People in ROOTS interviews

Find here an overview of all People in ROOTS interviews.People in 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.

People in ROOTS: Paweł Cembrzyński


The People in ROOTS series proceeds with an interview of Paweł Cembrzyński, one of the associate researchers of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS

Paweł, you began your work last October in the framework of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. Can you tell us something about your planned research here?
My research conducted in Urban ROOTS focuses on historical urban ecology. In a holistic framework, I intend to study the relations between the natural environment, society and urban forms to find out how these elements shape and influence each other. Such questions require investigations of human impact on the natural environment, human perception and responses to these changes and what follows after such changes. Both a medieval and a post-medieval town stand in the centre of these issues as a stage, where all these elements were interconnected. The Cluster of Excellence ROOTS offers a perfect opportunity to study such a complex phenomenon. In addition to issues, such as urban agency and perception, which are the main research topics of Urban ROOTS investigations, important elements of my research involve environmental and social change as well as the transfer of knowledge. By combining these elements, my project opens a wide range of possibilities to cooperate with the ROOTS of Environmental Hazards, ROOTS of Inequality and ROOTS of Knowledge subclusters.

More specifically, what are your main lines of research?
Historical urban ecology is a complex and difficult topic that has rarely been studied. To narrow down this enormous issue, I chose to investigate the ecology of medieval and post-medieval mining towns in Central Europe. These towns were dynamic places characterised by their huge impact on the natural environment, a great demand for resources, and an intensive social and economic struggle between miners, merchants, wealthy investors and lords. Their rich material culture and urban fabric, showing fortunes and aspirations of town inhabitants, opens up many research avenues for urban ecology. Specifically, I will target my research on two large mining towns: Freiberg in Germany and Kutná Hora in Czechia, which can provide a sufficient amount of historical data. As an archaeologist, I will concentrate my studies on material culture and the urban fabric of mining towns as well as the development of mining districts and mining technology. I will analyse social aspects of towns in close cooperation with historians. All environmental issues, including resource management and pollution, will be studied in cooperation with environmental science specialists. I plan to carry out some fieldwork on small short-period mining sites, which, in contrast to large centres with long-lasting mining, can help us to comprehend the mutual relations between mining and environment.

Career life before ROOTS: what were the main stations and milestones of your career path so far?
I studied archaeology at Jagiellonian University in Cracow. My M.A. was concerned with water supplies and waste disposal in medieval towns and was published as a book. Subsequently, I started PhD studies at Jagiellonian University, which resulted in a dissertation about the genesis of mining towns in Central Europe. During that period, I spent a lot of time working on commercial rescue excavations especially in urban centres, which provided me with a lot of practical knowledge about urban field archaeology. In 2016, I was awarded a 3-year grant financed by the National Science Centre Poland for the project ‘Empty spaces’ in medieval towns in Central Europe. As a result, I moved to the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences at the Centre of Material Culture History in Warsaw. This fellowship allowed me to work closely with historians, which greatly helped me to become familiar with historical methodology and approaches. It resulted in fruitful collaborations and inspiring interdisciplinary teamwork. As soon as I heard about the announced position in the ROOTS Cluster, I knew that this is exactly the place where I would like to continue working. I am excited to learn more about different fields of historical research.

Life beyond ROOTS: what do you like to do beyond your research?    
When I am not busy with my research, I enjoy strolling around town, exploring small streets and yards in order to observe and experience ongoing urban life. My favourite places are bookstores, where I can obtain something worth reading. However, what I like the most is to share all these experiences with good company over a pint of beer!

Paweł Cembrzyński is a research associate with the Subcluster “Urban ROOTS” (link).

You can contact him at:
Photo by Joanna Sudyka


People in ROOTS: Sofia (Sonja) Filatova

Sonja Filatova

The ‘People in ROOTS’ series proceeds with an interview of Sofia (Sonja) Filatova, one of the postdoctoral fellow of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS.

Last summer, you began to work in the framework of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. Can you tell us something about your research here?
I am involved in the subcluster Dietary ROOTS within the project ‘Genetic Variation in Ancestral Crops’ (link). This is an interdisciplinary collaboration between ancient plant geneticists, molecular biologists and archaeobotanists. We aim to investigate the origin and diversity of cultivated rye (Secale cereale L.) from the perspective of the genome of rye as well as the history of its cultivation. Our main archives are remains of desiccated rye that were used as part of the isolation of half-timbered houses in Central Europe from the Middle Ages until early modern times. As an archaeobotanist, I investigate the botanical remains in these archives to collect information on the physical properties of rye, to specify the human practices that defined its cultivation, to gather relevant information about the immediate surroundings where rye grew, and to look for potential signs of pathogens. My results will provide the historical and archaeobotanical context that is required for a holistic interpretation of the genomic data. Within ROOTS, this study will contribute to a better understanding of how humans and the environment have shaped each other through time by zooming in on the interplay between ourselves and cultivated rye.
More broadly, what are your main lines of research?
I am an archaeologist by training with a specialisation in archaeobotany. Broadly speaking, my main interests in the field of archaeobotany lie in the interactions between humans and plants and how the remnants of these interactions can be used to study past plant domestication, plant economy, food culture, and environment. As an archaeologist, one of my interests focuses on methodological questions concerning processes of deposition, the formation of archaeobotanical archives and how these processes reflect human behaviour and events of deposition. As an archaeobotanist, I am further interested in understanding the complex history of plant management and cultivation practices. Plants have often been viewed as static “natural objects” that can simply be manipulated according to the needs of humans, but as we now understand that plants are in turn able to “manipulate” us, this view has started to change. The development of rye enables an excellent case study on the association of plants and humans through time. Rye initially grew as a weed in wheat and barley fields and acquired traits of domestication via a process known as Vavilovian mimicry rather than selection through human action; it was eventually cultivated thousands of years after its initial appearance.

Career life before ROOTS: what were the main stations and milestones of your career path so far?
I completed my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Groningen (the Netherlands) in July 2016. During my studies, I specialised in archaeobotany, but I was also trained in the archaeology of the Mediterranean and Northern Netherlands and I participated in a wide array of fieldwork projects, including archaeological excavations, geoarchaeological coring campaigns and ethnoarchaeobotanical studies. In November 2016, I moved to Kiel and started my PhD within the framework of the ‘Collaborative Research Centre 1266: Scales of Transformation in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies’ (link). My dissertation focussed on the study of archaeobotanical remains from Kakucs-Turján, a Bronze Age settlement located in modern Central Hungary. The research itself included fieldwork at Kakucs-Turján and a great amount of archaeobotanical lab work that involved the identification of seeds and fruits. Furthermore, I could learn more about the identification of wood charcoal, which has broadened my perspectives on archaeobotanical remains as well as my skills within the field of archaeobotany. I completed my dissertation in December 2019 and defended it in March 2020. In July 2020, I joined the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS as a postdoctoral fellow.

Life beyond ROOTS: what do you like to do beyond your research?    
There is a long list of things that I enjoy doing! For example, I like spending time in my kitchen, experimenting with fermentation, baking, and cooking. I love eating good food and drinking good beverages. I enjoy being lazy on the couch, playing video games, watching a film or series, or listening to music. I am also an active and adventurous person, doing yoga, taking hikes, and travelling close to home as well as to remote destinations. Above all, I like to combine these activities in the company of my partner, family, and friends.
Sonja Filatova is a postdoctoral fellow with the ROOTS subcluster ‘Dietary ROOTS’ (link).

You can contact her at:

People in ROOTS: Tim Kerig

After meeting Chiara Thumiger (link), the “People in ROOTS” series continues with an interview of Tim Kerig, one of the new associate researchers of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS

First of all, welcome to Kiel! Tim, you began to work a couple of months ago in the framework of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. Can you tell us something about your planned research here?
Oh yes, of course. My research in ROOTS is focused on the archaeology of social inequality. Former US president Obama once identified social inequality as the “defining challenge of our time” – just think of the climate consequences to come, who is going to pay for them? I address similar questions for the archaeological past, where social inequality sometimes also must have been a “defining challenge”, at least for some parts of the population. I work on the origin and evolution of social differences between human beings. I am interested in both social differentiation that is the function of inequality for a society and in social inequality, asking for the political consequences of inequality in a society. Social inequality is really a ROOTS topic: social inequality has deeply shaped our world and it has very deep roots in our past. Moreover, it is a very useful perspective not only for societal but also for environmental questions – who profits from change and who pays for it? Or think about war, an extreme interesting example of inequality: some people are dying for others…

More specifically, what are your main lines of research?
I am a European prehistorian working on temperate Europe. I follow a multi-proxy approach and try to develop indirect ways of measuring inequality by proxy, e.g., the time spent in crafting grave goods or square metres of living space in different households, sizes of military units, proximity to resources, and so on. Imagine a multi-dimensional space with a bundle of those proxies as axes: in such a space, one can neatly arrange all the different archaeological entities, cultures, sites, time slices, whatever… This should help us to explain where, when and why fundamental social changes occurred, e.g., the heritability of wealth and power. My theoretical background is in evolutionary theory as well as in analytical agency archaeology. I try to explain processes of the past to contribute critically to current discourses. To address social inequality, we also have to look at population numbers and productivity as well: first, one has to estimate the size of the cake – or of the total of the cast cakes of the Metal Ages – before we can look for the allocation of the share per capita or social groups.

Career life before ROOTS: what were the main stations and milestones of your career path so far?
I studied in Tübingen and Copenhagen and completed my PhD on Neolithic archaeology in Cologne. I held positions as an exhibition curator, an editor of books and a journal, and a field director. I hold postdoc positions in Cologne and at University College London, and at both places I was also the principal investigator of my own projects. I taught at eight universities, completed my habilitation in Leipzig on Neolithic economic systems, and I have been a fellow of the IGZA think tank close to the German metal workers union and at a Käte-Hamburger Centre in Berlin. Moreover, I am currently also excavating a cave and a tell site in Iraqi Kurdistan (actually a project on social inequality and agricultural choices and practices).

Life beyond ROOTS: what do you like to do beyond your research?    
I enjoy being boring. I spend my leisure time with friends and with my wife and kids – eating, discussing, sometimes singing, drinking wine (too little champagne!) and every now and then we do exactly the same, but at a skiing cabin in Norway, where my family lives.   
Tim Kerig is a research associate with the ROOTS subcluster “ROOTS of Inequalities” (link).
You can contact him at:

People in ROOTS: Bente Majchczack

Bente Majchczack

The ‘People in ROOTS’ series proceeds with an interview of Bente Majchczack, one of the associate researchers of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS.

Bente, you recently began your work in the framework of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. Can you tell us something about your planned research in Kiel?
My project focuses on geophysical and archaeological settlement research in the North Frisian Wadden Sea and is part of the subcluster ‘ROOTS of Socio-Environmental Hazards’. The Wadden Sea landscape is a very special archaeological and geological archive due to its highly dynamic nature. Throughout prehistory and into modern times, settlers were always compelled to adapt to rising sea-levels and the forces of the sea. While the area was mostly visited to gather resources during the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, first settlers started to inhabit the favourable elevated marshes during the Roman Iron Age. It was not earlier than the High Medieval period that large-scale colonisation set in to reclaim all the marshes and fenlands for agriculture, protecting the efforts with dykes and drainage systems. It all came to naught when catastrophic storm surges destroyed large parts of the cultivated land and the settlements in 1362 and 1634, turning previously inhabited marshes into tidal flats. The remains of the lost settlements are now covered and protected by sediment. My research aims to prospect these settlement remains and understand how the people living in this demanding environment tried to counter the natural hazards.

More specifically, what are your main lines of research?
Knowledge on the lost settlements in the Wadden Sea area is very limited, since archaeological findings only occur when the geological dynamics in the tidal flats uncover something. During the last years, geophysical prospection methods have proven their potential to uncover both settlements, dykes and field systems in large areas. We will conduct geophysical and archaeological prospections in promising areas to get a better picture of the settlement systems in different times of prehistory and the settlers’ efforts to protect their homes and cultivated lands against the sea. Especially useful are geomagnetic prospections to map remains covered by sediments and drone photography to map the visible remains. Based on the prospection data, we will employ corings to verify the settlement structures and collect and analyse find material for the datings. I am mostly interested in the currently little-known settlements of the Roman Iron Age and the Early Medieval period and we will compare them with the more systematic High Medieval settlement landscape. I think that the early settlers primarily adapted on a local scale by finding protected spots for their settlements, while the High Medieval settlers changed the entire landscape to their needs, facing the challenges of the natural environment. Nevertheless, through their dyke building, large-scale drainage and peat quarrying they produced additional hazards adding to the risks of rising sea-levels and changing climatic conditions. But socio-economic hazards, such as the plague pandemic of the 14th century or the Thirty Years’ war, also weakened the populations’ resilience and contributed to the decline of the Wadden Sea settlements.

Career life before ROOTS: what were the main stations and milestones of your career path so far?
I studied Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology with a minor in Geosciences at Kiel University and some Numismatics at the University of Vienna. In my master’s thesis, I analysed combined prospection data from aerial photography and several geophysical methods to shed light on settlements from the first millennium AD on the North Frisian island of Föhr. Afterwards, I joined the State Archaeological Department of Schleswig-Holstein and worked for the site register and conducted excavations.
From 2015 to 2018, I conducted my PhD project within a project on harbours of the first millennium AD along the North Sea coast at the Lower Saxony Institute for historical coastal research (NIhK) in Wilhelmshaven (link). We explored Early Medieval trading sites with a similar array of methods as implemented in the Wadden Sea project in close collaboration with my colleagues from the Institute of Geosciences at Kiel University. We found the sites through aerial photography, LiDAR-Scanning, systematic metal detecting and archive studies, mapped the overall settlement structures with geomagnetic prospections and gathered further details with ground penetrating radar, geoelectric and electric induction methods as well as corings. The prospection data formed the basis for targeted archaeological excavations. It was possible to excavate exactly those settlement areas and buildings needed to verify the prospection data, characterise the settlement layout and gain find material to date the settlements and gain insight into trade and craft activities. I finished my dissertation in early 2020 and joined ROOTS shortly thereafter.

Life beyond ROOTS: what do you like to do beyond your research?    
I live in Kiel and enjoy spending time with my family and friends very much. Travelling and meeting people are currently somewhat limited due to the ongoing pandemic, so I find great joy in outdoor and home-activities such as bike tours in the Kiel area, reading, cooking and spending time with my family.


Bente Majchczack is a research associate of the ROOTS subcluster ‘ROOTS of Socio-Environmental Hazards’ (link ).
You can contact him at:

People in ROOTS: Nicolas Lamare

The People in ROOTS series proceeds with an interview of Nicolas Lamare, one of the new associate researchers of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS

First of all, welcome to Kiel! Nicolas, you began your work last October in the framework of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. Can you tell us something about your planned research here?
I am member of the subcluster “Urban ROOTS” that investigates urban agency and perception, in other words, how people built cities and how cities shaped people. My project aims to investigate ancient cities from the time of the Roman Empire through the end of Antiquity in the provinces of North Africa, today the Maghreb. During more than six centuries of history, cities were enlarged and transformed so deeply that the way they looked and the way people lived in them completely differ. Specifically, my research addresses questions regarding the way cities were planned and organized as well as the importance of elites in funding and decisions about the transformation of public spaces. Moreover, it tackles issues related to building legislation, the social organization of cities, and adaptation to climate changes. One of the crucial aspects is concerned with the study of the environmental context of cities in accordance with the overall aim of ROOTS. For the project, a selection of well-known sites will be studied, but I am also already in the process of launching a new cooperation project with Tunisian archaeologists in order to obtain first-hand data from the field.

More specifically, what are your main lines of research?
I am an archaeologist, who specialises on the Roman and late antique period in the Mediterranean region. In particular, I am interested in urban contexts of North Africa. For my PhD research, I investigated one specific sort of building of Roman cities: the monumental fountains. These monuments were connected to many different aspects of the cities such as hydraulic networks, sculptural decorations, and construction funding. I am specialized in urbanism and architecture, which means I work with plans and technical drawings, focusing on the alterations of buildings through time and their relation to changes of cultural and social practices, for instance, in houses or baths. I am increasingly interested in the daily life of common people. This topic gained interest among scholars a few decades ago, whereas the early steps of Mediterranean archaeology essentially looked for spectacular objects and buildings, which belonged to the wealthiest people. Instead, I like to look at dirt, noise, and crowded conditions, which of course intrinsically characterised life in ancient towns and cities.

Career life before ROOTS: what were the main stations and milestones of your career path so far?I was mostly trained in France, where I studied in Rennes and joined the Sorbonne (Paris IV) for my Master (2006) and my PhD (2014) in archaeology that was published this year. After completing my doctorate, I held teaching positions in Toulouse and Amiens in 2016 and 2017. During these years, I also moved a few times: I received research grants for periods of study at the École française de Rome, at Brown University, and at the DAI in Berlin. Moreover, I have additionally become more acquainted with Germany since 2017, when I joined the Meninx Archaeological Project for fieldwork in Tunisia led by colleagues of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. In 2018, I was awarded a DAAD research grant, which I spent at the Free University of Berlin, where I continued to investigate the role of water in late antique cities. For over ten years, I have also been involved in different French fieldwork projects abroad, for example, in Haïdra (Tunisia), Labranda (Turkey), and Halaesa (Italy).

Life beyond ROOTS: what do you like to do beyond your research?   
I like to go to the cinema and to the theatre – that for the cultural part! When I arrived at Kiel, I immediately acquired a bike as a good adopted German: I have already enjoyed biking around the city and along the seashore. And I have to say that I appreciate the landscape and even the weather, which both remind me of my native Normandy!

Nicolas Lamare is a research associate with the ROOTS subcluster “Urban ROOTS” (link).
You can contact him at:

People in ROOTS: Jens Schneeweiß

Jens Schneeweiss

The People in ROOTS series continues with an interview of Jens Schneeweiß, one of the associate researchers of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS

Jens, you began your work some months ago in the framework of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. Can you tell us something about your planned research in Kiel?
My research within ROOTS focuses on the archaeology of conflicts. A great deal of research exists on war and violence, but the holistic and interdisciplinary approach that we apply in the framework of ROOTS is very innovative. This opens new perspectives on the reconstruction of long-lasting conflicts and sustainable resolution strategies. In particular, I investigate cultural and territorial boundaries of the Slavic world in the Early and High Middle Ages. During this period, communities transformed from egalitarian to more hierarchically structured societies, while different worldviews and subsistence strategies collided. The emergence of polyethnic and multicultural trading sites as proto-urban central places can also be observed. This diverse topic offers numerous intersections with the research pursued by the other ROOTS subclusters.

More specifically, what are your main lines of research?
Within such a vast topic, I investigate fortified sites in the eastern Baltic region, especially in Northwestern Russia, where Slavic and Scandinavian spheres of influence intertwined. Highly mobile warriors-trader elites used the great river systems of Eastern Europe as trade routes between Scandinavia, the Baltic Sea region, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, creating very efficient supraregional networks of interactions. In particular, my research focuses on two stronghold regions: the Volkhov River in Northwest Russia and the middle part of the Daugava / Western Dvina in Latvia and Belarus. Major fortified central places along the Volkhov (Staraya Ladoga, Rurikovo Gorodishche, Novgorod) are among the earliest Scandinavian settlements and gateways in Russia. In the second region, numerous fortifications protected the course of the river as part of the long-distance trade route. For a deeper understanding of the development of these stronghold systems and the identification of more peaceful or conflict phases, the most accurate possible dating of their functioning, extensions and abandonment is crucial. Consequently, a series of reliable radiocarbon datings is essential for the success of this project. Furthermore, I rely on other disciplines, including results from soil studies (micromorphology, biogeochemical analyses), scientific analyses of objects, geophysical prospecting, linguistic investigations of toponyms and analyses of historical data. All investigations are, of course, conducted in close and constant collaboration with local cooperation partners.

Career life before ROOTS: what were the main stations and milestones of your career path so far?
I studied archaeology and geology at the Humboldt University and the Technical University in Berlin. After a Magister thesis on Early Iron Age to Middle Age sites in Northeast Germany, I completed my PhD thesis at the Eurasian Department of the German Archaeological Institute with an investigation on the Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age transition in Western Sibiria. I transferred to Göttingen University, where I was a scientific/teaching assistant as well as a curator of the archaeological collection. There, my investigations focused on the Western Slavic periphery in the Lower Elbe region during the Carolingian and Ottonian periods. This study created the basis for my habilitation that I completed in Göttingen in 2019. I also worked abroad at the University of Caen in Normandy at the Centre de recherches archéologiques et historiques anciennes et médiévales (CRAHAM) in 2010, and I was a Feodor-Lynen Research Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation in Moscow and Saint Petersburg in Russia from 2015 to 2017. During this research phase, I focused on the archaeology of the 1st Millennium AD with my own project in Belarus. A postdoctoral position at the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO) in Leipzig was my last station prior to moving to Schleswig-Holstein last year.

Life beyond ROOTS: what do you like to do beyond your research?    
My research is closely connected with travelling and meeting people. The possibility to experience landscapes and people is of great value to me. This is also what I enjoy doing together with my family. Our three young children are at the center of my everyday life, of course, and we all enjoy exploring new places and meeting with friends.

Jens Schneeweiß is a research associate within the ROOTS subcluster “Roots of Conflict: Competition and Conciliation” (link).

You can contact him at:

People in ROOTS: Lisa Shindo

Lisa Shindo

The People in ROOTS series proceeds with an interview of Lisa Shindo, one of the associate researchers of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS.

Lisa, you began your work last December in the framework of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. Can you tell us something about your planned research here?
Within the subcluster “ROOTS of Socio-Environmental Hazards”, my research aims to identify the nature, intensity and temporal variations of the ancient uses of wood and their impacts on forest resources in the Southern French Alps, as well as to investigate their relationships with climate variation and the restitution of environmental hazards. For this purpose, I use and develop methods of dendrochronology applied to living trees and past timber over the last two millennia. Moreover, at Kiel University I will set up a dendroarchaeological research laboratory and develop research projects in collaboration with the other members of ROOTS. For example, we will cross-reference different supports carrying environmental and climatic information in the long-term in order to identify environmental hazards.

More specifically, what are your main lines of research?
I am a dendrochronologist, specialized in woods used by humans, and I study tree-ring thickness (the concentric circles you see when you cut a tree) in order to date the time point of the death of the trees and to reconstruct the environment in which the trees lived. Dendrochronology is a discipline at the crossroads of human and social sciences (history, archaeology, ethnology), biological and environmental sciences (ecology) and fundamental sciences (mathematics and statistics): it therefore has a multidisciplinary perspective by nature. Thus, an interdisciplinary dialogue is fundamental to describe the history of wood exploitation, reconstruct exchanges between different environments, and identify climatic, ecologic and human hazards within tree-ring series. My research strategy is based on both altitudinal (up to 2100 m above sea level) and climatic gradients (Mediterranean to mountain climate) in order to better understand the evolution of wood use and our heritage in terms of forest landscapes.

Career life before ROOTS: what were the main stations and milestones of your career path so far?
I studied Art history, Archaeology and Archaeometry in France (at universities in Paris, Bordeaux and Dijon) and during my two master’s degrees, I carried out internships in many European dendrochronological laboratories. In 2016, I completed my PhD in archaeology and ecology at Aix-Marseille University with a dissertation on “Timber and forest management in the Southern French Alps: dendrochrono-ecology and archaeology”. After my PhD, during a short stay at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research (University of Arizona), I was interested in wood provenance issues and data conservation (databases). Then, during a contract with the French CNRS, I worked on very old dead trees, whose carbon content was analysed at annual resolution with regard to climatological questions. In parallel, during free-lance activities, I conducted dendrochronological analyses for several archaeological sites and buildings. This allowed me to acquire new data that nourishes my reflections within the framework of various research programs (at CNRS and other university affiliations) with which I am still associated.
In my current ROOTS position, I appreciate the freedom we have been given to build diverse collaborations, and to have the time to analyse, combine and reflect on my data.

Life beyond ROOTS: what do you like to do beyond your research?
I have enjoyed the opportunity to discover Kiel and its region, its historical buildings and museums, concerts and festivals, as well as to experience boat trips, gastronomic specialties (I particularly liked “bratwurst” during the cold months!) and to go strolling. I am also learning German in order to better understand the new culture. Lastly, I like to meet my friends and family to share my discoveries in Germany with them.
Lisa Shindo is a research associate in the ROOTS subcluster “ROOTS of Socio-environmental Hazards” (link).
You can contact her at:
Photo by Myette Guiomar


People in ROOTS: Chiara Thumiger

This short interview with Chiara Thumiger, one of the new associate researchers of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, inaugurates a new series of presentations titled “People in ROOTS”. These presentations will offer us the opportunity to get to know the researchers of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. In the next few months, we will present new and already established members of the cluster and the research that they are conducting.

People in ROOTS: An interview with Chiara Thumiger

First of all, welcome to Kiel! You began to work a couple of months ago in the framework of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. Can you tell us something about your planned research here?
Since August 2019, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to join the new research community of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. In particular, I am a member of the subcluster “Knowledge ROOTS” (link). My main contribution is concerned with the field of ancient medicine and science. In Kiel, I will conduct a project titled “Ancient Guts”, which investigates ancient views about nutritional processes in a broad cultural historical perspective, ranging from food consumption to digestion and excretion, from dietetics to eating disorders, from metaphorical ‘resources’ to the portrayal of human anatomy, and to economic aspects of eating as a fundamental aspect of human relations with the outside world.

More specifically, what are your main lines of research?
My interest in the history and narratives of human health and illness began earlier in my research. I have worked on ancient medical ideas about the relationship between the body and the soul, bodily and mental/spiritual health and mental disorder ever since. I find the way in which ancient thinkers framed the challenges of psychopathology and the possibility of ‘psychiatry’ as a caring practice still extremely valuable, often sophisticated and at times more insightful than our own. Whether one shares this view or not, the terms of discussion offered by ancient thinkers remain fundamental in the way we discuss these topics today. In many respects, this viewpoint still awaits exploration and recognition in current scholarship.
In addition, I have an interest in wider conceptions of life and health in the ancient world and their heritage – in particular, I have worked on animals and animal imagery in poetry as well as medicine.

Career life before ROOTS: what were the main stations and milestones of your career path so far?
After completing my undergraduate studies in Italy, I moved to London to pursue a PhD in Greek literature at King’s College London. There, I decided that I wanted to work on Euripides’ Bacchae, the last play of the youngest of the three great tragedians of the fifth century, precisely because madness and what it means to have a sound mind is such an important topic in this play. After my doctorate (2004) and its publication (2007), I taught and researched a few more years in London, where I continued to explore the topics of mental life and view of self, and to reflect on how ancient poets and writers choose to depict subjectivity, “mind” and mental suffering in their works. In 2010, I had a unique opportunity that changed my perspective in a fundamental way: I was offered a position within a research group on the history of ancient medicine titled “Medicine of the Mind, Philosophy of the Body”, at Humboldt University, Berlin (directed by Philip Van der Eijk). After this experience in Berlin, I was a Research Fellow at Warwick University (UK) between 2015 and 2019, where I held a Wellcome Trust grant in Medical Humanities. In the Department of Classics, I joined a group of experts in ancient Greek and Arabic medicine directed by Simon Swain. My research project was concerned with the history of an ancient disease, phrenitis, an elusive syndrome which was still part of Western medicine until as late as the 19th century.   

Life beyond ROOTS: what do you like to do beyond your research?
When I am not working or very much busy with my family and two daughters, which is most of the time, I love going for walks or jogging, travelling to new places and reading novels – as well as trying new cocktails!


Chiara Thumiger is a research associate with the ROOTS subcluster “Knowledge ROOTS” (link).
You can contact her at:

People in ROOTS: Guillermo Torres

Guillermo Torres

The People in ROOTS series proceeds with an interview of Guillermo Torres, one of the associate researchers of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS

Guillermo, you began your postdoctoral work in the framework of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS in 2020. Can you tell us something about your planned research in Kiel?
My research within ROOTS focuses on the study of a human niche and modifications of the human gene-pool introduced by alterations in diet and lifestyle along the construction of this niche. Over the last 15,000 years, humans have passed through important transitions that significantly contributed to the construction of their own niche. One of these major transitions was the Neolithic Period which occurred about 10,000 to 6,000 years ago. This period was marked by the beginning of agriculture and the domestication of animals as food sources and, in turn, by the consumption of a diet rich in cereals as well as milk and meat. This dietary transition from the (non-cereal-eating) hunter-gatherer lifestyle to the Neolithic lifestyle occurred in a short lapse of time (~500 generations), and it introduced a tremendous selection pressure on our ancestors who had not yet been genetically adapted to the new diet. Additionally, when the nomadic hunter-gatherers turned into sedentary farmers, their lifestyles were characterised by overcrowded settlements, close contact with domestic animals and a lack of hygiene. Such dramatic and rapid changes in lifestyle, a rather unbalanced and pro-inflammatory nutrition together with an increased exposure to infectious agents contributed substantially to the shaping of our modern gene-pool.

More specifically, what are your main lines of research?
With the transition from nomadic to sedentary lifestyles, humans were exposed to dietary and immunological challenges. Therefore, one line of my research aims to investigate shifts in diversity patterns of immunological stressors. This is done by analysing metagenomes from human bones, dental-calculus, and other environmental sources (e.g. soil, birch pitch, fossilised biofilms). The second research line aims to investigate human genetics to discover signatures of selection related to shifts in dietary patterns and/or immunological stressors. This is done by comparative genomics using whole genome sequencing and customised genotyping arrays.

Career life before ROOTS: what were the main stations and milestones of your career path so far?
In 2009, I completed my Bachelor of Science in Biology at the Institute of Geneticsof the National University of Colombia. My bachelor thesis focused on the evolution of proteins playing a role in coral’s immunity to pathogens. In 2014, I received my Master of Science in Biology from the Institute of Biotechnology with a major in genetics. For my thesis, I developed a bioinformatic tool that creates an in-silico microarray to analyse soil metagenomics and metatranscriptomics from sequencing libraries. In 2015, I moved to Germany and started my doctoral studies at the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology of Kiel University. In 2019, I completed my PhD thesis, which was titled “From hydra to humans – Insights into molecular mechanisms of aging and longevity”.

Life beyond ROOTS: what do you like to do beyond your research?   
I like to spend time with my family. In my free time, I enjoy playing football, visiting historic places, and taking landscape photographs. Besides these activities, I never say no to a cup of coffee with cookies.  

Guillermo Torres is a research associate with the ROOTS subcluster “Dietary ROOTS” (link).

You can contact him at:


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