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Prof. Dr. Andreas Zimmermann

Research Interests:

Population dynamics; Landscape and economical archaeology; Quantitative Methods in Archaeology; Applied theories


Andreas Zimmermann is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Cologne. He studied Prehistoric Archaeology in Cologne and Tübingen and initially specialized in stone artefact analysis. His dissertation (University of Tübingen, 1982) dealt with an assemblage from the first farmers in Central Europe between 5300 and 5000 BC (Linearbandkeramik), which was excavated in the lignite mining area between Cologne and Aachen. As a Senior Researcher at the Goethe University Frankfurt, he wrote his habilitation thesis (1992) on exchange systems of these first farmers in western Central Europe, focusing on socio-economic aspects. Before being appointed Professor at Cologne, he taught at the University of Göttingen and Heidelberg University, and focused on the Neolithic in the lignite mining area. Currently he is exploring patterns of prehistoric population dynamics.

Project Abstract

Nested Scales of Time in Archaeology

The conceptual time model proposed by Gordon Childe allows best to contrast consequences for interpretation with other scaling approaches. He distinguished episodes of fast and slow development of two different magnitudes of duration. In analogy to the term “Industrial Revolution”, he coined the labels of “Neolithic” and “Urban Revolution” to denote episodes of fast demographic growth within the long-term perspective. Between these Great Transformations, slow developments characterize the “Longue Durée” as proposed by the Annales school of History. In archaeology, the term “epoch” is used to denote such time units of several or many thousand year’s duration. In a perspective of much shorter time span, Childe speaks of series of troughs and crests. The equivalent of the Annales is “Conjoncture”. In today’s archaeological English literature, the terms “Booms and Busts” are used to describe such patterns often lasting several hundred years. Within such patterns, the theoretical approach of “Adaptive Cycles” distinguishes between a growth, a conservation, a distortion, and a reorganization phase. Conservation and reorganization phases are episodes of slow development in an equilibrium corresponding to the dynamic equilibrium of epochs. The distortion phase is highly dynamic similar to the growth phase which is less developed than one of the Great Transformations.

For a better understanding of historical developments, it is necessary to zoom in or out on an appropriate time scale. Analogous to the individual episodic memory, a higher time resolution is needed for episodes with rapid change than for episodes with slow change. Another analogy to individual memory is decreasing information density for the remote past, which could be represented by logarithmic scaling. For a holistic understanding, however, these scales of times have to be considered as nested. Long periods of time tend to provide conditions for adaptation; agency becomes visible when focusing on short periods of time.

The project therefore aims to develop a model of time scales based on long-term demographic developments, combining the Gordon Childe-Model with its revolutions and the Annales-Model of time scales with its longue durée and its conjuncture.

Curriculum vitae


1992  Habilitation, Department of History, Goethe University Frankfurt

1982  Ph.D., University of Tübingen 

1975  M.A., Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Cologne

Positions and Fellowships

2016 - 

Retirement, Department of Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Cologne

2010 - 

Full member of the Academy of Science and Literature, Mainz;

(until 2017) Chairman of the Commission of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology


Visiting Professor, University of Kraków

2002 - 2008

Elected reviewer of the German Research Foundation (DFG)

1999 - 2014

Full member of the German Archaeological Institute (Roman-Germanic Council)

1997 - 2016

Professor, Department of Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Cologne


Award of the Foundation for Archaeology in the Rhenic lignite area

1993 - 1996  

Visiting Professor and Lecturer, Goethe University Frankfurt; University of Göttingen; Heidelberg University; University of Zurich

Selected Publications

2020 (Co-authored with Silviane Scharl and Isabell Schmidt). “Demographic Transitions – Cycles and Mobility in the Neolithic of Western Germany.” In Demography and Migration: Population trajectories from the Neolithic to the Iron Age, edited by Thibault Lachenal, Réjane Roure, and Olivier Lemercier, 86-97. Oxford: Archaeopress.

2019. Review of The First Farmers of Europe. An Evolutionary Perspective, by Stephen Shennan, Archäologische Informationen 42: 549-554. (German)

2012. “Cultural cycles in Central Europe during the Holocene.” Quaternary International  274: 251–258.

2009 (Co-authored with Johanna Hilpert and Karl Peter Wendt). “Estimations of population density for selected periods between the Neolithic and AD 1800.” Human Biology 81 (2-3): 357-380.

2005 (Co-authored with Jutta Meurers-Balke and Arie J. Kalis). „Das Neolithikum im Rheinland.” Bonner Jahrbücher 205: 1-63.

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