Personal Details

Research Focus

Wiebke Kirleis' research focuses on the interaction between human and plants in the late Pleistocene and the Holocene. Aspects of plant economy and domestic economy in the past play an important role in this context. Wild plants were collected for nutrition, but also for ritual and technical purposes. With the advent of agriculture and animal husbandry, cultivated plants were added to the range of useful plants and improved the food security of the population. The use of plants has always been diverse, as well as the associated actors. Particularly with regard to nutrition, plant use can open up specific social horizons of meaning. When which plant is accepted as a food plant, and how quickly this can happen, has recently been the subject of intensive research into the broomcorn millet Panicum miliaceum, which only found its way from the Far East to Central Europe in the Bronze Age, as can be read in an article in Scientific Reports.

A further focus besides socio-economic issues in the strict sense are changes in agricultural practices and their effects on landscape development. Technological innovations such as the development of the simple ard in the Neolithic or the clod-turning plough in the Iron Age are as interesting as the beginnings of manuring, and the increasing opening of the Central European woodlands since the Neolithic, which has led to the emergence of our present-day cultural landscape.

The geographical focus of these topics, within Europe, are specifically the lowlands of Northern Germany, including the marshlands and older morain plains, the loess regions of Central Germany, Southeastern Europe with the Capathian Basin as well as the Middle East, the Near East and Southeast and East Asia with a special focus on Indonesia.


The determining methods of her own research and teachings are:

  • Archaeobotany: carbonised and non-carbonised fossilized botanical remains from archaeological excavations, ancient buildings and natural archives
  • Palynology: pollen, spores, algae and macroremains from sediment and peat cores from Central Europe, the Mediterranean and South East Asia-Indonesia
  • Anthracology: Macro- and Microcharcoal from archaeological excavations and sediment cores

Professional career
Wiebke Kirleis has held the position of professor for Environmetal Archaelogy at the institute for Pre- and Protohistory since May 2014. The biologist studied Botany, Anthropology and Environmental History at the Georg-August-University in Göttingen. She wrote her dissertation entitled "Vegetationsgeschichtliche und archäobotanische Untersuchungen zur Landwirtschaft und Umwelt im Bereich der prähistorischen Siedlungen bei Rullstorf, Ldkr. Lüneburg" (PDF) at the “Institut für historische Küstenforschung” (Institute for Historical Coastal Research) in Wilhelmshaven, Lower Saxony. As a postdoc she worked on the botanical remains of the largest excavated Linear Pottery settlement "Rosdorf-Mühlengrund" (Prähist.Zeitschr.) in Southern Lower Saxony at a seminar for Pre- and Protohistory of the University in Göttingen. With a grant from the program for promoting equal opportunities for women in research and teaching in Berlin, she began research at the State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments in Brandenburg and at the archaeological State museum in Wünsdorf, on the landscape development in Northern Brandenburg during the Holocene. Furthermore she was contributing to the collaborative research centres in SFB 586 "Differenz und Integration: Wechselwirkungen zwischen nomadischen und seßhaften Lebensformen in Zivilisationen der Alten Welt" at the MLU Halle-Wittenberg and for SFB 552 "Stability of Rainforest Margins, STORMA" at the Georg-August-University in Göttingen. From 2008-2014 she was employed as junior professor for Environmental Archaeology at the graduate school Human Development in Landscapes and the Institute for Pre- and Protohistory at Kiel University.

Wiebke Kirleis is board member of the Cluster of Excellence Roots and speaker of the Roots technical platform. She is in the board of the Johanna-Mestorf-Akademie. Further, she is co-speaker of the research programme CRC1266 Scales of Transformation. She was was board member of the Graduate School "Human Development in Landscapes" until 2018.


Full member of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI); Elected member of the Commission for Archaeology of Non-European Cultures (KAAK) of the DAI, Elected member of the Archäologische Kommission für Niedersachsen e.V.; Reinhold-Tüxen-Gesellschaft e.V., Hannover; Naturwissenschaftlicher Verein für Schleswig-Holstein; Association for Environmental Archaeology (AEA), UK;