BARTUS, BERNARD AUGUST THEODOR LUDWIG (b. Lassan, 30 January 1858; d. Berlin, 28 January 1941), technician and a key figure of the Turfan expeditions because of his autodidactical development of methods of removing inscriptions and works of art from rock walls and ruins without their getting damaged, as well as methods of their conservation and preservation. 

Theodor was the third child of Carl Bartus (or Bartos), a master weaver, and Marie Charlotte Friederike Lorenz (for the following biographical details, see Anon., Jordan, Knüppel and van Tongerloo) .  He grew up with his brother and sister in Lassan (a town in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, in northeastern Germany), where he went to primary school.  He started his career as a sailor in the most humble way on his uncle’s sailing ship at the age of twelve or fourteen.  He first worked in the fishery business, where most of his young mates remained, but afterwards (1872-1880) he was taken on in the German Merchant Navy on long goal sailing-ships.  Between 1880 and 1887 he was employed on Australian ships.  In Australia he passed the helmsman examination and became a captain.  During his long years of seafaring he experienced many adventures, including two shipwrecks.  Once he was drifting for two weeks on the Atlantic Ocean, and at another time he roamed around together with fourteen shipmen on the keel of a boat near the Cape of Good Hope.  Years of experience in sailing boats eventually turned him into a master of all seafaring skills.  For a while he was a squatter in Australia during which he also turned into an excellent horseman.

After his return from Australia on 6 August 1887, his Melbourne bank went bankrupt; he lost all his savings and was forced to look for a job.  On 21 May 1888, he was appointed as a technician in the Berlin-Dahlem Ethnographical Museum (Völkerkundemuseum).  His skills as an experienced sailor were in great demand then, because ships that were arriving from the German colonies in the Pacific had to be repaired. Twenty years later (on 1 July 1908, antedated 1 January 1904) he was appointed supervisor of the museum’s collection (Sammlungsaufseher), and a few years later in January 1914, following his Turfan expeditions, he was promoted to assistant conservator (Hilfsrestaurator).  

Between 1902 and 1914 Bartus participated as a technical assistant in all four German Turfan Expeditions under the direction of Albert Grünwedel and Albert von Le Coq; he was the only person who participated in them all.

Already during the first expedition, Bartus developed methods of safely handling frescoes and inscriptions (described in Klimkeit, p. 36; Knüppel and van Tongerloo, p. 72).  His capabilities were described by Albert von Le Coq (Knüppel and van Tongerloo, p. 73, n. 25; cf. n. 26); Bartus was even solely responsible for the Fourth Expedition (1913-14) when Von Le Coq was taken ill with dysentery.

Bartus was active in Mesopotamia and Persia as well; in 1911-12 he traveled to Samarra on the Tigris to save frescoes (see Sarre), and in 1929, he undertook his last trip to India and Persia  to collaborate with Ernst Herzfeld in Kuh-e Ḵˇāja in Sistān.

Until his death in January 1941, Bartus worked for the Völkerkundemuseum, primarily for the conservation of Turfan materials and their preparation for exhibition.  He was pensioned on 31 March 1923, but carried on working in the Museum on the basis of renewable contracts. His diary, which contained significant pieces of information, seems to have been lost, most probably destroyed during World War II.




G., “Theodor Bartus†,” Berliner Museen: Berichte aus den Preussischen Kunstsammlungen 62/1-2. 1941, p. 21.



Anon., “Bartus, Theodor,” in Grete Grewolls, ed., Wer war wer in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern? Ein Personenlexikon, Bremen, 1995, p.  32.

Bernd Jordan, “Theodor Bartus: Ein Pommer in Ostturkestan,” Beiträge zur Lassaner Heimatgeschichte 3, 1993, pp. 4-7.

Idem, “Theodor Bartus (1858–1941),” Heimathefte für Mecklenburg und Vorpommern 10/4, 2000, pp. 29-30.

Idem, “Ein Lassaner in Ost-Turkestan: die Lebensstationen des Theodor Bartus,” Heimatkurier, 2001, no. 12, p. IV.

Aloïs van Tongerloo and Michael Knüppel, “Theodor Bartus und die Turfan-Forschung,” in Indo-Asiatische Zeitschrift 15, 2011, pp. 70a – 82b.


References to Bartus.

Anon., Expedition Samarra,” Der Islam (Strassburg) 3, 1912, pp. 314-16.

Mary Boyce, A Catalogue of the Iranian Manuscripts in Manichaean Script in the German Turfan Collection, Institut für Orientforschung 45, Berlin 1960.

Caren Dreyer, “Bemerkungen zu den Turfan-Akten,” Indo-Asiatische Zeitschrift 11, 2007, pp. 33-42. 

Hannes A. Fellner, “The Expeditions to Tocharistan,” in Melanie Malzahn, ed., Instrumenta Tocharica, Indogermanische Bibliothek 1, Heidelberg, 2007, pp. 13-36. 

Heinrich Gerhard Franz, Kunst und Kultur entlang der Seidenstrasse, Graz, 1986.

Günter Grönbold, “Grünwedels Naropa-Handschrift,” Central Asian Journal 4 1974, pp. 251-52.

Albert Grünwedel, Bericht über archäologische Arbeiten in Idikutschari und Umgebung im Winter 1902–1903, Munich, 1906. 

Idem, Altbuddhistische Kultstätten in Chinesisch Turkistan: Bericht über archäologische Arbeiten von 1906 bis 1907 bei Kuča, Qarašahr und in der Oase Turfan, Berlin, 1912.

Ernst Herzfeld, Erster vorläufiger Bericht über die Ausgrabungen von Samarra, Forschungen zur islamischen Kunst 2, Berlin, 1912.

Idem, “Bericht über die Ausgrabungen von Pasargadae 1928,” AMI 1, 1929, pp. 4-16.

Idem, “Sakestan, Geschichtliche Untersuchungen zu den Ausgrabungen am Kūh-e Khwādja,” AMI 4, 1931-32, pp. 1-116.

Idem, Steinzeitlicher Hügel bei Persepolis, Iranische Denkmäler 1/A–B, 1932.

Helmut Hoffmann, “Ein Bild Grünwedels,” in W. Rau, ed., Bilder hundert deutscher Indologen, Wiesbaden, 1965, p. 60.

Idem, “Albert Grünwedel,” Neue Deutsche Biographie VII, Berlin, 1966, pp. 204-5.

Hans-Joachim Klimkeit, Die Seidenstrasse: Handelsweg und Kulturbrücke zwischen Morgen- und Abendland, Köln, 1988.

Michael Knüppel, “Theodor Bartus (1858–1941): Anmerkungen zu seinem siebzigsten Todestag,” Pommern: Zeitschrift für Kultur und Geschichte 4, 2010, pp. 14-18.

Albert V. Le Coq, “A Short Account of the Origin, Journey, and Results of the First Royal Prussian (second German) Expedition to Turfan in Chinese Turkistan,” JRAS, 1909, pp. 299-322.

Idem, “Reise und Ergebnisse der zweiten Deutschen Turfan-Expedition,” Mitteilungen der Geographischen Gesellschaft in München 5, 1910, pp. 175-88.

Idem, “Reisewege und Ergebnisse der deutschen Turfanexpeditionen,” Orientalisches Archiv 3, 1912, pp. 116-27.

Idem, Chotscho: Facsimile-Wiedergaben der wichtigeren Funde der Ersten Preussischen Expedition nach Turfan in Ost-Turkistan, Berlin, 1913.

Idem, “Die vierte Deutsche Turfanexpedition,” Túrán. Zeitschrift für osteuropäische, vorder- und innerasiatische Studien: Anzeiger der Ungarischen Orientalischen Kulturzentrale, Budapest, 1918, pp. 7-24.

Idem, Auf Hellas Spuren in Ost-Turkestan: Bericht und Abenteuer der II. und III. deutschen Turfan Expedition, Leipzig, 1926; Eng. Version: Buried Treasures of Chinese Turkestan: An Account of the Activities and Adventures of the Second and Third German Turfan Expeditions, London, 1928.

Idem, Von Land und Leuten in Ostturkestan: Berichte und Abenteuer der 4. deutschen Turfanexpedition, Leipzig, 1928.

R. E. G. Müller, “Albert Grünwedel,” Mitteilungen zur Geschichte der Medizin: der Naturwissenschaften und der Technik 35, 1936, p. 255.

Friedrich Sarre, “Die Aufstellung der Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen von Samarra im Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum,” Berliner Museen: Berichte aus den Preussischen Kunstsammlungen 43/5-6, pp. 49-60.

J. Schubert, “A. Grünwedel und sein Werk,” Artibus Asiae 6, 1936-37, pp. 124-42.

Valentina Stache-Rosen, German Indologists: Biographies of Scholars in Indian Studies Writing in German, New Delhi, 1981, pp. 138-40.

Ernst Waldschmidt, “Albert Grünwedel,” Ostasiatische Zeitschrift, N. S. 11/5, 1935, pp. 204-19.

Harmut Walravens, “Albert Grünwedels Briefwechsel: Eine neue Quelle zur Vorgeschichte des Museums für Indische Kunst,” Jahrbuch Preussischer Kulturbesitz 25, 1988, pp. 125-50.

Idem, Albert Grünwedel: Briefe und Dokumente, Wiesbaden, 2001. 

Idem, “Albert Grünwedel: Leben und Werk,” in Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst et al., eds., Turfan Revisited: The First Century of Research into the Arts and Cultures of the Silk Road, Monographien zur indischen Archäologie, Kunst und Philologie 17, Berlin, 2004, pp. 363-70.

Choros Zaturpanskii (i.e., Alber Le Coq), “Reisewege und Ergebnisse der deutschen Turfanexpeditionen,” Orientalisches Archiv 3. 1912, pp. 116-27.

(Aloïs van Tongerloo)

Originally Published: March 5, 2015

Last Updated: March 5, 2015

Cite this entry:

Aloïs van Tongerloo, "BARTUS, BERNARD AUGUST THEODOR LUDWIG," Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2015, available at (accessed on 05 March 2015).