Faculty of PhilosophyPrehistory and Protohistory

Pre- and protohistory is an archaeological discipline. The subject (re)constructs history by using material culture as a unique historical source of information about past societies, from the first appearance of man to the most recent past.

Pre- and protohistory is a historically focussed discipline within the field of cultural studies. Pre- and protohistory uses material legacies (artefacts and findings) as a basis for research into the environment, economy, settlement patterns and social structures of early human populations, as well as art, customs and religion. Archaeological research questions clearly fall within the realm of cultural studies, but have strong links to other disciplines from the natural and social sciences. Research is concerned with the analysis and reconstruction of historical contexts, and the transformation of these beyond, or at odds with written representations.

Special Features and Characteristics

The Institute in Heidelberg has a long tradition of research into the Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean and in particular, in Mycenaean Greece. As a secondary specialism, the Institute focusses on Central and Western Europe between the late Antique period and the High Middle Ages.  

Teaching and learning are offered in collaboration with the Institute of Earth Sciences, it draws on approaches from the field of cultural studies, and uses processes from the natural sciences to determine the date and origin of materials. Practical teaching focusses on the techniques involved in archaeological excavation and surveying. The Institute cooperates with numerous monument preservation institutions in the surrounding federal states, and with the German Archaeological Institute (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, DAI) and partners abroad. 

The Institute boasts an extremely well stocked library with literature focussing on the regions of Southern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean in the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age. The library also stocks literature on methodical and theoretical approaches.


Research at the Institute in Heidelberg focusses on early prehistory (Neolithic period to the Ice Age) in Central and South Eastern Europe. Research questions consider in particular the early Aegean period (from the beginning of the Neolithic period to the Minoan and Mycenaean civilisations) and settlement archaeology. Research and teaching also considers the late Antique period and High Middle Ages in Central and Western Europe. Field research is also undertaken in South-west Germany.

Occupational Areas

Graduates of a degree programme in pre- and protohistory may pursue a career in a number of fields. The majority of graduates will find employment in archaeological monument conservation, and increasingly, in commercial archaeology (excavation firms). In addition, graduates go on to conduct disciplinary or interdisciplinary research, teach in the university sector, or find employment in education, administration or public relations. 

Such posts are often held at the German Archaeological Institute in federal states, in museums, universities, public and private research institutions, localities and towns, as well as in private excavation firms and additional service providers. 

Graduates might also seek employment in the field of culture and knowledge management, or in the media industry.


Pre- and protohistory unites theory and practice in a unique way. Practical aspects include participating in digs during the academic programme. And Heidelberg has a wonderful archaeological site in Tiryns in Greece.

Olga Kostyukova, 22, Prehistory and Protohistory, 4th semester Bachelor