Treasures from the Rhine: The Barbarian Treasure of Neupotz

Neues Museum

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© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte / Claudia Klein

For many years the sole occupant of the Neues Museum’s Bacchussaal was the Xanten Boy, a Roman bronze statue discovered in the Rhine near Xanten by fishermen in 1858. Now the bronze youth is being joined by a wealth of other exhibits: iron tools and waggon parts, padlocks and shackles, bronze cauldrons and silverware. The “Barbarian Treasure of Neupotz” – lost in the waters of the Rhine in the 3rd century AD – will join the permanent exhibition of the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte as an additional attraction over the next few years.

Most of the objects lost long ago in the Rhine came originally from private Roman houses. They include simple kitchen utensils and cooking pots, as well as valuable tableware for serving food and drink and mixing wine. Many pieces show signs of intensive use: wear and tear, repairs and patches. They bring us closer to the people who once used them in their everyday lives. So, too, do the iron tools – Roman axes, tongs and picks, for example – whose shapes still look familiar to us today; they have changed little over the centuries. Padlocks and heavy iron fittings from Roman goods waggons demonstrate the high standard of ancient technology. Ankle fetters remind us of the less civilized aspects of Roman society. Furthermore, the dedicatory inscriptions on many of the pieces suggest that they were taken from shrines.

In the appropriate ambience of the Bacchussaal, with its decor inspired by Pompeiian wall-paintings, a cross-section of the metal finds from Neupotz will be exhibited in two display cabinets and two table display cases. The selection will give an overview of the wide range of objects found. The Xanten Boy, who has stood in the Bacchussaal since the Neues Museum reopened, will remain in place. He, too, was lost in the Rhine, as far back as the 1st century AD. He was once a “dumb waiter” in the home of a distinguished Roman, offering guests food and drinks from a tray. Like the Neupotz treasure, he is thought to have been lost in the Rhine as a result of unrest. So they go well together – the Xanten Boy and the Treasure of Neupotz: the treasures from the Rhine.

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