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Ancient Public Library Discovered in Germany

The oldest public library in Germany, built almost 2,000 years ago, was discovered in the middle of Cologne, Germany, a small 2,000-year-old city on the Rhine River. Cologne is one of Germany’s oldest cities was founded by the Romans in 50 AD under the name Colonia.

The walls remaining from the library were discovered in 2017 during an excavation near a Protestant church in the center of the city. The discovery of holes in the wall measuring around 80cm by 50cm, initially surprised the archeologists.

Dr. Dirk Schmitz from the Roman-Germanic Museum of Cologne said, “It took us some time to match up the parallels, we could see the niches were too small to bear statues inside. But what they are are kind of cupboards for the scrolls.” Dr.Schmitz remarked that the niches are similar to those in the library in Ephesus, a city in Turkey. He couldn’t estimate the exact number of scrolls in the library, but he believed it would have been “quite huge- maybe 20,000.” He concluded that the library would have been slightly smaller than the popular library at Ephesus, which was created in 117AD. Dr. Schmitz said that the discovery was “really incredible-- a spectacular find.”

“It dates from the middle of the second century and is at a minimum the earliest library in Germany, and perhaps in the North-West Roman provinces,” Dr. Schmitz added. “Perhaps there are a lot of Roman towns that have libraries, but they haven’t been excavated. If we had just found the foundations, we wouldn’t have known it was a library. It was because it had walls, with the niches, that we could tell.”

The archaeologists concluded that the building would have been used as a public library, because of its size and location. According to Dr.Schmitz, “It is in the middle of Cologne, in the marketplace, or forum: the public space in the city center. It is built of very strong materials, and such buildings, because they are so huge, were public.”

The walls will be kept, along with the three niches, to be able to be viewed by the public in the cellar of the Protestant church community center, which is currently being built around it.

[Source: The Guardian.com]

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