Schuchhardt studied classical philology, modern languages, and archaeology in Leipzig, Göttingen and Heidelberg. After 1882 he worked as a teacher, but was recommended for a travel scholarship by the archaeologist Theodore Mommsen, with whom he travelled from 1886-87 in Greece and Asia Minor, participating in the excavations of Pergamon.
In 1888 Schuchhardt was appointed as director of the Kestner-Museum in his hometown of Hanover. From this position, he pursued a variety of archaeological researches. In 1908 Schuchhardt was appointed as director of the archaeology department of the Ethnology Museum in Berlin. He held this post until his retirement in 1925, making a number of highly systematic digs of prehistorical sites around Potsdam.
In 1909 Schuchhardt founded the Journal of Prehistory (Prähistorische Zeitschrift) In the following years, he was involved in a lengthy controversy with the Berlin-based archaeologist Gustaf Kossinna on the issue of the "ethnic interpretation" of archaeological finds. One of the disputes was over the interpretation of the 1913 discovery known as the Eberswalde Hoard. Schuchhardt eventually prevailed and this success later earned him the recognition.
Schuchhardt belonged to the Prussian Academy of Sciences and at the German Archaeological Institute. He was deputy chairman of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory, 1916 to 1919 and its chairman from 1926 to 1929. He was an honorary member from 1925 of the Lower Lusatian Society for Anthropology and Archaeology. With the death of Kossinna in 1931, Schuchhardt became Germany's most senior prehistorian during the Nazi era.
His son was the archaeologist Walter-Herwig Schuchhardt.
- Carl Schuchhardt
- Heinz Grünert: Von Pergamon bis Garz. Carl Schuchhardt, Begründer der prähistorischen Burgenarchäologie in Mitteleuropa. In: Altertum 33.1987, 2, S.104–113