Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the "Land" (federal state) in Germany with the longest coastline (about 1400 km) and hundreds of lakes, covering 5,4% of the whole state area of the "Land".

In 1993 a new law for the protection of the cultural heritage was introduced, including the variety of archaeological underwater finds. The responsibility for most of the archaeological projects lies in the hands of the "Landesamt für Bodendenkmalpflege und Archäologisches Landesmuseum Mecklenburg-Vorpommern" (agency for the protection of archaeological heritage and state museum for the federal state of M.V.). Some of the most important results of archaeological work underwater are on display in a newly founded museum at Sassnitz, located on the isle of Rügen

Due to the massive building activity in the new federal states, which made up the former GDR, there is a considerable amount of archaeological work to be done in eastern Germany.

To assist the Landesamt in keeping control with all the known archaeological sites and in finding new ones, traditionally hundreds of enthusiasts keep an eye on all sorts of building and farming activity. In the field of underwater archaeology this work is done by the "Landesverband für Unterwasserarchäologie" (Association For Underwater Archaeology), founded in 1992 (with its origin dating back to 1982).

MS "Seefuchs" - our research vessel
(Foto: R. Obst)


During the last few years there has been increasing activity in the field of registering and protecting underwater finds from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

The rich prehistoric heritage includes now submerged stone age settlements along the coastline as well as e.g. slavonic and middle-age boat finds, bridges and fortresses. Here is a short overview of the different sources:


For thousands of years man has travelled the waters of the Baltic Sea and the lakes of what is now Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for fishing, trading or - robbing. Storms, bad seamanship, military action frequently resulted in the loss of vessels - now the basic source for scientific research. Very often it is not the ship in question alone which is important, but the whole assembly of the wreck, debris and cargo as a "time-capsule". Here we can gather information about trade, war and everyday life aboard.
Today at least 900 positions of shipwrecks are known for sure, but there are considerable more losses known from written sources and a great deal of them can be expected to be found in the future by archaeological survey projects of the Landesamt in co-operation with the Landesverband. You will find two expamles by following these links: Ahrenshoop-wreck (19th century) and Gellen-wreck (14th century).

Settlement sites and other landbound activity

Based on postglacial changes in sea level former dryland settlement sites of the stone age can now be found below sea level in parts of the southern Baltic. Especially such famous sites like Tybrind Vig in Denmark have shown the potential of organic finds of textile or ornamented woodwork - very exceptional on land but common under water. It seems to be just a question of time before similar material is found in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, as is indicated by finds of flint along the coastline (have a look at mesolithic settlements in the bay of Wismar).
We meet a somewhat different situation in the lake districts of M.V. The slavonic tribes which began to occupy the (in the course of the migration period) deserted areas in the 6th century AD quite often settled on the islands of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern's many lakes. These islands were connected to the mainland by bridges and ferries, the traces of which we can find under water. Even some of the islands became flooded in those cases, where later in the middle ages the water level was raised to make use of watermills. At this time, it even became more and more common to use the lakes as dump areas - a gift to today's archaeologists.
A case of their own class are isolated finds in rivers. They very often show up in the course of dredging activities, but occasionally we find them in situ with valuable information about the various circumstances of deposition. An example can be seen under Warnow, close to the town of Schwaan.

Castles - Kemladen

Kemladen (sing. "Kemlade" - a word with roots in Kemenate and the latin "caminata" - a room, which it was possible to warm up) a special form of castles, belong to the middle ages as well. They are known from the 13/14th century as the castles of feudal knights, who tried to revolt against their overlords. As a consequence they lost the right to build a regular castle and were left with the option of building a fortified platform in a lake, supported on poles driven into the ground.


Very often we find rows of stakes and poles in rivers and lakes. These may very well tell us something about bridges of historic age, dating back to the slavonic occupation or the middle ages.

Harbour facilities

Not only restricted to the major cities of the Hanseatic League, but also associated with minor trading places, traces of harbour-structures and protective measures for sailing lanes can be found. They often consist of poles, stone heaps or box-shaped wooden constructions filled up with stones. As they must have been very expensive to erect and maintain, they bear witness to the specific places' economic importance at a given time. You could have a look at an example at Rostocks river outlet to the Baltic.
Please, have also a look at the Harbour of Wismar ( only german, sorry !)

Blockages and fortifications

Known from the migration period and Viking age Denmark, important sailing lanes were secured or even blocked in times of trouble by sunken ships, poles or the like. In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern we know of such blockages from written sources and archaeological evidence from the middel ages on. Later fortifications were established in different conflicts between the Danish, Swedish and German parties up to the 19th century, including even the French during the napoleonic wars.

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