Nearly four decades of research and science communication – Walter Dörfler retires

Dr. Walter Dörfler. Photo: Tine Pape, Cluster ROOTS.

Since 2015, the replica of a megalithic grave, erected with boulders weighing several tons on the campus of Kiel University (CAU), has been a reminder not only of the prehistory of Northern Europe but also of the importance of the archaeological disciplines at Kiel University. The practical construction of the tomb following Neolithic methods – itself a scientific experiment – was largely made possible by the commitment of Dr. Walter Dörfler. Since 1988, he has been active as a scientist, but also as an enthusiastic communicator of science at the Institute for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology (UFG) at Kiel University. He has now begun his well-deserved retirement on October 1.

Walter Dörfler's scientific career began with studies in biology in Göttingen. For his doctoral thesis, he moved to Kiel to conduct a pollen-analytical study of the vegetation and settlement history in the district of Cuxhaven, Northern Germany. After completing his doctorate, he obtained a position at the Institute for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology and has since helped to shape its development.

The main scientific focus of Dr. Dörfler is the pollen analysis of lake sediments with high temporal resolution in order to obtain long-term information on the development of vegetation and landscape under human influence. He has not only developed the evaluation but also the drilling technique with great expertise, so that he has been an internationally sought-after expert in this field for many years. Over the years, his expertise has enriched numerous archaeological projects in Germany, Ireland, Poland, Italy and other European countries, as well as in Anatolia and Mexico.

In addition, Walter Dörfler was a founding member of the Cooperative Research Program ‘Early Monumentality and Social Differentation’, the Graduate School Excellence Initiative ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ (GSHDL), the Collaborative Research Center ‘Scales of Transformations in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies’ and the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. These four initiatives, funded at Kiel University, greatly benefited from Walter Dörfler´s expertise in reconstructing past human-environmental interactions.
Walter Dörfler has always shown strong interest in transferring archaeological knowledge and archaeological methods to people outside academia, whether at events such as the Kieler Woche, with activities including the construction of the megalithic tomb on the campus of Kiel University, or most recently as part of the Archaeo:Labor of the Kiel Research Factory (

"We thank Walter for the many years of successful cooperation. His scientific expertise has enabled many new insights into earlier human societies and their relationship to their respective environments," says Johannes Müller, Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the UFG at Kiel University and speaker of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. "At the same time, he has contributed a great deal to the reputation of the discipline in the public sphere. Not to mention that Walter is a great colleague! We wish him all the best and at the same time hope that he will remain connected to both the institute and the cluster, as we hope to benefit from his expertise for many years to come."

All the best, Walter, and remember: we are always happy to see you and your donkeys!

Dr. Walter Dörfler (right behind the boulder) together with experimental archaeologist Harm Paulsen during the construction of the megalithic tomb on the CAU campus in 2015. Photo: Tebke Böschen, CAU.

Walter Dörfler - here together with Dr. Katrin Schöps (left) and Ilka Rau - also lends a hand in the Archaeol:Lab of the Kiel Research Factory. Photo: Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS

Now Walter Dörfler has more time to go hiking with his donkeys. Dear Walter, we hope that your paths will often lead you to us. (Photo Carola Floors).


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