“Wellerholz” wanted!

Wellenholz

Medieval half-timbered houses characterise the townscapes of many communities in Central Europe. As cultural monuments, they are highly valued. It is little known that, in addition to the wooden skeleton in half-timbered houses, numerous other parts of plants were used in the construction of these houses. Traditionally, linen slivers are added to plywood in order to make it flexible. Poppy and flax capsules as well as pea shells were also used as natural insulation material in false floors. Grain stalks were wrapped around oak stakes and fastened with loam to be used as so-called “Wellerholz” in the ceilings. The half-timbered houses are thus also excellent archives for old plant remains, which have been preserved in dry conditions over the centuries and provide insights into the history of cultivated plants.

Within the framework of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, a group of researchers from the fields of archaeobotany, archaeology, ancient DNA and molecular evolutionary biology reconstructs and studies the history of the domestication of rye. The material starting point is the “Wellerholz” from medieval and early modern half-timbered houses. So far, we have been able to analyse rye stalks from “Wellerholz” originating from Göttingen and Lüneburg, determining stem lengths of 1.80 cm for medieval rye. For present-day agriculture, which aims at high grain yields with machine harvesting, such stalk lengths are unthinkable. However, different parts of the plant were valued in past times and, in the case of cereal stalks, they were used as insulating material and as roof covering.
By analysing “Wellerholz”, we now want to carry out first investigations on the genetic code of the plant remains (the old DNA) in order to understand how rye developed from an undesirable weed to the most sought-after medieval bread cereal. The breeding of frost-hardy varieties, for example, plays an important role in winter cereal farming. For our research, we are dependent on the support of owners of traditional half-timbered houses, who could provide us with research material.

Are you planning to renovate your traditional timbered house? Are you interested in contributing to the cultural plant history of your region in Germany or abroad? We invite you to support us by providing a small sample of the original insulation of your house: every type of “Wellerholz” is welcome!

Download: PDF for Göttingen, PDF for Einbeck, PDF for Northeim

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Contact:
Dr. Sonja Filatova, Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, Kiel University, Johanna-Mestorf-Strasse 2-6, 24118 Kiel, phone: 0431/8806706, mail: s.filatova@ufg.uni-kiel.de

Prof. Dr. Wiebke Kirleis, Environmental Archaeology/Archaeobotany, Institute of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology, Kiel University, Johanna-Mestorf-Strasse 2-6, 24118 Kiel, phone: 0431/880-3173; mail: wiebke.kirleis@ufg.uni-kiel.de

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.

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

You can contact him at: jschneeweiss@roots.uni-kiel.de

ROOTS Retreat and Advisory Board meeting – a virtual success

ROOTS RetreatImpression of the virtual conference (Illustration: Tine Pape)

On 11 and 12 June, the second ROOTS Retreat and the first Advisory Board Meeting took place. This event was carried out under special circumstances, as no usual gathering with physical contact can be held due to the Corona crisis. For this reason, a virtual meeting was organized, which was not less challenging to host than a traditional meeting.
During the Advisory Board meeting, ROOTS presented the wide range of its projects in order to introduce itself structurally and scientifically. Presentations illustrated the research agendas of the six subclusters, the Reflective Turn Forum, as well as the three platforms and the Young Academy. Moreover, postdocs of the subclusters were invited to present the progress of their research projects.
In addition to the formal presentations held especially for the Advisory Board, the retreat developed discourses on our general ROOTS research topics that focus on “Social, Environmental and Cultural Connectivity”. Numerous talks from different disciplines contributed to this concept. Another topic of the retreat included the formation of individual “publication groups” discussed in parallel in different virtual rooms. These groups started to develop and discuss research topics related to the ROOTS cluster with the aim to publish the results as proceedings volumes for a future ROOTS compilation.
Impressed by the broad interdisciplinary research agenda, the Advisory Board attests the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS an enormous potential regarding scientific impact and public outreach. For this, the involvement and support of young researchers is essential.
One task of the Advisory Board also included the election of a board speaker. The ROOTS cluster congratulates Helle Vandkilde (Aarhus University) for assuming this position.
In sum, the second retreat and the first Advisory Board meeting with more than 80 participants, who gathered together virtually, was a success. For the future, however, everybody hopes that this kind of virtual event will be held again as a face-to-face meeting, since digital meetings can never replace the atmosphere of real social contact.

People in ROOTS: Paweł Cembrzyński

Pawel_Cembrzynski

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!

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

You can contact him at: pcembrzynski@roots.uni-kiel.de
Photo by Joanna Sudyka

 

Greetings from our home offices

Greetings

In times of the corona crisis, a lot has changed for all of us. Perhaps you should currently be working at an excavation site, carrying out analyses in the lab or be in your office at the university. Instead, most of us are confined to home offices and still have to get on with our work as best as possible.
Even though all of us have to work from home at the moment, we do not want the ROOTS team members to lose contact with each other. Therefore, we will use our homepage to capture impressions from our home offices and perhaps even report about our moods and thoughts during this exceptional time.
The following videos would like to give you some impressions from our home offices and cheer you up in these difficult times.
We are really looking forward to presenting your impressions on the homepage! Please send your clips (via WeTransfer) and any questions concerning the technical procedure to Tine Pape tpape@roots.uni-kiel.de.

All the best and stay healthy!
Your team from the Communications Platform

Greetings from Ilka Parchmann

Ilka Parchmann

Greetings from Claus von Carnap-Bornheim

Greetings from Claus von Carnap-Bornheim

Greetings from Walter Dörfler

Greetings from Walter Doerfler

Greetings from Katrin Schöps

Greetings from Katrin Schoeps

Greetings from Ilka Rau

Greetings from Ilka Rau

Greetings from Jens Schneeweiß

Jens Schneeweiss

Greetings from Tim Kerig

Tim Kerig

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.
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Lisa Shindo is a research associate in the ROOTS subcluster “ROOTS of Socio-environmental Hazards” (link).
You can contact her at: lshindo@roots.uni-kiel.de
Photo by Myette Guiomar

 

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