Gustaf Kossinna

Gustaf Kossinna ( Kossina ) ( born September 28, 1858 in Tilsit, † December 20, 1931 in Berlin) was a philologist and professor of German archeology at the University of Berlin. He was of his time alongside Carl Schuchardt the most important pre-historian and creator of the so-called settlement Archaeological method. Kossinna is considered " a forerunner of the Nazi ideology."


Kossinna, son of a schoolteacher and Polish- Masurian descent, studied in Göttingen, Leipzig, Berlin and Strasbourg classical and Germanic Philology. He was a pupil of Karl Viktor Müllenhoff, who won it for the Germanic and Indo-European archeology, later, he was under the influence of Otto Carpenter's writings Prehistory researchers. Even Friedrich Ratzel ( ethnological Kulturkreislehre ) influenced him. In Strasbourg he was in 1881 with a Germanic labor Oldest highly Frankish language memorials to the Dr. phil. doctorate. From 1 October 1881, he worked helping out as a signatory to the University Library in Halle. From 1 July 1886, he worked as an assistant at the University Library in Berlin. From January 1887 to 1892 he was librarian and curator of the University Library of Bonn. From 1892 he worked at the Royal Library in Berlin. In 1896 he held in Kassel the lecture and the prehistoric spread of Germans in Germany. In May 1900 he received the personal title of professor, but until 1902 he was appointed extraordinary professor of German archeology at the University of Berlin. In 1909 he founded the German Society for Prehistory, later Society of German history ( Mannus Society). In his 1911 published book The German history, a superb national science he worked out " typical Germanic " properties and prepared the National Socialist archeology before mentally. About his 1913 published book The Gold Fund of brass work in Eberswalde and the gold cult vessels of the Germanic tribes over the Eberswalde gold treasure he came into conflict with Carl Schuchardt.

Kossina was a member of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory. He also was a member of various nationalist and anti-Semitic groups. He was a board member of the Pan-German League. In 1928 he was co-founder and public sponsors of the National Socialist Society for German Culture. He was also a member of the " race- known union " Nordic Ring, representing the idea that the Germans were the elite of world culture.

" Archaeological settlement " method

" Sharp circumscribed culture provinces coincide at all times with specific peoples or tribes. " This statement Kossinnas, the so-called " lex Kossinna ", forms the basis of his settlement archeology method. She was not referring to how the modern settlement archeology Jankuhnscher embossing on the individual settlements or settlement landscapes, but the ethnic interpretation of archaeological cultural groups.

In the methodology of the settlement archeology method is, in principle, to an argument by analogy, which aims " to extend into the past " historically traditional states.

Even during his lifetime Kossinnas approach the criticism was suspended. However, due to the political importance of his research in National Socialism and the enormous influence of his successor Hans Reinerth it came after his death in 1931, initially to no critical account. 1941 published Ernst Wahle or 1944 Oscar Paret some critical remarks, but it was only in 1959, Hans Jürgen Eggers dealt in its introduction to the history of intensive and critical of the method represented by Kossinna ethnic interpretation of archaeological findings.

Eggers main criticisms are:

  • No clear explanation of the method
  • No definition of " people" and " tribes "
  • No definition of culture province (see also cultural complex )
  • Cultures are considered to be homogeneous, yes monolithic blocks (different types / ornaments, anthropological elements, custom grave / burial custom )
  • Not a sufficient justification for the Gleichsetzbarkeit of archaeological province and ethnic unity: The stated by Kossinna early historical examples are often not durable.
  • Continuity is assumed
  • Inconsistent application of its own method - argument with single types ( despite the contrary assertion ), partly no notice of excavation findings
  • Arbitrary distinction between trade and " hike "
  • No investigation of the causes of ( adopted ) walks
  • Partly no material template ( for example, only surface drawn distribution maps )
  • Lack of consideration of conservation and tradition Conditions
  • Improper mixing of different disciplines: not methodologically adequate combination of archeology and linguistics / anthropology
  • Nationalist and sometimes racial prejudice, which were particularly exploited politically in National Socialism.

As a result, settlement archeology method as it was represented by Kossinna applies considered obsolete. However, similar methodological approaches have also been developed elsewhere (eg in the USA or Italy) and play outside Germany until today an essential role; However, while the concept of "ethnic identity " archaeologically detectable groups was intensively reflects our concern. It can only be restricted for understanding prehistoric periods and in any case not be applied to modern understanding.

Publications (selection )

Kossinna was the editor of Mannus (magazine) ( 1909-1942 ) and founder of the Mannus library.