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History of the Institute

The history of the Archaeological Institute of the University of Cologne is relatively brief compared to other institutes of archaeology.

Efforts were made to establish the field of archaeology since the reestablishment of the university in 1919. They were promoted by two factors, namely general interest in the Roman history of the city of Cologne, whose most striking manifestation was the major collection of Roman-Germanic items in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum (today an independent collection in the Römisch-Germanisches Museum), and the efforts of related fields, especially art history.

After prolonged negotiations, the field of classical archaeology was established in Cologne beginning in the winter semester 1928/29.

Andreas Rumpf was appointed full professor. He succeeded in building up the institute and ensuring a broad curriculum with a comprehensive range of topics. He also advanced the establishment of a collection of ancient original pieces and replicas.

At first, the institute was housed in the Alteburger Straße 151, close to the main building of the University of Cologne, which is now the TH Köln (Cologne University of Applied Sciences). The institute moved into the former main building of the University in 1933 because the building became too small. In 1935 it moved into the newly built main building of the university.

During World War II, despite considerable restrictions, teaching continued until the summer semester 1944. However, a bomb impact on the main building destroyed most of the archaeological collection.

After the end of the war, the teaching situation soon got back to normal. In 1960, Heinz Kähler was appointed full professor of the Archaeological Institute. During this time of economic prosperity, the number of positions of research fellows was increased to two, and the number of professors increased to three. Namely, Tobias Dohrn and Hans-Georg Niemeyer were appointed professors from 1960 to 1976 and 1970 to 1980, respectively. In the years following 1964, Theodor Klauser also held a lectureship for Christian archaeology.

The archive Monumenta Artis Romanae was established in 1964 and then developed into the Research Archive for Roman Sculpture. The first director of this institution was Hansgeorg Oehler, followed in 1994 by Dietrich Boschung. The Research Archive for Ancient Sculpture, which later belonged to the CoDArchLab, was headed by Reinhard Förtsch until 2012. A chair for Archaeoinformatics at the CoDArchLab was established in 2015, which is now lead by Prof. Eleftheria Paliou.

In 1972, Wolfram Nagel was appointed to the newly established chair for Near Eastern classics. However, this position was rededicated in 1988 and is now concerned with the archaeology of the Roman provinces. It has been directed by Thomas Fischer from 1992 to 2015. Prof. Eckhard Deschler-Erb became his successor in 2016.

Since 1973, the Archaeological Institute has been housed in the building of the former Küpper orphanage (Küpperstift) on the corner of Weyertal and Kerpener Strasse. The same year, Heinz Kähler was given emeritus status. Then Hans-Volkmar Herrmann directed the institute until he became emeritus in spring 1987. At the same time, Henning Wrede was a professor at the institute from 1978 to 1995, whereupon he took a position at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. His position was filled when Dietrich Boschung was appointed in the winter semester 1996/1997. The same year, Andreas Linfert, who had served as a professor at the institute since 1982, died unexpectedly. 

From 1988 to 2006, Henner von Hesberg was Director of the institute; since then, he has directed the German Archaeological Institute Rome. He was succeeded in the winter semester 2008/2009 by Michael Heinzelmann. Dietrich Boschung became the director of the newly established Käte-Hamburger-College “Morphomata”.

From 1991 to 2000, Henner von Hesberg headed the Research Training Group "Formation and self-representation of urban elites in the provinces of the Roman Empire", which was financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia. From 2013 to 2019, Michael Heinzelmann headed the research training group “Archaeology of premodern economies”, in which the classical studies of the University of Cologne and Bonn were involved.

This text is based on: H. v. Hesberg, 60 Jahre Archäologisches Institut der Universität zu Köln, Geschichte in Köln 25, 1989, 111 - 130.