Kiel Archaeology Strengthens Cooperation with Partners in Ukraine: Professor Johannes Müller on official visit to Kiev

The new agreement reaffirms the 10-year cooperation between Kiel archaeologists and the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. From left to right: Dr. Vitali Rud (Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine), Prof Dr. Vitali Otroshchenko (Head of the Department of Chalcolithic and Bronze Age Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine), Prof Dr. Viktor Chabai (Director of the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Ukaine), Prof Dr. Johannes Müller (CAU), Prof Dr. Mikhail Videiko (Director of the Institute of Archaeology of Borys Grinchenko University), Dr. Sasha Diachenko (Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine). Photo: Academy of Science of Ukraine 

Yesterday, Kiel archaeologist Professor Johannes Müller visited the Ukrainian capital Kyiv as spokesman of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS and the Collaborative Research Center 1266 "Dimensions of Transformation" at Kiel University (CAU) as well as a representative of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA). There he signed a new cooperation agreement of the the Institute of Prehistory and Protohistory of the CAU with the Institute of Archaeology at the Borys Grinchenko Kyiv Metropolitan University and reaffirmed the existing cooperation with the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine that has already existed for 10 years. Müller is the first Western European archaeologist to visit Kyiv since the start of the Ukrainian war.

"Ukraine has been an important partner country for us for many years," Müller explained in Kyiv, "so I would like to send a signal, especially in the current situation. The new cooperation agreement and the continuation of the existing cooperation with two important institutions strengthen the already good cooperation and lays the foundation for further joint projects as soon as the war ends. In addition, we are adapting existing agreements to the current situation."

Hosts express gratitude for visit
Professor Viktor Chabaj, head of the Archaeological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, expressly thanked the guest from Kiel: "At present, it is not a matter of course that colleagues from abroad visit us. We are all the more pleased about this visit and the continuation of the existing cooperation agreement even in these times. Of course, we hope that soon we will be able to conduct excavations and scientific research together again in Ukraine."

Professor Mikhail Videiko, head of the Archaeological Institute at the Borys Grinchenko University in Kyiv, added: "Research only works in international cooperation. It's good to see that the Russian government's brutal war of aggression can't cut the bond between peacefully cooperating scientists."

The new cooperation agreement provides, among other things, that archaeological finds from Ukraine can continue to be safely studied and evaluated in laboratories at Kiel University. It also aims to give Ukrainian archaeologists even easier access to know-how and data, as well as to excavations outside Ukraine.

Ukraine is important for understanding the first large settlements in Europe
Ukraine occupies a special position in the study of European prehistory. Among other things, traces of large settlements dating back more than 5,500 years can be found there, which already had several thousand inhabitants at the end of the Neolithic period and had early urban structures.

The Institute for Prehistory and Protohistory at the CAU, where Johannes Müller holds the professorship for Prehistoric Archaeology, as well as the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS and the SFB 1266, are among the world's leading institutions in the study of this so-called Tripolje culture.

"The large settlements are older than the early advanced civilizations in Mesopotamia. They can be used to study very fundamental processes of human societies," Müller explained. How do early cities organize themselves? How did they react to environmental changes? How was their sustainable economy possible? Why did conflicts arise - or not? "These are precisely the topics we are working on in SFB1266 and in the ROOTS Cluster of Excellence," the prehistorian continues.

Currently however no excavations can take place in Ukraine. Therefore, Russia's attack on Ukraine in violation of international law is a catastrophe not only from a human but also from a scientific perspective, Müller emphasized, who is currently leading the excavation of a Tripolje settlement in Moldova.

On Monday morning,  Johannes Müller (center) signed a new cooperation agreement with the Archaeological Institute of the Borys Grinchenko University in Kiev. Left: The head of the institute, Mikhail Videiko; right: Olga Vyhovska, head of the Department of International Relations at Borys Grinchenko University. Photo: Borys Grinchenko University

Ukrainian archaeologists hand over soil samples from excavations to their German colleagues at the Ukrainian-Moldovan border. The new cooperation agreements make it even easier to safely analyze and store finds and samples from Ukraine in Kiel.  Photo: Johannes Müller

Currently, archaeologists of the Collaborative Research Center 1266 are excavating traces of a settlement of the Trypolje culture in Moldova. Sites in Ukraine are also of crucial importance for the study of this culture. Photo: Johannes Müller.

European Association of Archaeologists
News on the website of the Academy of Science of Ukraine

ROOTS welcomes new PhD students

ROOTS welcomes new PhD students2
ROOTS speaker Johannes Müller welcomes the new ROOTS PhD students. Photo: Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS

From the Neolithic through the Roman Empire to the early Middle Ages, from the spread of early metalworking technologies to ancient economic thinking and diplomacy in times past—the new doctoral students of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS are dealing with a broad range of topics. A total of eleven students are starting their academic work in the Kiel research network this late summer. During a special introductory workshop, the first ones were already able to present their projects and receive information about the goals and organisation of the Cluster of Excellence.

At the beginning of the introductory workshop, ROOTS speaker Johannes Müller welcomed the new colleagues and emphasised the advantages of Kiel as a research hub: "From a German point of view, it may not always seem so, but Kiel is located in the centre of Europe. Even beyond the ROOTS core topics, several disciplines are represented at a very high level at the Kiel University. This promotes scientific exchange and helps to discover new perspectives for our research questions". In the further course, representatives of the six ROOTS subclusters and the ROOTS platforms presented their respective units.

Work on the PhD theses is essentially supervised by the ROOTS PIs, who also work together on an interdisciplinary basis. State-of-the-art laboratories for archaeobotanical or isotope chemical analysis, for example, are available, as well as rooms in which finds can be laid out.

The Young Academy of the Cluster of Excellence augments the supervision work with further activities. For example, beyond their actual theses, the new PhD students will be involved in an overarching publication on ROOTS topics, being responsible for all steps from planning the topic to editing and making arrangements with the printers. "Publications are part of the tools of the trade in science. That's why it makes sense to get to know the entire process," Dr Tim Kerig, spokesperson of the Young Academy, said.

In addition, the Young Academy offers further training for the young scientists that provides additional skills for a career within, but also outside of, academia.

The new doctoral students form the second cohort within the Cluster of Excellence, which has been funded by the German Research Foundation at Kiel University since the beginning of 2019.

ROOTS welcomes new PhD students3
Tim Kerig, speaker of the ROOTS Young Academy, presents additional training offers for PhD students within ROOTS. Photo: Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS

ROOTS welcomes new PhD students4
The PhD representatives Benjamin Claaßen and Benjamin Serbe welcome the new colleagues. Photo: Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS

ROOTS welcomes new PhD students5
A Venue with tradition: The "Kunsthalle zu Kiel" with Antiquities Collection of Kiel University. Photo: Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS

New ROOTS PhD candidates in September 2022 (from left to right): Laurenz Hillmann, Darja Jonjic, Gianluca Ricci, Fiona Walker-Friedrichs, Sarah Bockmeyer, Anna-Theres Andersen, Stefania Fiori, Henriette Brandt. In the background online: Anastasiia Kurgaeva, Florian Schwake.

Excellently explained: The ROOTS of fundamental human phenomena

Exzellent erklaert ROOTS at DFG podcastDoes a high population density increase violence between humans? Is migration a special case or rather the normal situation in the history of mankind? When did humans begin to change their environment? The latest episode of the podcast "Exzellent erklärt” (excellently explained) introduces the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, located at Kiel University. In ROOTS, scientists from the humanities, natural sciences and life sciences are working together on these and other research questions concerning the roots of basic human phenomena and their connectivities with each other and with the environment. The podcast episode is available online now.

In order to comprehend the complex topics of the ROOTS cluster, podcaster Larissa Vassilian spoke with archaeologist and ROOTS spokesperson Johannes Müller. In the course of the podcast episode, it turns out that some controversially discussed topics of our time are not as new as they sometimes seem. Humans changed their environment thousands of years ago, and migration has always existed, as Johannes Müller points out.

In the further course of the podcast episode, anthropologist Katharina Fuchs explains some of the methods used to research the aforementioned questions. Human bones, for example, can reveal a lot about living conditions and also migration routes of past societies.

Of course, the research in ROOTS is still ongoing. But there is already clear evidence that cultural openness and the ability to innovate were prerequisites for past societies to survive crises, says Johannes Müller. "If that's not the case, societies collapse. And I think that's at least something that can also be very crucial for us today," he adds.

The full episode is available at or on all popular podcast platforms.


Presentation award for ROOTS PhD students by the International Society for Hunter-Gatherer Research

Presentation award for ROOTS PhD students
Morgan Windle (left) and Tanja Schreiber during the 2021 expedition at the camp of the Sel'kup partners at the Taz, Western Siberia. Foto: Oleg Kruglov / EtnoArcheoCentr

Tanja Schreiber and Morgan Windle honored for ethnoarchaeological research on knowledge transmission among Siberian reindeer herders.

Archaeological excavations classically provide information about material culture in the past. But what impact can they have on knowledge exchange and social learning within a present-day hunter-herder community in the Siberian taiga? This question is being investigated by Morgan Windle and Tanja Schreiber, PhD students in the ROOTS Cluster of Excellence at Kiel University. For their presentation “Collaborative Archaeology and the Reciprocity of Knowledge Transmission within a Sel’kup Community in Western Siberia” at the 13th Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies (CHAGS13) in Dublin on 29 June, they received the prize for the best student presentation by the International Society for Hunter-Gatherer Research.
In 2021, both researchers had participated in an expedition of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS to the Sel’kup people, an Indigenous ethnic group in Western Siberia. As part of a wider ethnoarchaeological research programme, the team had excavated the remains of a traditional winter house of the semi-nomadic people dating to the beginning of the 20th century.
Both adult Sel’kup and their children from the nearby nomadic summer camp had participated in the excavations and had taught the scientists traditional knowledge and skills. At the same time, a transfer of knowledge took place from the adult Sel’kup to their children.
The two PhD students are using the example of the excavations to investigate this kind of knowledge transfer between heritage professionals and local community members as well as between generations. They explore whether this active involvement with the past strengthens the younger generation's awareness of their own background and the value of their traditional knowledge and cultural traditions. At the CHAGS13 conference they presented their observations during their stay with the Sel’kup people.
“We are very happy about this award. It is a great confirmation of our work so far”, says Tanja Schreiber. Morgan Windle adds: “We would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the scientific committee of the conference and the prize selection panel, and finally the entire CHAGS13 organization team.” 
The work of Tanja Schreiber and Morgan Windle contributes to one of the six main research areas of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, which addresses the questions of what kind of knowledge is produced and passed on, in what way, where and when in human history.
The 2021 expedition was part of an ongoing project in the Dietary ROOTS subcluster, headed by the supervisor of the two students, Prof. Henny Piezonka, in collaboration with the Russian archaeologists Aleksandr Kenig, Khanty-Mansiysk, and Dr. Andrei Novikov, Novosibirsk, as well as the Indigenous Sel’kup partners.
The CHAGS conferences have been established in 1966 as the largest and most prominent international forum for trans-disciplinary exchange on hunting and gathering societies. At CHAGS13 in Dublin, more than 300 experts and Indigenous stakeholders from the fields of anthropology, archaeology, ethnology, and NGOs participated.

Special guest in Kiel: Panel discussion with and lecture by David Wengrow

David Wengrow 21
David Wengrow gives a lecture on "Slavery and its rejection among foragers on the Pacific coast of North America" in the Audimax of Kiel University. (photo: Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS)

David Wengrow (Professor of Comparative Archaeology Cambridge), currently one of the most asked archaeologists for lectures, was a guest in Kiel on 30 June. He gave a lecture in the extended framework of the Cluster ROOTS/CRC1266 Biweekly Colloquium and together with Kiel researchers, he led a panel discussion. Many researchers and students took the opportunity to listen to this renowned researcher and be part of the discussions.

David Wengrow is one of the current big names in international research on past of mankind. Together with David Graeber, who died unexpectedly aged 59 in 2020, he recently published the book: The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity. This book is primarily concerned with critically questioning established views on historical processes.

For the Biweekly Colloquium, which is organised jointly by the Cluster ROOTS and the CRC 1266, renowned researchers are regularly invited to give lectures. The announcement that David Wengrow was coming, had changed the routine. In addition to the lecture, which took place in a large lecture hall in the Audimax of Kiel University, a panel discussion was held in the lecture hall of the Institute for Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology beforehand. Due to the great interest a YouTube and ZOOM live feed were installed. Together with members from the Johanna Mestorf Academy, which ROOTS is part of, David Wengrow discussed various topics that arose from the intersection of the book and their respective research. 

His lecture in the afternoon was well-attended and entitled “Slavery and its rejection among foragers on the Pacific coast of North America”. He dealt with a little-known phenomenon: Non-agrarian societies on the Pacific coast of America had slaves. From a Western perspective, we would not have suspected this. However, slavery among these societies was not, as we might assume, economically motivated. By comparing it to neighbouring non-slaveholding groups, he made it clear that different groups had vastly different moral codes and political systems.

David Wengrow discusses the theses of his book with Kiel researchers in the Johanna Mestorf lecture hall. (photo: Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS)

 David Wengrow
Numerous students and researchers are following the panel discussion on site and online. (photo: Jan Steffen, 
Cluster ROOTS)

Digging into the community's own history

Digging into the community's own history
More than 40 citizens of Schenefeld took part in the  campaign in May. Photo: Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS

How old is the municipality of Schenefeld in the district of Steinburg in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany? This is the question that more than 40 Schenefeld citizens addressed last weekend (20-21 May 2022). On Friday and Saturday, they carried out 15 archaeological testpit excavations all over the area of Schenefeld. They were supported by scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN), the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA), the Archaeological Museum Schloss Gottorf (MfA), the Schleswig-Holstein State Archaeological Office (ALSH) and the Kiel Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. 

"Such a joint archaeological project between science on the one hand and citizens on the other is unique in Germany so far," explains Professor Claus von Carnap-Bornheim. He initiated the project together with the State Archaeological Office. "In England, such citizen excavations have been common for a long time. We were inspired by colleagues there," he says. 

Schenefeld is an ideal location for the pilot project, emphasises von Carnap-Bornheim. In 2008, the State Archaeological Office discovered traces of two pit houses near the Bonifatius Church in Schenefeld. They could be dated to the 9th century AD and are indications of one of the longest settlement continuities in Schleswig-Holstein.

"In order to find out more about the structures and dimensions of an early settlement, one would have to carry out large-scale excavations around the church. Of course, this is not possible in the town centre," explains Ilka Rau from the ZBSA. The alternative is many small search excavations at precisely selected points around the church. 

In December 2021, the first information meeting took place with Schenefeld's mayor Johann Hansen, who was immediately enthusiastic. After the municipal council was also brought on board, the scientists determined the exact locations of the testpit excavations and recruited Schenefeld residents who wanted to become archaeologists themselves. They found great support also from Reinhard Heesch from Schenefeld, who has an excellent knowledge of Schenefeld history and archaeology. 

Last Friday morning, the campaign began with a visit of the archaeo:laboratory of the Kiel Science Factory at the community school in Schenefeld. Under the guidance of Dr. Katrin Schöps from the IPN and student assistants, a 6th and a 7th grade class alternately experienced archaeological theory and practice with three search excavations of their own.

The teams of volunteers started work on Friday afternoon. Despite heavy rain showers on Saturday morning, everyone was enthusiastic. The results of the two-day excavation were impressive: from modern heating covers to Early Modern potsherds and Stone Age flakes, a large number of finds were discovered. Among them were two medieval shards that could possibly support the thesis of settlement in the 8th or 9th century. "Of course, we now have to examine and date all the finds precisely before we can make detailed statements," Ilka Rau emphasises, "as soon as there are results, our volunteers will find out first."

On 10 and 11 June, further testpit excavations will be carried out in Schenefeld. The experiences from both dates will also be incorporated into further search excavations with citizens in the future. "We ask the volunteers about their experiences and evaluate the answers scientifically. In this way, we learn how we can better involve citizens in archaeology in the future," says Dr Katrin Schöps. "In any case, the atmosphere in Schenefeld was great and we thank Schenefeld very much for the great cooperation," Claus von Carnap-Bornheim emphasised at the end of the event. 

Digging into the community's own history
Ulrich Baschke, volunteer from Schenefeld, works on one of the testpits. Photo:  Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS

Digging into the community's own history
Ulrich Baschke, Freiwilliger aus Schenefeld: „Ich bin alter Schenefelder, und wohne hier schon das ganze Leben. Das hier ist unsere Ortsgeschichte.“ Foto Jan Steffen, Cluster Roots
Marei Küppers, Knut Küppers and Marlon Dohrmann found medieval sherds in their testpit. Photo: Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS


Digging into the community's own history
Success for the volunteer archaeologists from Schenefeld. Photo: Jan Steffen, Cluster ROOTS

People in ROOTS: Carenza Lewis

Carenza Lewis

We welcome Professor Carenza Lewis as a JMA Chair from 8 June–3 July (Schleswig) and from 10 October–10 December 2022 (Kiel). She is an expert in public archaeology and has provided the impulse for our Schenefeld public archaeology activity.

How did you get involved in public archaeology?
“In 1993, I was invited to join a new UK archaeological TV series called “Time Team”. This offered an entirely new approach: instead of showing the viewer what had previously been found, the viewer would follow the process of new excavations from start to finish. People loved this. When I left “Time Team” in 2005, I set up a unit at the University of Cambridge to give members of the public a chance to take part in archaeology. Over 15 years, thousands did this, including more than 8,000 teenagers. Their discoveries threw new light on many historical phenomena, such as the Black Death plague pandemic, but we also saw the positive impact that participation had on people – increasing wellbeing, developing skills, building confidence, changing attitudes, and connecting with the past. In 2015, I moved to the University of Lincoln which increased my scope for interdisciplinary research into these social benefits of public archaeology.”

What did you experience when you met the ROOTS archaeologists?
 “I learned about the ROOTS cluster from Prof Claus von Carnap-Bornheim and Prof Johannes Müller at a conference in Moscow in 2019. We realised that the ROOTS programme might offer some potential to conduct public archaeology in Schleswig Holstein as well. But then the COVID-19 pandemic intervened, delaying our plans. Nonetheless, our ideas moved forward. But until the day I arrived in Schleswig to assume a JMA Chair in ROOTS, I had not met most of the people with whom I would be working!”

How do you envisage the cooperation with the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS in this specific context?
 “I am very excited about the collaboration. In spring 2022, residents of Schenefeld in Schleswig Holstein became the first members of the public in Germany to carry out archaeological test pit excavations within their own community. We will analyse the unearthed finds to see what they tell us about the history of this settlement, but we will also explore how people felt about taking part and what they gained from it. We will use the Schenefeld insights to make similar opportunities more widely available in the future.”

Carenza Lewis is a JMA Chair and research associate with the ROOTS Communication Platform.


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