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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

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Logo der Einrichtung

Stefanie Haupt

'Völkische Ortungen und Germanische Himmelskunde'. The emergence of astronomical interpretations in the field of Prehistory during the first half of the 20th century

In the interwar period, the German scientific community engaged in controversial debates on the possibility of a "Germanic" astronomy in prehistoric times. Members of the so-called Völkisch movement advertised stone monuments as prehistoric observatories. In those, they saw proof for an elaborate "Germanic sky lore" that could even surpass sophisticated astronomical traditions of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. These hypotheses were not only driven by the urge to shape and glorify an alleged German national history reaching far back to ancient times but also to claim the superiority of a "Germanic" or "Nordic" race. Although this particular field of research never became an academic discipline, it gained significant institutional support in Nazi-Germany.
My PhD project focuses on these early attempts to interpret archaeological sites by astronomical means and asks for the historical contexts and ideological premises of such interpretations. I will analyse the debates in scientific journals and monographs and examine protagonists and their networks. The aim is to understand how and why the concept of a "Germanic astronomy" became a popular notion of prehistory. My research provides new insights into the intersecting fields of the Völkisch Movement and the scientific community of the interwar period. The project contributes to the ongoing research on the history of sciences.


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