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The holistic and interdisciplinary approach of the Department is reflected in the diverse research activities of the affiliated researchers and students. Externally funded research projects as well as habilitation, dissertation and thesis research cover a wide range of different thematic aspects across the entirety of the American continent:

  • Archaeology: The Department has been carrying out various excavation projects in the Maya area and Andean region. In all of these projects, students are given opportunities for their own research.
  • Epigraphy: Since the 1990s, the Department has a research focus on Maya epigraphy and other Mesoamerican writing systems, which reflects in many publications and final theses works, and attracts visiting scholars and students to spend time in Bonn.
  • Language/Linguistics: The Department has a long tradition in the linguistic and philological analysis of Amerindian languages. Language research at Bonn includes language descriptions, historical and sociolinguistic analysis as well as translations and text editions.
  • Ethnohistory: Closely connected with the research on Amerindian languages are various projects on the ethnohistory of the indigenous Americas. By analysis of autochthonous text sources and other colonial/post-colonial documents, ethnohistorians from Bonn are contributing to the reconstruction of (pre)colonial history and culture.
  • Ethnography/Anthropology: In recent times, the Department has emphasized ethnographic research on present-day societies in the Americas. Anthropological reflection and analysis focus especially on issues of cultural change and often draw on insights gained from historical and language research.


In all these thematic areas, the Department is involved in innovative and comparative research to try and fill the gaps of our knowledge about the historical processes and social complexities of the indigenous Americas. The Department in Bonn is nationally and internationally well connected with other research institutions in the field, which reflects in actual research cooperations or in joint organisations of conferences, symposia or workshops.

The Department is furthermore participating in the Kompetenznetz Lateinamerika (Network of excellence on Latin America), a research cooperation of the history, anthropology and sociology institutes/departments of the universities in Cologne, Bonn and Bielefeld and associated reseachers at the universities in Münster and Hannover. The current research project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and focuses on concepts of "Ethnicity", "Citizenship" and "Belonging", which are investigated in an inter- and transdisciplinary approach. 



Photo (headline): Catherine Letcher Lazo, Photo (text): Marco Sueño Saldana