Since 2009 the Museum of Prehistory and Early History has presented the objects of its collection in the Neues Museum again. Prior to that, the collection was housed in the Langhansbau of Charlottenburg Palace. The focus of the collection is on European history from the Paleolithic to medieval times.
Exhibition in the Neues Museum
After moving back to the Neues Museum, the Museum of Prehistory and Early History became reintegrated into the overall presentation of ancient cultures. It shows the cultural development of Europe and the Mediterranean from the Paleolithic to medieval times. In the Neues Museum, this development is illustrated by a carefully chosen selection from a total stock of more than 200,000 objects. Precious parts of the collection, such as Heinrich Schliemann’s gold finds from Troy and the Eberswalde Hoard, are cultural assets that were relocated to Russia as a result of the war. Replicas of them are on exhibit in Berlin.
In 1855, the museum opened its exhibition, which was then called “Collection of Nordic Antiquities,” in the Neues Museum where the so-called Hall of the Fatherland offered new possibilities for presentation. Prior to that, the collection had been housed in Monbijou Palace under much more cramped conditions. The last pre-war site of the Museum of Prehistory and Early History was the Martin-Gropius-Bau. The collection was torn apart during World War II. After reunification, it was reassembled again in the Langhansbau of Charlottenburg Palace.
The bronze cuirass was discovered in 1913 in a burial mound at the Slovenian site of Stična. The excavations were carried out by the Duchess of Mecklenburg. She presented the most precious finds – including the cuirass – to her second cousin, Emperor Wilhelm II, who generously funded her research. It was from his possession that the objects eventually came to the future Museum of Prehistory and Early History. The cuirass dates from the 7th or 6th century BC and is from the Eastern Hallstatt Culture of the Early Iron Age, which basically comprised Austria and Slovenia. As yet, only four other completely preserved objects of this kind are known.
The silver vessels – three cups and a bowl – are part of the “Great Treasure” (“Priam’s Treasure”) of Troy, which dates from about 2500 BC. Parts of the silver vessels are much corroded. The good state of preservation beneath the patina becomes evident from the bowl. It was in this large, originally two-handled vessel that Heinrich Schliemann found the famous gold jewelry from “Priam’s Treasure.” The bowl is the largest and heaviest silver vessel found so far in western Asia Minor, and resembles dishes made of precious metals which were unearthed at the Babylonian royal cemetery of Ur.
The Berlin Golden Hat was made some time between the 9th and 8th centuries BC. Objects like this, which were used in the context of Bronze-Age religious practice, are very rare. The paper-thin, seamless hat was created from a single sheet of gold and is lavishly decorated with ornaments. The latter can be interpreted as representing a calendar. Since the opening of the Neues Museum in 2009, the Berlin Golden Hat has been on exhibit in the so-called Star Room on the uppermost floor of the building. It is presented in a circular room that is reminiscent of Stone-Age solar observatories. This alludes to evidence that the course of the year was observed and recorded in prehistoric times.
The Museum of Prehistory and Early History is accessible via both entrances of the Neues Museum. Many objects from the Collection of Classical Antiquities are integrated into the exhibition; hence, the close links to that collection are already visible today. These links will be even more apparent once the Altes Museum and the Pergamonmuseum are directly accessible via the Archaeological Promenade. The James-Simon-Galerie will be the future reception building for all the museums, including the Museum of Prehistory and Early History.