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Cultural Heritage

Report on Tomorrow's Science

Germany is rich in archaeological finds. Roman settlements in the Rhineland, princely hills in the Lüneburg Heath, elaborate burials on the river Saale, stone age jewels from the Swabian Alb and shipwrecks in the Wadden Sea are all precious evidence providing valuable information about former cultures and ways of life within the context of their discovery. However, the archaeological cultural heritage is exposed to many dangers, not only in Germany, but in many countries worldwide.

In countries such as Syria, Iraq or Mali, wars and armed conflicts often destroy important sites of archaeological importance. Predatory excavations, plundering of museums and illegal art trade go hand in hand with these conflicts and take advantage of them.

Infrastructural measures, construction projects or modern forms of land and forest management may damage or irretrievably destroy archaeological culture assets. Floods and fires can also threaten archival documents of human history that are already stored - presumably safely - in museums or archives.

Archaeological objects are repeatedly the target of probe runners and illegal excavations, even in Germany. In 2002, investigators succeeded in securing a circular bronze plate in Switzerland. Since then, the so-called “Nebra Sky Disk” illustrates just how detailed the knowledge of astronomy was four millennia ago. At the same time, chemical analyses show that trading in precious metals already existed throughout Europe at that time. New technologies and interdisciplinary research enable archaeology to constantly gain completely new insights. When the glacier man Ötzi was found in 1991, it was inconceivable to analyze his genetic material or to explore the microbiome of his stomach. Today, genetic investigations allow conclusions to be drawn about his origins, his eye color and his illnesses and thus provide very concrete insights into the life of an inhabitant of the Bronze Age.

Modern genetics, digitization, new methods of underwater archaeology and the concept of “Archaeology of Modernity” are all contributing to the dynamic development of archaeology today and to educational changes at universities and colleges.

The working group “Archaeological Cultural Heritage" analyzes the organizational structures of cultural heritage protection in Germany, sheds light on Germany's role in the international con-text, and describes the possibilities of digitization and the importance of research and teaching. A statement including recommendations on the above-mentioned topics will appear in the series "Future Report on Science" in the course of 2018.


German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina

Spokespersons of the Working Group

  • Prof. Dr. Hermann Parzinger ML, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz
  • Prof. Dr. Friederike Fless, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
  • Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Gehrke ML, Universität Freiburg


  • Dr. Martin Bachmann, Koldewey Gesellschaft, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (DAI) - Martin Bachmann unexpectedly passed away on 3 August 2016 (obituary of the DAI)
  • Dr. Roland Bernecker, UNESCO-Deutschland, Bonn
  • Prof. Dr. Peter Funke, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
  • Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert, Kulturstiftung der Länder
  • Prof. Dr. Matthias Knaut, Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft, Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kunow, Amt für Bodendenkmalpflege im Rheinland, Bonn
  • Prof. Dr. Dr. Sabine Freifrau von Schorlemer, TU Dresden

ML = Member of the Leopoldina



Dr. Christian Anton

Scientific Officer, Department Science - Policy - Society

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 861
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 839
E-Mail christian.anton @leopoldina.org



Dr. Constanze Breuer

Scientific Officer, Department Science - Policy - Society

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 872
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 839
E-Mail constanze.breuer @leopoldina.org