Zodiac Cruising in Antarctica

Annette Kuhlem


Annette Kuhlem

Annette was born in southern Germany, but grew up in the Dominican Republic, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast. At an early age she accompanied her father on geological survey and mapping projects that took her to remote West Africa. It was during this time that her profound interest for different cultures and their history was awakened, as well as her fascination for traveling off the beaten track. She studied archaeology, ethnology, and political sciences at the University of Bonn, Germany, and has worked on excavations in such diverse places as the Rhineland, Netherlands, Mexico, Mongolia, Peru, and Bolivia. Her focus was and is always the interface between archaeology and ethnology, taking into account living oral traditions and ethnohistoric sources to better understand the past. After Annette received her doctorate from the University of Bonn with a dissertation about a hitherto little-known cultural complex in the Amazon lowlands of Bolivia, she moved to Chile and lived in Santiago for five years. In 2010 she started working for the German Expedition to Easter Island of the German Archaeological Institute, since 2011 as Deputy Project Director. The main focus of the archaeological investigation is the prehistoric human adaptation to difficult environmental circumstances and the far-reaching transformation of landscape. The initial settlement of the Solomon Islands was another of her research objectives, where she excavated a vast knapping site and a rock shelter with human burials in the dense rainforest of the island of Malaita. Her anthropological research in the Solomon Islands was focused on drums as means of communication, and the use and significance of sacred plants in different tribal areas. Fanning out from Rapa Nui to other Polynesian islands she had a comparative research project on the Society Islands and the Marquesas to better understand the cultural relationships between the remote Polynesian islands and the significance of ritual architectonical complexes that appear in the archaeological record of the different distant islands. One focus of her research is the change of landscapes and ecosystems by prehistoric human interventions. 

As of 2019, Annette has a position as a research archaeologist at the Institute for Ecosystem Research of the Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel, Germany. As such, she leads an interdisciplinary project in Palau, Micronesia, involving archaeology, geomorphology, anthropology, and botany. The project is investigating the giant earthworks on Babeldaob, where an entire island has been transformed by humans in prehistoric times. 


Annette's Upcoming Expeditions

  • Hippos, Bissagos Islands

    Tracing the West Coast of Africa

    February 8February 24, 2021

    We are thrilled to return to Western Africa on a new and improved itinerary that highlights the very best of this dynamic region. Visit an amazing nine countries and discover the intriguing cultural heritage, storied history, and numerous natural wonders of these lesser-visited African nations.