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PROF. DR. M. OSMAN KORFMANN

On August 11 Manfred Osman Korfmann, the director of excavations at Troy, died at the age of 63 at his home near Tuebingen, Germany. He was born on April 26, 1942 in Cologne, and his memories of life in post-World War II Germany would prove influential throughout his career. He completed his doctorate at the University of Frankfurt in 1970, having spent a year at the American University in Beirut, and began teaching at the University of Tuebingen in 1982, where he remained until his death. His archaeological fieldwork began in Africa – Swaziland, Mozambique, and South Africa – but he will be remembered primarily for his excavations in Turkey, which began in 1972 and continued to the present. His first project dealt with the site of Demircihuyuk, near Eskisehir, where he excavated the remains of an early Bronze Age village. He then turned to the site of Besiktepe, near the western entrance to the Hellespont, where the evidence that he uncovered led him to propose that Aegean ships bound for the Black Sea would have harbored near Troy while waiting for favorable currents and weather conditions, thereby fueling Troy’s economy during the Bronze Age. The necessary proof for such a theory could only be obtained from renewed excavations at Troy, which at that time had remained unexplored for fifty years.

In 1987 he secured permission from the Turkish Ministry of Culture to inaugurate a new project there, and subsequently directed eighteen seasons of excavation that transformed Troy from a quiet site with crumbling walls, visited by few, to a vibrant center of research with carefully conserved buildings and new multilingual signs that clarified the complex stratigraphy. I had the privilege of working with him for eighteen years at Troy, where I served as Head of Greek and Roman exavations, and what impressed me in particular was his determination to focus on all phases of habitation at the site, from the Early Bronze Age through the Ottoman, treating the remains of each with the same respect so that a diachronic reconstruction could be produced.

As a child Manfred Korfmann was deeply affected by what the war had done to Germany, to international collaboration, and to the world. Perhaps in large part because of this, he designed the Troy excavation as an international community, insisting that no one ethnic group outnumber the others. He consistently brought together scientists from a large number of countries (over 30), including those from the Middle East and the Black Sea. Although the excavation staff wasn’t aware of it then, our constant interaction with such a diverse, international team probably enabled us to interpret the archaeological evidence far more objectively that would otherwise have been the case.

He considered his work in the residential area of Troy (the "Lower City"), to be among his most important accomplishments. Here he uncovered a large rock-cut ditch of Late Bronze Age date that appeared to have functioned as a line of defense for the inhabitants; another slightly later ditch was unearthed in front of it, and closer to the citadel he discovered the bedrock cuttings of a palisade wall of Early Bronze Age construction, also apparently intended to protect the Lower City. At any other archaeological site such discoveries would not have generated widespread public interest, but this was Troy, and discussion quickly turned to the Trojan War and the evidence for its historicity.

This discussion also encompassed Prof. Korfmann’s theories of maritime Bronze Age traffic between the Aegean and the Black Sea, as well as Troy’s link to that traffic. Recognizing that a broader geographical sphere of research was necessary, he turned his attention toward the eastern Black Sea coast. Even though he was still directing fieldwork at Troy, he inaugurated excavations at two sites in Georgia, Didigora and Udabno, where archaeological work still continues.

Manfred Korfmann had a strategic plan for Troy from the beginning of the project. He was a dreamer, and there were many, including me from time to time, who tried to throw water on those dreams, arguing that they were unrealistic or simply not feasible. In each case his persistence – which was a mix of sound, passion, and, sometimes, fury – yielded the result that he had intended, much to the consternation of those watching from the sidelines. Because of those dreams, Troy has been designated a World Heritage Site, and the area around it has been declared a National Park, thereby protecting a large number of archaeological sites from rampant new construction in the region.

The other component of his vision involved a comprehensive publication of all new discoveries. To that end he founded an annual excavation journal (Studia Troica) that featured interdisciplinary studies dealing with every aspect of the Troad – archaeological, historical, philological, and scientific – as well as virtually every period of habitation. The fifteenth volume was in press at the time of his death, and the books fill an entire shelf in the library.

His devotion to Turkey became one of the most prominent features of his life. He received an honorary doctorate from Çanakkale University, where he also held the rank of professor, and he was recognized by the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the General Directorate of Antiquities for his outstanding achievements in archaeology. In 2003 he became a Turkish citizen, choosing the name "Osman", which his workmen had always called him because of its similarity to "Manfred." He was named as a member of the Turkish Academy of Sciences shortly before his death, and one day before he died, he was made an honorary citizen of Çanakkale.

Georgia had also recognized his accomplishments at Didigora and Udabno by awarding him the Medal of Merit, as well as inducting him into the Georgia Academy of Sciences. He was named a foreign honorary member of the Archaeological Institute of America in 1998, and was accorded the same honor by the Austrian Archaeological Institute and the Croatian Archaeological Society. He is survived by his wife Katja and two children, Jochen and Afra.

-C. Brian Rose

University of Pennsylvania

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Manfred Osman Korfmann (1942-2005)

  • 1942

    Born in Cologne

  • 1961

    Finished school (Abitur) in Frankfurt/Main

  • 1961 - 1962

    School assistant in Beit Jala, Bethlehem (Jordan/now Palestine)

  • 1962 - 1970

    Study of prehistory, protohistory, provincial Roman archaeology and ancient history at Frankfurt/Main University and The American University of Beirut

  • 1970

    Doctorate in Frankfurt/Main

  • 1971 - 1972

    Academic assistant at Frankfurt/Main University (Project: DFG Mapping Africa)

  • 1972 - 1977

    Academic consultant at German Archaeological Institute (Istanbul Dept.)

  • 1978 - 1982

    Academic assistant, German Archaeological Institute, Berlin

  • 1980

    Post-doctoral qualification as university lecturer at Frankfurt/Main University. Non-tenured lecturer at Frankfurt/Main University

  • 1982'den beri

    TProfessor for prehistorical and protohistorical archaeology at Tübingen University

  • 1968

    Field work in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique

  • since 1972

    Field archaeology in Anatolia

  • 1975 - 1978

    Director of the excavation at Demircihüyük/north-western Anatolia (Neolithic to Middle Bronze Age, 5th - 2nd mill. BCE)

  • 1981

    Site prospection in the coastal plain of Troia

  • 1982 - 1987

    Director of the excavations at Besik-Yassitepe, Besik-Sivritepe and the Besik necropolis at the ‘Port of Troia’ (Neolithic, Early to Late Bronze Age, Archaic, Hellenistic, Byzantine periods)

  • 1988-2005

    Director of the new excavations at Troia, resumed after a lapse of 50 years

  • 1993 - 1995

    Director of excavations at Kumtepe, near Troia (6th - 4th mill. BCE)

  • 1997 - 1999

    Director of excavations at Didi Gora (Georgia), jointly with Professor Dr. K. Pizchelauri

  • 1998

    Co-founder of the Tübingen University graduate studies programme “Anatolia and its neighbours – cultural interchange and developments in civilisation from the Neolithic to the Roman Empire.

  • 1998 - 1999

    Director of the resumed excavations at Besik-Sivritepe (6th mill. BCE and Hellenistic period)

  • Since 2000

    Director of the excavations at Udabno (Georgia), jointly with Professor Dr. K. Pizchelauri and Dr. J. Bertram

  • 2001 - 2002

    Concept and academic director of the exhibition “Troia - Dream and Reality” (Stuttgart, Braunschweig, Bonn)

  • 1979

    Consulting member of the German Archaeological Institute (Berlin)

  • 1994

    Max-Planck Research Award

  • 1996

    Foreign member of the Georgian Academy of Science (Tiflis)

  • 1997

    Foreign honorary member of the Archaeological Institute of America

  • 1998

    “Real member” of the Austrian Archaeological Institute (Vienna)

  • 1998

    Award for “Distinguished contributions to the historical, cultural and artistic heritage of Turkey” (Istanbul)

  • 2000

    Honorary member of the Croatian Archaeological Society (Zagreb)

  • 2000

    Committee member of the German-Turkish Forum, Stuttgart

  • 2001

    Rotondi Award (Sassocorvaro, Italy) for the preservation of cultural assets (European Division)

  • 2001

    Award of the Helga and Edzard Reuter-Stiftung (Berlin)

  • 2002

    Medal of the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Turkey “For highest contributions” Distinction awarded by the General Directorate of Turkish Antiquities and Museums (Ankara) “For outstanding achievements in excavation” First foreign honorary member of the Professional Association of Archaeologists of Turkey, (Ankara) Honorary member of the “Institutum Turcicum Scientiae Antiquitatis” (Istanbul) Honorary doctor, Çanakkale University (Turkey) Medal of Merit of the State University of Tiflis (Georgia) Order of Merit of the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg

  • 2003

    Distinction by the professional organization of the travel guides of Turkey “For outstanding public relations and presentation of the ruins of Troia”

  • 2003

    Friendship Award (Section of Culture) of the German-Turkish Friendship Association Munich

  • 2004

    Award of Merit of the Chamber of Commerce of Çanakkale

  • 2005

    Member of the Turkish Academy of Sciences TÜBA, Ankara (Turkey)

  • 2005

    Honorary citizen of the city Çanakkale (Turkey)

  • August 11, 2005

    Dies in his home near Tübingen, following a severe illness

Acting as an external reviewer for several science-supporting institutions for annually about 20 national and international archaeological (excavation-)projects. Academic lectures in Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Georgia, Greece, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey, USA. (Co-)author of 5 books. Editor of the annual Studia Troica (1991 ff.) and (co-)editor of monographs and serial publications. Author of academic films, guides and scientific maps. More than 150 articles in the fields of prehistorical and protohistorical archaeology published in international specialist journals.