Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (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 mission statement].

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 sowie Man and Environment gegliedert. Ihnen sind die einzelnen Forschungsprojektedes ZBSA zugeordnet.

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:

Visual History

The former East Prussia within the Baltic Archaeology Network

Fundamental research in scientific archaeology

Sacrifice of military equipment

History of Hunting and Fishing

Beyond the grave – Social and Cultural Dimensions of Mortuary Practices

Research Cluster Hedeby, Slesvig and beyond

Technology – Tradition and Innovation

Hunter-gatherers in their Natural Environment

We carry out our projects in close cooperation with  Partner Institutions in dem gesamten Arbeitsgebiet durch, doch zuweilen wird auch geographisch weiter ausgegriffen.

Das ZBSA ist eine Plattform für international vernetzte Forschung, die unterschiedliche, geistes- und naturwissenschaftlich verankerte Forschungstraditionen, Wissenschaftskulturen und Archäologieauffassungen vereinigt. Zusätzlich stellen wir den Kooperationspartnern unsere wissenschaftliche Expertise und unsere infrastrukturellen Einrichtungen zur Verfügung:

Department of Geographic Information Systems

Archaeozoological Reference Collection

Lithics Analysis Laboratory

Fachbibliothek mit dem Sammelschwerpunkt auf der Archäologie Skandinaviens und des Ostseeraums

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

Unser Forschungsgegenstand und unsere Selbstauffassung bedingen und erfordern eine internationale Ausrichtung unserer Tätigkeiten. Wir fördern die Internationalisierung unseres Kollegiums durch internationale Stellenausschreibungen. Grenzen überschreitender Diskurs ist für uns die Basis exzellenter Forschungspraxis; dies gilt umso mehr, da wir als Brücke zwischen verschiedenen, in unserem Arbeitsgebiet historisch gewachsenen Forschungstraditionen, dienen.

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

Als Einrichtung der Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen arbeiten wir unter einem Dach mit dem Museum für Archäologie, Schloss Gottorf, das mit einer 180-jährigen Institutsgeschichte eines der ältesten seiner Art in Deutschland ist. Gleichsam stehen wir mit der Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel als Partneruniversität in enger Verbindung, derzeit vor allem durch die intensive Kooperation in zwei großen Verbundprojekten: dem SFB 1266 „TransformationsDimensionen“ ( und dem Exzellenzcluster 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.

Die Stadt Schleswig zeichnet sich durch ihre wechselvolle Geschichte zwischen Deutschland und Dänemark aus. Ihre Vorgängersiedlung Haithabu, zur Wikingerzeit eine florierende Hafen- und Handelsstadt an der Schnittstelle zwischen Skandinavien und Mitteleuropa und heute UNDESCO Weltkulturerbe, ist mit ihrem reichen Fundmaterial seit über 100 Jahren Gegenstand der archäologischen Forschung. In jüngeren Zeiten nahm Schloss Gottorf als Residenz der Gottorfer Herzöge und der dänischen Statthalter eine tragende Rolle ein.

In dieser Umgebung mit historischer Tradition, aber modernem Forschungsmilieu, findet das ZBSA eine ideale Position, die mit der Schlei und den nahen Stränden der beiden Meere auch naturräumlich ein attraktives Lebensumfeld darstellt.