School classes gain insights into life in the Prehistoric Age


At the pottery and social interaction station, the students document their excavation finds. The shards not only provide information about what kind of vessels the people of Schleswig-Holstein used in the Neolithic period, but also about the regions with which they were in contact (photo: Kieler Forschungswerkstatt).

The archaeo:lab of the Kiel Science Factory (Kieler Forschungswerkstatt) celebrates its opening

The inauguration of the archaeo:lab of the Kiel Science Factory took place on Monday, September 13. Through excavations and experiments at the archaeo:lab, school classes from grades five to seven can discover how people lived in Schleswig-Holstein during the Neolithic Age as well as what their food consisted of and what their houses looked like. The archaeo:lab project is a collaboration  between the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS and the Kiel Science Factory.
A sixth-grade class from the Käthe Kollwitz School Kiel visited the new thematic lab on opening day. They were welcomed by the prehistorian Professor Johannes Müller and the environmental archaeologist and archaeobotanist Professor Wiebke Kirleis. They head the Institute for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology at Kiel University and are members of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. The research results and the everyday work of the scientists of ROOTS are directly incorporated into the concept of the archaeo:lab program.
“When designing the learning stations, it was important for us to not only convey the archaeological content to the schoolchildren, but also to give them an understanding of scientific work. We provide them with realistic insights into the field of research, which is often characterised by myths and adventures,” explains ROOTS spokesperson Müller. “From the specially created excavation field to the various archaeological finds and tools, everything is therefore as true to the original as possible.”
At the opening, environmental archaeologist Kirleis told the pupils more about her day-to-day research and what she sees as special about her work in archaeobotany. “The work is highly varied. In addition to excavating and obtaining borehole profiles, it involves sample preparation in the laboratory, analysing the finds under the microscope, and data evaluation on the computer,” Kirleis said. “It is fascinating to wash out 6,000-year-old grains from a soil sample. In this meadow, we are really looking into the Stone Age people’s cooking pots, we can tap into their daily lives in great detail, and even reconstruct ancient cooking recipes.”
The actual day of the visit then began with a ten-minute introductory lecture on the Neolithic Age by Dr. Katrin Schöps, research associate at the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN) and head of the archaeo:lab. In small groups, the schoolchildren discovered the various stations on the basic human needs of housing, nutrition, clothing, the environment and social interaction. In the covered excavation area, for example, they searched for archaeological finds from which – in combination with experiments – they can draw conclusions about Neolithic life. In the process, the schoolchildren also learn from the excavated pottery sherds that it is not only possible to tell what kinds of vessels were used by people in Schleswig-Holstein 6000 years ago. From the sherds and with a bit of luck, you can even determine which regions carried out exchange. “I have always found archaeology fascinating, but I would not have thought that you could learn so many different things from the discovery of a single pottery sherd,” said one of the schoolgirls enthusiastically.

A visit to the archaeo:lab can now be booked via the Kieler Forschungswerkstatt website: here
The press release in German can be found here.

archaeolaborOn their visit day at archaeo:labor, the school children from grades 5 to 7 also learn how archaeologists find out what people ate in the Neolithic Age (photo: Kieler Forschungswerkstatt).

At the pottery and social interaction station, students document their excavation findings (photo: Kieler Forschungswerkstatt).

archaeolaborAt the pottery and social interaction station, the students document their excavation finds. The shards not only provide information about what kind of vessels the people of Schleswig-Holstein used in the Neolithic period, but also about the regions with which they were in contact (photo: Kieler Forschungswerkstatt).

archaeolaborJohannes Müller, Director of the Institute for prehistoric and protohistoric archaeology of Kiel University speaker of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, welcomes the students to the opening of the archaeo:labor in the lecture hall (photo: Kiel Research Workshop).

Before the students work hands-on at the learning stations of the archaeo:labor, they learn more about life in the Neolithic Age in an introductory lecture by IPN staff member and lab director Dr. Katrin Schöps (photo: Kieler Forschungswerkstatt).

On the opening day of the archaeo:labor, school children from the Käthe Kollwitz School in Kiel learn more about the work as an environmental archaeologist and archaeobotanist from Wiebke Kirleis (photo: Kieler Forschungswerkstatt).




Kieler Forschungswerkstatt
Katrin Schöps

Two new JMA Chairs: Charlotte Damm and Tim Kohler

JMA Chairs

Charlotte Brysting Damm and Tim Kohler recently joined the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS as JMA Chairs. We are proud to introduce them to you and we look forward to their JMA tenure at Kiel. Welcome!

Charlotte Brysting Damm is the holder of an JMA chair of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS for the next four months until Christmas, 2021. She is a professor of archaeology at the Department of Archaeology, History, Religious Studies and Theology at the Arctic University of Norway, located in Tromsø, north of the Arctic Circle.Damm
Born in Denmark, Charlotte first studied archaeology at Aarhus University. She then completed a Master of Philosophy Degree (MPhil) in ethnoarchaeology and a PhD in archaeology at the University of Cambridge, UK. Since 1990, she has worked in northern Norway, apart from two years at the National University of Ireland, Galway.  
While her PhD focused on the complex multicultural situation in Middle Neolithic Denmark, most of her later research has concentrated on northern hunter-gatherers. Although the majority of her published work concentrates on northern Fennoscandia, she has also done fieldwork in New Zealand, Botswana and Greenland and visited foraging groups in northern Thailand.
Charlotte’s main interests focus on the intersection between archaeology and anthropology, including past identities, multicultural and interregional interaction, rituals and cosmology as well issues relating to indigenous archaeology. She has led a multidisciplinary research group on early networking in northern Fennoscandia at the Centre for Advanced Study in Oslo and is currently a PI for a project on Stone Age Demographics.
While in Kiel, Charlotte will collaborate with colleagues in ROOTS and in particular with the subcluster Knowledge (link) in order to explore new avenues to address issues in hunter-gatherer archaeology.Damm

Tim Kohler is a holder of the JMA chair of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS for the next three months until Dec. 1, 2021. He comes from the USA, where he is a Regents Professor (emeritus) in Anthropology (archaeology) at Washington State University in Pullman. He is also an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute and a member of the ROOTS Scientific Advisory Board.KohlerTim while revisiting his University of Florida PhD alma mater on the occasion of an invited lecture (photo by: Tim Kohler, 2021).

Tim’s research has mostly centered on the US Southwest where he directed the Village Ecodynamics Project for almost two decades (link). This project has looked at many processes also central to various subclusters in ROOTS, including Inequalities, Conflict, Knowledge, and Socio-environmental Hazards. While in Kiel though he will be concentrating mainly on interacting with the ROOTS of Inequalities subcluster (link). One of his activities will be to set up a meeting for a project that has been recently funded by the US National Science Foundation, called ‘The creation and division of wealth and the long-term consequences of inequality: views from archaeology.” The first meeting for this project will be held at Oxford in November and Tim Kohler will be accompanied there by Tim Kerig, who will be representing the ROOTS subcluster on Inequalities. While in Kiel Tim will also be working on ways to formalize approaches to causation in archaeology, using in particular the rich datasets generated by the Village Ecodynamics Project on the relationships through time among population size, climate, wealth inequality, and violence in northern Pueblo societies.  
Another project in progress while he is here is editing a special issue of the Journal of Social Computing on a topic that overlaps with the ROOTS subcluster on Knowledge: “Evolution of Collective Computational Abilities of (Pre)Historic Societies.” Tim is lead author on the article introducing the issue, which will also include an article by ROOTS Speaker Johannes Müller on “Tripolye mega-sites: Collective Computational Abilities of prehistoric proto-urban societies.”
Finally, as time permits around these other activities, Tim is looking forward to getting to know as much as he can about the rich archaeology and history of the Schleswig-Holstein!KohlerTim Kohler (right) with some other members of the Village Project’s Community Center Survey, in Mesa Verde National Park (photo by: Tim Kohler, 2021)

Past, Present, Future: Archaeological Climate Summit in Kiel

Archaeological Climate Summit in Kiel
The condition of sediments informs about environmental developments and human influences (Belauer See, Germany; Photo: W. Dörfler).

In order to discuss the global state of research on social archaeology and climate change, the Summit on Social Archaeology of Climate Change (SACC) will take place at Kiel University in Germany on 6 September 2021. The meeting is linked to the Kiel Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA), which will be organized this year from 6–11 September by the Johanna Mestorf Academy in a virtual format.

“The global consequences of climate change are omnipresent and have long since ceased to be a problem of the distant future” Kiel archaeologist Johannes Mueller and initiator of the summit explains. “However, the current discussion about the socio-ecological consequences of climate change often lacks a consideration of (pre)historical climate events and how the population of the time dealt with them. Yet, with the help of archaeological research, important lessons from these (pre)historical events can be used to better understand current transformation processes and build societal resilience” he adds.

The aim of the summit is to bring together international scientists and representatives of important international organisations in the fields of archaeology and heritage management to discuss and evaluate the contribution of archaeological research to understand the link between social, cultural, ecological and climatic change. The meeting will take place in the context of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and subsequent national and international strategies and initiatives.

Peter Biehl from the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has launched the initiative together with Johannes Mueller points out “The aim is to highlight how archaeology, through the study of past adaptive behaviour, is able to enhance socio-ecological resilience of societies as well as their adaptive capacity to current climate change.” Furthermore, contributing to the understanding of the impact of climate change on archaeological and heritage sites as well as on cultural landscapes, museums, collections, and archives is also an important aspect of the meeting. The results of the summit will subsequently be summarised and published in the form of a declaration on the state of archaeological heritage and research effected by climate change.

Archaeological Climate Summit in Kiel
Archaeological excavations worldwide like in Sultana, Romania, document the state of societies and the environment over millennia (photo: J. Müller).

Archaeological Climate Summit in Kiel
The Wadden Sea like many of the world's landscapes, including their archaeological heritage, are extremely vulnerable to climate change (photo: T. Willershäuser, JGU Mainz).

Archaeological Climate Summit in Kiel
Drilling lake sediments as part of an excavation opens up archives of environmental history (Sultana, Romania; Photo: J. Müller).


Find the German version here

Scientific contact:
Johannes Mueller (Institute of Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology)
Peter Biehl (University of California, Santa Cruz, USA)

Press contact:
Angelika Hoffmann (Research focus officer SECC/JMA)
The SACC summits logo (Kiel UFG, J. Cordts).







ROOTS presents at the 75 Jahre Schleswig-Holstein Celebrations


On Sunday August 22, Schleswig-Holstein celebrated its 75th anniversary with a civic festival and an official ceremony at Gottorf Castle. The Cluster of Excellence ROOTS was also present and was represented by the archaeo:lab of the Kiel Research Workshop (Katrin Schöps) and the ZBSA (Ilka Rau). It was important for us to demonstrate the connection between ROOTS research and the public outreach activities based on it. For this purpose, there were also two hands-on activities on the topics of ceramics and landscape history. We got into conversation with many interested citizens about this and even our prime minister, Daniel Günther, took the time to inform himself about our offers for pupils and the general public.

ROOTS hands-on activities on the topics of ceramics

ROOTs meets Daniel Günther

Cluster ROOTS funds new interdisciplinary projects with 335,000 €

ROOTS interdisciplinary projects

In early spring 2021, the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS invited its members to apply for funding in support of projects that apply innovative approaches to address overarching themes beyond single subcluster or disciplinary research topics.

On the basis of stringent selection criteria, which included novelty, methodology, interdisciplinarity, excellence in scientific approach, relevance in relation to the call, as well as collaborations and dissemination, five projects were selected for funding with the support of external reviewers from the eight applications. These projects will each be funded with up to 75,000 euros with a duration of up to 2 years. The Cluster of Excellence ROOTS funds these new interdisciplinary studies on social, environmental, and cultural phenomena and processes that substantially marked past human development with a total of 335,000€. 

A presentation of these newly funded projects will take place during the next plenary meeting, scheduled for November 26, 2021. 

We look forward to the results of these investigations!


The following projects were funded in the framework of the 2021 ROOTS internal research grant call:

  • Project: “Food production pathways (FPP), dietary dynamics, and climate change in the southern Levant”. PIs: Cheryl Makarewicz, Ralph Schneider, and Henny Piezonka.
  • Project: “Between domestication and invasion: rethinking the socio-environmental ROOTS of crops, weeds and invasive species”. PIs: Sofia (Sonja) Filatova, Wiebke Kirleis, Eva Stukenbrock, Alexandra Erfmeier, Konrad Ott, Ben Krause-Kyora, Katrin Schöps, Jens Schneeweiß, and Guillermo Torres.
  • Project: “3DARK DEPTH - Describing, Discussing and Developing Analytical Research Knowledge of the Dark Earth Phenomenon in Theory and Practice”. PIs: Jens Schneeweiß, Eileen Eckmeier, Pawel Cembrzynski, Ben Krause-Kyora, Wiebke Kirleis, and Katrin Schöps.
  • Project: “Interlinking exchange: The search for communalities in prehistoric networks (Europe, W-Asia, N-Africa - 8000 to 1 BCE)”. PIs: Johanna Hilpert, Tim Kerig, Lorenz Kienle, Jutta Kneisel, Oliver Nakoinz, Matthias Renz, and Andrea Ricci.
  • Project: “The Forest Finns as a Model for the Early Slavic Migration”. PIs: Jens Schneeweiß, Magdalena Schmid, Vesa Arponen, Ben Krause-Kyora, Henny Piezonka, Wiebke Kirleis, Eileen Eckmeier, Sofia (Sonja) Filatova, and John Meadows.

Michaela Ecker granted with a prestigious DFG Emily Noether Project

Ecker Kalahari
Landscape in the southern Kalahari near Tsabong in Botswana. Stone artefacts are visible in the foreground of the image (photo: Michael Ecker).

On the Trail of Human Development in the Kalahari. In the framework of a newly approved DFG project, the member of ROOTS, Michaela Ecker, investigates the influence of climate change on the evolution of modern humans in Africa.

That Africa is the cradle of humankind is meanwhile scientifically proven. Fossil finds date the presence of Homo sapiens, today’s humans, to ca. 300,000 years before our time. However, much is still unexplained for the early phase of human development. What influence did climate change have on human development and what role did it play in the emergence of Homo sapiens as the only surviving species among many?

In order to get to the bottom of these questions, the German Research Foundation (DFG) has granted the archaeologist Dr. Michaela Ecker, of the Institute of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology, Kiel University, and member of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, 1.3 million Euros for the next six years. The funding is provided in the framework of the Emmy Noether Program, which enables outstanding young scientists to qualify for a professorship at an early stage by leading their own working group.
The evolution of humans in Africa is closely linked to environmental and landscape changes. “However, there is hardly any environmental data from terrestrial archives in Southern Africa, in order to understand the influence of this climate change on the biological and cultural evolution of Homo sapiens,” explains Ecker. The project “Kgalagadi Human Origins” begins here and focuses on reconstructions of past climate and environmental conditions at the investigated archaeological sites in the southern Kalahari basin within the border region of Botswana and South Africa.

“In this context, we are concentrating on the time period between 800,000 and 400,000 years before today,” states Ecker. “This was a time of extreme climate change, which is characterised by an increase in the number and intensity of glacial-interglacial climatic phases, i.e. cold and warm periods.”
In close cooperation with archaeologists from Botswana and South Africa as well as international experts from the USA and Great Britain, Ecker reconstructs changes in the flora and the seasonality of precipitation, which have led to the current very dry environment. “The results of this project contribute to our knowledge about human-environmental adaptations in times of severe climate change,” says Ecker.
The new interdisciplinary Emmy Noether group is networked with several institutes of Kiel University. Ecker works together with scientists from the Institute of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology, the Institute of Geosciences, the Institute for Ecosystem Research, and the Leibniz-Laboratory for Radiometric Dating and Stable Isotope Research.

The project officially commenced on June 1st, 2021. The first field campaign is planned for this year, providing that the COVID-19 circumstances permit it.

Congratulations Michaela!


The original press release in German and English can be found here: Link

Project homepage:


Black Gold: Educational film on bucket flotation for archaeobotanical investigations

Black Gold
As a by-product of research on social and agricultural transformations in the Late Bronze Age archaeobotanist Wiebke Kirleis together with her team has produced an educational film documenting archaeobotanical sample preparation.
The 11 minute short film shows the individual steps that each archaeobotanical sample has to go through – step by step and meticulously explained, understandable for pros and laymen alike. The advantage of bucket flotation presented here is that samples can be mudded near the excavation site – even in extremely shallow waters.  Another advantage: instead of a 10-litre bucket full of sediment, only a sample bag with a sip of water needs to be brought to the lab. At the Institute for Prehistory and Protohistory, the samples are washed, dried, and eventuelly sorted and determined under the binocular microscope.
With this educational film, there is a digital format is available that can be used to prepare practical archaeobotanical exercises and archaeological excavations at universities, and can also be used for museum education and in the archaeo:lab (link to ROOTS website and link to Forschungswerkstatt).
The search for old plant remains, i.e. archaeobotanical analyses, allows us to decipher the diet of the time and make statements about agriculture. In this case, the cooperation between archaeologists and archaeobotanists expands the knowledge about an archaeological site and the living conditions and makes it possible to understand how everyday life was organised at that time.
The film which comes in a German and an English version was made during an excavation in Dobbin (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) under the direction of Jutta Kneisel. 

The English version:

The German version:


Find more information on the Botanical Platform here

Contact: Prof. Dr. Wiebke Kirleis

Plague case 5000 years ago in Latvia: No evidence of an epidemic at the time

ancient DNA

Skull bones of the man who was buried in Riņņukalns, Latvia, around 5000 years ago. The research team has discovered the plague pathogen in these bones (photo: Dominik Göldner, BGAEU, Berlin).

A research team from Kiel University in Germany has found new clues to the evolution of the pathogen, based on DNA from a 5000-year-old plague case.

The plague, which caused a pandemic in the late Middle Ages, leading to an estimated 25 million deaths worldwide known as the "Black Death", is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis (Y. pestis), which occurs especially in rodents and can be transmitted to humans by fleas as well as from person to person. Recent studies have shown that the pathogen already infected humans much earlier, but how exactly it evolved, and when it became dangerous for humans are the subject of current scientific research. A team from Kiel University (CAU), in collaboration with the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA), Schloss Gottorf, and the Institute of Latvian History of the Latvian University of Riga (LVI), has now discovered the genome of the plague pathogen in the remains of a man who lived in what is today Latvia around 5000 years ago. The analyses provide insight into the very early stages of the evolution of Y. pestis. Contrary to what was previously assumed, the results show that the bacteria already infected people at the beginning of the Neolithic Period, but probably had only a limited potential for infection, so that they could not yet spread in epidemic proportions. The team published their results today in the scientific journal Cell Reports.

The researchers examined the remains of four individuals who were all buried in the same place in Riņņukalns, Latvia, around 5000 years ago. "Previously, little was known about the hunter-fisher-gatherers who lived in north-eastern Europe at the time, and about their exposure to infectious diseases," explained coordinating author Professor Ben Krause-Kyora, biochemist and archaeologist at the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (IKMB) at the CAU and member of the Clusters of Excellence "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" (PMI), "ROOTS – Social, Environmental, and Cultural Connectivity in Past Societies“ as well as in the Collaborative Research Centre 1266 „Scales of Transformation“ (CRC 1266). Using special analysis methods established in Kiel, the team investigated the ancient DNA from the human remains, such as teeth and bones, for bacterial and viral pathogens. They identified parts of the genome of Y. pestis, the plague pathogen, in a male individual.

Since after so many years the DNA in the bones is only present in small pieces, the scientists had to reassemble the genome of the bacterium from the individual fragments. They analyzed the reconstructed genome along with genetic information from more recent plague strains to find out where the Latvian strain comes from, and how and when it evolved. They dated the origin of this pathogen strain to the beginning of the Neolithic Period around 7000 years ago. The strain investigated is thus the earliest to date in the evolution of the plague pathogen. "Our estimate is around 1000 years earlier than previously assumed," said co-initiator Dr. Harald Lübke, researcher at the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology, Schloss Gottorf, and member of the CRC 1266.

The starting point for the work was the scientific assumption that plague epidemics did already occur during the Neolithic Period. "We were looking for factors that enable pathogens to trigger epidemics in general. We wanted to investigate this in more detail, based on the plague pathogen," explained Krause-Kyora. "However, contrary to expectations, our data does not support the previous hypothesis of a pneumonic plague pandemic during this period. In contrast, our analyses suggest that this very early form of the plague pathogen was probably less transmissible, and possibly also less virulent, than later strains," added Krause-Kyora. Rather, the geographical and temporal distribution of the few prehistoric plague cases reported so far suggests individual so-called zoonoses, i.e., infections in which the pathogen was passed directly from animals to humans. The pathogen only later developed the potential to trigger an epidemic or even a global pandemic. "From an archaeological perspective, this finding is important because it suggests that infections with the plague bacterium did not lead to large-scale transformative social or political changes in the Neolithic," said Professor Johannes Müller, spokesperson of the CRC 1266, the ROOTS Cluster of Excellence, and director of the Institute of Pre- and Protohistory at Kiel University.

"The results contribute also to a better understanding of how zoonoses have arisen and continue to arise, and how this in turn can develop into epidemics and pandemics," said Professor Stefan Schreiber, spokesperson of the Cluster of Excellence PMI, director of the IKMB and also director of the Department of Internal Medicine I at the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), Campus Kiel.

Research into ancient human DNA and old pathogens in general can also provide more information about modern diseases, such as chronic inflammatory diseases. While infections were a major challenge to the human immune system in the past millennia, due to living conditions such as hygiene and nutrition, nowadays it is more common for a dysregulated immune system to cause chronic inflammations. There could very well be an evolutionary link between the two aspects. "We can better understand modern diseases of the immune system and their origins, if we know more about the pathogens that used to be particularly challenging for the human immune system. Therefore, their research has long been an important focus in the Cluster of Excellence PMI," said Schreiber.

The project was supported by the Cluster of Excellence "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" (PMI), the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, the Collaborative Research Centre 1266 "Scales of Transformation"; the archaeological research on the Riņņukalns site is part of the research project "Riņņukalns, a Neolithic freshwater shell midden site in northern Latvia and its significance for cultural development of the Eastern Baltic Stone Age" of the ZBSA in cooperation with the LVI; all funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

ancient DNAJawbone of the man who was buried in Riņņukalns, Latvia, around 5000 years ago. The research team has discovered the DNA of the plague-causing pathogen in this material (photo: Dominik Göldner, BGAEU, Berlin).

ancient DNA
The Ancient DNA Lab which is the specialized laboratory for ancient DNA, is part of the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology at Kiel University (CAU). Its core is the cleanroom, which is needed to process the tiny amounts of highly degraded DNA that are typically found in ancient skeletal remains (photo: B. Krause-Kyora, Kiel university).

The Riņņukalns site, a Stone Age shell midden on the banks of the Salaca River near the outflow from Lake Burtniek (photo: Harald Lübke, ZBSA, Schloss Gottorf).


Find the German version here

Prof. Dr. Ben Krause-Kyora
Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (IKMB)
Kiel University (CAU) and University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH)

Original publication:
Susat et al.: A 5,000-year-old hunter-gatherer already plagued by Yersinia pestis. Cell Reports (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109278

Oliver Nakoinz, new Professor for Quantitative Archaeology at Kiel University

NakoinzThe Kiel archaeologist, Oliver Nakoinz, has been appointed to a professorship of quantitative archaeology at Kiel University (photo: private).

Appointment strengthens research area at the Kiel Institute for Prehistory and Early History

The Kiel archaeologist and member of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, Dr. Oliver Nakoinz, has been appointed to an "außerplanmäßige" professorship for quantitative archaeology at Kiel University (Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel). In addition to his merits in archaeological research and teaching, his international reputation in the field of spatial-statistical archaeology was particularly decisive for the appointment.

As a scientist in the Johanna Mestorf Academy of the Kiel Institute for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology, Nakoinz is responsible for numerous projects. Among other things, his ground-breaking studies on spatial communication patterns in Celtic Southern Germany, which deal with the formation and networking of fortified Iron Age settlements, are to be highlighted. In addition, he heads the Integrated Research Training Group (IRTG) as well as a modelling project in the Kiel Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 1266 and, together with the University of Cambridge, a CRC project on the interaction between Northern Italy, Southern Germany and Northern Germany in the 1st millennium BCE. The renowned book series “Quantitative Archaeology and Archaeological Modelling”, published by Springer, was developed by Nakoinz.
“The appointment as a professor of quantitative archaeology strengthens the development of this research area”, remarks Nakoinz happily. Quantitative archaeology addresses the structures, which are more or less concealed in archaeological data. These structures are made visible with mathematical and statistical concepts and, together with archaeological theories, generate new knowledge about the past.

One area of quantitative archaeology is pathway research. In this context, terrain data is used to calculate how a route between two locations should be theoretically conceived. “If you compare these theoretical paths with empirical evidence, such as burial mounds that can indicate paths, you can validate how well different models are adapted to reality. From this, one can infer which aspects were considered in prehistory when selecting a route,” explains Nakoinz. The models can convey the meaning of the empirical results. “This enables us to more easily understand why people in prehistory acted in a certain way,” explains the archaeologist.

For decades, quantitative archaeology has been implemented at Kiel University and, in the meantime, Kiel has developed into a leading location in this field, which is reflected, among other things, in the Initiative for Statistical Analysis in Archaeology Kiel (ISAAK) and in the newly founded Center for Interdisciplinary Data Science (CIDS). The participation of quantitative archaeology was also decisive for the approval of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS and the SFB 1266, two scientific collaborative research projects funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

NakoinzA Bronze Age tumulus at Danish Wahld in Schleswig-Holstein. Such burial mounds, which are assumed to be located in the vicinity of prehistoric paths, can serve as criteria for theoretical models in pathway research (photo: Oliver Nakoinz).

Simulation of prehistoric settlement sizes, which illustrates different developments for different locations (photo: Oliver Nakoinz).


Find the German version here

Scientific contact:
Prof. Dr. Oliver Nakoinz (Institute for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology)

Press contact:
Angelika Hoffmann (Research focus officer SECC/JMA)

2021 ROOTS Retreat


The 2021 ROOTS Retreat took place in digital form on 27 and 28 May 2021 with the participation of more than 80 members of the cluster. The purpose of this meeting was to strengthen communication between the research units by focusing on the interlinkage groups and the overall research questions of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. The six exciting interlinkage groups address overreaching themes, defined as “Mobility and Migration”, “Routes and Networks”, “Resources and Economy, “Ideology and Identity”, “Waste/Abfall”, and “Past-Past & Past-Present”. The intensive discussions, which took place during the retreat, enabled the participants to undertake joint research and plan co-authored papers or other publications, including booklets on specific topics. We expect that these discussions will lead to cutting-edge approaches to unveil and reconstruct past socio-cultural-environmental connectivities.

Stay tuned for more developments of the interlinkage groups.

Classical Archaeology at Kiel University launches new Master's programme in the winter semester

Classical Archaeology MasterThe Temple of Hercules (2nd century AD) in the heart of modern Amman is the most impressive remnant of the ancient city of Philadelphia (photo: Patric-Alexander Kreuz, Kiel University).

The material culture of antiquity is the subject of the new single-subject Masters programme "Classical Archaeology" at Kiel University. With the start of the coming winter semester, students will receive a theoretically and methodologically reflected, contextual approach. The aim of the new Master's programme offers to students the opportunity to build a profile in the breadth of research and knowledge transfer in the subject of Classical Archaeology by deepening their knowledge of monuments, applying sophisticated analytical methods and interpretative research approaches, as well as in expanding their practical skills and experience.
This single-subject Master's programme complements the already established two-subject Master's programme in Kiel. With its orientation, it considers the central focal points of classical archaeological research in Kiel and ensures a close interlocking of research and teaching.
With several sub-projects, Classical Archaeology is also involved in the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS as well as in the Collaborative Research Centre TransformationsDimensions. Students can thus gain insights into or actively participate in research activities at various stages of their careers. `

More information on this new Master´s programme can be found in the press release (in German) here

Classical Archaeology Master
Villa dei Misterii, Pompeii (photo: Annette Haug, Uni Kiel).

Johannes Müller awarded with Humboldt Fellowship for Swedish-German Cooperation

Swedish-German Science Cooperation
Johannes Müller from the Institute for Prehistory and Early History at Kiel University, Germany. Prof. Müller is speaker of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS and the Collaborative Research Center "Scales of Transformation". (Photo: Sara Jagiolla UFG Kiel)

Award for Johannes Müller

The Swedish Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ) has awarded Johannes Müller, Speaker of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, the 30th Humboldt Fellowship for outstanding German researchers. The award is granted annually on the recommendation of Swedish universities to researchers who have fostered the research cooperation between Scandinavia and Central Europe and presented excellent scientific results on topics of Swedish and German research. The RJ is an independent Swedish foundation with the aim of promoting the humanities and the social sciences.

Müller was nominated for the award by the University of Gothenburg, with whose Institute of Historical Sciences the Kiel researcher maintains scientific contacts on the archaeology of the Scandinavian and European region. Archaeological research in Gothenburg is characterized by projects on past societies that use novel methods to investigate the human-environment interaction of past societies. It thus has a similar focus to the successful Kiel archaeological collaborative projects.

"Archaeology in its holistic and long-term historical perspective, especially as a humanities and natural science, offers the opportunity to better understand the challenges of the modern world," Müller explains the scientific context. "Especially in collaboration with Gothenburg, we have shown that modern historical and archaeological research must answer questions about the sustainability of societies, conflict resolution and social inequality in an interdisciplinary way. We know that awareness of the past always has a political dimension. Instead of focussing on foreignness, violence, and disintegration, it is precisely the new results of archaeological research that make us aware that diversity, integration, and the desire for peace have always been crucial to human beings and human societies."

Since the beginning of April, Johannes Müller has now been at Gothenburg University to intensify the joint research work within the framework of the existing Swedish-German cooperation and to participate in several working groups. The research fellowship covers all costs of his six-month stay.

Swedish-German partnership with tradition

The University of Gothenburg is a partner in the Cluster of Excellence "ROOTS – Social, Environmental, and Cultural Connectivity in Past Societies" and in the Collaborative Research Center 1266 "Scales of Transformation: Human-Environmental Interaction in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies." The collaboration will also extend to Müller's project on the archaeology of vision, funded by the European Research Council under an ERC Synergy Grant, which closely cooperates with the Gothenburg ERC Synergy project "From Correlation to Interpretation of Prehistoric Societies."

How close the cooperation between German and Swedish archaeological and anthropological research has always been is also demonstrated by the CV of the name bearer of the Kiel Johanna Mestorf Academy. The Kiel archaeologist Johanna Mestorf (1828-1909), one of the first museum directors in Germany and the first woman in Prussia to be awarded the title of honorary professor at Kiel University, had become acquainted with essential aspects of scientific archaeology in Sweden and had worked in both Scandinavian and German-speaking countries.

Indeed, structural aspects of science systems are important to Müller in addition to issues of content. "In Germany, around 92 percent of scientists and scholars at universities currently work on fixed-term contracts. This two-tier society in science is the major deficit in Germany's otherwise positive development as a science location. I am curious to see whether Scandinavian universities offer possible solutions on this issue," says Müller. Overall, the stay in Gothenburg is intended to be a window to further develop institutional and scientific networking between Kiel and Gothenburg.

Swedish-German Science Cooperation
It is inherent to archaeology that it is anchored in the cultural and the natural sciences alike. Excavations, such as that of a 5300-year-old megalithic tomb in Wangels, Schleswig-Holstein, form the basis for the database that major projects in both Gothenburg and Kiel work with. (Photo: Sara Jagiolla UFG Kiel)

Scientific contact:
Prof. Dr. Johannes Müller
Institute for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology

Find the German version here

Let's get digging!

Exciting discoveries in the earth: schoolchildren will be able to carry out experiments on all aspects of archaeology at Kiel University's new archäo:labor.

Lets get diggingYoung archaeologists find real pottery shards in the archaeo:lab's excavation site. For this purpose, the team has recreated vessels with patterns from the Neolithic and destroyed them (photo: Kieler Forschungswerkstatt).

How did people live in the Neolithic Age and the Bronze Age? What did they eat? What did their houses look like? And where were the toilets? Schoolchildren from fifth to seventh grade can find the answers to these and many other questions at Kiel Science Factory's archäo:labor, a laboratory for schoolchildren run jointly by Kiel University and the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN). After the Easter holidays, the new specialist laboratory team will begin conducting its archaeological experiments in collaboration with the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS.

"Ab in die Grube" (let's get digging) is the name of the project on the grounds of the Botanic Gardens at Kiel University. Next to the Kiel Science Factory building, an excavation site is ready and waiting for the school classes. School children will go on a discovery tour of the earth set out under a tent roof to protect the young researchers and any finds from the weather. They will use trowels, sieves and planning frames just like Kiel University's experts on their digs. "We have buried a series of finds in the excavation site for the schoolchildren to discover and identify," explained IPN researcher Dr Katrin Schöps, who is responsible for the archäo:labor. The team has filled the excavation site to the brim with detailed finds. The experts made their own Stone Age-style ceramic vessel and then smashed it to create fragments that are as authentic-looking as possible for the specialist laboratory.In one corner of the excavation site, a fireplace was filled with charred plant remains, while in another the fabric remains of pieces of clothing were placed, worn by Bronze Age people who lived in imaginary moorland close by.

"By conducting experiments on all the finds, the school children will be able to draw conclusions about life in the Neolithic Age and the Bronze Age, so between around 4,100 and 500 BCE. In the Neolithic Age, hunters and gatherers became settled farmers and herders," explained archeobotanist Dr Walter Dörfler of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS at Kiel University. In the Cluster of Excellence, researchers from the humanities and natural sciences as well as the life sciences and engineering work closely together. They are studying the social, cultural, ecological and economic aspects of past societies.

"The results of our interdisciplinary research form the basis of the content and structure of the archäo:labor," said Dörfler. Five modules were created covering the basic human needs of housing, food, clothing, environment and social interaction, which the school classes will work through in small groups. "The module on social interaction considers the fragments of pottery and the function of ceramics in the past and present," explained Dörfler. The unearthed pottery pieces not only reveal the types of vessels people used in Schleswig-Holstein, they are also evidence of interaction with other regions.

Pollen samples are analysed in the module on the environment. As explained by pollen expert Dörfler, schoolchildren can draw conclusions about certain plant species from these analyses. What did the landscape look like at that time? Was the house in a forest, heathland or arable land? And what does that signify for the food people ate?

Schöps is particularly excited about the module on housing. For this module, the team printed a large-scale outline plan of a Stone Age house found during an excavation. Dark marks on the ground are indications of pillars and walls, fireplaces and waste pits. "The children will have no luck finding a bathroom here," laughed Schöps. "The bathroom question always comes up."

Documentation is the most important task for any young archaeologist. "Regardless of whether this is during the dig, during the experiments or when working under the microscope: observation notes are the be all and end all for experts," said Dörfler and Schöps. "Of course, primarily our work is about making exciting discoveries, but we also document, scrutinise and critically analyse the finds." This is what the everyday life of the university researcher entails. The modules have already been tried and tested within the framework of teacher training sessions and now await the arrival of the schoolchildren.

For the time being, the programme offered by archäo:labor is geared towards the fifth to seventh grades of community and grammar schools. Programmes for higher grades are currently being developed.

Author: Jennifer Ruske

Information and contact:
Tel. 0431 / 880-5916


This article appeared on the Uni Zeit #106. You can find the link to the German version of this article here


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