Historical context

Deckel der Akte zu den Heidelberger Abgüssen im Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe
Documents on the Heidelberg plastercasts at the Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe, Germany ((C) GLA Karlsruhe).

When German soldiers where occupying Romania in 1918, during the First World War, Heidelberg archaeology professor Friedrich von Duhn took the opportunity and ordered 54 moulds of parts of the Tropaeum Traiani, to be produced on site. “It would be a delight for us, would honour the state of Baden and promote science“, von Duhn wrote to the Baden Ministry of Culture which immediately agreed. An archaeologist and former assistant of von Duhn was stationed in Romania as a captain, who coordinated the moulding process. Manpower was easily available within the military anyway.

From the moulds (negatives), the actual plaster casts (positives) were supposed to be produced and then transported to Heidelberg. The ambitious undertaking was well promoted by prominent donors. Not everything went as planned, however, according to the archival records in the Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe: How to transport the massive moulds from Bucharest to Baden? Where in Heidelberg to accommodate and exhibit all the objects? 

Zwei Metopenabgüsse des Tropaeum Traiani bei der Test-Montage in der Heidelberger Heuscheuer
Plastercasts of two metopes of the Tropaeum Traiani being installed in the Heuscheuer building Heidelberg (photograph: P. Lohmann).

Today, the moulds are stored in a basement room at the University of Heidelberg. Why they are so special and who their prominent sponsors were, are questions the pop-up-exhibition sheds light on. The casts themselves are exhibited in the so-called Heuscheuer building of the university which has been renovated in 2020. In winter 2020/2021, the casts were re-installed according to a new concept, with new lighting and written signs. A digital application on a touchscreen additionally explains the historical context of the Tropaeum Traiani and is also part of the pop-up exhibition.


Cite this text as: Polly Lohmann, "Background," in Archäologie und Politik, 13/04/2020,, accessed 20/05/2022.

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