Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Thomsen, Christian Jürgensen

  • Poul-Otto NielsenEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_808

Basic Biographical Information

Christian Jürgensen Thomsen (1788–1865) organized the major Danish museum collections in the mid-nineteenth century and became famous for introducing the Three-Age System, the division of prehistoric time in a Stone, Bronze, and Iron Age (Fig. 1). He was born in Copenhagen as son of a wealthy merchant, whose business he carried on after the death of his father in 1833. As a young man, he developed an excellent knowledge of numismatics, history, and art, and he made personal acquaintance with many of the young artists of that time. In spite of having no academic background, in 1816, he became secretary of the Royal Commission for the Preservation of Antiquities, established in 1807, obtaining official membership of the Commission in 1827. Besides being responsible for the Museum for Nordic Antiquities (Fig. 2), Thomsen became the organizer of other museum collections in the 1840s and 1950s. From 1830, he was a member of a commission organizing the Royal...
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  1. Gräslund, B. 1981. The background to C.J. Thomsen’s three age system, in G. Daniel (ed.) Towards a history of archaeology: 45-50. London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  2. Gundestrup, B. 1985. From the Royal Kunstkammer to the modern museums of Copenhagen, in O. Impey & A. MacGregor (ed.) The origins of museums. The cabinet of curiosities in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe: 128-134. Oxford: Clarendon Press (2nd edn. 2001).Google Scholar
  3. Hermansen, V. 1941. C.J. Thomsen and the founding of the ethnographical museum, in Ethnographical studies, published on the occasion the centenary of the ethnographical department, the National Museum (Nationalmuseets Skrifter, Etnografisk Række I: 11-27).Google Scholar
  4. Stjernquist, B. 2005. The historical museum and archaeological research at Lund University 1805-2005 (Papers of the Historical Museum, University of Lund 1). Lund: The Historical Museum.Google Scholar
  5. Thomsen, C.J. 1848. A guide to northern archaeology. Edited for the use of English readers by the Earl of Ellesmere. London.Google Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Christian Jürgensen Thomsen1788 – 29. December – 1988. Aarbøger for Nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie 1988. Copenhagen: Det Kongelige Nordiske Oldskriftselskab (with English summaries).Google Scholar
  2. Jensen, J. 1992. Thomsens museum. Historien om Nationalmuseet. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.Google Scholar
  3. Klindt-Jensen, O. 1975. A history of Scandinavian archaeology. London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  4. Rowley-Conwy, P. 2007. From genesis to prehistory. The archaeological three age system and its contested reception in Denmark, Britain, and Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Trigger, B. 1989. A history of archaeological thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The National MuseumCopenhagenDenmark