Fieldwork and Activities

Online discussion on archaeological cultures in present-day Belarus

A village in Belarus. Due to the current situation, research cooperation with the country is limited. The Science at Risk Lecture Series enables colleagues from Belarus to present and continue their academic work in a secure online environment. Photo: Jens Schneeweiß

What are the hypotheses about the origin and distribution of archaeological cultures on the territory of present-day Belarus in the first millennium AD? This question will be the subject of an online discussion moderated by ROOTS member Dr Jens Schneeweiß on 13 December. The event entitled "Slavs, Balts and Germans on the territory of Belarus in the 1st millennium: an archaeological panorama" is part of the Science At Risk Lecture Series of the Science at Risk Emergency Office and is organised in cooperation with the Centre for Baltic and Slavic Archaeology Schleswig, with the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS at Kiel University and the Chair of Archaeology at Warsaw University.

Three Belarusian historians from the Chair of Archaeology at the University of Warsaw, who were forced to stop their scientific activities in Belarus due to political repression, will give presentations. Topics of the presentations:

Dr. Vadzim Beliavets
Hypothesis of the "Paliessie white spot" today: the state of the study of the problem of the genesis of the Prague culture in Belarusian archeology
Vital Sidarovich

Hoards of the Early Migration Period from the territory of Belarus as evidence of migrations of East German peoples

Dr. Mikalai Plavinski
Burial sites of the Krivichi people of Northern Belarus in the 8th - early 11th centuries

The working language will be English and Belarusian (with consistent translation into English).
Interested people can visit the event through the following link:
Meeting ID: 944 7776 5034
ID code: 273487

Background information:
The Science At Risk Emergency Office and the Science at Risk Lecture Series
The Science at Risk Emergency Office - founded by Akademisches Netzwerk Osteuropa e. V. in August 2020 and funded by the German Federal Foreign Office - supports students and academics threatened and demonstrably endangered by the war in Ukraine by bundling and providing offers of assistance and support. Specifically, it places those affected from the target countries in study and doctoral positions as well as teaching and research assignments at German universities and research institutions and in a mentoring programme initiated by the Science At Risk Office.

In addition, it organises a virtual lecture series, the Science at Risk Lecture Series, with the participation of scientists at risk from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. This enables colleagues to present and continue their academic work in a secure online environment. The aim is to bring together scientific voices from different scientific systems, which can lead to fruitful collaborations in the future.


Water – a key urban element

Urban Water II ROOTS Colloquium
Photo: Pawel Cembrzyński

Colloquium organized by the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS

Water is a resource, element of natural environment, but also part of urban culture and social life. The colloquium "Urban Water II", organized by the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, Subcluster "Urban ROOTS", in Kiel from 7 to 9 December 2022, deals with the question how urban actors perceived and interacted with their dynamic social, environmental, and cultural settings related to water in pre-modern times. Experts from eight countries will present current research on bathing, narratives around water, water and social topography, and water (healing) cults. At the same time, the topics of the colloquium reflect the orientation of various working groups in the ROOTS subcluster "Urban ROOTS", whose results will be exchanged and deepened with the international experts during the colloquium. From history and archaeology to literary studies and philosophy, a wide variety of disciplines are represented, allowing for a comprehensive view of the aforementioned topics.

Flyer: here
The current event builds on a first colloquium on "Urban Water" that took place in Kiel in 2017

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Wasser - ein Schlüsselelement der Stadt

Kolloquium organisiert vom Exzellenzcluster ROOTS

Wasser ist ein Grundnahrungsmittel, Element der natürlichen Umwelt, aber auch Teil der städtischen Kultur und des sozialen Lebens. Das Kolloquium "Urban Water II", das vom Exzellenzcluster ROOTS, Subcluster "Urban ROOTS", vom 7. bis 9. Dezember 2022 in Kiel veranstaltet wird, beschäftigt sich mit der Frage, wie städtische Akteure in der Vormoderne ihr dynamisches soziales, ökologisches und kulturelles Umfeld in Bezug auf Wasser wahrnahmen und damit interagierten. Experten aus acht Ländern stellen aktuelle Forschungen zum Baden, zu Erzählungen über Wasser, zu Wasser und sozialer Topographie sowie zu Wasser(Heil)Kulten vor. Zugleich spiegeln die Themen des Kolloquiums die Ausrichtung verschiedener Arbeitsgruppen des ROOTS-Subclusters "Urban ROOTS" wider, deren Ergebnisse im Rahmen des Kolloquiums mit den internationalen Experten ausgetauscht und vertieft werden sollen. Von der Geschichtswissenschaft über die Archäologie bis hin zur Literaturwissenschaft und Philosophie sind die unterschiedlichsten Disziplinen vertreten, so dass ein umfassender Blick auf die genannten Themen möglich ist.

Die aktuelle Veranstaltung knüpft an ein erstes Kolloquium zum Thema "Urban Water" an, das 2017 in Kiel stattfand

Understanding an ambitious architectural project in the Roman city Gadara

Claudia Winterstei1
The area of the Perystile Court in Gadara features an unusual octagonal vestibule of approx. 20m width. Photo: Claudia Winterstein

Just ten kilometres southeast of the Sea of Galilee, close to the modern city of Umm Qays in northern Jordan, lie the ruins of the important ancient city of Gadara. They were described as early as the 19th century, but despite repeated investigations on site, many questions about the former urban structure of Gadara remain unanswered. From 18 to 24 September, ROOTS member Patric-Alexander Kreuz together with Brita Jansen from the German Protestant Institute for Archaeology in Amman and Claudia Winterstein from the Technical University Berlin visited the site to investigate the so-called Peristyle Court and adjacent structures in the western parts of ancient Gadara immediately inside the Roman fortification. They sought to contribute to a better knowledge of this important, yet neglected monument of Roman Gadara from the Roman to Middle Islamic period.

With the permission from the Department of Antiquities of Jordan the team established a scaled layout plan of the so far excavated structures supplemented by a short description. The documentation was done with a Total Station and it recorded walls and foundations, wall seams, door openings, stairs, niches, thresholds and postaments of columns, i.e. remains that can be connected to the Roman period-architecture of the area (which also served as the built framework for later reuse).

The analysis of the data allowed the team to study and identify all architectural units of the area, among them the monumental main gate, an unusual octagonal vestibule of approx. 20m width, and the huge peristyle court of 54x45m, comprising also several architectural units of different size and design, among them a lavish public latrine, a 20,5m wide hall with a podium along the inner walls, a row of shops and workshops, and the remains of a podium architecture, probably a small temple. A long-lasting use of the area up to the medieval period is obvious in numerous later modifications, installations and appropriations of the former architecture.

The Peristyle court complex was clearly one of the most ambitious architectural projects of Roman Gadara and must have had an enormous impact on its urban life. Patric-Alexander Kreuz and his project partner Brita Jansen from the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology seek to develop a project to better understand the monument in its urban setting against the background of the changing urban culture not only of Gadara itself, but of the Levant region in general up to the Middle Islamic period.

Claudia Winterstein
The actual Perystile courtyard in Gadara measures 54 x 54 meters. Photo: Claudia Winterstein

Claudia Wintersetin 3
Structures in the Perystile Courtyard area were accurately surveyed. Photo: Claudia Winterstein

Brought to light: ROOTS researchers study the Late Neolithic settlement of Opovo (Serbia)

In March 2022, the team conducts a geomagnetic survey at Opovo. Photo: Melissa Villumsen

In March and October 2022, archaeologists from the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, in cooperation with the National Museum in Pančevo and the Museum of Vojvodina in Novi Sad, investigated the Late Neolithic site of Opovo (Serbia). The site is a multi-phase settlement of the Vinča culture, that is known from sites in south-eastern Europe. Old 14C dates place Opovo into the period from 4860 – 4780 cal BC. Geomagnetic surveying has now brought to light the almost complete settlement map of Opovo.

Already in the 1980s, an American-Yugoslavian archaeological team had carried out excavations in a part of the settlement and noticed some differences compared to the then known settlements of the Vinča culture (Tringham et al. 1985; Tringham et al. 1992). Besides smaller, single-roomed houses and a disproportionately high share of obsidian artefacts, the high share of hunted animals in the animal bone spectrum (around 90%) was also remarkable. These features led to the interpretation of Opovo as a trading site of a provincial nature with a strong adaptation to its environment. 

In spring 2022, the ROOTS scientists had the opportunity to investigate the structure of the site in more detail with the help of a geomagnetic prospection. This prospection method was in development in the 1980s and has since become standard practice in archaeology. The new geomagnetic image of Opovo shows a network of ditches that are enclosing an area of 9 ha with more than 100 houses. Based on this settlement plan, further questions opened up for the team, especially concerning the demographic development, social structure and economic distribution of resources within the settlement. Within the framework of the subcluster "ROOTS of Inequalities", a drilling prospection was carried out in October 2022 with the aim of extracting organic material from different settlement areas and dating it. 

In a two-week campaign, with the help of students from Kiel University and the Freie Universität Berlin (FU Berlin), it was possible to sample a large number of settlement objects. Further analyses are currently being carried out at the Leibniz Laboratory for Age Determination in Kiel and results are expected from mid-2023. 

The investigations at the Late Neolithic settlement of Opovo are being carried out by an international team consisting of: Fynn Wilkes (CAU Kiel, ROOTS), Miroslav Birclin (National Museum Pančevo), Martin Furholt (CAU Kiel, ROOTS), Aleksandar Medović (Museum of Vojvodina Novi Sad), Kata Szilágyi (CAU Kiel), Ildiko Medović (Museum of Vojvodina Novi Sad), Robert Hofmann (CAU Kiel, ROOTS), Till Kühl (CAU Kiel, ROOTS) 

The new geomagnetic plan of the late Neolithic settlement of Opovo (Serbia).

Sherd of a vessel found at the site of Opovo in October 2022


Further reading:
Tringham, Ruth, Bogdan Brukner, Timothy Kaiser, Ksenija Borojevic, Ljubomir Bukvic, Petar Steli, Nerissa Russell, Mirjana Stevanovic, and Barbara Voytek. 1992.
“Excavations at Opovo, 1985-1987: Socioeconomic Change in the Balkan Neolithic.” Journal of Field Archaeology 19 (3): 351. doi:10.2307/529922.

Tringham, Ruth, Bogdan Brukner, and Barbara Voytek. 1985.
“The Opovo Project: A Study of Socioeconomic Change in the Balkan Neolithic.” Journal of Field Archaeology 12 (4): 425. doi:10.2307/529968.

The Forest Finns as a model for the early slavic migration

Conference in Svabensverk, Sweden

Visiting the Roekstuga
Visiting the Rökstuga. Photo: H. Keller.

From the late 16th to the mid-17th century, groups of Finns from the historic province of Savonia migrated to Sweden and Norway. Since most of them settled in woodland and pursued slash-and-burn agriculture, they were called Forest Finns. An interdisciplinary ROOTS project examines this historical migration movement as a model for early Slavic migrations. On 20-22 September 2022, the international collaborators of the project held a conference in Svabensverk, Sweden The scientists involved were international specialists of different disciplines such as archaeobotany, ethnoarchaeology and soil experts from Norway, Canada, Sweden and Germany.

The conference started with a visit to Forest Finns museum at Skräddrabo, that displays about 300 object, showing tools, music instruments, culture, history, housing and parts of the archaeological record. The museum also includes the biggest Forest Finns library. The museum visit was complemented by a tour to a traditional Rökstuga, located deep in the forest around Skäddrabo. The Forest Finns housing is characterized by it’s special oven. Other than common ovens with chimneys to channel out the smoke (and the heat), Rökstugas are furnished with huge stone-ovens without a chimney. The smoke accumulates underneath the ceiling and escapes through a small vent. As the scientists were able to experience first-hand, the smoked Rökstuga is not inconvenient, rather atmospheric, cozy and steadily warm.

The theoretical part of the meeting in Svabensverk began with introduction into the Forest Finns (archaeological) record and their slash-and-burn agriculture. The first day finished off with a movie about the Forest Finns´ process of slash-and-burn cultivation starting with cleaning out the forest, harvesting the forest-rye, through to the bread on the dining table.

The second conference day was scheduled with more lectures and discussion about a wide range of topics: the analogy of the Forest Finns and the slavs, their archaeological core, how traces of slash-and-burn cultivation can be identified in soils and pollen and how archaeological Forest Finns can help finding possible traces of slavic slash-and-burn agriculture, just to name a few. Furthermore the definition and use of wording for slash-and-burn agriculture was discussed.

On the last day, the participants started to prepare a conference report, that will be published soon.

For more information on the project, go to

Inside the Roekstuga
Inside the Rökstuga. Photo: J. Schneeweiß

Collaborators of the conference
Collaborators of the conference. Photo: J. Schneeweiß.


Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions