(1Landesdenkmalamt Berlin, Germany / 2 Berlin, Germany)

Keywords: Berlin, early modern period, medical-anatomical activities in the late 17th century

During archaeological fieldwork on the area of the so-called ‘Great Jewish Courtyard’ five skeletons in situ, an emptied burial pit and a single human bone were uncovered. The so-called Jewish Courtyard is an early modern ensemble grouped around a small central yard in the heart of Berlin. Due to the fact that the French Church (consecrated in 1726) was situated only a few meters from the excavation ground, it seemed likely that the dead once belonged to the French Reformed Parish. A closer look at the Church records revealed that the parish did not posess a cemetery around its church. They buried their dead in the other three burial grounds of early modern Berlin. Furthermore there was no evidence in the records of ‘catastrophic events’ in the period of the Thirty Years’ War, during which the inhabitants might have buried their dead within the city walls but outside regular graveyards.
Finds in the pits as well as the stratigraphy dated the burials to the 2nd half of the 17th century. Osteological and traumatological examinations have been undertaken; marks on the bones indicate that the five dead once lived in poor economic conditions; moreover, two of them died a violent death. More historical research was necessary to answer the question as to why they were not buried in a regular cemetery: before the building plot for the church was bought by the French Reformed Parish in 1720, it belonged to the medical Doctor Philipp Sigismund Stosch. Over a ten year period, between 1680 and 1690, he was part of the medical staff of the Brandenburg electoral court in Berlin, working as a medical attendant. He then moved to Küstrin which was then in the Electorate of Brandenburg (today Kostryn Nad Odra, Poland). There he worked as superior public MD and later even became Mayor of the town. From 1698 he became a member of the oldest German Academy of Naturalists. Very little known about the ten years that Doctor Stosch spent in Berlin and any medical-anatomical activities he might have been involved in there. The five skeletons found in the backyard of his then residence, shed a rather suspicious light on his work.