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Archive Albert Egges van Giffen

Description of the collection of archive Albert Egges van Giffen

Brief overview

Name of the archive: Archive Albert Egges van Giffen

Subject: Albert Egges van Giffen (1884-1973)

Dated: 1911-1972

Size: 7.7 meter

Language of the materials: Dutch


Professional and personal archive containing correspondence, reports of archeological digs, speeches, lecture notes and notes by professor of prehistory and Germanic archeology Albert Egges van Giffen.

Collection number: UBG002

Institute: University Library Groningen

Retainer: University Library Groningen

Provenance and acquisition


Albert Egges van Giffen was born 14 March 1884 in Noordhorn. He is the son of Jan van Giffen, a pastor, and Hendrika Post. On 15 December 1911, Albert married Klaziena Geertruida Homan. They had four children, two sons and two daughters. They officially divorced 12 July 1938, after which Van Giffen remarried 30 November 1938, to Guda Erica Gerharda Duijvis. This second marriage did not result in any children.

Van Giffen studied botany and zoology at the University of Groningen (1904-1910), and got his doctoral degree there in 1913. He worked as the curator of the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden from 1912 until 1917, after which he took up a similar position at the zoological laboratory in Groningen. Besides this, he was the director of the Biologisch-Archaeologisch Instituut of the University of Groningen (BAI, 1928) as well as the first head of the Rijksdienst voor het Oudheidkundig Bodemonderzoek (1947). He was also involved with the founding of the Instituut voor Prae- en Protohistorie in Amsterdam, 1951.

Furthermore, Van Giffen worked at both the University of Groningen and the University of Amsterdam. In Groningen he was a lecturer (1930-1939), bijzonder hoogleraar (a type of professor) (1939-1943), and a gewoon hoogleraar (full professor) (1943 onwards). His jurisdiction was the prehistory and Germanic archeology. At the University of Amsterdam, Van Giffen was a bijzonder hoogleraar of prehistory from 1941 until 1943, and again from 1946 until 1957. His academic accomplishments gained him admittance to the Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen te Amsterdam (Dutch Royal Society) in 1932.

After retiring in 1954, Van Giffen was named Rijksadviseur voor de bescherming en de instandhouding van de hunebedden en de gerestaureerde archeologische monumenten (Advisor to the government on the protection and keeping of the hunebed and the restored archeological monuments). A hunebed is a specific type of dolmen found in Drenthe.

Van Giffen headed up an extensive series of archeological digs in Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe, working on wierden (artificial hills) and zandgronden (areas where the soil has a high sand content). He was especially interested in hunebedden and grave mounds. He gained international fame through the new archeological digging methods he developed, as well as the discovery of the first tell-like structure (a specific type of mound) in Western Europe. This type of mound had previously only been found in the Middle Eastern region. He made this discovery in 1934, in Ezinge. Furthermore, Van Giffen became the first Dutch archeologist to focus on researching the centers of cities (Groningen and Amsterdam). Between 1941 and 1943 he researched a series of Roman castella in Valkenburg (Zuid-Holland). After 1945, he became a big proponent of palynology: researching pollen and applying those findings in an archeological context.

A selection of published works:

  • De Hunebedden in Nederland, Utrecht 1925-1927, 3 parts
  • Die Bauart der Einzelgräber. Beitrag zur Kenntnis der älteren individuellen Grabhügelstrukturen in den Niederlanden, Leipzig 1930, 2 parts.
  • Oudheidkundige aantekeningen over Drentsche vondsten (parts. 1-3; 5-9; 11-12) in: Nieuwe Drentse volksalmanak.
  • Bouwstoffen voor de Groninger oergeschiedenis (Groningen 1927-1939, 3 parts) in: Verslag van den Toestand van het Museum van Oudheden voor Provincie en Stad Groningen.


The collection was given to the University Library Groningen in 19xx.

Future additions

No future additions are expected

Contents and collation

The collection consists of letters, notes, dig reports, archeological sketches and maps, carbon copies, offprints of articles, speeches, lecture notes, as well as official documents regarding Van Giffen’s various jobs and pursuits (especially those of the Rijksdienst Oudheidkundig Bodemonderzoek). Furthermore, there are newspaper snippets, postcards, pictures as well as a dossier regarding J.M. van Bemmelen.

Instructions for users of the archive


The collection is accessible for research purposes. To look at the collection, a University Library Access Pass is required.

Limitations to use

The materials in this collection are available for viewing only. They cannot be borrowed. When consulting this collection, the rules set out in the Reglement voor de gebruikers van de Bibliotheek der Rijksuniversiteit Groningen apply. Reproductions, insofar as they are allowed are to be made in line with the rules set out in the Tarieven en diensten Bibliotheek der Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.

The copyright is held by the heirs of Van Giffen, whilst the publishing rights are held by the University of Groningen, as owners of the collection.

Accessing the collection

An inventory of the collection is available. Letters in the collection are also kept in the catalogue of the CEN (Catalogus Epistularum Neerlandicarum).


When referencing (parts of) the collection, the following information must be provided in full at least once, after which an abbreviated reference will suffice.

  • Archive: University Library Groningen, Archive Albert Egges van Giffen
  • Individual items: Groningen, UB, Van Giffen [number]


Materials in this archive can be requested by sending an email to Special Collections Department, University Library Groningen.

Other points of access

Most of Van Giffen’s published works are in possession of the University Library Groningen. These works can be requested through the library catalogue SmartCat.



  • Bibliography of the published works of A.E. van Giffen, in: Paleohistoria XV (Bussum 1973)
  • J.A. Brongers, 'Giffen, Albert Egges van (1884-1973)', in Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland part 3 (Den Haag 1989)


A portrait of Van Giffen is on display in the Senate chamber of the Academy building at the University of Groningen. It was painted by Johan Dijkstra (1896-1978). For more information: R.E.O. Ekkart and J. Schuller tot Peursum-Meijer, Groninger Academieportretten, Groningen 1978, number 183.

Last modified:06 January 2023 1.48 p.m.
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