Obituary Tilman Lenssen-Erz

Obituary Tilman Lenssen-Erz

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to our colleague and friend Tilman Lenssen-Erz. He died on November 10, 2023 surrounded by his family after a serious illness. We want to remember him as a cheerful, reliable person, as a scientist who was far ahead of his time.

After studying African studies in Marburg, Tilman received his doctorate in Frankfurt in 1997 on the subject of “Community – Equality – Mobility. Rock paintings in Brandberg, Namibia, and their meaning”. Tilman taught African archeology at the University of Cologne until 2021, and was the director of rock art research at the Africa Research Center of the Institute for Prehistory. As part of the priority program Entangled Africa, he led the research data management project at the University of Cologne.

Already more than 20 years ago, it was natural for him to fully involve the local communities in his archaeological work on the Brandberg. The Dâureb Mountain Guides, among others, emerged from this “community engagement”. They accompany visitors to the famous mountain and protect the archaeological sites that provide them with a living.

Tilman knew about the importance of local and traditional knowledge and recognized its importance for modern scientific research. Together with highly specialized San trackers from Namibia and his colleague Andreas Pastoors, he deciphered thousands of years old footprints in Paleolithic caves in France, Italy, Spain and Germany as part of the “Tracking in Caves” project.

Tilman’s warm and compassionate nature and, above all, his sense of humor accompanied him until the end. He leaves a huge void that will be difficult to fill. We feel for his family these days and say goodbye to him with the quote that concluded his own emails:

“May all my small mistakes go into their places and make little noise.” [Nunivak-Inuit story ending]

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