Berlin - An unexpected treasure trove of Berlin history: a latrine from the 14th century was discovered in 2016 during a construction-related archaeological excavation on Fischerinsel in Mitte. The Wohnungsbaugesellschaft Mitte (WBM) public housing association on Monday said it would preserve the historical toilet as part of the construction of 210 apartments at the site.
The latrine will be relocated Wednesday to first make way for construction and will then be returned to its original site. A heavy crane will be used to move the throne to temporary storage. A special outside area will ultimately house the find from the Middle Ages, possibly covered by a pavilion.
The 1.8m by 1.8m latrine was built of large-format bricks and once had a depth of almost two metres. The urban furniture is of particular historical significance because it is "one of the oldest secular brick constructions in Berlin," WBM said. The building is also an indication of the growing prosperity of the period because wood had been a more common construction material.
The toilet's relocation will be visible to the curious from the street - the site is at the corner of Mühlendamm and Fischerinsel. However, the latrine itself will be packed in protective material and no longer visible after a team of experts spent the recent weeks preparing the relic for the trip. Mortar was strengthened. Cracks were grouted. A stable packing was built around the historical object.
Building the past
WBM is building 210 rental apartments at the site that are scheduled for completion in 2023. Archaeologists were called in as preparation for the construction began in 2016-2017 because the Fischerinsel is considered part of the medieval nuclei of Berlin and Cölln, the twin predecessors to today's Berlin. Foundations, cellars, courtyards and path fortifications as well as wells and the latrine were discovered in good condition to a depth of five metres, WBM said. The oldest finds dated back to when the city was founded around 1200.
"To ensure that these important historical relics are not destroyed unseen, they must be carefully documented and the finds recovered well before construction begins," said state conservator Christoph Rauhut. The recovery of an intact building element - in this case a complete latrine - is rare, he said: "We thank WBM for dealing so responsibly with Berlin's historical heritage and even making the find publicly accessible in the future."
WBM said it too was a part of Berlin's history.
"We are happy to support the excavations on behalf of the state monuments office," WBM managing director Christina Geib said. "WBM is building a piece of the future Berlin right here in the middle, on a site where there has been an urban settlement for more than 800 years."