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Gerhard Bersu, archaeologist (1889-1964)

Date(s): 1950s

Scope & Content: Gerhard Bersu had been Director of the Archaeological Institute in Frankfurt, Germany but was pensioned off by the Nazi Government in 1935. He and his wife Maria began archaeological projects elsewhere but in 1940, they were both interned in the Isle of Man. Neither knew the others whereabouts initially, but they were eventually reunited in the married camp in Port Erin in 1941.

The Society of Antiquaries of London and the Manx Museum Director, Basil Megaw, immediately saw the potential for Bersu to investigate some of the Island’s key archaeological sites. Once the authorities were convinced that this could be done safely, Bersu began a programme of excavations. Bersu led internee volunteers in excavating and recording the sites of Ballanorris, Ballacagen and Balladoole. In fact, it was whilst excavating at the latter in 1945 that a local policeman brought the work party the news that war in Europe was over.

Many of Bersu’s letters survive, giving insights into projects – not least that all of the digging had to be done with trowels. Despite the presence of an armed guard, the authorities weren’t going to risk allowing the internees pick-axes!

Both Gerhard and Maria remained on the Island after the war until 1947 and continued excavating at Cronk Mooar, Ballateare, the Vollan and Peel Castle.

The model of the excavated roundhouse at Ballacagen made by an internee under the direct instruction of Bersu can be seen on display at the Manx Museum, Douglas.

Language: eng

Extent: 8 x 10 in

Item name: photograph

Collection: Photographic Archive

Level: WHOLE

ID number: PG/7282


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