History of archaeology in Czech lands (1939-1966)


The Ceramic Venus of Dolni VestoniceThe Ceramic Venus of Dolni VestoniceWelcome to Czech Science. Today we'll hear the second part in our short series dedicated to Czech archaeology. Last week, Charles University Professor Jan Bouzek told us about the history of archaeology in the Czech lands from its early days in the 16th century until the end of the 1930s. At that time archaeology was already a well-established science in the then Czechoslovakia but the pace of development was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. In today's episode Professor Jan Bouzek talks about Czech archaeology under the Nazi occupation, and later under the communist regime.

"During the war it became much more ideological because of the Nazis. Everything was supervised and everything was considered as part of the propaganda. Not only was the university closed but everything in archaeology was considered being very ideological and it was put under the German commissioners at that time. Well, and everything was supposed to be as Germanic as possible. Slavonic culture was nearly forbidden during the war. One man who found something about the early Slavs became highly political and he just so escaped but his wife who was Jewish died in a concentration camp. Some archaeologists were executed like everywhere."

Among them was Frantisek Dvorak, a Czech archaeologist, originally a medical doctor, who was executed in June 1943 in the German city of Dresden for his involvement in the antifascist resistance.

After the war, and especially owing to Czechoslovakia's political ties to the Soviet Union and other Slavonic nations, archaeology - namely that emphasising the Pan Slavonic idea - was looked upon favourably by the authorities.

"After the war it was the big wave first of the era of the Pan Slavonic idea and after that when the communists came to power, archaeology was something that was tolerated and a lot of money was put into it. So instead of other humanities, it got more money and the vice director of the academy at that time Jaroslav Boehm got a lot of money and there were large excavations which brought in a way, despite of its isolation, Czech archaeology high up. So in the 1960s when the time became more free, there was one of the best archaeological congresses of the "Union academique internationale d'etudes prehistoriques et protohistoriques" which was organised in Prague in 1966. It was the eve of the Prague Spring and it was one of the best times of archaeology in this country at all."