Hermanfrid Schubart: at the cross-roads of European and Iberian
archaeology in the second half of the 20th century*
Susana Oliveira Jorge **
It is an honour and a considerable responsibility to present this eulogy to
Professor Hermanfrid Schubart at the ceremony of conferring the degree
of Doctor Honoris Causa which the University of Porto has rightly decided
to award him. But I must say that it is a real pleasure to do so, precisely
because not only do I admire his work, but I consider that the Iberian
Peninsula in general and Portugal in particular owes him a tribute
which would do justice to his exemplary efforts on behalf of scientific
archaeology in this country.
· Hermanfrid Schubart was born in Kassel, Germany, in 1930. He was a
child at the start of the 2nd World War and an adolescent when it ended.
From 1945 on, it was in the German Democratic Republic that he spent
his teenage years and began his training as an archaeologist.
In 1953 he graduated in prehistoric archaeology at the University of Leipzig.
In 1955, aged only 25, he was awarded his doctorate from the University
of Greifswald, with a thesis on the Early Bronze Age of Mecklenburg; he
was a lecturer at the Institute of Pre- and Proto-History at Greifswald from
1953 to 1955.
He was soon recognised as an outstanding excavator, and worked in the
Archaeological Excavation Service of West Pomerania from 1955 to 1957,
carrying out important excavations in pre- and proto-historic sites.
Between 1957 and 1959, Hermanfrid Schubart’s career took him to East
Berlin, to the Institute of Pre- and Proto-History of the German Academy
of Sciences. Here, under Professor Wilhelm Unverzagt, he carried out
excavations at Bronze and early Iron Age sites in Mecklenburg. It was
during this period that he had the opportunity to travel and to experience
archaeological practices in many European countries, both east and west.
In these early years he was decisively influenced by the archaeological
training he received in German institutions, which, in the post-war years
in both East and West, were rejecting the racist dogma of the so-called
followers of Kossinna. At this period of his career, as a young researcher,
he was strongly influenced by Gordon Childe and by the methods of Hans
Jürgen Eggers, as well as by the historical materialism required in
East German Universities. However, Schubart soon distanced himself
from Soviet-style Marxism, both in his archaeological work and in his
ideological and political stance, and this inevitably led to difficulties
in areas of his professional and political life.
In 1959, aged 28, Schubart made use of the relatively free passage then
possible between East and West Berlin, and, in view of the political
circumstances of the time, decided to move to West Berlin, even though
this meant that he would not be able to return to his native region of
Mecklenburg and his family home in Weimar/Thüringen. With this radical
decision, Schubart brought to a close the first stage of his life, and embarked
on a brilliant career as archaeologist and academic, both in the Federal
Republic of Germany and especially in the Iberian Peninsula.
I shall examine this second stage of his life later, particularly in its
exceptional contribution to the progress of archaeological research in
Portugal and Spain in the second half of the 20th century.
When Schubart introduced himself to the German Archaeological
Institute in West Berlin in 1959, he already had his doctorate and
had published about twenty papers. On joining the Institute,
he asked to be sent to a delegation far from Berlin, preferably in the
Near East. It was with some surprise that he found that he was being
offered a place in Spain, at the Institute’s Madrid headquarters. Spain,
where he had never been before, at the other extreme from the Eastern
Mediterranean which attracted him so much – it was in many ways a
non-stop journey, from east to west.
The late 50s were a boom period in the Federal Republic. In these
golden post-war years, the renowned German Archaeological Institute,
whose authority in Classical and Oriental studies had enabled it to survive
the ideological constraints of the Nazi regime, had impressive resources
at its disposal. Its research policy was directed, more than ever, to the
Near East and to the whole Mediterranean area.
Arriving in Spain in 1959, Professor Schubart was soon appointed to an
important position in the Madrid delegation of the German Archaeological
Institute. From 1967 to 1981 he was deputy director, initially at the time
when the director was still Helmut Schlunk (the first director of the Madrid
delegation from its founding in 1943 and its reopening in 1954), and later,
from 1971 to 1981, in the period when Schlunk was succeeded by Wilhelm
Grünhagen. In 1981, Schubart’s work was recognized by his appointment
as director of the Institute in Madrid, a position he filled until his retirement
in 1994. During this long period, from 1959 to 1994, he involved himself
in all the Institute’s activities of research, publication and co-operation,
with notable efficiency, energy and personal involvement. Particularly
important was his role in the promotion of archaeological excavations
in the Peninsula, at various sites dating from various periods; in revitalizing
the Institute’s magnificent Library as a centre of hospitality and culture
for all who used it; in the continued publication of the essential journal
Madrider Mitteilungen and the monographs of the Madrider Forschungen
and Madrider Beiträge series; in the connections forged between the
Institute and countless Spanish and Portuguese institutions, thereby
creating a lasting place for the Institute as a specialist resource for the
two Iberian countries; and in the training of researchers, especially
those from Portugal and Spain, in the archaeology of the Iberian Peninsula.
Finally, while speaking of his work within the Institute, we cannot
forget the support Schubart gave to the opening of the branch of the
German Archaeological Institute in Lisbon in 1971 and its first two
directors, Drs Philine Kalb and Theodor Hauschild. Until he retired in
1994, he was always attentive and cooperative, a true pillar of the Lisbon
delegation of the Institute.
But Professor Schubart was and is also an admirable researcher and a notable teacher.
In 1971 he was appointed Associate Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy
and Humanities, University of Munich, where he presented an important
research paper on the Bronze Age in the south-west of the Iberian Peninsula
(Schubart, H., 1975). In Munich he was for many years in charge of courses
in the pre-history and proto-history of Western Europe and the
However, if I was asked to summarise, I would venture to say that
Schubart will always be associated with research into the pre- and
proto-historic past of the Iberian Peninsula, research which he has
carried out for 45 years and is still continuing today. Such a career,
connected to research into one particular region, makes Schubart one
of the most valuable elements of the Peninsula’s heritage. His work on the
Iberian past, within the framework of the Mediterranean world, has
been expressed in hundreds of research papers, in innumerable
excavations, and in endless activity as a participant in conferences
and seminars, where, furthermore, he has always excelled as a
speaker. The many distinctions which he has obtained in Germany,
Spain and Portugal reflect the recognition that his work deserves
from many points of view.
As to his research, I shall concentrate briefly on two main aspects:
the historical and conceptual framework which directed his ideas, and
the specific contribution of his work to the development of knowledge
of the pre- and proto-history of the Iberian Peninsula.
· Hermanfrid Schubart, as an archaeologist, is part of the historico-cultural
school of thought, founded in Europe in the first half of the 20th century,
which is still broadly active today in many scientific contexts.
This school, which owes much to Gustaf Kossinna but was further
developed initially by Gordon Childe among others, presupposes
an audacious method of detecting past ‘cultures’ in the anthropological
sense: it correlates discrete distributions of artefacts with boundaries
of territories occupied by ‘peoples’. That is, it equates ‘archaeological
cultures’ with ‘ethnic cultures’. With this step, historico-cultural
thought became the basis of modern archaeological knowledge: the
method of ordering sets of artefacts in space/time, with the aim of
defining ‘cultures’, is applicable in any part of the world. But
historico-culturalism does not rely only on detecting cultures.
It contains its own particular idea of the past, which is still promulgated
today, even by schools of thought which see themselves as different,
and it is this notion of the past which determines the compulsion
to recover ‘what happened in the past’, in all its historical particularity.
As we shall see, the success of this school of thought was greatly assisted
by refinements in the methodology of archaeological recording. For
without such sophisticated systems, the record would not yield a complete
historical explanation. The historico-cultural school is always dependent
on illumination from the archaeological record.
However, for this school, cultural change is the direct result of processes
of population diffusion and migration.
In Europe in the first half of the 20th century there were two main
and conflicting views as to the centre of innovation and diffusion which
brought ‘culture and civilisation’. On one side there were positions
supporting an independent European provenance, of which the racist
views of Kossinna were the most important: for him, the region of what
is now Germany was the major central point of diffusion. Racist obsession
with Aryan peoples was used later, of course, by the Nazi regime to
legitimise its political programme. But the dominant idea in Europe
and even in Germany itself was that the real centre of diffusion was
the Mediterranean and the Near East. This idea, first found in Montelius
and expanded by Childe, thrived in most countries and among
most archaeologists of the time. In Germany, the German Archaeological
Institute, devoted to the study of the brilliance of the Mediterranean
and the Near East in Classical times, never really fitted into Nazi
ideology, the aim of which was to use archaeology to highlight the
role of Germanic peoples.
Hermanfrid Schubart himself always defended the position that
the Mediterranean was a centre of diffusion. He was thus linked with
a normative concept of culture which argued that in the past Europe
was colonised from one of its borders - the Near East.
I should also mention the importance, in Schubart’s thought and practice,
of an archaeology based on geography, developed in Germany in the
1950s and 60s. This school of thought was led by Eggers, who in the
50s founded the journal Archaeologica Geografica. Based on a
comprehensive criticism of the interpretative concepts of
Kossinna’s ‘settlement archaeology’ - that is, on a clear rejection
of his ‘ethnic paradigm’ - this school developed cartographic method
as applied to archaeology, with special attention to the relationship
of sites and surrounding space, avoiding any ethnic, much less racist,
When Hermanfrid Schubart arrived in the Iberian Peninsula in 1959,
what was the background of archaeological practice there? This is not
the time to outline the history of archaeology in the two countries in
the 20th century. In fact, in my view, despite everything that has been
produced, especially on Spanish archaeology (Díaz-Andreu, M., 1995,
2002), an in-depth study of the historical and sociological framework
determining the profile and the perceived importance of archaeology
in Spain and Portugal has yet to be written. It is obvious that, in spite
of the generally delayed development of archaeology in the Peninsula
in comparison with the rest of Europe, there was, before the last third
of the 20th century, a marked difference between Portugal and Spain.
In Spain, universities had been training academic archaeologists since
the beginning of the century. Barcelona, for example, led by the outstanding
figure of Bosch Gimpera, provided some of the most significant
archaeologists in Spain. Furthermore, European schools of archaeology,
especially in France and Germany, attracted many young Spanish scholars
in the first half of the century, some of whom later became famous
archaeologists in a variety of institutions. This endogenous growth meant
that in Spain there has always been a strong influence from French, Belgian,
German and also British archaeologists. I may mention the work of the
Siret brothers at the beginning of the 20th century – which so influenced
Schubart’s own research – or, in the 40s and 50s, the exemplary and
important contributions of Georg and Vera Leisner, whose work on
the Iberian megalithic phenomenon is still a landmark in the history
of research into the topic.
In contrast with this animated Spanish picture – despite the political
vicissitudes of the Civil War, the post-war period and the Franco regime,
which were obviously reflected in the institutional use of archaeology
in Spain – in Portugal up to the mid-1970s (with particular exceptions)
there was a long period of stagnation (Arnaud, J. M.(coord.), 2002).
Firstly we should emphasise that, until relatively recently, there was
no academic study of archaeology in Portugal, with the exception of
the University of Coimbra, where archaeology was largely devoted to
the Roman period and concentrated on the excavations at Conímbriga.
The cooperation between the Institute of Archaeology at the University
of Coimbra, under Professor Jorge de Alarcão, and the Museum of
Conimbriga, directed by Dr Adília Alarcão, created a centre of
archaeological research which was absolutely unique in Portugal.
We may ask ourselves why other ancient institutions did not take
the opportunity to change with the times in the mid-20th century.
The fact is that during the first half of the century, and especially
in the post-war period, Portuguese archaeology was dependent
on individual, though important, contributions by foreign archaeologists,
such as Jean Roche and Georg and Vera Leisner. There is only the isolated
figure of Eduardo da Cunha Serrão, economist and amateur archaeologist,
whose excavations in the 50s and 60s broke the pattern of general lack
of scientific recording, to represent a country where the Salazar regime,
unlike other totalitarian governments, always marginalised archaeology,
depriving it of any political and institutional weight.
It was in this Iberian context that Hermanfrid Schubart carried out his
research from the beginning of the 1960s. We can therefore understand why,
in pre- and proto-historic studies, particularly in Portugal for obvious
reasons, but in Spain too, there is a pre-Schubart and a post-Schubart
period. Schubart’s studies in the German Archaeological Institute started
a true revolution in the practice of archaeology in the Peninsula. After his
practical work at some significant sites, such as Zambujal, Atalaia or
Fuente Álamo, it became clear that archaeology was only worth doing if
certain thresholds of rigour and questioning were reached. Schubart and
his disciples – the school of Schubart – laid the foundations of a modern
archaeology interested in the reconstruction of Iberian pre- and
Throughout 45 years of research, Schubart has dealt with four major
themes: the so-called ‘fortifications’ of the Chalcolithic (3rd millennium
BC); the ‘South-western Bronze Age’, a cultural entity which he himself
postulated (2nd millennium BC); the Argaric Bronze Age of south-eastern
Spain (2nd millennium BC); and Phoenician colonisation (1st millennium
On all these fronts, Schubart acted consistently according to two basic
principles: - any theoretical paradigm can only be maintained through
exhaustive fieldwork carried out in full and methodical excavations, - in
the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC the Iberian Peninsula was colonised, or at
least strongly influenced, by peoples from the eastern Mediterranean.
In some ways Schubart extended to the pre- and proto-history of the
Peninsula the philosophy underlying the activities of the German
Archaeological Institute in other parts of the Mediterranean and the
Near East: Europe was the heir of the Mediterranean world, not only
from the Classical period, but from at least the 3rd millennium BC.
Schubart was thus arguing for an extended cultural tradition which
would have favoured the emergence of successive ‘cultures’ in the far
west of the Mediterranean.
- The theme of the ‘Chalcolithic fortifications’ of the 3rd millennium was
based archaeologically on the excavations of the castro of Zambujal
(Torres Vedras) from 1964 to 1973. These extensive excavations, of such
a large site dating from such an early period, were the first of their kind
in the entire Peninsula. They functioned as an excavating school for
students from 14 different countries, including more than a hundred
from Germany, Portugal and Spain. The methods used were so
revolutionary for the time that they served as a model in many Peninsular
excavations in the following decades.
Schubart’s associate in this work was Edward Sangmeister of the
Institute of Pre- and Proto-history at the University of Freiburg; he
was supported, as ever, by the German Archaeological Institute in Madrid,
and in this case also by the Portuguese Ministry of Education.
Fernando de Almeida, then Professor of Archaeology at the University
of Lisbon, a cosmopolitan person despite being a supporter of the Salazar
regime, made direct contact with the government in order to help set up
the excavations. It is thanks to these people that Portugal will always
be connected with one of the most fascinating prehistoric sites in Europe.
After publication, with Sangmeister, of the full report on the Zambujal
excavations (Sangmeister, E. & Schubart, H., 1981), there was a long period
of inactivity at the site. The fact that excavation began again in 1994
(coordinated by Michael Kunst) was once again due to the efforts of
Schubart - a kind of final official gesture from the director of the Madrid
delegation, dedicated to Portugal and its archaeology.
The colonial paradigm, inherent in the theory of ‘Chalcolithic
fortifications’, is perhaps the most long-lasting common paradigm in
Iberian prehistory. During the 1960s and 70s, researchers such as
Sangmeister, Blance, Kalb, Savory, Arribas, Martinez Santa-Olalla
and many others argued that these walled sites resulted from
Mediterranean ‘colonists’, in search of Iberian copper, settling in
this foreign country (Jorge, S. O., 1994, 2003). Quite early on,
however, Schubart, bearing in mind the data from the Zambujal
excavations, used to warn of the care necessary in the use of the
term ‘colony’ when applied to this type of site. His preference for the
term ‘factory’ is related to the discomfort that he felt with the use of
an excessively anachronistic model. Later, during the 1980s, under
the auspices of a research programme (in collaboration with German
geologists) to discover ancient coastlines, Schubart, using the discovery
that these prehistoric sites were very near the sea, interpreted them as
some sort of “fortified harbours” (Schubart, H. 1990). The paradigm
of ‘Chalcolithic fortifications’, perhaps one of Schubart’s earliest visions,
is still alive today: the search for a point, far back in time, when the first
great military structures were built in the Peninsula, fruit of a wide-ranging
cultural transfusion among Mediterranean peoples of the 3rd millennium.
- The theme of the ‘South-western Bronze Age’, a 2nd-millennium culture,
occupied Schubart’s fieldwork between 1962 and 1970. During this period
most of the necropolis of Atalaia, in the lower Alentejo, was the subject
of large-scale excavation. In 1975 Schubart published an extensive
monograph on this ‘culture’, a work which soon became a source of
reference for research into the Bronze Age in the Peninsula (Schubart,
The definition of the ‘South-western Bronze Age’ is based on the cartography
and ordering of a number of contexts and artefacts confined to the 2nd
millennium in the south-west of the Peninsula, particularly those of a
funerary nature. The excavation of the necropolis at Atalaia, also
unprecedented in Portugal, was to be fundamental in supplying a
first picture of the architecture of this kind of necropolis and of its
In the context of other regional Bronze Age studies, the chief novelty
in Schubart’s construct is that it helps dismantle the supposed cultural
unity of the Peninsula in the 2nd millennium. Based on the restriction
of the so-called Argaric culture to south-eastern Spain, Schubart
(following Tarradell, for example) aims to detect in the south-west
another cultural entity which, while showing Mediterranean influence,
certainly (among the cultures he studied) shows the most indigenous
- The theme of the ‘Argaric Bronze Age’ from south-eastern Spain, another
2nd-millennium ‘culture’, occupied Schubart’s fieldwork from 1977 to 1999.
The site chosen for large-scale activity was Fuente Álamo (Almeria), which
Schubart studied in association with Oswaldo Arteaga. By the end of the
century it had become one of the most important prehistoric sites in the
Peninsula, as Zambujal had been in the 60s and 70s.
Following in the footsteps of the Siret brothers from the late 19th century,
Schubart carried out, in the final decades of the 20th century, one of the
most ambitious excavations ever attempted in the Iberian Peninsula,
making use of sophisticated methods and new theoretical arguments.
At Fuente Álamo, a settlement with a stratigraphy of potentially 10 metres,
he made practical use of the stratigraphic paradigm in its full splendour.
Furthermore, the large-scale excavations revealed much about funerary
rites, economy, proto-urbanism and many other aspects of the life of the
site in the context of Argaric ‘culture’.
In 2001, in collaboration with Oswaldo Arteaga and Volker Pingel, Schubart
published a memorable monograph on the Fuente Álamo excavations
(Schubart, H., Pingel, V. & Arteaga, O., 2001). In 2003, in association with
Thomas Schuhmacher, he published an extensive study on the ceramics
from the site (Schuhmacher, T. & Schubart, H., 2003).
For Schubart, the relationships between the south-east of the Peninsula
and the eastern Mediterranean in the 2nd millennium remain indisputable.
They explain the changes in the region from the Chalcolithic ‘culture’ of Los
Millares to the Argaric ‘culture’ of the Bronze Age. Even allowing for an
independent origin for the Argaric peoples, Schubart considers that the
main changes seen in population, artefacts, funerary rites etc. could
only have been due to intense commercial activity in the Mediterranean.
The closeness of Argaric sites to the coast in the 2nd millennium is also a
powerful argument in favour of this degree of interaction and even of
cultural dependence between the two ends of the Mediterranean.
- Finally I shall mention the theme of Phoenician colonisation, fieldwork
on which occupied Schubart between 1964 and 1984 (Schubart, H., 1982,
1999, 2003). Excavations in Phoenician ‘colonies’ on the Mediterranean
coast of the Peninsula, such as Toscanos and Morro de Mezquitilla, opened
the way for further research into the first urban ‘culture’ of Mediterranean
origin, with writing, in the Iberian Peninsula. The degree of interaction of
the Phoenicians with indigenous ‘cultures’ in the south of the Peninsula,
such as the Tartéssic and the Iberic, is the object of continued study today.
With the Phoenicians, Schubart could undeniably claim that “exchange
unites peoples and contributes to the shape of their cultures” (Schubart, H.,
1989, p. 47). In fact Schubart has tried throughout his life to prove that this
maxim is applicable not only to peoples with writing, but also to prehistoric Mediterranean peoples.
Ÿ If I was asked to choose one particularly innovative aspect of Schubart’s
research, even at the European level, I would unhesitatingly opt for his
notion of space. This is because he introduced into excavations of prehistoric
Iberian sites such as Zambujal and Fuente Álamo a strategy of large-scale
excavation, aiming to give the widest possible picture of these places. This
is a costly option: it presupposes that there is a works yard available at
the site, staffed by dozens of technicians and labourers. It also presupposes
excellent archaeological organisation, since work is going on in different
places, requiring central coordination and practically simultaneous
Large-scale excavation, which replaced excavation conducted only by
trial trenches, has left its mark in Peninsular prehistory. Los Millares,
which was excavated by a disciple of Schubart, Fernando Molina of the
University of Granada, is a good example of the success of this paradigm
of large-scale excavation to enable large-scale analysis. The extensive
excavation of the burial mounds of northern Portugal, carried out in the
1970s and 80s by Vítor Oliveira Jorge in the Serra de Aboboreira, was
also to some extent a result of what he had learnt at the castro of Zambujal
in the late 60s.
Furthermore, the sites which Schubart studies are always important for
the specific landscape in which they are positioned: the topography of
the sites in their relation to the geomorphology of the surrounding area,
to the hydrographic network, and to their distance from the coast. This
appetite of Schubart’s for looking at archaeological sites as they relate to
space predates, in the Peninsula, many studies in so-called ‘landscape
archaeology’ which have appeared from the 1980s onwards. With Schubart
we learn a fundamental technique of archaeological knowledge: that of
alternately raising and lowering the scale. This is an interactive game in
which it is as important to go down as close as possible to the artefact or
structure to be unearthed and carefully recorded, as to fly over the region
in order to observe the set of natural possibilities which conditioned the
inhabitants of the past, to interpret the various available maps in order to
place sites within a network of possibilities for the exchange and exploitation of resources, thus giving them historical density.
In this sense, Schubart anticipated by decades a ‘prehistory of space’,
even though this expression now has a great variety of meanings.
Ÿ In closing this eulogy, I must pay tribute to Professor Schubart’s
outstanding human qualities. A mixture of great generosity and tolerance
with invincible optimism and amazing vitality gives his personality a very
special luminosity and power. Being in his company, at a scientific
meeting, a study visit or simply talking about life, we are always touched
by his profound humanity.
But at the same time, contact with Schubart has the quality of inspiring
all those who enter his orbit with an aura of confidence in their creative
possibilities, which is truly the mark of a great spirit. There is a human
greatness in Schubart which is certainly based on his research work,
but which both surpasses and strengthens it. Hermanfrid Schubart is
like a powerful switch-board: he has the rare quality of making real
connections between people, schools of thought, institutions.
The University of Porto, in awarding the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa
to Professor Hermanfrid Schubart, is not only paying homage to a great
scientific figure, but is also itself honoured and enriched by being able
henceforth to include Professor Hermanfrid Schubart in its ranks.
It is my fervent hope that Doctor Schubart’s fraternal relationship with
Portugal will grow ever stronger. I am sure that this ceremony will
contribute to the lasting enrolment in our community of a renowned
researcher and of his exceptional scientific work.
In this way, we shall certainly become even more aware of the
unparalleled contribution of Professor Hermanfrid Schubart in the
construction of modern Iberian and Portuguese archaeology –
an archaeology able to question the Past, so as to know how to
produce the Future.
Porto, 28 January 2005
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Ibérica, Huelva Arqueológica, VI, pp. 71 – 99.
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Mezquitilla (Algarrobo, Málaga), Los Fenícios en la Península Ibérica, pp. 59 –
-Schubart, H., 1989, Significación historico-cultural de la costa meridional de
la Península Ibérica, desde la Edad del Cobre hasta la colonización fenicia,
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Autónoma de Madrid, pp. 23 – 47.
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* Eulogy given at the ceremony
conferring the degree of Doctor Honoris
Causa of the University of Porto
* Department of Heritage, Faculty of Arts (DCTP-FLUP), University of Porto.
Paper published in JIA 7, 2005