Institutt for arkeologi, historie, kultur- og religionsvitenskap

Archaeology of hope: excavating a nuclear protest camp

Gjesteforelesning med Attila Dezsi, Tübingen University

Bilde fra utgraving. Bildet viser et krater med diverse gjenstander i bunn
Attila Dezsi


Historical archaeology in Europe has focused on dark heritage and sites of trauma. While important, this work on the ‘time to destroy’ may inadvertently silence sites and events opposed to this daily destruction and alienation. A case study of an anti-nuclear protest camp in 1980s Germany shows how cracks in capitalism form where people were not just protesting against something (a nuclear waste facility that could harm future generations), but experimented with an alternative way to live and envision the future.

The contested site of Gorleben, an iconic camp with 2000 inhabitants protesting against a nuclear waste facility, was forcibly dismantled by the police in May 1980. Today it is a reference point for the German green movement and the sustainable energy discussion. In a multi-source approach, written accounts, photographs, excavation data and oral history are interpreted in a comparative perspective to reconstruct what happened (everyday life, internal structures and conflicts) and why the event is still central to personal and collective memory. The approach provides new methodological insights for the interpretation of late 20th century sites and artefacts, showing how archaeological sources can uniquely inform on the recent past. There was also a big emphasis on public participation in archaeological fieldwork and analysis.