Resumé of Werner Coblenz' life and career
Werner Coblenz is one of the most renowned archaeologists in central Germany. He is also one of the most significant representatives of a whole epoch, i.e. the post-war period, in divided Germany. The different periods in his life stand for stages of a historical development particularly in the areas of archaeology and monument protection which he played a decisive role in forming.
He was born in Pirna, near Dresden, in 1917. His Saxon homeland remained the fix point for his wide ranging scholarly ambitions and was at the same time the backdrop for his drive to realize his self proclaimed goals. W. Coblenz developed his specific ideas in the thirties. His studies in Berlin, Marburg, Vienna, Kiel and Leipzig were abruptly interrupted by the catastrophe of the Second World War. After his return from POW-captivity we was confronted with a divided and destroyed Germany. He finished his studies with Gero v. Merhart in Marburg with a Dissertation he had begun before the war dealing with the Middle Bronze Age grave finds in Saxony. It remains a standard reference to one of the richest periods in Saxon prehistory.
Thereafter W. Coblenz began working in the State Museum for Prehistory in Dresden where he was promoted to director at the early age of 32. In the first years after the war he was the driving force for the reconstruction of Saxon archaeology.. He undertook salvaging the Museum’s Inventory out of the rubble of war torn Dresden and reorganizing archaeological monument protection. He made room for the required office space by rebuilding the bombed out Japanese Palace which served as his headquarters and museum. He created long term structures for an effective archaeological monument protection. On the one hand he was involved in promulgating the “Provision for the Protection and Conservation of Pre- and Early Historic Monuments” and on the other the creation and steady expansion of the network of honorary monument conservators. W. Coblenz established The State Museum for Prehistory as an internationally recognized research institution through his - politically disloyal - personal contacts to West German colleagues as well as to scholars in Central and Eastern Europe
His engaging personality forwarded the reputation of German archaeology in the east. His professional competence, his untiring will to achieve his goals and his uncompromising stand in academic questions made W. Coblenz an influential and much sought for expert despite his refusal to accept party political ties.
Between 1966 and 1980 he was head of the scholarly advisory board for monument protection in the Ministry for University and Vocational Education in the GDR and was elected to the executive committee of the Union Internationale des Science Préhistoriques et Protohistoriques at the UNESCO in 1966. W. Coblenz was a standing member of the Saxon Academy of Science, corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Science, the British Academy as well as the Austrian Society for Pre- and Early History and standing member of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI)
He wrote brilliant scholarly analysis about all epochs of pre- and early history which show profound knowledge of Saxon archaeology while taking the wide ranging integration of the “Pass Land Saxony” in surrounding prehistoric settlement regions into account, ignoring modern boarders. W. Coblenz completed his great doctorate in 1970 and was named honorary professor at the University of Leipzig. His more than 400 publications including 10 books are symptomatic of his unflagging drive to make the excavated sources and their scholarly analysis available to a large public.
True to his life he initiated the “Central- and East German Association for Ancient Research” after German reunification. He thus created a platform for scholarly exchange for colleges from all parts of Germany something he had personally espoused in defiance of the ruling ideology during the whole GDR period.
W. Coblenz died in 1995 while attending a scholarly conference in Kempten in the Allgaeu.