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History of Research on the Archeology of the Beilngries region

Archaeological research began early in Beilngries. At the end of the 18th century, the Beilngries native Dr.Franz Anton Mayer was active in this field, and around 1900 it was the Medical Council Theodor Thenn. In 1964, Walter Torbrugge published an archaeological site chronicle. Extensive excavations have been carried out recently in connection with the construction of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal.

Dr. Franz Anton Mayer

Pioneer of archeology in Bavaria

Priest, excavator and researcher at the Roman Limes

A son of the town of Beilngries

Franz Anton Mayer was born in Beilngries in July 1773 as the eldest child of Franz and Margareta Mayer, née Frueth. He grew up on the Ziegler estate. In the 1780s he came to the seminary in Eichstätt, where he got in touch with Prof. Ignatz Pickel. In 1788 he apparently participated in excavations of a grave mound in the forest department Pelzerfelder near Pietenfeld / Weissenkirchen. In 1791 he was involved in the excavation of four grave mounds in the woods west of Beilngries. He reports about this in detail, to his mentor Pickel. In Rome, where the bishop sent him to study in 1795, he acquired the doctorate and gained extensive historical knowledge, especially on Roman numismatics. His main work is the "Exact description of the Roman border wall, known as Teufelsmauer. As pastor of Gelbelsee he walked along the Bavarian part of the (Rhaetian) Limes and described it in detail.

Pickel conducted a series of burial mound investigations, each of which he reported accurately about. After his time in Gelbelsee he became pastor of St. Walburg in Eichstätt. He spent his last years in Munich, where he died on 4 May 1854 and was buried in the southern cemetery. He bequeathed his collection to the Kingdom of Bavaria. The archaeological findings are now kept in the Archaeological State Collection.

The Ziegler estate in Beilngries. Painting of the birthplace of Dr. Franz Anton Mayer
Handwritten letter of the scholar Franz Anton Mayer to his teacher in Eichstätt, Prof. Ignatz Pickel. On October 6, 1791, he announced his participation in investigations of burial mounds in the woods near Paulushofen.
Handwritten record
Copper engraving from a work by Franz Anton Mayer with discoveries from a burial mound in the woods near Irfersdorf
Gravestone of Franz Anton Mayer at the southern cemetery in Munich

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Medizinalrat Dr. med. Theodor Thenn

Grave plate of the honorary citizen Dr. Theodor Thenn and his wife at Beilngries cemetery

When Theodor Thenn settled in Beilngries, he already had relevant experience in excavating monuments. The first activities in Beilngries date from 1897, in 1899 it was the first tombs of the Hallstatt period, which awoke his interest. He had contact with the Prehistoric State Collection from the beginning, but the collaboration was difficult. According to research by Walter Torbrügge, Thenn discovered more than 100 tombs of Hallstatt until 1917. Although he was interested in other findings, he pursued them only on a case-by-case basis. In some caves he carried out sample excavations or uncovered the burials of a row grave field "Im Oehl.”

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Biography Theodor Thenn – according to Walter Torbrügge

Theodor Thenn

Theodor Thenn was born on January 28, 1842 in Augsburg. He studied medicine in Erlangen and Berlin and received his doctorate degree at the university of Erlangen in 1867 with top grades. After a short assistantship at the Augsburg Hospital in 1868, he passed the state examination in Munich with the second highest grade. From 1869 to 1875, he successively worked in Bobingen, Schwabmuenchen, Goeggingen, Augsburg Unterschwaningen and Dinkelsbühl, as a practical doctor. Then he remained in Wassertrüdingen, district of Dinkelsbühl until 1889, where he also took over the office of a district medical deputy. Beilngries was his last stop. On July 15, 1889, he received his appointment as district doctor 1st class, and was awarded the title of Medizinalrat in 1905. On 25 May 1915 he retired, under the highest acknowledgment of his merits. However, he won the respect of his fellow citizens less by extraordinary achievements than by honest performance of duty to the best of his knowledge and belief. He died as honorary citizen of the town, after having suffered from an illness for a long time on 4 November 1919 in Beilngries.

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Theodor Thenn was neither a historian nor an archaeologist. Evaluating the activity of earlier excavators in retrospect, the verdict is not quite flattering. For instance, Heinrich Schliemann in Troy has destroyed more than documented. Nowadays Theodor Thenn would be called a "contract grave robber", since he was an enterprising seller of his excavation findings, according to the documents. Today these treasures are kept in the Archaeological State Collection. Walter Torbrügge reports extensively on the activities of Theodor Thenn (see literature) in his publication of 1964.

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Walter Torbrügge 1964

Balance sheet of Beilngries's find areas by Walter Torbrügge

When the prehistorian Walter Torbrügge wrote his works on the Hallstatt period and the Bronze Age in the Upper Palatinate, he had the opportunity to publish the find areas around Beilngries as a monograph.

He devoted himself to this meritorious work and summarized all the information he could gather until 1964. Basically, this publication is a first presentation of "exhibits", that were actually no longer available on site, no longer "observable".

Walter Torbrugge (1923 - 1994)


Walter Torbrügge (1923 - 1994)

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Main Danube Canal, industrial areas, urban regeneration

Footing of the round tower at the foremost mountain spur of Hirschberg Castle

In the 1970s, a large amount of land was consumed in and around Beilngries, through various large-scale construction projects. Firstly there was the Main-Danube Canal, which required the use of modern excavation crews. Over 10 years, these large areas, which have already been processed partially today, were examined. The industrial parks, construction areas, road construction and urban redevelopment demanded archaeologists, to constant documentations - until today.

A large and significant excavation took place in 1988, on the foremost mountain spur of Hirschberg Castle, where foundations of a mighty round tower were rediscovered.