Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ur- und Frühgeschichte
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ur- und Frühgeschichte e.V. (DGUF) – the German Society for Pre- and Protohistory – has more than 700 members and is thus the largest German association active in the field of prehistory and the early historical period. Its members are not only archaeology professionals but also private citizens interested in the subject. Known informally by its acronym, DGUF (pronounced dey-guf), it is the only nationwide archaeological association that also allows individual personal membership.
DGUF – the name and origin of the society
The widespread student unrest in 1968 and the attendant demands for change also affected prehistory studies. Students organised the ‘Schleswiger Kreis’ (Schleswig Circle) in order to improve communication between the various institutes, strengthen interdisciplinary cooperation between archaeology and related fields of study and thus initiate new approaches to the subject. Their main objective was also evident in the title of the journal published by the Schleswig Circle between 1970 and 1976, ‘Information papers on research in fields related to prehistory studies’ (Informationsblätter zu Nachbarwissenschaften der Ur- und Frühgeschichte).
The event that led to the founding of DGUF lay elsewhere, however. In early 1969, Bolko Freiherr von Richthofen called upon all the universities in the Federal Republic to revive the "Gesellschaft für deutsche Vorgeschichte" (the Society for German Prehistory) and create a successor to Gustaf Kossinna’s "Mannusgesellschaft", which had played a leading role in the nationalist and racist orientation of German prehistory research in the Nazi period. Startled by this announcement, the members of the Schleswig Circle immediately called a meeting to determine how they could pre-empt the use of the name by third parties. As a result, 17 students and young academics from the prehistory institutes in Cologne, Marburg and Freiburg-im-Breisgau founded the "Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ur- und Frühgeschichte e.V. (DGUF)" and had the name recorded in the Register of Associations with the Bonn District Court on 27 October 1969. The Mannusgesellschaft, re-founded by Bolko von Richthofen, then switched to the name "Gesellschaft für Vor- und Frühgeschichte (Bonn)": in 1994, the revived journal "Mannus" was discontinued, after just 24 issues.
DGUF has always seen itself as an independent association of prehistory professionals who, together with other concerned citizens, support and promote the interests of archaeology – also vis-à-vis the more established institutions and relevant political circles. On a European level, in particular, DGUF seeks to influence the formulation of Directives and legislative procedures. Ever since it was founded in 1969, DGUF has remained true to its principles of encouraging new developments in archaeology, autonomy from the established archaeological institutions and a critical approach to history – even its own.
In 1972, the first issue of DGUF’s own journal, "Archäologische Informationen", appeared: particular features are its positive attitude towards interdisciplinary topics and the "Forum" section, in which controversial subjects are discussed in a dialogue between articles presenting the different points of view. Since 1987, DGUF has also published a series of archaeological research reports, the "Archäologische Berichte". Since 1997, it has maintained an internet site. An annual conference is held and, since 1999, DGUF has awarded a national prize "Deutscher Archäologiepreis", which honours both professional achievement and success in the presentation of archaeological themes to the general public. The society considers itself a platform for the exchange of ideas and cooperation in the field of pre- and protohistory – from the protection of cultural landscapes to the discussion of the archaeological aspects of different periods, the promotion of archaeological interests among the general public and the enlightenment of the relevant political authorities. In the overall domain of German archaeology, DGUF is a leader in the presentation of the concerns of professional archaeology to the general public as well as the clarification of issues relating to university curricula and careers in archaeology.
The society is directed by a Board consisting of three persons who are elected on a rotational basis for two-year periods. They are assisted by co-opted committee members with specific responsibilities. Study groups are formed to deal with special topics, e.g. archaeology in school textbooks.
One of the society’s most important activities is the organisation of an annual conference, to which both members and guests are invited. Since 1999, the German Archaeology Prize is also awarded at the annual conference. The conference is always held over the three days after the Ascension holiday: academic papers are presented on the Friday and Sunday, with an excursion to archaeological sites in the vicinity of the conference venue on the Saturday. The venue varies: 1999 Constance, 2000 Dresden, 2001 Schleswig, 2002 Neuruppin, 2003 Cologne, 2004 Halle, 2005 Worms, 2006 Berlin, 2007 Basle, 2008 Mannheim, 2009 Hamburg, 2010 Aschaffenburg, 2011 Erfurt, 2012 Dresden, 2013 Erlangen. The yearly meeting in 2014 will take place in Berlin, October 6th-10th.
- Winrich Schwellnus: Bemerkungen zur Entstehung und zum Standort der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Ur- und Frühgeschichte. Archäologische Informationen 13, 1990, pp. 6-9. ISSN 0341-2873, ISBN 3-7749-2897-5
- Jörg Eckert: Die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ur- und Frühgeschichte, der Schleswiger Kreis und der Unkeler Kreis. In: Archäologische Informationen 25, 2002, pp. 15–21. ISSN 0341-2873, ISBN 3-7749-2897-5
- Official site
- Online edition of the society's journal "Archäologische Informationen". Since 2013 published under the rules of open access; older volumes are added step by step.