Carl Humann

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Carl Humann

Carl Humann (first name also Karl ; born January 4, 1839 in Steele ; † April 12, 1896 in Smyrna ) was a German engineer, architect and classical archaeologist . He became known as the discoverer of the Pergamon Altar.

Live and act

Carl Humann (1894); Painting by Osman Hamdi Bey

After a classical humanistic school career (Abitur in 1859 at the Royal High School at Burgplatz zu Essen ), Carl Humann initially worked for the Bergisch-Märkische Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft and began studying engineering at the Bauakademie in Berlin in 1860 .

In the fall of 1861, he broke for health reasons his studies and followed the call of his older brother Franz (1832-1893), who as a civil engineer in the Ottoman Empire belonging Samos worked and Karl there promised work and archaeological activities. Also in the hope of being able to cure a tuberculosis disease better through the healthier climate in the Mediterranean region , he landed on the island of Samos on November 15, 1861. Among other things, he took part in excavations of the Heraion there and ancient palace complexes. Humann stayed in the Ottoman Empire and initially continued to work as a civil engineer. In 1864 he traveled to Palestine on behalf of the Ottoman government to level the land and to draw up an accurate map of the country. He later explored the eastern Balkans and picked up a map. In preparation for later excavations, he visited ancient Pergamon in the winter of 1864/65 . At the well-known historical but not yet excavated site, he first used his influence to prevent the destruction of the partially exposed marble ruins in lime kilns as much as possible. Above all, there was no support from Berlin for a complete excavation.

In Asia Minor , Humann and his brother Franz managed road construction from 1867 to 1873. From 1868 he lived in Bergama, the former Pergamon, and continued his archaeological studies there, especially in the winter months. He was in contact with the cartographer Heinrich Kiepert and with Ernst Curtius , the head of the Berlin Collection of Antiquities . The planned excavations in Pergamon did not take place at first because Curtius turned to the excavation in Olympia . After the road construction project had ceased, Humann lived as a civil engineer in Smyrna from 1873, interrupted by a trip to Germany in 1873/74, during which he married.

It was not until 1878 that Humann had both financial support from the director of the Berlin Sculpture Museum, Alexander Conze , and the official excavation permit from the Ottoman side. The excavations on Pergamon Castle Hill, which initially lasted a year, began on September 9th. Unexpectedly, large parts of the artistically extremely valuable frieze of the Pergamon Altar and numerous sculptures were found on September 12th . By the end of September 1878, twenty-three groups of the ancient gigantomachy had already been exposed. Further excavation campaigns took place in the years 1880 to 1881 and 1883 to 1886. The finds, which were due to the German side in accordance with an agreement with the Ottoman Empire, were transported to the coast five hours away by ox carts, where they were loaded onto ships of the German Navy and brought to Berlin. In the German Empire the sensational importance of the find was soon recognized, Humann became a celebrity and in 1879 a full member of the German Archaeological Institute , in 1889 an honorary doctorate in Greifswald . Against the background of the nationalist attitudes of that era, people were proud to be able to counter something , for example, to the Parthenon Fries in the British Museum in London .

On behalf of the Berlin Academy of Sciences , Humann made archaeological recordings of the ancient sites of Angora , on the Upper Euphrates and in northern Syria . In the summer of 1882 he dug for the German Orient Society in Bogazköy and Yazilikaya , while his friend, the director of the Ottoman Museums Hamdi Bey , began the first excavations in Zincirli (Sam'al). In 1883 Humann accompanied the professor of archeology Otto Puchstein on his expedition to explore the sites of the ancient Kommagene to excavation areas on the Euphrates. They reached the ruins of Gaziantep Castle in May and made sketches of the burial shrine of Sesönk . On June 1, Samosata was explored and the group reached the actual destination of the expedition on June 7, 1883, the Hierothesion on the Nemrut Dağ , which was first photographed and measured for science.

In 1884 Humann was appointed department director of the royal museums in Berlin, but kept his residence in Smyrna as a foreign director in order to safeguard the interests of the royal museums in the Orient . He continued to work and research, and received numerous guests in his well-known home. In 1887 he carried out topographical surveys in Hierapolis, in 1888 he continued the excavations of Zincirli in northern Syria and made an experimental excavation in Tralleis .

Between 1891 and 1893, Humann excavated magnesia at the meander . In the spring of 1894, Otto Benndorf commissioned him to record plans in the ruined city of Ephesus and to prepare a technical report on the excavation of the temple of Diana there and its altar building, which was decorated with sculptures from Praxiteles . From 1895 he participated in the first Austrian excavation in Ephesus. In September 1895 he also began an excavation in Priene , supported by the young fellow and friend Theodor Wiegand , who continued Humann's work and from 1899 also led the excavations at Miletus . On October 5th, Humann, suffering from a severe liver disease, had to leave for Smyrna and handed over the management to Wiegand in Priene. Carl Humann died on April 12, 1896 in Smyrna and was buried in the local cemetery. In 1963 the Catholic cemetery of Smyrna was abandoned, Humann's remains were then transferred to Pergamon Castle Hill and buried in a newly inaugurated crypt in 1967 under the direction of Erich Boehringer .


Adolf Brütt: bust of Carl Humann in the Pergamon Museum Berlin

In 1890 the town of Steele made Carl Humann an honorary citizen.

A portrait bust of Humann created by Adolf Brütt was created for the opening of the first Berlin Pergamon Museum on November 18, 1901, which was linked to the opening of Siegesallee on the same day.

A copy of this bust is on Kaiser-Otto-Platz in Essen-Steele, not far from the Carl-Humann-Gymnasium at Laurentiusweg 20. In Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg there is a Carl-Humann-Grundschule and a Humannplatz.


Humann's parents, the innkeeper Franz Wilhelm Humann (1806-1870) and Maria Catharina vom Kolke (1805-1887), married on October 11, 1831 in Steele. The eldest son Franz was born on January 21, 1832, Karl in 1839, Wilhelm in 1841 and Theodor in 1843. In the years 1845 and 1850 the daughters Caroline and Marie were born.

On November 24, 1874, Carl Humann married Louise Werwer (1843–1928), daughter of the leaseholder Heinrich Werwer in Sevinghausen and Anna Maria Borgwarth, in the Wattenscheid registry office . Humann's marriage had four children: the daughter Maria Humann (1875–1970), who married the archaeologist Friedrich Sarre in 1900 , a daughter who died in 1878 at the age of one, the son Hans Humann (1878–1933), who was a naval officer, Diplomat and businessman became known, as did his son Karl, who died in 1889 at the age of seven.


  • Travels in Asia Minor and Northern Syria . Edited together with Otto Puchstein (with Atlas). Reimer, Berlin 1890 ( online ).
  • Magnesia on the meander . Reimer, Berlin 1904 ( online ).


Web links

Commons : Carl Humann  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. ^ House, court and state archives: Austrian State Archives, legation and consular archives
  2. Portrait of Carl Humann on ; accessed on June 28, 2016
  3. Friedrich Karl Dörner , Eleonore Dörner : From Pergamon to Nemrud Dag. The archaeological discoveries of Carl Humann . Ph. V. Zabern, Mainz 1989, pp. 2 and 3.
  4. Reinhard Stupperich : Carl Humann . In: Westfälische Lebensbilder , Volume 13. Münster 1985, pp. 130–155, on the children p. 146.