Stymphalos: Das Bild einer arkadischen Landschaft und ihrer Menschen in der antiken Literatur / Saskia Hoffmann

HoffmannThe Arcadian landscape and the town of Stymphalos mainly (and often uniquely) evoke an association with the myth of Heracles and his fight against the Stymphalian birds, who polluted Lake Stymphalia. This place on the Greek peninsula Peloponnese was not only mentioned by ancient authors because of the famous myth, as one of the twelve deeds of Heracles, but also due to other interesting aspects. For instance, Lake Stymphalia has particular hydrological features due to the karstic geology of the Peloponnese. As the result of a ponor (katavothre or sink hole), Lake Stymphalia varies in size seasonally. The lake water disappears through the sink hole in the ground, continues its course for a while and rises as the “new” river Erasinos near Argos.

This hydrological phenomenon is mentioned by the Greek historian Herodotus for the first time. There are several myths, for example, Herakles and the Stymphalian birds; Artemis, the hunter and the deer; or Arethusa and Alpheios, which refer to certain features of the hydrological “behaviour” of the Lake. The latter two are connected with the goddess Artemis, who was worshipped as the deity of the polis Stymphalos in her own temple there, which is described by Pausanias. Furthermore, an extraordinary Hera cult, in which Hera was venerated in three aspects of a woman´s life: as an unmarried maiden (gr. Pais/Parthenos), as a wife (gr. Teleia) and as a divorced woman or widow (gr. Chera), was located and only existed at Stymphalos. Last but not least, the river cult of Metope, the main water suppliant of Lake Stymphalos, is worth mentioning.

Ancient Stymphalos, which is already referred to in the Homeric catalogue of ships among the Arcadian troops, who fought the Trojan War together with the other Greeks, was also the home town of two victors in the Olympic Games: Dromeus and Hagesias. Hagesias´ victory was eulogised by Pindar in a victory ode (epinicion), in which a frame of characteristic items of Stymphalos is elaborated along with his praise of Hagesias. This is why this ode, the Sixth Olympian, can be seen as a major text answering the question how the Stymphalos landscape is represented in its physiogeographic and human-geographic aspects.

The book by Saskia Hoffmann illustrates a mental picture of Stymphalos that can be deduced from the ancient literary sources that refer to this place. Methodically, this objective is achieved by the combination of philological text analysis and interpretation as well as its application to categories and criteria of geography and geology.

Saskia Hoffmann completed her PhD thesis in the framework of the Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ (GSC 208).

Hoffmann, Saskia: Stymphalos: Das Bild einer arkadischen Landschaft und ihrer Menschen in der antiken Literatur. Schriftenreihe altsprachliche Forschungsergebnisse 16. Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovaç, 2020. 322 pages.

For the link to the publication please click here (Verlag Dr. Kovaç)

Holz vom Helikon. Die Musen und ihre Landschaft in Kult, Mythos und Literatur / Kleoniki Rizou

RizouParnassus, Pieria and above all Helicon – the landscapes of the muses – are, like the goddesses themselves, topoi of European literature from antiquity until today. For the first time, the study by Kleoniki Rizou explores the connection between the muses and ‘their’ landscapes not only as an illustrative accessory but also as a systematic conceptualisation of their function.
For this purpose, a comprehensive inventory of the available sources has been compiled, with a special focus on Mount Helicon. From this perspective, three key texts from three epochs come into focus anew: the proemium to Hesiod’s “Theogony”, Euripides’ “Heracles” and Korinna’s song about the contest between Helicon and Cithaeron. The detailed interpretations of these texts provide a better understanding of the specific function of the connection between the muses and Mt. Helicon. Moreover, this newly gained systematic understanding creates the starting point for the fresh interpretation of the apparently well-known works.

Kleoniki Rizou completed her PhD thesis in the framework of the Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ (GSC 208).

Rizou, Kleoniki: Holz vom Helikon. Die Musen und ihre Landschaft in Kult, Mythos und Literatur. Kalliope – Studien zur griechischen und lateinischen Poesie 19. Heidelberg: Winter Verlag, 2020. 756 pages.

Find the link to the publication here (Winter Verlag)

Landscapes of Difficult Heritage by Gustav Wollentz

Landscapes of difficult heritage

The book Landscapes of Difficult Heritage presents the research that Gustav Wollentz carried out at the Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’. The book addresses how people negotiate difficult heritage within their everyday lives, focusing on memory, belonging, and identity. The starting point for this examination is that temporalities lie at the core of understanding this negotiation and that the connection between temporalities and difficult heritage remains poorly understood and theorised in previous research. In order to fully explore the temporalities of difficult heritage, the book investigates places in which the incident of violence originated within different time periods. The volume examines one example of modern violence (Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina), one example where the associated incident occurred during medieval times (the Gazimestan monument in Kosovo), and one example of prehistoric violence (Sandby borg in Sweden). The book presents new theoretical perspectives and provides suggestions for the development of sites of difficult heritage, and will thus be relevant for academic researchers, students, and heritage professionals.   

"Wollentz’s study is very impressive in its intellectual breadth and depth, combining acute insights in the theory of heritage and memory with detailed empirical observations derived from heritage ethnographies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Sweden." (Cornelius Holtorf, UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures, Linnaeus University, Sweden)

“Gustav Wollentz’s book is a refreshing read that enters into the intense debate on difficult heritage and invites us to rethink some of the analytical tools we use for the study of spaces marked by violent events, starting from the very notion of ‘temporality’. The book’s analyses of Mostar, Gazimestan, and Sandby borg are not mere applications of the concepts discussed in the theoretical chapters, but are a remarkable way of “doing theory” empirically, moving from the specific features of each case study.” (Francesco Mazzucchelli, University of Bologna, Italy)

Landscapes of Difficult Heritage by Gustav Wollentz, Palgrave Macmillan (2020), 297 pages, 41 illustrations (in English).

Pernil Alto: Transition to early agriculture in Southern Peru / Hermann Gorbahn

In his dissertation, now published as a book, Hermann Gorbahn presents the results of his research at the site of Pernil Alto in Southern Peru. The site dates to the sixth millennium cal BP and is located on the Andean foothills of the Peruvian coastal desert. It was a small village of 18 huts, where people were also buried. The investigations of the site were carried out within the project ‘Andean Transect’ of the Commission for Archaeology of Non-European Cultures of the German Archaeological Institute (link). They documented that a transition from a low-level food- production subsistence economy to a subsistence economy based on agriculture occurred around 5300 cal BP. Pernil Alto is thus one of the oldest agricultural villages in the Central Andes known to date. These results are relevant in order to reconstruct the emergence of early complex societies on the Peruvian central coast at the beginning of the fifth millennium BP, which subsequently formed the nucleus of later cultural developments of the Central Andes.

Hermann Gorbahn completed his PhD thesis in the framework of the Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ (GSC 208). In addition to his position within the Graduate School, he was also supported by Graduate School research funds.

Gorbahn, Hermann: Pernil Alto. An agricultural village of the Middle Archaic period in Southern Peru. Forschungen zur Archäologie Außereuropäischer Kulturen 17. Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz Verlag 2020. ISBN: 978-3-447-11417-2 (link)

GorbahnThe site of Pernil Alto on the right margin of the Rio Grande, Southern Peru (Photo: Project "Andean Transect"/KAAK, DAI/Johny Isla).

Umweltgeschichte Deutschlands (Environmental History of Germany) / Hans-Rudolf Bork

Umweltgeschichte DeutschlandsIn his new book Umweltgeschichte Deutschlands (Environmental History of Germany), Hans-Rudolf Bork, PI of the ‘Cluster of Excellence ROOTS’ at Kiel University and member of the subcluster ‘Socio-Environmental Hazards’ (Link), illustrates the manifold relationships between people and their environment. This book consists of 260 stories, ranging from Roman lead pollution in the Eifel to the “Fridays for Future” movement. The volume presents diverse narratives from numerous fields of research and epochs, including, for example, an explanation of how aurochs, bear and wolf disappeared in Germany and corn, tobacco and potatoes arrived. The reclamation of the large bogs from Lower Saxony to Bavaria and the large floodplains of the Rhine and Oder with the subsequent unexpected negative effects on the environment and the people living there is also addressed. One account describes how whale oil from bowhead whales illuminated Hamburg and how these giant mammals have almost become extinct. The era of oil, which continues until today, follows.

Illustrated with 182 figures and supported by a large glossary, the book addresses selected environmental histories of Germany, spanning from the storm tides that made the occurrence of malaria in the North Sea marshes possible to the locusts that destroyed harvests or farmers who colonised the last near-natural landscapes of Central Europe under great hardship: bogs disappeared.

This volume presents a cross-section on the environmental history of Germany from a wide perspective, discussing significant developments in the human-environmental relationship from many different angles. For instance, while the coal and steel industry darkened the cities over the Ruhr and Saar, the structure and use of the landscapes changed, also due to the division of the commons. Ever larger canals were built in order to be able to ship goods more efficiently, while in February 1784, Ludwig van Beethoven fled from the great winter flood of the Rhine. Germans also studied the environment abroad: Alexander von Humboldt explored Latin America and Amalie Dietrich hunted plants and animals in Australia for Johann Caesar Godeffroy.

Scientific advancements, economic development and the industrialisation of Germany are impressively described in this anthology, highlighting their influence on nature and society. For example, industrial enterprises with high pollutant emissions became unpopular in the cities and had to move, only to subsequently pollute suburbs and rural areas. Many discoveries, for example in medicine and biology, provided advancement for human society. For instance, spotted fever and cholera were rampant in urban contexts. Scientists, such as Robert Koch, helped to determine the pathogens of such infectious diseases, whereas Carl Sprengel and Justus von Liebig discovered the importance of plant nutrients. Other advancements in agricultural chemistry reformed agriculture once again, for example, the synthesis of ammonia and mineral fertilisation by Fritz Haber in the early 20th century, making harvest yields explode. Synthetic insecticides were also developed. In light of improper use, some of these seminal developments also resulted in detrimental effects for nature.

Further narratives in Bork’s book also deal with the expansion of transport systems. New railroads and road networks both connected and divided the land, whereby the sealing of soil surfaces continues incessantly. Early on, Carl Benz applied for a patent for the first carriage without horses, while Theodor Lessing founded an anti-noise association. In the course of the First and Second World Wars, Germans devastated many landscapes, Otto Bayer synthesised polyurethane and Kok-Saghys was intended to replace natural rubber, for which “research” was carried out in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

After the Second World War, fields in the West were reallocated and in the East collectivised. The post-war West German economic miracle was based on oil and gas, but air and water pollution had serious consequences for both German states, while highly toxic chemicals were let into the Rhine and caused the death of fish. These detrimental effects on the environment led to subsequent laws that have been passed to improve water, air and later soil quality, to preserve biodiversity and reduce noise.

Scientists continued to study and warn society about the exploitation of nature by humans. Bernhard Grzimek denounced cruelty to animals through factory farming, whereas Bernhard Ulrich vehemently warned about forest decline (Waldsterben). Consequently, air pollution control measures have been installed to prevent further forest dieback, and on a social level, the Green party was founded in West Germany.

During recent decades, Klaus Hasselmann identified man-made climate change. Further current incidents effecting landscapes and society are mentioned as the outcome of human-environment exploitation. For example, large floods on the Oder, Elbe and Danube, which were only made possible by changes in the landscape and its utilisation by humans, aggravate people living on the banks of these rivers. Trees are snapped over by storms en masse because forest officials planted tree species in monocultures – mainly for economic reasons – that are not very stable against extreme weather events. Further negative effects resulting from environmental and species exploitation are mentioned in this volume, for example, that cattle are affected by BSE and birds by the H5N8 virus, free bisphenol is found in the blood of mothers, antibiotics have been verified in groundwater and surface waters, and a disease threatens to cause ash tree distinction. Despite such developments, diesel-powered vehicles (still) transport Germans through the landscape.

Why do we often not react, act wrongly or (too) late? What is to be done? How can a future with healthy people and even better social conditions be achieved? For people who decide to assume environmental responsibility and live in an “intact” environment, a deep understanding of the past is necessary, and thus of the diverse human-environment relationships and their driving forces. Once this has been achieved, we can turn the existing uncertainty about human impact and environmental change into confidence. Moreover, we can look forward with joy into a future that is characterised by respect, precaution, empathy and a deep positive knowledge of human-environmental relationships.

You can find a detailed review of the book by Udo E. Simonis (in German) here: link

Umweltgeschichte Deutschlands (Environmental History of Germany) by Hans-Rudolf Bork, Springer (2020), 408 pages, 182 illustrations (in German).

Historical case studies on pandemics

Pandemics and Crisis Reloaded

The German version of this text can be found here

Learning from the past: new publication by Kiel University’s Cluster of Excellence ROOTS

Whether it’s the plague, cholera or currently COVID-19: epidemics are part of human history. Long before there were vaccinations or microscopes for the investigation of pathogens, societies had to develop coping strategies. These are described in the brochure "Distant Times so Close: Pandemics and Crises reloaded", published by the Cluster of Excellence "ROOTS – Social, Environmental, and Cultural Connectivity in Past Societies" at Kiel University (CAU), which is the first in a series of historical-archaeological publications on current topics.

"In a situation like the present, it is worthwhile to look in the past, and remind ourselves of the strategies used by earlier cultures in order to deal with epidemics and/or pandemics," said the cluster spokesperson, archaeologist Professor Johannes Müller, regarding the motivation behind the publication. If modern technologies have reached their limits, for example, if there are still no vaccines or appropriate treatments available, then people of today essentially in the same position as the people centuries ago. The interdisciplinary-oriented brochure, which appears in German and English, contains snapshots ranging from the Neolithic Age, through classical antiquity and to the Middle Ages. The authors are relevant experts from a wide spectrum of subjects represented in the cluster, which equally involves scientists from the natural sciences, life sciences and humanities. In short, easily comprehensible, richly illustrated articles describe significant cases of epidemics, their origins, their developments, surprisingly diverse strategies to cope with them, and last but not least, the culturally enshrined knowledge drawn from contemporary reflections.

Not modern phenomena: social upheavals and zoonoses

The contributions aim to provide unexpected insights into what is partly considered well-known. "For example, it is hardly remembered that in his epic poem, the Iliad, the Greek poet Homer constructed his narrative of the Trojan War around the outbreak of an epidemic," reported Professor Lutz Käppel. "The root of the tragedy in the Iliad, all of the pointless killing and dying, ultimately lies in the failure to tackle the epidemic on a socially-equitable basis, and not in the medical situation itself." The real danger for a community – according to this work from the beginnings of European literary history – lies in the internal social distortion of interests, rather than the actual epidemic. In his new interpretation of the work, Käppel shows how this approach applies to the present situation.

Learning from history

"The underlying idea within the cluster is that it’s always connectivities which significantly shape the development of human societies: connections and interactions between humans and the environment, groups and other groups, and in the broader sense also between various domains of action, such as ways of life, social orders, knowledge cultures, economic strategies, diets or disease patterns. This could also serve as the starting point here," summarised Lutz Käppel.
The articles do not provide a panacea for dealing with the current pandemic. "However, they make an indispensable contribution to dealing with such a threat in a historically enlightened manner, in which the historical experience together with modern medical knowledge must be part of an overall strategy to overcome it," concluded Johannes Müller.


Original publication:

Distant Times so Close: Pandemics and Crises reloaded. With contributions by V.P.J. Arponen, Martin Furholt, Lutz Käppel, Tim Kerig, Ben Krause-Kyora, Cheryl Makarewicz, Johannes Müller, Almut Nebel, Henny Piezonka and Chiara Thumiger, ROOTS Booklet Series No. 1, published by Lutz Käppel, Cheryl Makarewicz and Johannes Müller, 64 pages, numerous images, Sidestone Press, Leiden 2020.
Download PDF (english version)

Download PDF (german version)


Past societies. Human development in landscapes.

Past Societies

Two years after the publication of “Past Landscapes”, the sequel “Past Societies” has now been published. This book presents research projects mainly by former PhD students of the Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ at Kiel University. The authors conducted research in different disciplines within the humanities and natural sciences. Their common research interest focuses on past societies.
The Kiel Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ has conducted research on socio-environmental issues of past societies during the last years. From the North Atlantic to the Persian Gulf and from Peru to the Near East, different attempts on the interfluve of environments and societies in landscapes describe certain historical moments and processes in which the interplay of ecological and societal factors is entangled. Events, processes and structures are described on local, regional and global scales as well as methodological developments on ecological and societal archives.
The selected case studies are linked by the general idea of the ability to integrate discovery, documentation, description and interpretation within the scope of analyses and synthesis. Thus, the interdisciplinary framework of the Kiel Graduate School formed the agenda for a holistic approach. ‘Landscapes of power’, transitions during neolithisation processes, maritime and other networks, site formation dynamics, ‘landscapes of identities’ and the ‘making of heritage’ are only a few topics included in this book.

The Kiel Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ constituted the major pioneering institution of the interdisciplinary research focus at Kiel University, from which the CRC 1266 – Scales of Transformation – Human-Environmental Interaction in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies, the Johanna Mestorf Academy and the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS – Social, Environmental, and Cultural Connectivity in Past Societies, emerged. Hence, several members of the CRC 1266 and ROOTS also contributed to this volume.

Müller, Johannes; Ricci, Andrea (eds.) 2020: Past societies. Human development in landscapes. Leiden: Sidestone Press. ISBN: 9789088909245

To the publisher: Sidestone Press

The Power of Urban Water


With the volume “The Power of Urban Water”, the Subcluster Urban Roots presents its first results. The two core themes of the Subcluster – Urban Agency and Urban Perception – are questioned in relation to a particularly central urbanistic aspect: water. The contributions examine the fundamental cultural significance of water in the city and water for the city from various perspectives. Symbolic, aesthetic and cultic aspects are addressed as well as the role of water in politics, society and the economy. Chronologically, the spectrum ranges from antiquity to early modern times.

Chiarenza, N., Haug, A., Müller, U. (eds.) 2020. The Power of Urban Water. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter.
ISBN: 978-3-11-067664-8 doi:

To the publisher: De Gruyter

Decor-Räume in pompejanischen Stadthäusern. Ausstattungsstrategien und Rezeptionsformen / Annette Haug

A Haug

This new book by Annette Haug, PI of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, examines the decorative principles at work in the city houses of Pompeii for the time between the end of the second century BC and the beginning of the imperial period. For the first time, the decorating phenomena are analysed not only individually, but they are also examined in relationship to their spatial and social context.

Das Buch von Annette Haug, PI des Exzellenzclusters ROOTS, untersucht die decorativen Prinzipien, die in Stadthäusern Pompejis zwischen dem ausgehenden 2. Jh. v.Chr. und der beginnenden Kaiserzeit wirksam werden. Dabei werden erstmals nicht nur einzelne Decorphänomene isoliert, sondern in ihrem räumlichen und sozialen Wirkungszusammenhang untersucht.

Decor-Räume in pompejanischen Stadthäusern. Ausstattungsstrategien und Rezeptionsformen (Decor spaces in Pompeian town houses. Furnishing strategies and forms of reception) by Annette Haug, De Gruyter (2020), Series: Decor 1, 620 pages, 427 illustration (in German)

The book can be viewed here (De Gruyter)

Other recent volumes edited by Annette Haug include:
Urban Practices. Repopulating the Ancient City, by A. Haug – S. Merten (eds.), Brepols (2020). Link
Hellenistic Architecture and Human Action. A Case of Reciprocal Influence, by A. Haug – A. Müller (eds.), SideStone (2020). Link


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