Fieldwork and Activities

Two Weeks with the Taz Sel’kup: Ethnoarchaeological Fieldwork in the West Siberian Taiga

Weat Sibirian Taiga
Fig. 1: Henny (left) and Tanja (right) in one of the Sel’kup boats en route on the Taz River to our final destination (photo by M. Windle).

In August 2021, a ROOTS team, including Henny Piezonka (member of the ROOTS subclusters Dietary ROOTS and ROOTS of Social Inequality) and the PhD candidates Morgan Windle and Tanja Schreiber (both ROOTS Young Academy), was able to conduct essential ethnoarchaeological fieldwork in the depths of the Western Siberia taiga after a break forced by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The joint expedition took place together with the Russian cooperation partners of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Russian Academy of Science, Novosibirsk, the EthnoArkheoCentr, Khanty-Mansiysk (Aleksandr Kenig, Andrei Novikov and their team), and the indigenous Northern Sel’kup community.

Living in the north of Western Siberia between the rivers Ob' and Yenisei, Northern Sel’kup families, who still actively use their Samoyed language, engage in a mosaic of traditional mobile lifeways along the Taz River. This includes hunting and fishing, gathering, and the incorporation of small-scale reindeer herding in their subsistence economy for transport purposes. The aim of this fieldwork was to pursue a variety of inquiries into these lifeways and practices, particularly focusing on (1) human-reindeer systems (Morgan Windle’s PhD project), (2) the oral history of indigenous war and conflict (Tanja Schreiber’s PhD project), and (3) the dynamics of dwelling typology between persistence and adaptation from the 17th century AD onwards, when the Sel’kup migrated into this region from the south and took up reindeer husbandry (Henny Piezonka’s project in Dietary ROOTS).

Besides a multi-day journey, which involved a 26-hour train-ride, a helicopter flight, and seven hours by boat to reach our destination in the remote, pathless taiga (Fig. 1), the trip had many highlights. Together with our colleagues, Henny oversaw the excavation of a winter earth house (Sel’kup poi-mot), presumably dating to the late Tsarist or early Soviet period, i.e. approximately one hundred years ago (a terminus post quem was provided by a pine tree growing in the ruin with 80 tree rings) (Fig. 2 and 3). Both the architecture of the pyramidal dwelling and the finds combine elements known a) from the southern Sel’kup region from where the groups had migrated, and b) adaptive forms integrated into Sel’kup lifeways in the north (Fig. 4). Through interviews conducted by Morgan and Tanja with the Sel’kup expert hunter-herders as well as during various excursions, which included hiking to abandoned settlements and visiting other Sel’kup families at their summer camps, the team was able to observe and document some of the unique reindeer herding practices (Fig. 5 and 6), traditional reindeer sledge paraphernalia, forager tools and implements, and the dynamics of forest ecology. Samples for zooarchaeological analyses within the framework of Morgan’s PhD project were collected. The team was also privileged to observe the construction of a traditional fishing log boat (Fig. 7) and was taught how to process and treat reindeer skins, which were immensely unique and informative experiences.

Two weeks in the taiga yielded exciting insights into hunter-gatherer strategies in forest ecosystems, the integration of reindeer herding in these communities, as well as potential processes of reindeer domestication. The team plans to return to the Sel’kup families in early spring and again in the summer of 2022 for more work (Fig. 8).

Acknowledgements: Most importantly, we are greatly indebted to our Sel’kup partners, including Evgeniya Bayakina, Inga Irikova, and Yuri and Sergei Bayakin for sharing their immense expertise, time, and hospitality. Thanks are extended to our Russian collaborators Aleksandr Kenig (NIPI EtnoArkheoCenter & Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science, Novosibirsk), site director Anastasia Kimpitskaya, and Andrei Novikov (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science, Novosibirsk), and their team for assistance in conducting the expedition so successfully. Their experience, hospitality, and generosity cannot be overstated. We also thank Graciano Capitini (Bologna) for sharing an Italian approach to ethnoarchaeology and human-animal studies.

West Sibirian TaigaFig. 2: Aerial view of the excavation of a Sel’kup winter house (poi-mot) that was in use ca. one hundred years ago (photo by A. Kimpitskaya).

West Sibirian TaigaFig. 3: Two of our Sel’kup hosts, Evgeniya Bayakina (left) and Inga Irikova (right), not only shared their immense knowledge in order to understand and interpret the poj mot structure but also energetically joined the excavation (photo by A. Kimpitskaya).

West Sibirian TaigaFig. 4: A birch bark vessel decorated with an unusual pattern – better known from the southern Sel’kup area ca. 500 km further south – was discovered in the poi-mot excavation. It indicates persisting contacts between southern and northern Sel’kup groups some two hundred years after the initial migration (photo by A. Kimpitskaya).

West Sibirian TaigaFig. 5: Morgan (left) and Tanja (right) visiting the Bayakin’s reindeer at the summer camp (photo by O. Kruglov).

West Sibirian Taiga

Fig. 6: Curious reindeer from a neighbouring Sel’kup herd coming out of their smokehouse to investigate us (photo by H. Piezonka).

West Sibirian TaigaFig. 7: Expert S. Bayakin (left) in the final stages of constructing a traditional fishing log boat. A. Novikov (right) documents the intricate process (photo by O. Kruglov).

West Sibirian TaigaFig. 8: The ROOTS team with our Russian cooperation partner Aleksandr Kenig (photo: O. Kruglov).

Back to the ROOTS of metallurgy and violence: A dagger from Slovakia

Khurram Saleem provides an overview of a finished project about a prehistoric artefact
The Eneolithic dagger (lenght: ca. 30cm; photo by H. Skorna)

At the end of September, Marketa Havlikova (Masaryk University/Brno) and Dr. Martin Bača (Comenius University/Bratislava) visited the Focus Group “Material Science and Analysis” of the ROOTS Subcluster Conflict and Conciliation (link). Together with Prof. Lorenz Kienle, Dr. Ulrich Schürmann, Khurram Saleem and Henry Skorna, they discussed joint research efforts regarding prehistoric metal objects from Central Europe. A specific focus of this research interest is a new find from Slovakia: a copper dagger, found in the Váh River during the extraction of gravel. A first archaeological assessment of this find indicates that this artefact probably belongs to a rare group of large daggers from Moravia and southwestern Slovakia, dating to approximately 4000 BC. Within the ongoing archaeological debate, this kind of large dagger could also be interpreted as a so-called halberd or “Stabdolch”, a specialised weapon that is better known from the Early Bronze Age.
The aim of this joint interdisciplinary research is to acquire information about the dagger, including its metal composition, the provenance of the metal, the manufacturing processes associated with the find, including specific production techniques, and the use of the weapon.
The dagger was sampled in Kiel and will now be investigated with a wide range of available methods at the Institute of Material Science of Kiel University (link). These studies will help to identify the elemental composition and the structure of the dagger. Combined with further metallographic and use-wear analyses, which will be completed by Marketa Havlikova, these investigations will provide different insights into the production, manufacturing techniques and the use of the dagger.
Even though the object was damaged by a dredging machine, there is a possibility that prehistoric metal wear could be still preserved and identified, e.g. around the rivet holes. With the support of the Institute of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology of Kiel University (link), another sample will be investigated to determine the ratio of lead isotopes and the composition of trace elements of the used metals. It is expected that these joint efforts will provide more pieces to the puzzle of early metallurgy and violence in prehistory.

Dr. Martin Bača: "We enjoyed the warm welcome in Kiel and benefited greatly from fruitful discussions. After the first promising steps of this joint project, we intend to provide additional samples from other comparable metal finds of the same period for further analysis and comparison. Marketa Havlikova and I will also ensure that the dagger as well as all other future finds will be properly documented by the laboratories of the universities in Brno and Bratislava.
We would like to thank Prof. Lorenz Kienle for the kind invitation, Khurram Saleem, Kathrin Brandenburg and Henry Skorna for the organization of our research stay, Dr. Ulrich Schürmann for the great lab tour, and Prof. Johannes Müller for support and access to the library."

Dr Ulrich Schuermann and Khurram Saleem explain the function of the electron microscope and the possible analysis Dr. Ulrich Schürmann and Khurram Saleem explain the function of the electron microscope and the possible analysis (photo by H. Skorna).

Henry Skorna presents the Eneolithic dagger

Henry Skorna presents the Eneolithic dagger (photo by F. Wilkes / T. Pape).

Bild4Khurram Saleem provides an overview of a finished project about a prehistoric artefact (left to right: Marketa Havlikova, Khurram Saleem and Martin Bača) (photo by H. Skorna).

Follow Tim Kerig´s excavations in Kurdistan, Iraq

Tim Kerig Kurdistan

A few days ago, Tim Kerig, ROOTS member and associate researcher of subcluster ROOTS of Inequalities (link), started an excavation in Soran, Iraqi Kurdistan. The investigated site is situated on a fluvial terrace in closest vicinity to the mounded site of Girda Dasht.

You can follow Tim´s updates from the field and enjoy some beautiful views of the excavation and surroundings here.

This investigation is conducted in cooperation with the directorate of Antiquities at Soran, the General Directorate at Erbil and at Soran University, and together with colleagues from the University of Mainz, Arbeitsbereich Vorderasiatische Archäologie Mainz. The project is funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation; Project: HE 8711/2-1; PI Helms and Kerig) and by the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS.


You can read an interiew with Tim Kerig here

Tim Kerig Kurdistan
Tim Kerig KurdistanAll photos by G. Rettler

Early career symposium "Homo homini lupus est? Menschenbilder und das Fremde: Interaktion und Wahrnehmung"


The Symposium will take place in German.

Das Early Career Symposium hat sich zum Ziel gesetzt, Menschenbilder aus unterschiedlichen Perspektiven zu diskutieren. Dazu werden verschiedene Auffassungen des Menschen oder bestimmtet Menschengruppen und ihre Ausdrucksformen sowie ihr Einfluss auf Wissenschaft, Kunst und Gesellschaften nebeneinandergestellt. Es wird angestrebt, die Vielschichtigkeit vom Verständnis von Menschen zu verdeutlichen und die unterschiedlichen Beweggründe und Kontexte zu beleuchten.

Die lateinische Phrase homo homini lupus est, die in leicht abgewandelter Form titelgebend für das Symposium ist, ist eine verkürzte Version eines Verses aus der Komödie Asinaria des römischen Dichters Plautus. Dort heißt es im Wortlaut lupus est homo homini, non homo, quom qualis sit non novit oder im Deutschen: „Ein Wolf ist der Mensch dem Menschen, kein Mensch, solange er nicht weiß, welcher Art der andere ist.“ Auf diese Weise kreierte bereits Plautus eine versinnbildlichte, mit Anspruch auf Allgemeingültigkeit behaftete Darstellung des menschlichen Charakters – (s)ein Menschenbild.

Die Vorstellungen und Erwartungen, die an das Menschlich-Sein gerichtet werden, korrelieren untrennbar mit den jeweiligen fundamentalen Eigenschaften und Handlungstendenzen, welche eine Gesellschaft sich selbst zuschreibt. Menschenbilder und die Auseinandersetzungen mit ihnen bilden folglich eine wichtige Basis für die Bestimmung dessen, was als normkonformes, normabweichendes oder „fremdes“ Verhaltensmuster beurteilt werden kann.

Das Schlagwort Menschenbild ist jedoch durch seine semantische Unschärfe charakterisiert, sodass sich unwillkürlich die Frage danach auftut, wie ein spezifisches Menschenbild entstehen kann und welche mentalen Komponenten für seine Konstruktion unabdingbar sind. Die Beiträge des Symposiums tragen dazu bei, sich dieser Frage anzunähern.


Freitag, 17.9.21

10:00 Begrüßung
10:15 Antike Menschenbilder der Neuzeit. Das Fremde im Blick / Dr. Ellen Siepe (München)
11:00 Die vielschichtige Anthropologie des platonischen Protagoras-Mythos / Dr. Jan Kerkmann (Freiburg)
11:45 Mittagspause
12:45 The Others in the Art of Ancient Greece / Tatiana Tereshchenko (Moskau)
13:30 Von Persönlichkeiten und Objekten: Wie sich das Menschenbild in der zoologischen Illustration des 19. Jahrhunderts widerspiegelt /  Lisa Pannek (Kiel)
14:15 Kaffeepause
14:30 Menschenbild - Krankheitsbild. Illustration als soziale Praxis / Mona Behfeld (Hamburg/Kiel)
15:15 "Was für eine Insel in was für einem Meer." Behinderungen - Facetten und Möglichkeiten des Menschseins / Helen Akin (Jena)
16:00 Abschluss des ersten Tages

Samstag, 18.9.21

ab 10:00 Eintreten in den Videokonferenzraum
10:15 Homo homini lupus est? – Stadtaufstände und literarisierte Menschenbilder in Gottfried Hagens Reimchronik der Stadt Köln / Catharina Müller-Liedtke (Kiel)
11:00 Feuerbachs "Homo homini deus est" oder warum Religion als Therapeutikum gegen die Ausbrüche der Roheit und Bestialität“ nicht genügt / Christian Loos (Hannover/Münster)
11:45 Kaffeepause
12:00 Die Kodifizierung von Menschenbildern / Aurore Reck (Saarbrücken)
12:45 Neuzeitliche Menschenbilder im Schlagschatten ihrer Entgrenzung / Dr. David Sailer (Wien)
13:30 Abschluss des Symposiums

Das Programm als .pdf Datei kann hier unterladen werden.

Bei Interesse kann ein Link zur Videokonferenz bei Sascha Boelcke angefragt werden.



Sascha Boelcke
Catharina Müller-Liedtke
Gido Lukas
Lisa Pannek
Dana Zentgraf


Henry Skorna and Fynn Wilkes on their 2021 research in the Carpathian Basin (Slovakia)

Wilkes and Skorna Fynn Wilkes (left) and Henry Skorna (right) at the Bronze Age burial site of Jelšovce (Slovakia) (picture: F. Wilkes / H. Skorna)

During the first three weeks of July, two ROOTS PhD candidates, Henry Skorna and Fynn Wilkes, travelled to Western Slovakia to collect original data for their PhD projects on “Inequality and Violence in East Central Europe” (link) and “Social Inequality in the Carpathian Basin” (link), respectively. Both projects are conducted in the framework of the Subcluster ROOTS of Inequalities (link).

The first week of fieldwork was spent working with archaeological material and literature at the University of Bratislava, where they also had opportunities to meet with Slovakian colleagues following a year and a half of only virtual communication. This time offered them access to numerous local scientific publications, which are not accessible through German library catalogues. The following two weeks were spent at the guest house of the Institute of Archaeology of the Slovak Academy of Science in Nitra. There, they collected bone samples for isotope studies as well as data about metal weights.

In addition, bone samples were collected for the project “Inequality and diet at the Bronze Age burial site of Jelšovce” – a shared project in the framework of their individual PhD projects. This study aims to understand how dietary markers, including isotopes, could be used as a proxy for inequality measures. With more than 600 burials, the site of Jelšovce (Nitra region, West Slovakia) one of the largest Early Bronze Age burial sites in the region and has already been studied with a wide set of methods. It therefore offers an exceptional archive for this investigation.

Furthermore, Henry and Fynn measured and weighed Copper and Bronze artefacts of various Bronze Age burial sites from West and Southwest-Slovakia. The weight of these object is a particularly important factor for both PhD projects, since studies about inequality and wealth often take the scarcity of material into consideration. Surprisingly, the weights of metal artefacts are not commonly published in finds catalogues.

In addition, material for C-14 dating was collected in order to date several long-known Bronze Age burial sites. The radiocarbon dates will be used to gain a deeper understanding of the sequence of sites in the region. Furthermore, the samples will shed light on the long-lasting debate on the chronological relationship of the Nitra culture within the Early Bronze Age of South-Western Slovakia.

Henry Skorna and Fynn Wilkes would like to thank the Institute of Archaeology of the Slovak Academy of Science in Nitra, the Archaeological Department of the Comenius University in Bratislava, the Museum Galanta, and the Museum Trnava and the Museum Nové Zámky for their support during the visit.

Wilkes and SkornaEarly Bronze Age burial inventory from the region of Nitra (photo: F. Wilkes).

Wilkes and Skorna
Fynn Wilkes scanning literature at the library of the Comenius University Bratislava (photo: H. Skorna).

Wilkes and Skorna


Workshop "Public Participation in Archaeological Research: Opportunities and Limitations"

Workshop Citizen science© Heritage Quest

Organised by the ROOTS Communication Platform, the workshop “Public Participation in Archaeological Research: Opportunities and Limitations” convenes an international group of scholars to discuss the potential for, and limits of, a critical citizen science of archaeology.

With a long history of volunteer participation and great potential for piquing public interest in cultural heritage, archaeology offers fertile ground for cultivating new models of citizen science research. Yet, thus far, archaeological engagements with citizen science have been limited, drawing principally on crowd-sourced data analysis to inform research aims. In this workshop, we inquire into innovative models and possibilities of public engagement with archaeology. Is a critical, engaged citizen science of archaeology possible? What would this mean for the formulation of research questions, development of research methods, aspects of research ethics, funding scheme, and practical partnerships in fieldwork or remote cooperations? What are the specific challenges and opportunities posed by pursuing rigorous public engagement through the model of citizen science research in archaeology? 



Monday, 07 June 2021 / 14:00 - 18:00 h

14:00-14:15 Welcome / Ilka Parchmann and Andrea Ricci
14:15-15:00 Keynote: Carenza Lewis / Participatory public archaeology CAN simultaneously benefit heritage and people: Evidence, insights and models from recent projects in the UK and Europe
15:00-15:45 Keynote: Monica Smith / Creating a Philosophy of Being and Doing: What is a Citizen and What is Science?
15:45-16:00 Break
16:00-16:20 Antonia Davidovic / Boundary making in hybrid zones. Analysing the differences and similarities between professionals and volunteers
16:20-16:40 Katharina Möller / Public participation in archaeology in Germany and the UK
16:40-17:00 Kerstin Kowarik / Experimental and sustainable: New approaches to public participation in archaeological research
17:00-17:20 Eva Kaptijn / Heritage Quest: Citizen scientists in search of archaeological heritage in the Netherlands
17:20-18:00 Discussion
19:30-ca. 21:00 Spatial Chat with Dinner

Tuesday, 08 June 2021 / 09:00-13:00 h

9:00-9:10 Welcome back and introduction to the morning schedule
09:10 - 9:45 Workshop Breakout Rooms
9:45-10:10 Group conversation
10:10-10:20 Break
10:20– 10:40 Ulf Ickerodt / 200 years of citizen science: Archaeological databases as an interface between different research interests
Jochim Weise / Metal prospecting in Corona times: What has changed?
10:40-11:00 Andres Dobat (Minos) / Private metal detecting as citizen science in Denmark
11:00-11:20 Silke Voigt-Heucke / Citizens create knowledge: Citizen science as a research approach
11:20-11:30 Discussion
11:30-11:35 Break
11:35-12:35 Breakout Rooms
12:35-13:00 Final Discussion


This workshop is organised by the ROOTS Communication Platform and is open to all members of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS.
Contact: Ilka Rau
Download Programme and Abstracts here

Stormy fieldwork on Hallig Hooge

Wadden Sea
The North Sea waves wash over the low summer dike of Hallig Hooge during storm (picture: Bente Majchczack).

During the first week of May 2021, members of the ROOTS Wadden Sea Project (link) and colleagues from the DFG Rungholt-Project conducted a week of geophysical fieldwork on Hallig Hooge, one of the small tidal islands in the German North Frisian Wadden Sea.
In search of High Medieval settlement remains, the team took advantages of favorable tides to continue last year's prospections (link) in the tidal flats surrounding Hooge. The activities started with unforeseen difficulties: on the first day, westerly winds prevented a tidal creek from running dry, denying access to a promising portion of the tidal flats.
In this area, a previously unknown Medieval dike had already been mapped with the implementation of high-precision drone photography. The intention was to study the dike in more detail. Unfortunately, the vagaries of the tides prevented the measurement and proved once again that the Wadden Sea is a difficult and unpredictable landscape for research.
In the following two days, the westerly winds ran up to gale force 10. The water level rose steadily until the waves of the North Sea occasionally crashed over the Hallig's low summer dike. For the team, this was a special opportunity to imagine the living conditions of the Medieval settlers: What was it like in the 14th century to stand on a terp during a storm and watch the water pound over the protective dike? What was it like to not know if the dike could withstand the storm or whether the terp would prove to be built high enough? This was a truly immersive experience of human-environmental relations for the team!
Despite the storm, it was possible to carry out measurements on the Hallig. An early Medieval site could be surveyed with electromagnetic induction (EMI) and ground penetrating radar. What the magnetics already indicated as a possible dwelling mound was revealed as a rectangular elevation below the younger Hallig sediments. According to earlier pottery finds, this could be one of the oldest settlements dating to the 8th/9th century AD, when settlers first had to react to rising water levels and frequent flooding by building terps. A first archaeological excavation on the site is scheduled for July 2021.
By Thursday, the storm had calmed down and it was possible to resume measurements in the tidal flats. As historical records report, a church parish called Hooge was lost to the great storm flood of 1362. During the 1970s, numerous graves were found south of Hooge on the bank of a tidal creek, revealing the location of a former church terp. In 2020, it was possible to map the entire terp site using magnetic gradiometry. Besides the high Medieval terp, numerous traces of younger peat quarries and a dyke structure were identified. During this first 2021 field season, it was possible to refine these previous measurements with EMI, getting a more precise picture of the dike structure associated with the peat quarries and parts of the terp. As the Medieval settlement structures continue in several directions underneath the tidal flats, there is much more potential for further detailed prospections: stay tuned!

Wadden Sea
Dennis Wilken and Bente Majchczack performing EMI measurements on a typical peat quarry site near Hallig Hooge (picture: Ruth Blankenfeldt, ZBSA).

The Wadden Sea project is currently receiving media coverage:
15.05.2021: The first fieldwork in March 2021 led the team into the famous Rungholt-tidal flats near Hallig Südfall and was extensively covered in the Saturday-issue of all sh:z newspapers ("Die mühsame Suche nach den Spuren Rungholts", in Schleswig-Holstein am Wochenende 15./16.05.; page 4-7).
23.05.2021: Radio-feature about the nature and history of the Halligen and the Wadden Sea with coverage of the Rungholt-research: Deutschlandfunk, "Sonntagsspaziergang" at 11:30am-1:00pm
25.05.2021: Radio-feature about one century of Rungholt-research up to the latest advancements in geophysical and geomorphological methods: WDR-5, "neugier genügt" at 10:04am-12:00pm



Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions