Other Publications by ROOTS members

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

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

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

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

Urban Dynamics in the Middle Ages - Conference Report Available Online


 Urban Dynamics in the Middle Ages - Conference Report Available Online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Find further information about T. Torfing here


Deportationen im Perserreich in teispidisch-achaimenidischer Zeit / Chiara Matarese

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

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

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

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

For more information about the book here (Harassowitz)

Between Plague and Typhoid Fever – the Hanseatic City of Lübeck in the 14th Century

Ancient DNA A look into the late medieval mass burial site at the Hospital of the Holy Ghost in the city of Lübeck (photo: Dirk Rieger, Hansestadt Lübeck).

Research team uses ancient DNA to gain insight into the development and history of epidemics in historical Lübeck

A team of researchers at Kiel University (Christian-Albrechts-Universität, CAU), Germany, gained insights into the development and history of epidemics in historical Lübeck by means of ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis.

In the Late Middle Ages, urban Europe often fell victim to rampant epidemics. Local disease outbreaks as well as global pandemics were increasingly described in historical sources. Perhaps the most notorious epidemic in human history was the plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which spread throughout Europe's major cities between 1346 and 1353 CE. It became known as the "Black Death". Two-thirds of the European population succumbed to the disease. Thus, the plague has become the eponym for the expression "pestis" or "pestilentiae", which was often used in historical records to describe disastrous epidemics of unknown cause. Also Lübeck was struck by at least six "pestilences" in the 14th century alone, as recorded in the city chronicles. To date, there is no evidence of the pathogens responsible for these diseases.

During construction work at the Holy-Ghost-Hospital (Heiligen-Geist-Hospital) in Lübeck in the early 1990s, several mass burials were discovered next to the outer hospital walls. Scattered over various pits of different sizes, a total of more than 800 skeletons of all sexes and ages were recovered from the site. The pits could be dated to the second half of the 14th century using the radiocarbon dating technique. The large number of people who had died within a short period of time without signs of violence suggested an infectious disease as the cause of death.

Salmonella identified as the trigger

An interdisciplinary team led by Prof. Ben Krause-Kyora from the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (IKMB) at CAU has been investigating the cause of death for the people in the mass graves. For this purpose, the aDNA from a total of 92 skeletons was isolated, sequenced and analyzed. "Our initial aim was to determine whether it is at all possible to use aDNA analyses to identify the pathogen responsible for this unknown epidemic," emphasizes Prof. Almut Nebel, also affiliated with the IKMB. "Being able to successfully demonstrate this is an important methodological milestone." The team was able to detect the bacterial pathogen Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica Paratyphi C in the human remains from two pits. "From the city chronicles we know that for the year 1367 CE an unknown "pestilentia" is recorded, which claimed many lives among all social strata, but was confined to Lübeck only", remarks Prof. Gerhard Fouquet from the Historical Seminar at Kiel University. This finding provided the researchers with the earliest evidence to date of an epidemic caused by Salmonella.

S. Paratyphi C is an invasive Salmonella species. The causative agent spreads rapidly and is transmitted to the human host via the consumption of contaminated water or food. Once contracted, the disease manifests itself as continued high fever, abdominal pain and nausea, at times also diarrhea. Without medical treatment, the disease course can be fatal.

The molecular biologists from Kiel further succeeded in fully reconstructing three of the S. Paratyphi C genomes. "Our results indicate a close relationship among the Paratyphi C strains in the Middle Ages," explains first author Magdalena Haller. It can be assumed that the pathogen has spread along commercial routes of the time, including those of the Hanseatic League. The analyses thus provide insights into the origin and evolution of the bacterium S. paratyphi, about which little is yet known. "Paratyphi C is virtually absent from Europe today. However, our results suggest that the pathogen was fairly common in the past. Recurrent outbreaks of paratyphoid fever must have severely affected people back then," explains Haller.

The Lübeck mass burial site represents a unique scientific resource for the study of past epidemics. "Through the close cooperation of molecular biology, history and archaeology, we have not only opened a door to the Middle Ages, but also built a bridge to our Corona era", emphasizes Dr. Dirk Rieger, head of the department of archaeology of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck.

The results of the study were recently published in the international journal iScience. The study was supported by the Collaborative Research Centre 1266 "Scales of Transformation“, the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, and research funding from the CAU Medical Faculty.
Original publication:

Haller, M., Callan, K., Susat, J., Flux, A., Immel, A., Franke, A., Herbig, A., Krause, J., Kupczok, A., Fouquet, G., Hummel, S., Rieger, D., Nebel, A., Krause-Kyora, B. (2021) Mass burial genomics reveals outbreak of enteric paratyphoid fever in the Late Medieval trade city Lübeck. iScience 24, 102419.

Ancient DNA
The study conducted at Kiel University identifies the earliest evidence to date of an epidemic caused by Salmonella. (Figure: Carina Lange, Kiel University).

Scientific contact:
Prof. Dr. Ben Krause-Kyora
Institut für Klinische Molekularbiologie
Kiel University
 +49 (0)431 500 15142

Angelika Hoffmann
Research focus officer SECC/JMA

+49 (0)431/880-5924 to the website

For German version click here


Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions