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Prehistory and Protohistory

Degree Master of Arts
Application required access-restricted
Course commences winter semester / summer semester
Standard course duration 4 semesters
Format options full-time only
Language requirements certified proficiency in Latin (on application);
Englisch, another modern foreign language (on application)
Language of instruction German
Other features postgraduate / consecutive

Faculty of Philosophy


Course outline

Though obviously historical in its perspectives, Prehistory and Protohistory is essentially a part of cultural studies. It draws upon material remains (finds and findings) to investigate the environment and the economic and social structures in which the early humans lived their lives. To the extent that relevant material evidence has survived, it also looks at art, customs and religion. Accordingly, its aim is to analyse and reconstruct culture-historical connections and developments operative in times and places prior to those for which written records have come down to us.

The space of time covered by the subject begins with the first appearance of humans and ends with the first advent of a reasonable abundance of written sources coeval with the archaeological traces. The criterion determining such spatial and temporal definitions is the point in history at which significant script cultures emerge from earlier pre- and protohistorical developments.

Prehistory (Urgeschichte) covers a period stretching from the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic Ages to the Copper (Chalcolithic and Eneolithic), Bronze and Iron Ages. Its sources are geoarchaeological and its methodologies differ significantly from those employed in historical subjects (in the narrower sense of the term). Due to its close connections with the natural sciences, research on the Palaeolithic Age has developed into a discipline in its own right. Protohistory (Frühgeschichte) investigates cultural developments in Europe from late Antiquity/Völkerwanderung to the onset of the Middle Ages with reference mainly to archaeological evidence but also to historical sources. Though not regionally defined, Prehistory and Protohistory focuses largely on Europe and adjacent areas in Eurasia and North Africa.

Course structure

The course takes four semesters to complete and can be taken as a main (major) subject (70 CP) or a subsidiary (minor) subject (20 CP). The taught classes in the first three semesters are designed to deepen and extend the knowledge and skills acquired in the B.A. course and to enable students to opt for a study emphasis in line with their interests. As in the B.A. course, practical skills (field research projects, surveying, working with CAD programmes and databases) and excursions figure prominently.

If taken as a main subject, the course ends in the fourth semester with the M.A. thesis and an oral examination. Students graduate from the degree programme with the academic title “Master of Arts”.

Subsidiary (minor) subject

In this programme, M.A. students need to acquire 20 CP in a subsidiary (minor) subject. You will find a list of all the subsidiary subjects on offer here.

The M.A. course in Prehistory and Protohistory can also be studied as a subsidiary (minor) subject accounting for 20 CP.

Main research interests

At the Heidelberg Institute, the later stages of Prehistory (Neolithic Period to Iron Age) in central and southern Europe are a major focus in research and teaching, with special emphasis on the early Aegean period (beginning of the Neolithic Age to the Minoan-Mycenaean civilisation) and on issues in settlement archaeology. There are also research and teaching focuses in Protohistory. Fieldwork in south-west Germany is a prominent feature.

Formal requirements


Access to the course is restricted. The current Admission Regulations are available here.

Prospective students from Germany

Prospective students from Germany can enrol without prior application at the Central University Administration building by the beginning of the lecture period. To matriculate, they are required to show a written statement of admission issued by the representative of the Master’s programme they wish to attend, confirming that the requirements set out in the Admission Regulations have been met. Please apply to the Department of Prehistory, Protohistory and Near Eastern Archaeology for further information on how to proceed.

International prospective students

Prospective students from other countries must apply in writing, so that their previous academic record can be verified. The deadlines for international applicants are 15 June for the winter semester and 15 November for the summer semester. Applications must be addressed directly to the International Relations Office. Please use the M.A. application form available here and enclose the necessary documents.

Further information

Current information on procedure

Study and examination regulations

Examination regulations M.A. (25 July 2007)
Examination regulations M.A. (14 April 2011)
Examination regulations M.A. (14 April 2011, amended 25 July 2013)

Module Handbook

Please click here to find the latest Module Handbook (see „Modulhandbücher“).

Examinations board

Issues arising in connection with examinations, credit transfer and academic credential recognition are dealt with by the relevant examinations board/office. For more information, consult the academic advisor(s) indicated below.


Tuition fees at Heidelberg University are payable at the beginning of each semester.

Academic advisor

Susanne Prillwitz, M.A.
Sandgasse 7
Tue 4 pm - 6 pm (outside term-time by appointment)
phone: +49 (0)6221-54-2544


Department of Prehistory, Protohistory and Near Eastern Archaeology
Sandgasse 7
D-69117 Heidelberg


Daniela Wacker, Office 321
phone: +49 (0)6221 542540
fax: +49 (0)6221 542526


Student representation

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Latest Revision: 2019-02-26
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