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Karl Hauck

21st December 1916 - 8th May 2007

Appreciation by
Martin Rundkvist

An old sorcerer has passed away. Karl Hauck was the single most influential contributor to the iconology, the interpretation of mythological imagery, of first millennium AD Northern Europe. Hauck's interpretations built upon solid knowledge of later written sources, most importantly the Icelandic literature of the High Middle Ages. They were sometimes fanciful, always creative, and quite impossible to ignore for anyone working in that field.

Writes Hagen Keller on the University of Münster website (www.uni-muenster.de/Fruehmittelalter/Personen/Hauck-nachruf.htm) (and I translate): "On 8 May Karl Hauck died, aged 90. He was the founder of the Institute for Early Medieval Studies and former professor of Medieval History at the University of Münster. [...] Born in Leipzig on 21 December in 1916, Hauck began his studies at the university of that city. After being severely wounded in the war, he could continue his studies in Strasbourg, where he received a PhD in 1942 and a Dr habil. in 1943. [...] Hauck remained active for many years after his 1982 retirement as a scholar and research organiser among the medievalist scholars of Münster, and took part in the discussion within his field until the end of his life.

Having published works on medieval historiography and historical fiction, on symbols of lordship and on royal palaces, Hauck concentrated entirely on the Early Middle Ages (c. AD 500-800). He studied contact zones between the Mediterranean and ancient German cultures, between pagan and Christian religion. The centre of his interests was the coasts of the Baltic and North Seas and Scandinavia in the fifth and sixth centuries. Working together with scholars from several neighbouring disciplines, Hauck opened entirely new avenues to this bygone world through a systematic catalogue and painstaking interpretation of over 900 gold bracteates and the elucidation of their religious, lordly and societal background."

Among the tropes Hauck read into the bracteate iconography was that of Odin as an ecstatic shaman with the ability to travel among the worlds. Our mutual friend Jan Peder Lamm once commented that the greatest shaman and visionary was in fact Hauck himself.