Johanna Mestorf Academy honours milestone in environmental archaeology

Iris Nießen (Jena) receives the prestigious Johanna Mestorf Award for her dissertation at the opening meeting of the Kiel Conference 2023: Scales of Social, Environmental, and Cultural Change in Past Societies.

CAU President Professor Simone Fulda (left) presents the Johanna Mestorf Award to Iris Nießen. Prof. Dr. Johannes Müller, speaker of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS and the Collaborative Research Center 1266 (right) and Prof. Dr. Lutz Käppel, speaker of the Johanna Mestorf Academy (2nd from right) congratulate. (Photo: Jan Steffen, ROOTS)

The share of people living in cities continues to increase worldwide. In view of this trend and the challenges it poses, archaeological and historical sciences are also intensively concerned with urbanisation processes and their relationships to the respective environments. Where do the roots of urbanisation processes lie in the past and how did they take place?

Today (13 March), the Johanna Mestorf Academy at Kiel University awarded the renowned Johanna Mestorf Award to archaeologist Iris Nießen for an outstanding doctoral thesis in precisely this field of study. The award winner wrote her dissertation entitled Donau - Ufer - Regensburg at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena about the development of a settlement into a quarter of the medieval city of Regensburg on the banks of the Danube.

“Iris Nießen's interdisciplinary work exemplarily shows the intertwining of social and ecological change by using the studied example. With its combination of historical and archaeological analysis, the work can be described as a milestone in environmental archaeology,” emphasises Prof. Dr. Lutz Käppel, spokesperson of Kiel University research focus “Societal, Environmental and Cultural Change” (SECC) and chairman of the Johanna Mestorf Academy prize committee in his laudation.

Iris Nießen's dissertation is based on extensive excavations on the banks of the Danube in Regensburg from 2009 to 2015. Her evaluation of these excavations paints a detailed social and economic picture of the development of a harbour settlement into a full-integrated city district around 1300 CE.

The prize-winner developed archaeological and historical methods especially for the evaluation of the extensive data and find material in order to integrate environmental perspectives into her work. This enabled her to comprehensively present the historical development of the river landscape in the history of Regensburg.

Guido Wendt, State Secretary of the Schleswig-Holstein Ministry for Education, Science, Research, and Culture, warmly congratulated Iris Nießen. “The Johanna Mestorf Prize honours a laureate who has not only presented a special scientific achievement with her dissertation, but who is at the same time still at the beginning of her scientific career. I think it is particularly important to honour outstanding young researchers and to make their work visible. In the years and decades to come, we will need their creativity, their innovative spirit and their ideas,” emphasised Wendt in a video message.

Kiel University President Prof. Dr. Simone Fulda also congratulated her kindly when she presented the award. “The scientific achievement that Iris Nießen has accomplished for her dissertation is truly exceptional. The Johanna Mestorf Prize is deserved recognition for this. At the same time, it should have an impact on the future and support a talented young scientist on her further career path.”
The award ceremony was also the opening of the international Kiel Conference 2023: Scales of Social, Environmental, and Cultural Change in Past Societies at Kiel University. Until next Saturday, more than 300 scientists from 30 countries will present and discuss the latest findings on the interplay of environment, social relationships, material culture, population dynamics, and human perception in the past.

The conference was organised by the Collaborative Research Centre 1266 ‘Scales of Transformation - Human-environmental Interaction in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies’ and the Cluster of Excellence ‘ROOTS’ within the framework of the Johanna Mestorf Academy.

The Johanna Mestorf Award, endowed with 3000 Euros, is being awarded for the sixth time as part of the conference series. It honours young researchers who have written an excellent dissertation in the field of social-ecological research or landscape archaeology.

“In all activities in our research focus, the promotion of excellent young researchers is an important concern. The Johanna Mestorf Award sets an example in this regard that is perceived far beyond Kiel,” says Prof. Dr. Johannes Müller, speaker of the CRC 1266 and the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS.

Iris Nießen receives the Johanna Mestorf Award 2023 for her dissertation. (Photo: Jan Steffen, ROOTS)


The Kiel Conference
Collaborative Research Centre 1266 ‘Scales of Transformation"
Johanna Mestorf Academy


Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions