This past summer, I embarked on an unforgettable journey, an internship that took me back in time to Winsen (Luhe), a quaint town with a rich history in northern Germany. My mission? To participate in a rescue excavation, which, as it turns out, was as much about saving history as it was about learning the science of archaeology.
Winsen is a picturesque town nestled along the Luhe River, known for its charming streets and a magnificent main church that stands at the heart of the town center. This summer, a construction project aimed at building a fountain in front of the church was stopped to give the county archaeologists a chance to unveil what the construction site hides: a fascinating glimpse into the town’s history. As the excavation began, the earth yielded its secrets in the form of skeletons, remnants of old buildings, and artifacts that spanned centuries.
Learning the Ropes
My internship kicked off with an introduction to the basics of archaeological excavation techniques. I was not given a crash course on what to do things, I was rather directly placed into a trench and learned the importance of careful documentation, proper tool usage, and respect for the historical context as I started digging with the guidance of the other colleagues. I quickly realized that every shovelful of dirt has the potential to contain a piece of history, and it was our responsibility to uncover and preserve it.
The excavation process was not just an academic exercise but a race against time. The looming construction project demanded that we work efficiently and swiftly to recover as much information as possible before the construction crews moved in. This unique scenario added an extra layer of excitement and urgency to our work.
Skeletons and Stories
One of the most captivating aspects of this excavation was the unearthing of numerous skeletons. It was a humbling experience to work so closely with human remains, and it gave me a newfound appreciation for the lives that once thrived in Winsen. The careful extraction of each skeleton was a delicate process, demanding a level of patience and respect that was both challenging and rewarding.
Discovering the Past
The excavation not only revealed human remains but also unveiled parts of the old town hall and the bell tower, both of which had been long-forgotten. As we unearthed these architectural remnants, we were able to piece together the town’s history in a way that supports every document left from those days. Each stone, each artifact, told a story, and I was fortunate enough to be part of the team that was listening.
Adapting to Challenges
Archaeological excavation is not without its challenges. We faced weather-related setbacks, logistical hurdles, and the ever-present need to adapt our techniques to suit the evolving needs of the site. These challenges taught me the importance of resilience and teamwork in the field of archaeology and life in general.
My internship in the archaeological excavation at Winsen was a transformative experience. I not only gained a deep understanding of the intricacies of excavation techniques but also developed a profound connection to the history of this charming town. The rescue excavation allowed me to be a part of something much larger than myself—a mission to preserve and understand the past. As the internship drew to a close, I left Winsen with a sense of fulfillment and a newfound passion for archaeology. The memories of unearthing skeletons, revealing remnants of old structures, and piecing together the town’s history will stay with me forever. My time in Winsen served as a reminder that history is not confined to the pages of a book; it is alive beneath our feet, waiting to be discovered and cherished by those willing to dig a little deeper.