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2007 | 52 | 1-2 | 7-14

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Professor Hensel: co-organizer and long-standing director (from 1954) of the Institute of the History of Material Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences, now the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology in Warsaw, member of PAN, doctor honoris causa of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, member of many Polish and foreign scientific institutions and organizations, initiator and president of the First International Congress of Slavic Archaeology in 1965, and next the President of International Union of Slavic Archaeology, member of the Honorary Committee of the International Union of Pre- and Protohistoric Sciences was laureate of many awards. In 1938 he graduated with an MA in prehistory from the Poznan University. In 1936-1937 he directed fieldwork in Gniezno, Klecko and Poznan. After the end of the Nazi occupation he began lecturing at the Catholic University in Lublin (receiving his PhD there in 1945), and in 1946 at the Poznan University, where two years later he submitted his habilitation thesis. The establishment of the Institute of the History of Material Culture was an important event in his professional, as well as personal life. He co-organized the institution and directed it for many years. His inspiration was the idea of celebrating the thousandth anniversary of the Baptism of Poland and the emergence of Polish statehood: The Millennium Poloniae Program was put into life by a young, enthusiastic group of scholars with a whole world of scientific opportunities opening before them in a country recovering from a ruinous war. The number of archaeological sites investigated between 1944 and 1964 reached 722, most of them connected with the founding of the Polish State. Quantitative growth was not the only source of pride. Another important change that occurred at this time was a new approach to studies of historical processes, largely under the impact of the Paris Annales School, which was then the most modern center close in its methodological principles to Marxist thinking. On his part W. Hensel introduced elements of modern sociology to the interpretation of the archaeological record. Another outstanding achievement of the Institute was the contribution to large-scale studies of the oldest history of our lands and Central Europe. These monumental works, realized gradually in 1975-1986, have become a canon of Polish archaeology, ethnology, anthropology and history of material culture. The Institute's achievements are of enduring significance for the history of science concerned with the social past. A measurable result of postwar development in the field of the archaeology of Poland, especially Early Medieval archaeology, was the fact that from the mid 1950s Poland started acting as a center of lively medievalist studies and cooperation on an international scale. Polish archaeologists cooperated in Italy, France, Bulgaria and Macedonia conducting also training in excavation methods and gave lectures in Central Europe. In all these activities Professor Hensel played a leading role. Without his leadership and initiative Polish archaeology would not be the discipline with the kind of scientific achievements that are ascribed to it today.








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  • S. Tabaczynski, Instytut Archeologii i Etnologii PAN, al. Solidarnosci 105, 00-140 Warszawa, Poland


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