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:

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


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


Greetings from our home offices


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

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.
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


The new ROOTS Social Inequality Forum

Social Inequalities Forum

A new forum for interdisciplinary and inspiring discussion on all aspects of social inequality now complements ROOTS activities. Intended as a loose, but interrelated, sequence of events, the ROOTS Social Inequalities forum will not only bring together guests and members of ROOTS and an interested audience, but it also aims to engage the topics in a more discussion-oriented format. At the kick-off meeting on January 30, Prof. Christian Jeunesse (University of Strasbourg) presented his ethno-archaeological work on settlement structure and burial rites in Sumba, Indonesia. Followed by a lively discussion in a relaxed atmosphere, the new format proved to stimulate scientific dialogue and new insights on past social inequality.

The next ROOTS of Inequalities Forum will take place on Monday February 24 (from 4 to 6pm) with two talks:

  1. Sabine Reinhold, Natal’ja M. Chairkina, Karl-Uwe Heußner, Dirk Mariaschk (Berlin and Ekaterinburg): „Elche, Schlitten und rätselhafte Holzkonstruktionen: Zur Archäologie in den Torfmooren des Urals“
  2. Ljubov‘ Kosinskaja, Ekaterina Dubovceva, Henny Piezonka (Ekaterinburg and Kiel) on “Forts, pots and people: New results on Stone Age hunter-gatherer socio-economic systems in Western Siberia."

Followed by a discussion.

For more information please click here

ROOTS Inequalities Forum

Videos of the 2019 Shanghai Archaeological Forum award ceremony and presentation of the “Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation in Neolithic Europe” project by Johannes Müller

4th SAF Research Awards

The research on “Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation in Neolithic Europe,” was awarded the 2019 Shanghai Archaeological Forum (SAF) Research Award for the category “Research”.
The coordinator of the project, Johannes Müller, speaker of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, presented the research results at the award ceremony on the December 14 2019 in Shanghai.

The video of the presentation of Johannes Müller can be viewed here:

All other project presentations as well as the opening ceremony of the event can be viewed directly on the YouTube channel of the Shanghai Archeology Forum – click here

Other links:

For the full press release (in German) please click here
For more information on the “Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation in Neolithic Europe” project click here
For more information on the Shanghai Archaeological Forum please click here

Copyright information:
Photo by Jing Zhi-Chun, SAF

People in ROOTS: Nicolas Lamare

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:
Photo by Paul Scheding

People in ROOTS: Tim Kerig

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:

Johannes Müller, speaker of ROOTS, awarded with the 2019 Shanghai Archaeological Forum award for the research on “Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation in Neolithic Europe”


The research on “Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation in Neolithic Europe,” coordinated by Johannes Müller, has been awarded the 2019 Shanghai Archaeological Forum (SAF) Research Award for the category “Research”.

The award will be given to Johannes Müller, speaker of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, in December 2019 during the 4th Shanghai Archaeological Forum in Shanghai, China.

The Priority Program 1400 “Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation in Neolithic Europe”

The DFG Priority Program 1400 "Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation: On the origin and development of Neolithic large-scale buildings and the emergence of early complex societies in northern central Europe" began in July 2009. Coordinated by Johannes Müller, the project brings together 22 University Departments, Research Institutes and Heritage Management Offices in 16 sub-projects to investigate the emergence of monumental architecture in Neolithic and Chalcolithic contexts throughout different regions on the Northern European Plain.
The proceedings of the Kiel conference “Megaliths - Societies – Landscapes. Landscapes Early Monumentality And Social Differentiation In Neolithic Europe” (Eds.: Johannes Müller, Martin Hinz, Maria Wunderlich) appeared in 2019. This work  represents a milestone in understanding the complexity of this 5th and 4th Millennia BCE phenomenon.

For more information on the project click here

The Shanghai Archaeology Forum (SAF)

Shanghai Logo

Founded in 2013, the Shanghai Archeology Forum is a worldwide initiative committed to promoting research, harnessing the world's archaeological treasures, and protecting cultural heritage. The SAF Awards recognize individuals and organizations that excel in researching the human past through innovative, creative and excellent work, bringing forth new and relevant knowledge relevant to the present and future. The aim is to promote excellence and innovation in archaeological research, public awareness and appreciation for archeology, cultural heritage protection and international cooperation. The SAF Awards consist of two award categories, the Outstanding Field Discovery Award and Outstanding Research Findings. Nominations for the awards are held every two years and are judged by an international selection committee to the highest international standards of excellence and objectivity, with a maximum of 10 winners in each category. The project “Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation in Neolithic Europe” belongs to the top ten project worldwide for 2019 for the Research Award Catergory.

For more information click here


People in ROOTS: Chiara Thumiger

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:

The first retreat of ROOTS

On 18 and 19 December, the members of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS gathered at Sandbjerg Gods, near the city of Sønderborg (Denmark), for the first retreat of the cluster.


As a year has now elapsed since the official start of ROOTS, the main intention of this retreat was to foster further dialogue and generate ideas in order to strengthen innovative interdisciplinary cooperation within the cluster. All members of the cluster, and in particular the PhD candidates and the research associates who started their work in the last few months, were invited to introduce themselves and their research projects. Further presentations illustrated the research agendas of the six subclusters, the reflective turn, the three platforms and the young academy, and talks presented the progress of the projects that already started in 2019 and the planned activities for 2020 and the following years. Behind the formal presentations, participants discussed possibilities for the realisation of pilot projects integrating different disciplinary approaches, for example, by combining the study of ancient literary sources and biological studies for investigations on the emergence and spread of diseases, or by analysing cultural material products with cutting-edge equipment of material science to understand how knowledge was produced and transmitted.
Additional activities offered the opportunity for further lively exchange in a relaxed atmosphere. These included an excursion along the western shore of the Als Sund Fjord, with beautiful views of the surrounding landscape, and with a visit to the site Nydam Mose, where the Iron Age Nydam boat was found.


As we look forward to the coming years of exciting investigations on socio-environmental-cultural connectivity of past societies, we wish to you and your families a happy festivity season and a peaceful 2020!

ROOTS Seasons Greetings


First Retreat of the Subcluster Urban ROOTS

On 9 and 10 November 2019, the members of the subcluster Urban ROOTS gathered in Hodorf (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany) for the first retreat of the subcluster. The retreat was an opportunity to welcome the newcomers among the team as well as to obtain insights into each member’s research. 15 participants, including PIs, associate members, associate researchers and doctoral candidates, presented the results of this first year’s research and outlooks into the research agenda for 2020. Intense discussion addressed interdisciplinary research topics and how to unfold present and forthcoming results in the frame of scientific meetings planned until 2022. These will include two international conferences, which will convene in June and October 2020 in Kiel, to address topics related to “Mental concepts of the city in picture and text media during the premodern age” (link) and “Urban neighborhoods and communities” (preliminary title). In addition, the publication of the proceedings of the first international conference “Urban Water”, which was organized by the subcluster in October 2018 (link), is expected for the beginning of 2020.

Furthermore, the subcluster is working on the creation of a “Studienzertifikat Urbane Kulturen”, which aims to offer a specialization on urbanity, including various disciplines such as archaeology, history, geography, arts and literature, to students of Kiel University.

Pictures by: Nicola Chiarenza

A new logo for the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS!


The Cluster of Excellence ROOTS unveils its new logo!

ROOTS, the cluster of excellence on socio-environmental-cultural connectivity in past societies at Kiel University, announces the launch of its new logo. Following on the heels of the first cluster research activities, the ROOTS logo will help to expand the visibility of its integrated interdisciplinary research. The logo was conceptualised and created over the summer months by Tine Pape, the graphic designer of the ROOTS cluster, in coordination with the Communication Platform. After this intensive period of development, the ROOTS Executive Board passed the new ROOTS logo during its last meeting at the beginning of October.
As the educational researcher and speaker of the ROOTS Communication Platform, Ilka Parchmann explains: “the new ROOTS logo aims to offer a recognisable sign that encapsulates the intrinsic aims of the research conducted within the cluster, and in particular its relevance in the exploration of past socio-environmental dynamics to understand current challenges and crises”.
This translates into a vision for the logo that “emphasises connections between the past and the present as it is read as a reversed ‘R’, symbolising the cluster´s inquiries into the past, and the double ‘Os’ figuring as an infinity symbol that links past and present”, as Pape recounts.
The logo is one of the first tangible products realised to implement the overall ROOTS visual language. The cluster corporate design reflects the large cluster identity, the multifaceted disciplinary theoretical and practical approaches, as well as individual research expertise. Looking forward, the logo will represent all future activities and events conducted in the framework of ROOTS, accompanying publications, presentations, public outreach activities and other scientific endeavours.

A broadcast by Buten und Binnen, with contribution by Johannes Müller, speaker of ROOTS

Johannes Müller, professor for prehistoric archaeology at Kiel University and speaker of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, contributed to a TV broadcast by the Bremener “Buten und Binnen” station on the origin of prehistoric megalithic monuments of Northern Europe.

You can watch the broadcast (only in German) here

ROOTS at German Unit Day / ROOTS beim Tag der Deutschen Einheit

German Unity Day – Cluster of Excellence ROOTS participates!

With a big festival including numerous events for all citizens, Kiel celebrates German Unity Day on 2-3 October.

The Cluster of Excellence “ROOTS -  Connectivity of Social, Environmental, and Cultural Connectivity in Past Societies” together with the CRC 1266 is looking forward to welcoming you to their join-in activities. Exhibits will interactively present knowledge about current archaeological research projects conducted in the framework of the Johanna Mestorf Academy. For example, “The Diary of an Amber Trader” will illustrate how farming, animal husbandry, hunting and gathering affected the Neolithic population.

You can find us on 2-3 October between 11 am and 6 pm at Düsternbrooker Weg 2.
More information and the overall program of the event can be found here:


Tag der deutschen Einheit – Cluster of Excellence ROOTS stellt sich vor!

Mit einem großen Fest für alle Bürgerinnen und Bürger feiert Kiel am 2. und 3. Oktober den Tag der deutschen Einheit. Auch der Excellenzcluster „ROOTS – Konnektivität von Gesellschaft, Umwelt und Kultur in vergangenen Welten“ und der SFB 1266 freut sich auf viele Gäste bei ihren Mitmachaktionen an der Kiellinie.
Dazu werden Exponate gezeigt, die interaktiv Wissen vermitteln über aktuelle archäologische Forschungsprojekte, die im Rahmen der Johanna-Mestorf-Akademie durchgeführt wurden. So veranschaulicht „Das Tagebuch einer Bernsteinhändlerin“ beispielsweise, wie sich Ackerbau, Viehzucht, Jagen und Sammeln auf die jungsteinzeitliche Bevölkerung ausgewirkt haben.
Sie finden uns am 2. und 3. Oktober in Düsternbrooker Weg 2 | all-day
Mehr Infos und das gesamte Programm der Veranstaltung können Sie hier finden:


Archaeology Teamwork at the Night of Science 2019

Archaeology beyond Indiana Jones and Lara Croft was the main theme of the actions of members of the Johanna Mestorf Academy, the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, the Institute for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology and the Institute for Classical Studies, who jointly participated in the Schleswig-Holstein “Night of Science 2019”. The events pertaining to archaeological sciences were held in Preetz.

night of science 2019

Visitors were offered the opportunity to both shape and produce their own pottery vessels with Neolithic pots as a basis and to practice drawing prehistoric potsherds. The interactive activities dealing with pollen analysis and crop plant identification as well as a 3D ceramic puzzle also attracted the attention of the visitors. Furthermore, three talks and a poster exhibition were presented on the topic “Formation of the environment – formation of social interaction”. The themes ranged from ancient house renovations in Pompeii to environmental influences and from prehistoric gender roles to the history of crops in prehistoric periods. The positive feedback of the visitors motivates us to also participate in the Night of Science in 2020.


Workshop “Quantifying Social Inequalities – New Proxies, New Methods. Possibilities and Limitations to Determine Social Inequalities in Archaeological Contexts”

The Workshop “Quantifying Social Inequalities – New Proxies, New Methods. Possibilities and Limitations to Determine Social Inequalities in Archaeological Contexts”, organized by Ralph Großmann for the Subcluster ROOTS of Inequalities, took place on October 7 and 8 2019 at the Kiel University.

In the framework of this workshop, invited speakers from Kiel, Germany, Europe and the USA illustrated the range of different approaches for the study of social inequalities in past societies. Case studies included investigations on the Copper Age cemetery of Durankulak (Arne Windler, Bochum) and the Middle Bronze Age urn cemetery of Dunaújváros-Duna-dűlő (Julian Laabs, Bern/Switzerland) with reconstructions based on the quantification of grave goods and the application of the so-called Gini Index. Other contributions presented multi-proxy analyses that combine bio-anthropological and archaeological data. These included studies on the southwest German Iron Age burial mound Magdalenenbergle (Ralph Großmann, Kiel), investigations on transformation processes in the Neolithic/Copper Age on the Iberian Peninsula (Marta Cintas Peña, Seville/Spain) and studies on the North Caucasian Bronze Age cemetery Kudachurt 14 (Katharina Fuchs, Kiel). Furthermore, Adrian Chase and Timothy J. Dennehy (both Tempe, Arizona/USA) presented results of quantified settlement differences and economic transformation processes of the Maya in Belize, Central America. Intense discussions followed contributions that, for example, linked life expectancy with economic prosperity (Nils Müller Scheeßel, Kiel), contrasted social inequality with the concept of diversity (Penny Bickle, York/UK), and showed alternative concepts to conventional, economically based approaches to inequality (Vesa Arponen, Kiel).

The workshop demonstrated the relevance of multiple proxy approaches as well as the importance of including not only economically based concepts but also alternative models that consider the “quality of life” in order to quantify social inequality.


“Who were the first farmers?” – BBC CrowdScience with contribution by Cheryl Makarewicz

Cheryl Makarewicz, professor for archaeozoology and stable isotope science at Kiel University and principal investigator of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, contributed to the latest BBC World Service CrowdScience series broadcast on the world's first farmers.
You can listen to the BBC broadcast “Who were the first farmers?” here

Cluster of Excellence ROOTS in Moscow, Russia

ROOTS in MoscowNikolaj Andreevich Makarov, president of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, guides the participants through an archaeological excavation conducted in the Grand Kremlin Public Garden, Moscow. The important role of archaeology in the creation of historical narratives became clearer during this conference excursion. Photo by: Johannes Müller

Future perspectives of archaeology were discussed at the international conference “Archaeology of the 21st Century”, which took place on 26–28 June 2019 in Moscow, Russia. The ROOTS cooperation partners of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Eurasia Department of the German Archaeological Institute jointly organized this exchange of views that attracted participants from China, Russia and other regions of Europe. Although key actors from Latin America, Africa, Oceania and further Asian countries were certainly missing, intense and productive discussions took place on the future development of archaeology, especially regarding its political role in recent discourses. Johannes Müller, speaker of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, presented ‘Social, Environmental and Cultural Connectivities in Past Societies’ as a transdisciplinary initiative for innovative research perspectives and Claus von Carnap Bornheim, speaker of the Subcluster ROOTS of Conflict, illustrated research outlooks for the Baltic regions in connection with the world cultural heritage site of Hedeby.

ROOTS in Moscow
Sabine Reinhold (DAI-Referent for Russian Archaeology), Johannes Müller (ROOTS speaker), Svend Hansen (Director of the DAI Eurasia department), Nikolaj Andreevich Makarov (President of the Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences) and Felipe Criado-Boado (President of the European Association of Archaeologists) happily gathered during a conference break.

NDR Interview with Henny Piezonka

NDR Interview with Henny Piezonka, Junior Professor for Ethnoarcheology at Kiel University and principal investigator of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS.

You find the interview and further information here.

ROOTS International Symposium (June 17-18, 2019)

The ROOTS International Symposium took place on Monday and Tuesday June 17 and 18 in the Audimax of Kiel University. Invited speakers from across Europe and South America gathered in Kiel to share ideas and open new research perspectives on the study of socio, cultural and environmental connectivity in past societies.

Talks included the reconstruction of the dynamics of social inequality in prehistoric societies, the production and transfer of knowledge, the understanding of agency and perception in ancient and medieval urban contexts, the investigation of the emergence of conflicts and their resolution in the Baltic Region during the late Iron Age and Early Medieval Period. Moreover, presenters discussed methodological advances for the study on human-environmental-interdependencies in the area of dendro-archaeology, as well as for computational biological analysis of various organic materials from prehistorical and historical contexts. The speaker of ROOTS, Prof. Dr. Johannes Muller, noted that the wide range of topics covered at the symposium brought innovative perspectives to existing research initiatives and were of great value to advancing the interdisciplinary emphasis of the cluster. The event was an important part of the initial phase of the seven-year cluster.

The program of the Symposium is available here

Text: Andrea Ricci
Photos: Tine Pape

2018 JMA Plenary Meeting and first ROOTS PIs Meeting (October 22, 2018)

On October 22nd, the 2018 Johanna-Mestorf-Academy Plenary Meeting took place with many members in attendance.

The meeting included updates from the speakers and the representatives on the numerous projects and initiatives that took place over the past year in the frame of the JMA. New members also introduced themselves and their research. Above all, this meeting was an opportunity to celebrate the success of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS!

Following the JMA Plenary Meeting, the first ROOTS PIs Meeting kicked-off seven years of interdisciplinary advanced research on how social, environmental, and cultural processes have substantially shaped past human development: the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS is now starting its activities!

01: Group Photo of the JMA Members (Photo: JMA ׀ Carsten Reckweg)

02: Group photo of the ROOTS PIs (Photo: JMA ׀ Carsten Reckweg)

Grünes Licht für ROOTS! (October 2, 2018)

Die Freude bei den Kieler Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftlern ist riesig. Ihr Antrag hat alle Hürden genommen und wurde am 27. September von der gemeinsamen Kommission zur Förderung eines Exzellenzclusters im Rahmen der sogenannten Exzellenzstrategie des Bundes und der Länder bewilligt. Von 1. Januar an bis (mindestens) Dezember 2025 werden die Wissenschaftler aus 15 CAU Instituten an sechs Fakultäten der Universität Kiel nun unter dem Label „ROOTS“ die „Wurzeln der Konnektivität von Gesellschaft, Umwelt und Kultur in vergangenen Welten“ erforschen.

„Damit etablieren wir in Kiel einen Leuchtturm für die Erforschung prähistorischer, antiker und vormoderner Gesellschaften. Unser Profil breit gefächerter Interdisziplinarität mit starker Ausrichtung an der Schnittstelle von Kultur-zu Natur- und Lebenswissenschaften ist einzigartig und wurde von dem internationalen Expertengremium als zukunftsweisend bewertet“ freut sich Johannes Müller. Den prähistorischen Archäologen und Sprecher des neu bewilligten Clusters hatte die gute Nachricht um 2 Uhr morgens lokaler Zeit in Kyoto ereilt. Wichtiger ROOTS-Partner ist das Deutsche Archäologische Institut (DAI).

Drei Jahre Vorbereitungszeit hat es gekostet, die konzeptionellen Ideen für den Cluster in zahlreichen Diskussions-Runden zu entwickeln, interdisziplinär abzustimmen, auf ihre Machbarkeit zu überprüfen, eine Antragsskizze zu formulieren, und schließlich nach deren positiver Vorbegutachtung vor einem Jahr einen Vollantrag auszuarbeiten, der eine Forschungsagenda für die kommenden sieben Jahre umreißt. Zurückgreifen konnten die Antragsteller dabei auf ihre bisherige Erfahrungen in der Graduiertenschule „Human Development in Landscapes“ (GSHDL), im Rahmen der vorausgehenden Exzellenzinitiative seit 2007 bis Ende diesen Jahres gefördert, und deren schon vorhandene Strukturen. „Die großartige Unterstützung der Universität sowie des Landes schon im Vorfeld haben enorm zu unserem jetzigen Erfolg beigetragen“ sagt Annette Haug, Klassische Archäologin und stellvertretende Sprecherin des Clusters. Auch strukturell ist der Cluster auf die kommenden Herausforderungen gut vorbereitet. „Den Rahmen dafür bietet die Johanna-Mestorf-Akademie, eine gemeinsame Einrichtung der Kieler Uni zur Entwicklung ihres profilbildenden Schwerpunktes „Sozialer, Umwelts- und Kulturwandel“ (SECC)“, äußert sich Lutz Käppel, Gräzist und Sprecher von SECC zuversichtlich.

Die Mühen haben sich gelohnt: Geforscht werden kann nun mit verbesserter personeller und infrastruktureller Ausstattung. Unter anderem sollen mehrere Professuren neu eingerichtet und mit international herausragenden Experten besetzt werden. „Ein Plattformkonzept zur infrastrukturellen Entwicklung sieht z. B. den Erwerb eines speziellen GC-C-IR-Massenspektrometers vor, das die Analyse der Isotopenzusammmensetzung von Aminosäuren ermöglicht und so Aufschluss über die Ernährungsweisen früherer Gesellschaften  geben wird“, erläutert Wolfgang Rabbel, Geophysiker und ebenfalls stellvertretender Sprecher des Clusters.

„Schon jetzt können wir sagen“, so Lutz Kipp, Präsident der Kieler Universität, „dass der ROOTS-Cluster die Attraktivität und internationale Sichtbarkeit der Kieler Uni weiter steigern wird“. Dass vom neuen Cluster „spannende Ergebnisse zu gesellschaftlich hoch relevanten Themen zu erwarten sind, die sich auch hervorragend für den Wissenstransfer an Schüler und an die allgemeine Öffentlichkeit eignen“ ergänzt Ilka Parchmann, Fachdidakterin am IPN und Vizepräsidentin der Kieler Universität mit Ressort „Lehramt, Wissenschaftskommunikation und Weiterbildung“.

01: Seebohrung für Paläoumweltforschung und Rekonstruktion der Mensch-Umwelt-Interaktion, Vouliagmeni, Griechenland (Foto: Ingmar Unkel)

02: Ethnoarchäologische Studien in Sibirien, Russland (Foto: Christoph Engel)

03: Ausgrabungssituation in Vráble, Slowakei (Foto: Martin Furholt)

Excellence Cluster ROOTS Social, Environmental, and Cultural Connectivity approved! (October 1, 2018)

On September 27th 2018, funding decisions have been made in Germany’s Excellence Strategy: The Excellence Commission, consisting of the members of the international Committee of Experts and the research ministers of the federal and state governments, approved 57 Clusters of Excellence to be funded from among the 88 proposed projects.

Among the successful cluster proposal is ROOTS! This new cluster of excellence will start on January 1st 2019 and until end of 2025 will explore how social, environmental, and cultural processes have substantially shaped past human development. The cluster is composed by an interdisciplinary network of 15 participating institutes and six faculties at Kiel University and external research institutes, including the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA), the State Museum Schleswig-Holstein in Gottorf (ALM), the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN), Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön.


01: Excavation in Mang de Bargen, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany (Photo by: Jutta Kneisel)

02: Coring activities for palaeoenvironmental investigation and human-environmental reconstruction, Pellworm, Schleswig-Holstein (Photo by: Ingmar Unkel)

03: Group photo of ROOTS presenters together with Schleswig-Holstein Minister-President Daniel Günther und Prof. Dr. Friederike Fless (DAI) in Cologne after the DFG appraisal on May 30th 2018

04: ROOTS structure with ROOTS research areas (subclusters), supporting platforms, and involved disciplines





Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions