the focus of their attention once more.

Yet the followers of Germanic leaders did not only attack their Roman neighbors: From the 3rd to the 5th century AD a series of wars shook the Western Baltic coasts.  Where new power structures had to be established, battle ensued inevitably. Here, thousands of weapons and pieces of armor were plunged into lakes. Archaeological excavations brought them back to light. Today they allow us detailed insights into both the choice of weapons and structure of Germanic fighting units.

In the course of centuries, these armed conflicts were carried out in a more and more »professional« manner. Germanic warriors acquired comprehensive military know-how as mercenaries in the Roman army. Some had outstanding careers and became high-ranking officers and generals – ranks that naturally imparted them extensive knowledge of Roman military techniques, logistics and administration. From the 5th century AD onward, the first Germanic kingdoms emerged in Roman territory. The former »Barbarians« inherited the Roman Empire, and the rich gold treasures which decorate the graves of their kings leave no doubt about their claim to power. In this context, the special exhibition also challenges the common image of the Germanic tribesman. The Germanic warrior, only too often caricatured as a ragged-looked Barbarian wearing fur and a horned helmet, appears mostly to have been an adventurer and a soldier of fortune, who eventually turned into a clever and versatile »homo politicus«.

Why warfare?

Mr. Stahnke and the Mystery of the Roman Sling Bullets

Featuring the Battle of Varus from April 2002 until January 2009

This exhibition focused on the discovery of the Varus Battle’s site: a criminalistic search for clues and a scientific process based on circumstantial evidence. These central ideas were embodied by the fictitious archaeological detective »Mr. Stahnke«, whose short texts provided guidance through the labyrinth of the investigation. Stahnke asked questions, commented, speculated about various aspects and invited visitors to participate actively in that process. What is the meaning of the leaden Roman sling bullets, and what really happened here 2,000 years ago, he pondered. The first step of the investigation led the visitors into the library, while it led Stahnke to realize that »too many clues can be more misleading than none at all. The Varus Battle’s site has been suspected in 700 places… which means any new suggestion will cause others to ridicule me.« Yet Stahnke was unperturbed: »My colleagues all laughed, and I didn’t resent that. I remember us standing there – meadows and fields as far as the eye can see, and nothing but a few lumps of lead in my hand and a couple of crazy ideas. But we were absolutely determined: We will dig! Later on, no one was laughing anymore. « This is how the actual search for evidence began. It resulted in an excavation; it took us into the laboratory, into the surrounding nature, to the numismatic collection. It took us into the past and finally brought us to »the ravine«. The split skulls and bones as well as countless, sometimes almost completely destroyed finds yielded valuable information, but most of all they symbolize the unfathomable scope of the tragedy that occurred here 2,000 years ago in the ravine at the foot of the Kalkriese Hill.

Arminius – A Cheruscan Becomes a National Hero

For Stahnke the case was solved, except for one question: »Arminius owed Rome so much: his education, his military skills, his career. And then, of all people, he creates that ambush. Is such a person a hero? A liberator? A traitor? « Stahnke resumes his search. There are many leads. For centuries, the Germanic hero has fueled the imagination, and in the 19th century, he even became a German national hero. Yet Arminius’ true character remained in the dark. He was always perceived as the character that was in demand at the time – courageous, brave, bold and finally desperate. When he raised his sword with the last of his strength in Claus Peymann’s production of the »Hermannschlacht« by Kleist, there could hardly be any doubt: his time was up. And what would have happened if Varus had won the battle? The short film ends the search for evidence of the Varus Battle at Kalkriese with unusual questions and answers.

About the Exhibition

On more than 600 square meters, the exhibition presented more than 3,000 archaeological finds, among them also the collection’s highlight: the face mask of a Roman rider’s helmet. The exhibition was conceptualized and realized by Intégral Concept, Paris; Jangled Nerves, Stuttgart, Media Content Hamburg, Art Studio Babelsberg, Potsdam; Médicis, Lyon; Peter Gerdes, Leer and the employees of »VARUSSCHLACHT im Osnabrücker Land – Museum und Park Kalkriese gGmbH«. The texts set in italics are quotes of the original exhibition texts.

In 2005, »VARUSSCHLACHT im Osnabrücker Land gGmbH« was awarded the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage in the archaeological sites category. This prize can be considered the »Nobel Prize for Historical Heritage Preservation«. It honored the merging of science, architecture, landscape, exhibition concept and an engaging, accessible presentation. »For the didactic and innovative interpretation of an antique battle field which decisively influenced the course of European history, and for the preservation and decoding of its minute traces via interdisciplinary scientific research.« These are the summarizing words of the Europa Nostra laudatio on the occasion of awarding the European Heritage Award 2005.

Ink, Texts, Tacitus

spoken – written – printed
How the talk turned to the Varus Battle …

Special exhibition 23 April 2007 until end of October 2008

A few years after the devastating defeat in 9 AD Roman legionnaires once again reached the scene of the Varus Battle: »They visited the mournful scenes, with their atrocious sights and full of horrific memories.« In his annals the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus vividly wrote down this historic moment. To this day this text passage forms the key for the historical approach to the Varus Battle.

Fortunately we are still able to hold the ancient texts in our hands. Maybe it was not only pure luck, but a gift of history. Only a few ancient texts were able to survive the years into the present.

The special exhibition highlighted the literary source of the Varus Battle. It told the story of the cultural technique which often is taken for granted so that we rarely acknowledge it: the history of writing and of the books.

Additional to the special exhibition we offered a guided tour; the museum's educational programme »The stolen Script« and theme days for the theme of the year 2007 »Tinte, Texte, Tacitus«.

15 Years of Archaeological Research at Kalkriese

Special Exhibition in 2005

When Tony Clunn found Roman coins in the soil of Kalkriese in 1987, no one knew what an impact this discovery would have. Their curiosity piqued, Clunn and the archaeologists of Stadt- und Kreisarchäologie Osnabrück (County Archaeology of Osnabrück) continued their search. In the following years, they found artifacts that marked the beginning of a spectacular discovery: three leaden Roman sling bullets. These finds proved that Roman troops marched through Kalkriese almost 2,000 years ago. In fact, famous ancient historian Theodor Mommsen had already suspected that the legendary Varus Battle took place in this location, but he was unable to show powerful proof of the Roman military’s presence.

Following the preliminary investigation, in fall 1989 the starting signal was given for the systematic archaeological investigation of the depressed area called the Kalkriese-Niewedder Senke. Only a few months later, the face mask of a Roman rider’s helmet was found, followed by a first segment of the rampart. Step by step, the archaeologists proceeded to track down the past.

In only a few years, the excavations at Kalkriese grew into a recognized research project with their own museum and a big park – reason enough to look back at the early days fifteen years later and for featuring this unusual project in a special exhibition »Kalkriese – 15 Years of Archaeological Research« in 2005.

The exhibition was presented in the museum’s tower and park. On three floors, eleven points of interest dealing with various topics offered visitors a comprehensive overview of the scientific research results, the most important discoveries and finds, as well as of the development into a combination of museum and park. 

The exhibition continued at the park, where it focused on the topic of archaeology: What is archaeology? Since when does »archaeology« exist? What do giants have to do with megalithic tombs? How are archaeological finds discovered? Why do archaeologists sometimes take to the air? Why are moles not only a nuisance to gardeners, but also to archaeologists? How can you measure time with the help of trees? How do archaeologists spend the wintertime? What happens with the finds after they have been excavated? What do used paper and a Volkswagen Golf have to do with archaeology? Why is »2009« a special year? Seventeen points of interest dealt with the history of archaeological research, featuring old and new excavation techniques, explaining scientific methods and showing the results their application can yield. They also explained which methods are used at Kalkriese.

Theodor Mommsen

Special Exhibition on the Occasion of the 100th Anniversary of Nobel Prize Winner’s Death
 
»What I have been, or what I was supposed to have been, is nobody else’s business.« This was decreed by Theodor Mommsen in his will in 1899, four years before his death. A person’s last will should be respected, but with all due respect: We care about Theodor Mommsen and his achievements. Not just because the renowned scientist Mommsen located the site of the Varus Battle at Kalkriese as early as in 1885 based on Roman coin finds, but also because he influenced his field and his period unlike any other contemporary historian. Moreover, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1902 as the »greatest living master of the art of historical writing«, and November 1, 2010 is the 100th anniversary of his death.
 
Enough reasons to dedicate a special exhibition to this individual, who was considered an »intellectual world power of the 19th century« by his contemporaries. However, the path of his life was neither planned nor predictable: Theodor Mommsen was born into a humble home on November 30, 1817. His father, an evangelic pastor, was hardly able to provide for the family and therefore home-educated his sons Theodor and Tycho. Education was very important to Mommsen’s liberal parents, and so Mommsen entered the Königliche Christianeum in Altona (later to become a part of Hamburg) well-prepared in 1834. Mommsen was not impressed with school – he described the rigid learning routines as »a galley slave’s work«. Yet he left school with excellent grades in April 1838 to study law.
 
In 1843, he passes his exams and graduates with honors. Mommsen wants to become a professor of law, but life has other plans for him. He is scrambling to make a living as a teaching assistant at his aunt’s finishing school when the Danish government offers him a travel grant in 1844, giving him financial security for two years. In 1847 he returns to Germany as a great fan of Italy. From now on, pasta is his favorite food, Latin inscriptions are his passion, and ancient history is his vocation.

But in 1847, on the eve of the revolution, Theodor Mommsen doesn’t get the opportunity to realize his scientific ambitions. Instead he advocates his liberal ideas in his editorials for the »Schleswig-Holsteinische-Zeitung«. In 1848, the 31-year-old Mommsen becomes a professor of law in Leipzig, where he continues to adhere to his political ideals. Consequently, he is sentenced to nine months in jail because of his protest against the secession and oppression of liberty. He barely escapes imprisonment, but he doesn’t escape being fired from university. He has to leave Leipzig in 1851. Mommsen finds a new home in Switzerland, where he becomes a professor of Roman law in Zurich in 1852. He starts to work on his probably greatest literary work – his »History of Rome«. The first three volumes are published between 1852 and 1856. They were to become a global success, as his works resonate with the period’s zeitgeist. Nonetheless, Mommsen never loses sight of his original scientific vision. On February 13, 1854, Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV allots a sum of annually 2,000 Taler over a period of six years for the establishment of an inventory of all Latin inscriptions. In 1861 Mommsen’s professorship changes: He becomes a professor of Roman History in Berlin.
 
However, Mommsen is not only a dedicated scientist. All his life he remains involved in politics and is one of the most prominent spokesmen against the burgeoning anti-semitism. But in old age, he becomes increasingly embittered about the failure of his political ideals. Depression ties him to the bed. He finds solace in literature and his family. Shortly before his death, he is surprised by the crowning of his merits as a scientist: He is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his »History of Rome«. Theodor Mommsen, son of an evangelic country pastor, is the first German honored with this prize. A »Lottery prize«, he snidely comments. Theodor Mommsen dies on November 1, 1903 – the jurist, historian, journalist, liberal thinker, politician, poet, Nobel Prize laureate; the father of 16 children and loving spouse of Marie Mommsen. In his will, Mommsen states: »In spite of my outward successes, I have not achieved the right things in my life.« Today, we beg to differ!
 
The exhibition in the museum’s foyer presented the life and work of Theodor Mommsen on ten desks. The unusual concept, which was developed in cooperation with Dr. T. Bendikowski and verb (Essen, Germany), was honored by the Art Directors Club and nominated for the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany.