Other Publications by ROOTS members

New interpretation of a 4000 year old cemetery

ROOTS doctoral students provide new insights into the chronology and social structure of the Early Bronze Age Nitra culture with C14 dating.

Bronze and bone finds from the cemetery of Výčapy-Opatovce (Slovakia) from the collections of the Archeologický ústav SAV in Nitra.

(Eine deutsche Version dieser Pressemitteilung finden Sie auf den Seiten des Informationsdienstes Wissenschaft idw)

Fundamental technological changes often also cause profound social shifts. This is not only evident in the current case of digitalization, but also in the case of industrialization in the 19th century or the introduction of bronze as a work material about 4000 years ago. Understanding such transitional periods in the past can therefore also help to better classify current processes.

Two archaeologists from the ROOTS Cluster of Excellence at Kiel University have now published a study in the journal Slovenská archeológia that sheds new light on the chronological sequence and social structure of the Early Bronze Age Nitra culture in present-day Slovakia. The new research on the Výčapy-Opatovce cemetery 75 kilometers northeast of Bratislava questions earlier assumptions that different areas of the cemetery were laid out consecutively. "We were able to show with new natural scientific dating that the investigated burials were laid out more or less simultaneously. Different grave goods are therefore more likely to be explained socially, not temporally," explains Fynn Wilkes, one of the two authors. His colleague and co-author Henry Skorna adds, "The study thus opens up new interpretive possibilities for this important cemetery, that is crucial for understanding the earliest Bronze Age in Southeastern Europe."

The burial ground of Výčapy-Opatovce has been known to archaeologists since the 1950s. More than 300 graves have been archaeologically investigated - most of them can be assigned to the so-called Nitra culture. This is the earliest Bronze Age culture on the northwestern edge of the Carpathian Basin. Výčapy-Opatovce is one of the largest cemeteries that can be assigned to this archaeological culture.

The Early Bronze Age in southwestern Slovakia, about 4000 years ago, was characterized by intense social and economic changes. Due to its location on the northern edge of the Carpathians and near the Moravian Gate, the region also plays an important mediating role between Central and Southeastern Europe. Despite this importance, very little dating based on the measurement of the carbon isotope C14 is available for the Early Bronze Age in Slovakia.
An earlier study of the Výčapy-Opatovce cemetery therefore classified various grave groups into several chronological stages based only on the grave goods and the costume tradition reconstructed from them.
In 2021, the two authors of the current study had samples from the cemetery dated using the C14 method and evaluated the results. They clearly show that the burials with different costume traditions are very close in time.  

"We can conclude that different social groups were buried here in clusters," explains Fynn Wilkes. Henry Skorna adds, "This grouping of graves around particularly richly furnished ones in each case can also be observed at other prehistoric cemeteries and is therefore actually not surprising."

The two authors, who conducted the study as part of their doctoral theses in the ROOTS Cluster of Excellence, hope to open up new discussions and further interpretive insights around the Early Bronze Age, and thus an exciting and very dynamic period of European prehistory.

Wilkes, F., Skorna, H. 2022. The Dawn of the Early Bronze Age in South-Western Slovakia. A Re-Evaluation of the Social Structure and Chronology of Výčapy-Opatovce. In Slovenská archeológia, vol. LXX, no.1, pp. 63-80. 1335-0102. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31577/slovarch.2022.70.3

dokumentiert einige Funde aus Výčapy-Opatovce. Foto: Henry Skorna
Fynn Wilkes, PhD student in the ROOTS Cluster of Excellence, documents some finds from Výčapy-Opatovce. Photo: Henry Skorna

The two authors of the study
The two authors of the study, Fynn Wilkes and Henry Skorna. Photo: Katharina Kaczmarek

How people in ancient Thamugadi fostered collective memory trough everyday urban practices

The Ruins of ancient Thamugadi in modern day Libya. Photo: Dan Sloan via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A new article by former ROOTS member Nicolas Lamare published in the international peer-reviewed journal "Libyan Studies" draws on the notion of collective memory to address the experience of urban space in antiquity. Lamare focuses on the Roman city Colonia Marciana Ulpia Traiana Thamugadi (today: Timgad in modern day Algeria) in the Severan period as a case study. The author mainly engages with the city plan and its streets, the public buildings that lined them, and their honorific inscriptions. He highlights how the built landscape was staged to create a memory of the urban space and its development. His study also reveals how the inhabitants themselves were able to contribute to fostering this memory through everyday urban practices. The article was partly written at Kiel University with funding from the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS.

Lamare, N. (2022). Memory and the urban environment: Experiencing the streets of Severan Timgad. Libyan Studies 53, https://doi.org/10.1017/lis.2022.12

Urban Dynamics in the Middle Ages - Conference Report Available Online


 Urban Dynamics in the Middle Ages - Conference Report Available Online

The European Middle Ages are characterized not only by a large number of city foundations, but also by many city expansions. However, the causes of these extension processes, the actors involved, and the forms of expansion differ greatly from city to city. What can these expansions tell us about urban life in the Middle Ages? The conference "Urban Expansion and Urban Dynamics in the Middle Ages" ("Stadterweiterung und urbane Dynamik im Mittelalter"), funded by the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, 6-9 June 2022, brought together different research perspectives on medieval urban expansions and led to an interdisciplinary exchange on topics such as urban morphology, architecture, legal and economic history, and everyday culture. Now the detailed conference report has been published on the historiographical information and communication platform H-Soz-Kult.

Tagungsbericht: Stadterweiterung und urbane Dynamik im Mittelalter, In: H-Soz-Kult, 15.10.2022, http://www.hsozkult.de/conferencereport/id/fdkn-130133

3400 BC – The earliest documentation of the wheel and wagon comes from Northern Germany

Publication by Doris Mischka
We draw attention to the recent publication "The Neolithic in Flintbek. A fine chronological study of the settlement history based on graves" by Professor Doris Mischka. Besides other things, she documents the earliest known example of the use of the wheel and wagon.

Doris Mischka, now a professor at the Institute for Prehistory and Early History at the Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, habilitated at Kiel University in 2012. The publication is her habilitation thesis. Here, she documents the entire genesis and development of the Neolithic and Bronze Age burial field in Flintbek, near Kiel. By using 14C analyses, the age of organic materials can be determined. With this, she dated the genesis and development of the burial field in detail.

Around 3800 BC, the first burials appear in the area. People started building long mounds, which they steadily enlarged with successive additions. Moreover, they erected burial mounds with small stone chambers, so-called dolmens. 500 years later, around 3300 BC, they built passage graves, which served as collective burial places for many centuries. Doris Mischka assumes that families from different areas each had their burial place here. Thus, the Flintbek area was a ritual centre for the entire region.

Two initially inconspicuous brown lines in the soil turned out to be traces of wheels. This is clear proof that for the building of the monuments, this new technology was used around 3400 BC. The technology was thus probably not invented in the Near East, as previously assumed.

The book is the 20th volume of a publication series coordinated by the Institute of Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology at Kiel University, which presents the research results of the priority program "Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation".

We congratulate Doris Mischka for this detailed study, which will effectively enhance scientific discourse.

Mischka, Doris, 2022. Das Neolithikum in Flintbek. Eine feinchronologische Studie zur Besiedlungsgeschichte anhand von Gräbern. Frühe Monumentalität und soziale Differenzierung 20. Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH (Bonn 2022).

Northern Networks. An Analysis of Three Neolithic Enclosures from the Jutland Peninsula / Tobias Torfing


Recently, Tobias Torfing’s dissertation entitled “Northern Networks. An Analysis of Three Neolithic Enclosures from the Jutland Peninsula” was published. Amongst other things, he found out that the idea of enclosures spread far earlier to this northern area as we assumed hitherto.
During his PhD investigations from 2013–2016, Tobias Torfing was financed by the Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ (link), the forerunner of ROOTS. He finished his PhD in 2018. Now he works as a museum curator for the Museum of Southwest Jutland (link). His book is the 19th volume of a series that has been published as part of the DFG Priority Programme 1400 ‘Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation’, which has been based at Kiel University since 2008. The series includes final theses and conference proceedings, whose topics are closely linked to the priority programme and therefore deal primarily with topics on Funnel Beaker societies in Europe.
His book offers comprehensive analyses of three causewayed enclosures in Northern Denmark. The enclosures were introduced around 3700 BC, a time when the landscape and society of Northern Europe changed significantly. These massive sites, encircled with ditches and palisades, seem to have only been intended for short-lived or periodic usage, but they changed society for the centuries to follow. Each site is studied in relation to its history, chronology, and its impact on social development. It is argued that they – although not central places in a traditional sense – still created centres and an ordered landscape with clearings and pathway networks. They facilitated interaction for a scattered population and solidified connections to other networks around Northwestern Europe.
To explore these venues, this book also reworks the chronology of the Jutlandic part of the Funnel Beaker complex through the systematic use of typology and the modelling of radiocarbon dates.
We congratulate Tobias upon the completion of this extremely good study!

Torfing, Tobias, 2021. Northern Networks. An Analysis of Three Neolithic Enclosures from the Jutland Peninsula. Frühe Monumentalität und soziale Differenzierung 19. Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH (Bonn 2021).

Find further information about T. Torfing here


Deportationen im Perserreich in teispidisch-achaimenidischer Zeit / Chiara Matarese

Chiara MatareseThis study by Chiara Matarese investigates the phenomenon of deportations in Persia in the period before Alexander the Great. This challenging topic has long escaped scholarly scrutiny. On the one hand, the source situation is problematic: while indigenous documents are lacking, the available Graeco-Roman sources are characterised by numerous clichés that must first be dispelled. On the other hand, the phenomenon of deportation must be theoretically grasped and distinguished from other migration processes.

Through a detailed and critical analysis of the sources, Chiara Matarese succeeds in clarifying the triggers and the goals of the Persian deportations and in presenting the complexity of this multifaceted phenomenon. The author also answers crucial questions, e.g. about whether the deportees were enslaved or on their understanding of identity after resettlement. Thanks to this study, it becomes clear that in practice and in their conception of rule, the Persians proved in many respects to be learned successors of the rulers of the New Assyrian and New Babylonian Empires. The practice of deportation was no exception.

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

Matarese, Chiara, 2021.
Deportationen im Perserreich in teispidisch-achaimenidischer Zeit. Classica et Orientalia 27, XII. Wiesbaden: Harassowitz, 318 pages.

For more information about the book here (Harassowitz)


Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions