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Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (Zentrum für Baltische und Skandinavische Archäologie – ZBSA)

Our background

The Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA) was founded in September 2008 and is, therefore, a relatively new research institution. It is the only non-university establishment in the Federal Republic of Germany that concentrates specifically on archaeology in Scandinavia, the North Atlantic and Baltic regions, and the former East Prussia (now parts of Poland, Lithuania and Russia).

With its wide-ranging field of research, the capability to undertake long-term projects that require a considerable investment in time and money and the successful application of the latest methods by its international staff, the ZBSA is able to fill a gap left by other national and international institutions.


Our research assignment

Our research assignment is to analyse fundamental archaeological issues relating to our field of research, spanning diverse geographical regions and different periods in time, by the application of various interdisciplinary methods within an international network. The results of this research are then made generally available.


Our aim

The aim of the scientific studies conducted by the ZBSA is a widely differentiated reconstruction of the past with the help of both the natural sciences and humanities while paying particular attention to the unique features of our own field of interest.


Our unique features

The core geographical research area of the ZBSA – Scandinavia, the North Atlantic and Baltic regions plus the former East Prussia – exhibits several unique features:

  • the peripheral location of the research area compared with the dominant, more advanced, cultures of Central Europe and the Mediterranean;
  • the maritime character of the archaeological cultures of the North Sea and Baltic regions, with wide-ranging consequences not only for their economic development but also for their far-flung communication networks;
  • the relatively limited occurrence of important raw materials, especially metals;
  • the rich archaeological heritage, found particularly in the sea, in moors and in wetlands.

The above-mentioned unique features have led to specific cultural models, with individual forms of communication, independent pictorial languages and innovations. As a result, the chronological framework of our research stretches from the earliest human settlement in the research area to the archaeology of the historical period.

In addition to the above-mentioned unique features, our main geographical area of research offers a whole range of specific characteristics that are due to the scientific traditions of Scandinavia and the Baltic States, as well as those of the various regions of the former East Prussia, which consequently require individual attention.


Our structure

The research area and its specific requirements have determined the structure of our research. Above all, this structure takes the traditional demands of archaeology into account but we also place particular emphasis on the unique archaeological features that the area exhibits.

The activities of the ZBSA are divided into three Strategic Research Areas:

► Man and Artefact► Man and Society and ► Man and Environment 

The individual ZBSA ► Research Projects are assigned to these Strategic Research Areas.

Issues common to several different projects are raised and discussed as Research Priorities. These priorities are assigned to the individual Strategic Research Areas, although their contents may overlap.

At present, we have nine Research Priorities:

► Beyond the grave – Social and Cultural Dimensions of Mortuary Practices 

► Former East Prussia within the Network of Baltic archaeology

► Fundamental Research in Scientific Archaeology

► History of Hunting and Fishing

► Hunter-gatherers in their Natural Environment

► Research Cluster Hedeby, Slesvig and beyond

► Sacrifices of Military Equipment

► Technology – Tradition and Innovation 

► Visual history


We carry out our projects in close cooperation with  ► Partner Institutions throughout the geographical research area, although more distant areas are sometimes involved.


The ZBSA is a platform for cooperative international research, which combines the different research traditions, scientific cultures and archaeological approaches in both the natural sciences and the humanities. In addition, we place our scientific expertise and infrastructure facilities at the disposal of our cooperation partners:

► Department of Geographic Information Systems

► Archaeozoological Reference Collection

► Lithics Analysis Laboratory

► Specialist Library with the emphasis on the archaeology of Scandinavia and the Baltic area


Our basic principles

The ZBSA adheres to the rules governing good scientific practice as compiled by the German Research Foundation. It has also established its own ► ZBSA Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.

The aims of our research and our own basic principles determine and demand an international orientation of our activities. We foster the multinational character of our staff by means of international employment advertisements. For us, cross-border discussion is the basis of good research practice: we therefore serve as a bridge between the different – historically evolved – research traditions.

Equality and equal opportunity as well as the compatibility of career and family are essential aspects of our identity, as can be seen in the high proportion (over 50%) of women on the staff, including in managerial positions.

We place great value on the advancement of talented young scholars and on providing the scientific and structural conditions for a successful career.


Our location

As part of the Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen (Foundation of the State Museums of Schleswig-Holstein), we co-operate very closely with the Museum for Archaeology at Schloss Gottorf, which has a 180-year history as an institution, one of the oldest of its kind in Germany. At the same time, we are in close contact with our partner university, the Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel. At present, there is intense cooperation on two major projects:  ► CRC 1266, “Scales of Transformation” (; and the excellence cluster ROOTS – Social, Environmental, and Cultural Connectivity in Past Societies (

Within the national context of the Federal Republic of Germany, the State of Schleswig-Holstein has a special position due to its geographical location. To the west, it is bounded by the North Sea and thus, in a broader sense, the North Atlantic; to the east by the Baltic Sea. It also connects the Central European continent with Scandinavia via the Jutland Peninsula. 

The city of Schleswig itself experienced the impact of the eventful history between neighbouring Germany and Denmark. Its location is that of the former settlement of Hedeby, which was a flourishing port and trading centre in Viking times, a centre of interaction between Scandinavia and Central Europe. Consequently, over a century of archaeological research has brought to light a vast amount of find material from that period. More recently, Schloss Gottorf played a leading historical role as the residence of the Gottorf Dukes and Danish governors. 

The ZBSA is therefore in an ideal position in this environment that combines historical tradition with modern research. Moreover, the Schlei (a narrow inlet of the Baltic Sea) and nearby beaches on both sea coasts provide the physical environment for a pleasant lifestyle.

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