Working in an archive isn’t just about cataloguing papers and photographs – it’s also about researching and publicising your collections. Our latest paper about Paul Jacobsthal is being published in the European Journal of Archaeology. This article, titled ‘Post-war Identity and Scholarship: the correspondence of Paul Jacobsthal and Gero von Merhart at the Institute of Archaeology, Oxford’, looks at the written conversations between Jacobsthal and his good friend Gero von Merhart during and after World War II. Their correspondence provides insight into the challenges faced by those studying prehistory after the war and hints at how these challenges shaped the discipline itself.
The two archaeologists wrote to each other about their personal lives, their current academic works, and their former students (in one poignant exchange, they mourn the pupils of theirs who had perished during the war). They are aware of the censorship of their letters; Merhart even addresses the censor in a letter, captioning a drawing with “Dear Mr. Censor! Do not trouble to keep this back. It’s only matter of scientific value to poor mad archaeologists.”
A previous paper on the Jacobsthal archive was published in Antiquity in March of this year. This paper, ‘Paul Jacobsthal’s Early Celtic Art, his anonymous co-author, and National Socialism: new evidence from the archives’, proposes that the possible co-author of Early Celtic Art that Jacobsthal mysteriously alludes to in the book’s preface is Eduard Neuffer, Jacobsthal’s friend and travelling companion. Neuffer, who was not Jewish, remained in Germany during the war, and an exiled Jew publically acknowledging their collaboration on a book that went against the völkisch ideology of the National Socialism movement may have been potentially dangerous for Neuffer. We used information from correspondence, photographs, and the presence of Neuffer’s handwriting in Jacobsthal’s notebooks to confirm that he was the co-author.
The magazine British Archaeology also featured our paper ‘Life Between the Nations: the Wartime Correspondence of German Refugee Archaeologist Paul Jacobsthal’ in their November/December 2010 issue. This article, which can be read in full here, gives a broad overview of Paul Jacobsthal, his archive, and his legacy.
We have several more papers in the works at the moment, including one on Jacobsthal’s childhood, one on the importance of his Celtic archive, one on Jacobsthal’s internment on the Isle of Man, and even one on Stuart Piggott and Southeast Asia. We’ll keep updating when a new paper is published, so watch this space!