Fieldwork and Activities

Conference on Urban Dynamics in the Middle Ages

Gerald Schwedler and Ulrich Müller open the conference
Gerald Schwedler and Ulrich Müller open the conference


The Middle Ages are not only an era of city foundations. Many towns already grew beyond their original boundaries in the late Middle Ages with the construction of new quarters or entire “new towns”. Old cities, gradual city extensions or even “new cities” had to be enabled to functionally interact in light of political, social and economic challenges. Experts from Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic met in Kiel from 9-11 June upon the invitation of the Urban ROOTS subcluster to exchange the latest findings on “Urban expansions and urban dynamics in the Middle Ages”. During the three-day conference, key topics included the material “footprint” of these complex processes, such as walls, streets, and buildings, as well as political and legal issues arising from urban expansions. The conference was successful in combining perspectives on the topography, architecture, constitution, economy and everyday culture of the city expansions in an interdisciplinary way. The contributions will be published in a conference volume.

Experts from Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic met in Kiel
Experts from Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic met in Kiel. Photo: Pawel Cembrzynski


The participants of the 3-day conference. Photo: Pawel Cembrzynski
The participants of the 3-day conference. Photo: Pawel Cembrzynski

The ‘Lost Cities’ project is back in Mongolia

Team members Henny Piezonka, Ochir Battulga and Odmangai Gansukh excavate the 3 m high waste
Lea Kohlhage investigates thousands of bones from the waste heap of the Baruun Khuree monastery for the Dietary ROOTS subcluster. Photo: Sara Jagiolla, CAU

For the first time since 2019, the German-Mongolian research project “Abandoned Cities in the Steppe” was able to conduct extensive fieldwork in Central Mongolia in May and June 2022. This year, the focus was on investigations at the monastic city of Baruun Khüree in the Orkhon Valley. Through excavations, remote sensing, and ethnographic interviews, the team collected a wealth of new data to understand the city design, the daily life activities, and the historical significance of Baruun Khüree for the development of Mongolia’s urban network.
Funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation since 2019 as part of the ‘Lost Cities’ programme, the project explores the emergence and perception of permanent settlement structures in Mongolia that evolved during the reign of the Manchurian Qing Dynasty between the 17th and early 20th centuries CE. In the process, previously enigmatic pit formations in the Orkhon Valley have already been attributed to Qing Dynasty military activities in Central Mongolia, and the ruins of the garrison town, Uliastai, have been precisely documented for the first time. In addition to ROOTS PI Henny Piezonka, ROOTS Associate Members Jonathan Ethier and Christian Ressel, and PhD student Enkhtuul Chadraabal, the fieldwork team included colleagues from Germany, Mongolia, the US and Canada. ROOTS also co-funded this year’s field campaign. “The ongoing analysis of the new data over the next months is expected to yield a wealth of new insights on urbanism in nomadic Mongolia,” commented Henny Piezonka.

Lea Kohlhage investigates thousands of bones
Team members Henny Piezonka, Ochir Battulga and Odmangai Gansukh excavate the 3 m high waste heap that accumulated during the use of the Baruun Khüree monastery between the 17th and the early 20th centuries. Photo: Sara Jagiolla, CAU.

Read more: here 

New high-resolution climate archive from Andalusia

New high-resolution climate archive from Andalusia
Daniel Barragan, Julien Schirrmacher, Mara Weinelt and Aleta Neugebauer working on the drill core in Kiel 

Heat waves, droughts and water supply problems: Caused by man-made climate change, the Iberian Peninsula is currently developing into a climate hotspot. A look into the past might help in assessing the consequences and finding solutions for upcoming challenges. In cooperation with researchers from Spain and Portugal, scientists from ROOTS and the CRC 1266 are investigating changes in past societies and connectivities with the environment during climate stress.
In spring, the team took a 19-metre-long drill core from a former lagoon northwest of Seville in order to reconstruct environmental changes over the past 6000 years. A special focus of the project is the period about 4200 years ago, when the largest Copper Age settlement in Andalusia was located there. A natural climate change occurred during this era at the transition from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age with distinct traces in the archaeological material. With the new drill core, the team hopes to gain more precise insights into these developments: "This is possibly the first climate archive ever on the Iberian Peninsula where we can see changes in temperatures, precipitation and plant growth per year," says Mara Weinelt, one of the project coordinators. The analysis of the core is now being carried out in laboratories in Kiel.

Call for Sessions: Kiel Conference 2023 – Scales of Social, Environmental and Cultural Change in Past Societies

Kiel Conference 2023
The international, biennial Kiel Conference of the Johanna-Mestorf-Academy on past environments and societies will take place from 13-17 March 2023. The conference is devoted to socio-environmental research and has taken place since 2009.

For the 7th international conference at Kiel University, the organizers invite you to propose sessions on socio-environmental topics. We welcome subjects that, on the one hand, explore the roots of social, environmental, and cultural phenomena, and processes that substantially marked past human development. On the other hand, we encourage you to submit topics that reflect on transformation patterns within momentous developments of past societies. We seek sessions that address the interplay of environments, social relationships, material culture, population dynamics, and human perceptions of socio-environmental change. Especially welcome are sessions that face such themes from an interdisciplinary perspective, as well as sessions that link past to current social and/or environmental challenges and transformation processes. We encourage the submission of session and abstracts by PhD candidates. Financial support for session chairs not residing in Kiel is available.

If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact us via the e-mail address mentioned above.
We are looking forward to your contributions!


Kiel Conference "Scales of Social, Environmental and Cultural Change in Past Societies"
Interdisciplinary Conference of the Johanna-Mestrof-Academy
13-17 March 2023, Leibnitzstraße 1, CAU Kiel


Call for Sessions:

Deadline for paper submission of Sessions: 30 June 2022
(The decision about accepted sessions will be communicated at the end of July.)
Please send the following materials to:
More information here
Contact: Prof. Dr. Johannes Müller and Dr. Rene Ohlrau
Link to Event here


Call for Essays: Past-Present Connectivities – Can We Identify Recurring Social and/or Environmental Patterns in the Past and Present?

Call for essays

In 1749, the Academy of Dijon organised an essay competition to which one Jean-Jacques Rousseau submitted the now famous winning essay. At a time when received dogmas were coming under increasing pressure, Rousseau wrote in the enlightened spirit of free, reflective, and critical inquiry.

In this spirit, the Reflective Turn Forum of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS at Kiel University, Germany, declares an international open essay competition on the following topic:

» Past-Present Connectivities: Can We Identify Recurring Social and/or Environmental Patterns in the Past and Present? «

Please submit your essay by
30 June 2022 (midnight GMT +1) by email to
The text of the essay should be in English, anonymised for the purposes of a double-blind peer review, and not exceed 5000 words in length (excluding bibliography).
In your email, please include your name and contact details.
Please submit your essay in the PDF format attached to your email.

The competition is open to contributions from all disciplines, provided they address the competition topic. For more information, see below.

Subject to a peer-review and an editorial process, selected contributions will be published in a joint volume edited by the organisers. In addition, the editors will identify three particularly stimulating contributions whose authors will be invited to contribute to the next International Open Workshop organised in Kiel in March 2023 (travel and accommodation paid by the organisers). The three selected contributors will also receive a prize money of 1000 Euro each.

For questions, contact with “ROOTS Essay Competition” on the subject line.

Find all information here

Investigating Kurgans in Azerbaijan


In the framework of the “Burial Mounds of the South Caucasus (4000-1 BCE)” project (link)of the ROOTS subcluster “Inequalities” (link), a team led by Andrea Ricci (link), Wolfgang Rabbel and Jutta Kneisel conducted geophysical investigations on the Uzun Rama plateau of Central Azerbaijan in November 2021. This area, which was exclusively dedicated to burying the dead for over two millennia, reveals the presence of numerous large communal kurgans dated to the Kura-Araxes period (i.e. 4th millennium BCE), as well as smaller Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age burial mounds. At Uzun Rama, initial survey documented 205 kurgans and first detailed topographic mapping along the northern margin of the plateau already recorded the high dimensional and morphological variability of the kurgans.
Conducted in cooperation with Dr. Bakhtiyar Jalilov from the Azerbaijani Academy of Science in Baku, this 2021 field season enabled the ROOTS team to test the efficacy of three different geophysical methods (i.e. georadar, geoelectric, and geomagnetic) on the kurgans, as well as to document them with aerial pictures taken from a kite. This newly acquired data on the dimensional and morphological variability of the kurgans and their topographic and geological setting provides crucial information to infer early developments of social inequality in the Southern Caucasus from the beginning of early metal cultures onwards.

Team members: Ercan Erkul, Simon Fischer, Lisa Glueck, Jutta Kneisel, Bakhtiyar Jalilov, Erman Lu, Wolfgang Rabbel, Andrea Ricci, Maurice Weber, and Elmar Zeynalov.



Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions