Short Portrait: Berthold Riese

Berthold Riese
Berthold Riese

Prof. Dr. em Berthold Riese was born in Waldshut in 1944. Both his parents were anglicists. Riese mainly grew up in Freiburg. Moreover, he and his family lived in the USA for a while, where he developed an early interest in ancient cultures and archaeology. When his father took up a professorship in Heidelberg in 1961, the family moved there.

After finishing school Riese took up his studies in Heidelberg in 1963. Among his subjects were not only Anthropology, Religious Studies and Ancient History but also Sinology and American Studies. At the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, W.E. Mühlmann, Karl Jettmar, E.W. Müller and Lorenz Löffler were among his teachers.

Due to his focus on (ancient) American cultures and languages, Riese continued his studies in Hamburg, where he moved in 1965. There he attended lectures by Günter Zimmermann (e.g., on ethnohistory and Mayan culture) and Erhard Schlesier. Eventually, Riese became Zimmermanns student assistant at the Anthropological Seminary (now: Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology). He also developed an interest in ethnolinguistics and kinship theories.

In the late 1960s Riese took part in a collaborative research project, through which he did his first field researches and worked on the region of the ancient Maya. Furthermore, he graduated with a thesis on Mayan scripture in 1971 and eventually took up an assistant position at the Anthropological Museum in Hamburg.

Between 1972 and 1977 Riese not only gave lectures at the Anthropological Seminary but participated in another research project on the Maya. This time he combined field work in Honduras with the analysis of archaeological data. He also began to work on his habitation thesis and held an interim professorship in Hamburg.

After completing his research activities, Riese took up a position at the Ibero-American-Institute (IAI) in Berlin. There he also held an interim professorship at the Latin-America-Institute (LAI) in 1979/80. In 1981 he finished his habitation thesis.

Between 1982 and 1989 Riese held a full professorship for Ancient American Studies at the Latin-America-Institute of the Free University in Berlin. Moreover, he did further researches, e.g., in California in 1986.

In 1989 Riese took up a full professorship at the Rheinische-Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn and also became deputy chairman at the Institute for Ancient American Studies and Ethnology. During the following years Riese established a number of new topics by not only teaching on Archaeology but also on Meso-Americanistic. He also did further researches, e.g., in Brazil and Mexico.

Furthermore, Riese was head chairman of the Berlin Society of Anthropology, Ethnology and Early History (Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie undo Urgeschichte, BGEAU) between 1987 and 1990. He also was founding member and co-editor of the journal »mexicon« as well as editor of the Journal for Ethnology (Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, ZfE). Moreover, Riese founded the Biographical Anthropological Archive (Biographisches Archiv zur Anthropologie, BAA) in 1989, which provides a wide range of information on anthropologists and their work.