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Stage II


The second stage – the book “Archeologiczne dziedzictwo Prus Wschodnich w archiwum Feliksa Jakobsona” (Archaeological heritage of East Prussia in the archive of Feliks Jakobson) – focuses on the legacy of this Latvian archaeologist (1896–1930) whose destiny was interwoven so strongly with the history of a land found outside the borders of his native country. In Jakobson’s card index files now held by the National History Museum of Latvia in Riga there is a wealth of data on archaeological sites identified on Prussian territory, including also locations known from the north-eastern part of Poland. Feliks Jakobson collected the material on the past of this territory mostly during the 1920s, a period when archaeology, then in its early stages of development, was still practiced free of nationalistic rage or – even more so – without the awareness that another great war was near and what devastating losses it would bring. At this time Jakobson was a student of the Albertina at Königsberg, fascinated by the colourful world of the Migrations Period, reflected in the archaeological record by richly furnished cemeteries, many of which yielded complete series of exceptional finds. Of these the most outstanding were personal ornaments displaying features of interregional style design, drawing inspiration – but also deriving directly – from the style characteristic for the lands on the Black Sea and the river Danube. The clustering of these ornaments in Masuria – evidence on the existence here of a special relationship between Balts and Germanic tribes – makes this area unique on the scale of the whole continent; one way researchers tried to underline this special situation was by putting into academic circulation the name “masurgermanisches-Kultur”, coined at this time by Nils Åberg, Swedish archaeologist.

After the tragic death of Feliks Jakobson in the waters of the Daugava his archive, an invaluable set of a great volume of data, was made use of only to a very limited extent. A large fragment of these records was never published and we have to note that, next to its archaeological value, they offer a stimulating insight on the age itself: the behaviour, customs, legal regulations even. From this point of view Jakobson’s card index file is a unique source of knowledge on pre-war Masuria, equally so, on Warmia, Sambia, Lithuania Minor (i.e., the area region around the city of Klaipėda), and to a lesser extent, also the Vilnius region and the province of Chełm (Kulmerland).

The published archive of Feliks Jakobson comprises close to 1600 index cards, a record on archaeological material deriving from the territory of four modern states: Poland, Russia, Lithuania and Belarus. On close to 650 pages, in a text in three languages (Polish, German and Latvian), using a catalogue approach, are published entries on more than 200 archaeological sites, with information on their location, chronology, history of research, selected source literature, etc. These descriptions are accompanied by a presentation of the most exciting materials from Jakobson’s archive which illustrate some of the data presented. This part opens with an account of Feliks Jakobson’s research career and a discussion of the contents of the archive and its value for science. Also included are four case studies which the authors intended to serve as illustration of the ways that the scientific potential of Jakobson’s archive can be used. Numerous illustrations are included to convey the climate of the age during which Jakobson was active; getting hold of this material proved to be a task as rewarding as it was challenging. An integral element of the book is a DVD on which is recorded the complete publicated part of archive of the Latvian archaeologist. By sharing access to this material – one of the fundamental objectives of Project Ostbalticum – we expect to make easier also the verification of arguments presented in the book.

The significance and special character of the project – Stage II of Project Ostbalticum – is reflected well by an excerpt from the conclusions to one of the introductory chapters published in the book: “Definitely, the materials described here will continue to prove inspiring for research and prompt the undertaking of many different studies focused on the past of the vast region now found within the borders of Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia and Belarus. This being so, any attempt to sum up their scientific value appears at present an exceedingly challenging task. But looking for a fitting yardstick of the potential of learning held by Jakobson’s archive it may be easiest to compare this potential to the great research effort which was needed to amass so great a body of data. Such a comparison would prove conclusively that the volume of information recorded by the Latvian archaeologist must correspond to the effect of work done by a large team of researchers made over many years on the territory of several countries. The wish and the need to share such a vast store of data justifies the decision to make public the record of a private archive – something which may appear from a certain perspective as an infringement on the obvious boundaries of privacy. Nevertheless, it seems that the decision taken is the best form of honouring Jakobson and showing appreciation to his activity.”



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