International Journal of Historical Archaeology

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 574–592 | Cite as

The Fragment and the Testimony: Reflections on Absence and Time in the Archaeology of Prisons and Camps

  • Maresi StarzmannEmail author


The archaeological record forms around historical silences—moments of effacement, removal, or obliteration of traces of the past. Drawing on research conducted at a former Nazi forced labor camp in Berlin, Germany, I view historical silences as the interplay of inscriptions and erasures that constitute archaeological palimpsests. Highlighting both the fragmentary state of the archaeological record and the tangled nature of time, I consider archaeology a form of historical testimony. Taking a cue from an archival art project, archaeology offers new historical possibilities by engaging aspects of the material world that cannot easily be traced, disentangled, or contained.


Archive Fragment Palimpsest Testimony 



This paper benefitted greatly from a close reading by Verity Whalen, who I would like to thank for identifying occasional stylistic idiosyncrasies as well as for offering gentle criticism on how to improve content. Much thanks is owed to Ella Littwitz for engaging in a sustained conversation about her artwork with me and for providing high resolution images for this publication.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyBinghamton UniversityBinghamtonUSA
  2. 2.The Museum of Modern Art/MoMA PS1Long Island CityUSA

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