- Also known as
primary name: Ohnefalsch-Richter, Max
- individual; archaeologist; academic/intellectual; dealer/auction house; German; Male
- Life dates
- Archaeologist, antiquity dealer and scholar active on Cyprus between 1879 and 1910. Born in Saxony, Germany in 1850, Max Ohnefalsch-Richter arrived in Cyprus in 1878 just after the beginning of the British administration to pursue a career in journalism. He turned his hand to archaeology and soon began to act as an official agent for the British government and the British Museum (on behalf of Sir Charles Newton), as well as carrying out excavations for institutions and private clients from 1879 until 1890 when he left the island; during this time he also dealt in antiquities and conducted research into the early history of the island, particularly on the religion of ancient Cyprus, which gained him a doctorate at Leipzig University in 1891. He made two further visits to Cyprus, in 1894-1895 and 1910, conducting excavations during both periods, including at the sanctuary of Rantidi near Palaepaphos. Ohnefalsch-Richter died in Berlin in 1917.
His career on Cyprus marks the slow progress of archaeological methods and ethics from an essentially private activity conducted for profit to a more principled discipline carried out for historical purposes and within an official framework. The large number of excavations he conducted (listed in the Catalogue of the Cyprus Museum (CCM) which he wrote with John Myres, see below) were never published systematically or in detail. Both published and manuscript accounts of his discoveries, including various plans and descriptions of find-spots, suggest that his methods were a great improvement on those of the majority of his predecessors. Many of the finds can still be traced in the museums of Europe, especially in London and Berlin.
Ohnefalsch-Richter's complex and forceful character meant that he frequently clashed with his clients and colleagues. He was certainly rather poorly treated and underpaid by his employers in the British administration because (he claimed) of his foreign origin; what he believed to be complacent or neglectful attitudes to the importance of antiquties was also a reason for his sense of frustration. He also felt that he was given insufficient credit for the importance of his discoveries, as shown by his poor relations with Myres during the preparation of the CCM
At the same time, his qualities as a scholar were questioned, sometimes unfairly and from malice, while his role in the Warren v. Watkins case had compromised his public reputation. Also, despite claims to scientific rigour - expressed for instance in strong attacks on the excavations of Cesnola and on the published interpretations of the Cyprus Exploration Fund's finds at Marion (from which work he was excluded), neither his methods nor his ethics were above reproach: in particular, his commerical dealings in antiquities reveal a great deal of shrewd and calculated behaviour, especially as throughout his career he relied heavily on selling his personal collection to earn a living; he also apparently maintained contacts with tomb robbers, and was even caught trying to smuggle antiquties from the island in 1910. This earned him the censure of the authorities who banned him from further excavations on the island.
His main publication 'Kypros, the Bible and Homer. Oriental civilization, art and religion in ancient times' (which appeared in both English and German in 1893) is a remarkable, sprawling mass of archaeological detail, iconographic analysis and (often questionable) cross-cultural parallels. The first part of this work, based on an earlier publication, his doctoral thesis 'Ancient places of worship on Cyprus' of 1891, however is a valuable source of information on the many sacntuaries he excavated, including plans and drawings of the sites themselves and of finds which have subsequently been dispersed or lost. His important work on Idalion and Tamssos was never published, but the manuscript in Berlin remains an important source of information about these two ancient city-kingdoms.
Excavations: Achna (1882, for the BM), Ayia Paraskevi (1884-1885), Ag. Iannis tis Malluntas (1883), Ayios Sozomenos (1894), Alambra (1883, for BM), Amathus (1885), Idalion (1883, for the BM, and at various times between 1885 and 1895), Katydata and Linou (1883 and 1885), Kerynia (1883), Khytroi (1883), Kition (1879-1882, for BM), Goshi (1881, for BM), Ktima (1885), Koutrapha/ Nikitari (1885), Kourion (1883-1885), Laxia tou Riou (1885), Lapithos (1883), Lithargiais/ Pera (1889), Lythrodonta (1885), Mari (1881, for BM), Marion (1885-1886, some items now in BM), Ormidhia (1882, for BM), Phoenikiais (1883, for BM), Psammetismeno (1885), Rantidi (1910), Salamis (1880, for BM), Soloi (1883), Tamassos/ Politiko (1885, 1889, 1894), Tremithusa (1883), Xylotymbou (1882, for BM).
[List based on Myres & Ohnefalsch-Richter, Catalogue of the Cyprus Museum (1899), pp 1-12].
- Brehme S. 2001, 'Max Ohnefalsch-Richter (1850-1917)', in S. Brehme et al. Ancient Cypriote art in Berlin (Nicosia), 23-6.
Buchholz H-G. 1989, 'Max Ohnefalsch-Richter als Archäologe auf Zypern', CCEC 11/12.
Fivel L. [= O. Masson] 1989, 'Ohnefalsch-Richer (1850-1917), Essai de bibliographie', CCEC 11-12 (1989), 23-40
[contains a list of O-R's publications, augmented and corrected in Krpata 1992]
Fivel L. [= O. Masson] 1994, 'Letter de Max Ohnefalsch-Richter à A.H. Smith, 1912', CCEC 21, 23-8.
Krpata M. 1992, 'Max Hermann Ohnefalsch-Richter. Bibliography and biographical remarks', RDAC 1992, 337-41
Kiely, T. 2018, ‘Auf Max Ohnefalsch-Richters Spuren im British Museum’, in: S.G. Schmid and S.G. Horacek (eds.), "I don´t know what am I myself, it is so very difficult to explain". Max Ohnefalsch-Richter (1850-1917) und die Archäologie Zyperns (Berlin: DAI 2018).
Merrillees R and Krpata M. 1997, 'Schliemann and Ohnefalsch-Richter: The Cyprus connection', CCEC 27, 137-43
Merrillees R. 2000, 'Max Ohnefalsch-Richter and the British', in P.Åström and D. Sürenhagen (eds), Periplus. Festschrift für Hans-Günter Buchholz zu seinem achtzigsten Geburtstag am 24. Dezember 1999 (Jonsered).
Masson O. 1985, 'Les visites de Max Ohnefalsch-Richter à Kouklia (Ancienne-Paphos)', CCEC 3, 19-28.
Ohnefalsch-Richter M. 1891, Ancient places of worship in Cyprus/Die antiken Kultusstätten auf Kypros (Berlin: H.S. Hermann)
[MOR's PhD dissertation from Leipzig University. The introduction to the volume (pp. 1-X is extremely valuable for its biographical information. This was not reproduced in his expanded 1893 study whose first section is otherwise essentially the same text]
Ohnefalsch-Richter M. 1893, Kypros, the Bible and Homer/Cypern, die Bibel und Homer (London; Berlin: Asher)
[his many asides provide much personal testimony about his activities]
Tatton-Brown V. ed 2001, Cyprus in the 19th century AD. Fact, fancy and fiction (London, 2001)
[papers by Brönner, Buchholz, Violaris, Given etc on various aspects of OR's activities].