Prehistory and early history

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The word combinations prehistory and early history , prehistory and early history as well as prehistoric archeology are often used synonymously and denote an archaeological discipline that encompasses prehistory and early history equally and sees itself as a branch of historical science that focuses on the development of human culture from its beginnings dedicates.

Prehistory or prehistory

The prehistory or prehistory is the prehistory, prehistory and cultural history of the time from which written records are not yet known. The academic research institutions use the terms prehistory and prehistory equally, at the universities the subject is referred to as prehistoric archeology, prehistory and early history or prehistory and early history. As the list of seminars and institutes also shows, the term prehistory outweighs the term prehistory in a ratio of around 2: 1. The use of the term prehistory emphasizes that the period examined is seen as part of history. In contrast, the term prehistory contrasts the unwritten with the written "history".

Researched timeframe

The oldest section of prehistory , the Paleolithic ( Paleolithic ), is subdivided into the Old Paleolithic , Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic .

In Europe, joins the Upper Paleolithic to the short transition period Mesolithic (Mesolithic) the Neolithic Age (Neolithic) to. This is followed by the regionally limited Copper Age and continuously by the Bronze Age , then the Pre-Roman Iron Age (in Central Europe: Hallstatt and Latène Ages ). With the introduction of the first written documents in Central Europe in the 1st millennium BC BC (in the Orient from the 3rd millennium BC), which are used in addition to the archaeological sources, the Central European Early History begins, which is subdivided into Roman Imperial Era , Migration Period and the Early Middle Ages ( Merovingian and Carolingian Era ). Northern European early history divides its early Middle Ages into the Vendel period and the Viking period . The following European time periods cover the archeology of the Middle Ages and modern times .

Subject of research

In contrast to the other historical disciplines, the subject of research is objective sources ( ceramics , metals , wood , bones , glass , stone artifacts , etc.) in their respective contexts, e.g. B. soil monuments such as settlements, burial mounds , castle systems. These are produced by excavations , prospecting discovered and chance findings made available and using formenkundlich-typological, historical and social history and science ( Dendrochronologie , 14 C-dating and others), statistical and geographic information system examines -assisted methods of analysis.

Knowledge potential

Her particular potential for knowledge in the concert of historical and cultural-scientific disciplines lies in two peculiarities:

  1. The enormously large period of time examined: from the beginnings of human history to modern times . This enables comparisons across epochs and the parallel observation of long-term trends and short-term events (what is general, what is special?).
  2. This depth of time and the vastness of the supervised rooms make it possible to observe an enormous number of very different human cultures.

Differentiation from the other archaeological subjects

The prehistory and early history differs from the archaeological subjects like

Medieval archeology or archeology of the Middle Ages and modern times represents a borderline case , which in places exists as an independent discipline, in places is also treated by representatives of prehistory and early history. As early history, it incorporates the parallel transmission of written and pictorial sources to a much greater extent than archaeological methods.

Archaeological methods are also used in Celtology , Sinology , forensics and ancient American studies .

job profile

After a degree in prehistory and early history, the archaeological preservation of monuments at the state monuments offices as well as museums, universities and private excavation companies form areas of activity. Archaeologists are also employed as specialist journalists, for publishers and in various areas in the cultural sector.

Seminars and institutes


In Germany there are currently 24 institutes or seminars specializing in prehistory and early history. Of these, 15 have the term “Prehistory” in their name, eight the term “Prehistory” or “Prehistory” and one the term “Prehistoric Archeology”:

In 2005, the chair for Prehistory and Protohistory at the Historical Institute of the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University of Greifswald was dissolved.

In 2011, the oldest chair in this subject, the Chair of Prehistory and Protohistory at the Institute for Historical Studies at the Humboldt University in Berlin , founded in 1902, was dissolved.




  • Seminar for Pre- and Protohistory, University of Basel (Department of Classical Studies and Oriental Studies, Faculty of Philosophy and History)
  • Institute for Prehistoric and Scientific Archeology, University of Basel (Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Philosophy and Natural Sciences)
  • Institute for Prehistory and Early History and Archeology of the Roman Provinces, University of Bern
  • Department of Prehistoric Archeology, Institute for Archeology, University of Zurich

See also

Portal: Prehistory and Protohistory  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of Prehistory and Protohistory


For the introduction

On the ideological abuse of prehistory and early history



Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Heinz Otremba: Rudolf Virchow. Founder of cellular pathology. A documentation. Echter-Verlag, Würzburg 1991, p. 43.
  2. On the history of concepts: Jürgen Hoika : Archeology, Prehistory, Prehistory, Early History, History: A contribution to the history of concepts and the spirit of the times. In: Archaeological Information . 21, 1998, pp. 51-86. German Society for Prehistory and Early History: Prehistory, Prehistory and Other Archeologies. A clarification of terms . DGUF website 2011 .
  3. Stefanie Samida, Manfred K. H Eggert: Archeology as a profession: A survey among members of the German Society for Prehistory and Early History. Archaeological Information 30/2, 2007 (2009), pp. 39–52. (PDF; 725 kB)
  4. Review by Thomas Stöllner