Other Publications by ROOTS members

Homo homini lupus est? Images of Human Beings and the Unknown: Interaction and Perception

*** English version below***

Homo homini lupus est? Menschenbilder und das Fremde: Interaktion und Wahrnehmung. Kiel/Hamburg 2023

Are humans "inherently good", as Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, or do they behave in a fundamentally predatory manner towards other human beings, as the phrase "homo homini lupus" (man is man's wolf) suggests, used by, for example, Thomas Hobbes or Arthur Schopenhauer? Anyone who scientifically studies the past of humankind encounters—reflected and unreflected—very different images of human beings.

A new volume now published as an Open Access publication entitled "Homo homini lupus est? Menschenbilder und das Fremde: Interaktion und Wahrnehmung" critically examines and discusses concrete examples of images of humans. The volume thus highlights their diversity and the contexts in which these images occur. The publication is based on a symposium with the same title that was organised by PhD students of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS at Kiel University in September 2021. It was the first project of the Cluster of Excellence to be organised and managed purely by PhD students.

The cluster investigates the roots of social, environmental and cultural phenomena and processes that substantially marked past human development. The historical dimension of this task  and the associated discourse on past cultures promotes a diversity of descriptions of humans. "Against this background, there was a great deal of interest in the plurality of concepts of human beings," says Dana Zentgraf, PhD student in ROOTS and one of the editors of the volume.  

The new book contributes to a current and interdisciplinary discussion of divergent images of humans. The contributions were prepared by researchers of various individual disciplines, including philosophy, German studies, illustration and archaeology.

The focus is placed on investigations into how different images of human beings emerge, how they become normalised and how they are transmitted. How can a specific view of humans be recognised as such and how do these constructs vary culturally, milieu-specifically and over time? To what extent can professional and historical contexts themselves influence the study of specific images of humans? The authors further address the limits of the known and familiar, the intangibility of the unknown, and fear or bias towards the other.

The book is published by Wachholtz-Verlag in Kiel and Hamburg (Germany). The digital version can be downloaded free of charge from the publisher's website.

Catharina Müller-Liedtke, Dana N. Zentgraf, Lisa Pannek, Gido Lukas, Sascha Boelcke (eds.): Homo homini lupus est? Images of Man and the Alien: Interaction and Perception. Kiel/Hamburg 2023
ISBN: 978-3-529-05083-1


The socio-spatial organisation of ancient cities - New volume funded by ROOTS published open access


Studies on ancient urbanity either concern individual buildings or the city as a whole. A new volume, edited by Annette Haug, Adrian Kröger-Hielscher of Kiel University (CAU) and Anna-Lena Krüger of the HafenCity Universität Hamburg, instead addresses a meso-scale of urbanity: the socio-spatial organisation of ancient cities. Its temporal focus is on Late Republican and Imperial Italy, and more specifically the cities of Pompeii and Ostia. Referring to a praxeological and phenomenological perspective, it looks at neighbourhoods and city quarters as basic categories of design and experience. With the terms ‘neighbourhood’ and ‘city quarter’ the volume proposes two different methodological approaches: Neighbourhood here refers to the face-to-face relation between people living next to each other – thus the small-scale environment centred around a house and an individual.
Neighbourhoods thus do not constitute a (collectively defined) urban territory with clear borders, but are rather constituted by individual experiences. In contrast, city quarters are understood as areas that share certain characteristics.

The volume is the outcome of an international and interdisciplinary conference held in November 2021 in the Antikensammlung of the CAU, organised by Christian Beck and Annette Haug. Both the conference and the publication are the result of a fruitful und inspiring collaboration of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS and its subcluster Urban ROOTS and the ERC Consolidator Grant DECOR – Decorative Principles in Late Republican and Early Imperial Italy.

The volume is freely available online.  

Annette Haug, Adrian Hielscher-Krüger and Anna-Lena Krüger: Neighbourhoods and City Quarters in Antiquity - Design and Experience. Decorative Principles in Late Republican and Early Imperial Italy (Decor) Vol. 7. Berlin/Boston 2023.


Tracking prehistoric relations with AI

A project of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS uses archaeological raw material finds for network analyses from the Middle Stone Age to antiquity

Trackig Prehistoric
Obsidian artifacts found in 2022 in Gird-i Dasht (Soran district, Kurdistan Autonomous Region, Iraq). The raw material was once extracted several hundred kilometers from the site in eastern Anatolia. This connection is like a trace of human relations. The more such relationships can be studied using raw materials, the more precisely prehistoric networks can be analyzed. Photo: Tim Kerig.

Who knows whom? Who has which desires and needs? The answers to these questions are worth a lot of money for the advertising industry today. With the help of immense amounts of data as well as artificial intelligence, internet companies can answer them ever more precisely. In the international journal Antiquity, a team of archaeologists from seven countries led by Kiel University is now presenting the “Big Exchange” project, which uses similar questions and AI methods to better understand the networks and interactions of prehistoric and early historic people. “Archaeology, of course, does not find imprints of relationships in the ground. But we do find raw materials, such as flint, obsidian, jade, ivory, and even various metals, that have often travelled long distances from their sources to where they were found. They are like shadows of relationships between people. With their help, we can investigate networks in the past,” states Dr. Tim Kerig, project leader and archaeologist in the ROOTS Cluster of Excellence at Kiel University.

The analysis of early networks based on raw material finds and the associated raw material sources is nothing new. Archaeology has already been using this possibility for about 50 years. “It has provided us with many valuable insights into the past. But because of the effort involved and the specialisation of individual experts, for a long time the studies only dealt with one raw material at a time,” explains Dr. Johanna Hilpert, an archaeologist at the Institute for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology of Kiel University and a postdoc at Kiel’s Data Campus.

Only recently has digitisation enabled more complex analyses with multiple raw materials at the same time. “The approach of our project ‘Big Exchange’ is now to include all recordable raw materials, their find locations and places of origin in the analyses for the period from the Middle Stone Age to antiquity. This can only be done by means of network analysis and with AI,” emphasises Dr. Hilpert.

So far, the project has already recorded more than 6000 sites with millions of individual finds from Western Europe to Central Asia. The network analyses made possible by this data allow statements to be made about how the simultaneous distribution of various goods is related to the more or less restricted access of the respective people to raw materials. This also concerns fundamental questions about social inequality and various power relations.

At the same time, the project is a social experiment. “It is not just about feeding datasets into appropriate databases and having them analysed automatically. We want to have archaeologists on board for every dataset," Dr. Kerig emphasises. Archaeological datasets vary widely, he says, and some are only available in analogue form. “That is why it is important to involve colleagues who know the underlying excavations or surveys in the analysis. We do not just want to analyse prehistoric networks, but we also want to build scientific networks and link archaeology with data science.”

The authors are already presenting a first result of the project in Antiquity. The Linear Pottery culture is the first farming culture in Central Europe. For a long time, its northwestern characteristics were considered typical for its epoch. However, when considering recent excavations, the network analysis of “Big Exchange” shows that the product mix of the northwestern Linear Pottery is rather a very special case. “We will probably experience even more surprises like this when we systematically analyse the available data,” says Dr. Kerig.

The authors also see their article as a call to colleagues to participate in “Big Exchange” and contribute their own data sets. “The more participation, the better we can understand past relationship and network dynamics,” concludes Tim Kerig.

Background information:
The “Big Exchange” project has been funded by the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS at CAU Kiel since 2020.

Original publication:
Kerig, T., Hilpert, J., Strohm, S., Berger, D., Denis, S., Gauthier, E., Gibaja, J. F., Mallet, N., Massa, M., Mazzucco, N., Nessel, B., Pelegrin, J., Pétrequin, P., Sabatini, S., Schumacher, T. X., Serbe, B., and Wilkinson, T. (2023). Interlinking research: the Big Exchange project. Antiquity, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2023.78

New Perspectives on the Military Campaign of Xerxes


In 480 B.C., the Persian Great King Xerxes attempted to annex Greece to his empire by military force. The campaign failed. The most important source on this so-called ‘Persian War’ is the Greek Herodotus, so that the Greek view dominates the accounts of the events to this day.

Hilmar Klinkott, a specialist in Ancient History from Kiel University, has now published a book in which he specifically addresses the non-Greek perspective on these events, which, as that of the 'others', has hardly been taken seriously up to now. In "Xerxes. Der Großkönig in Griechenland" (Xerxes, the Great King in Greece) he tries to break up known patterns of explanation and to classify them in the understanding of the Achaemenid Great King. These 'new readings' are by no means meant to correct the Greek tradition. Rather, they provide suggestions and hypotheses for the interpretation of another perspective, in this case: the Achaemenid perspective. Thus, the book does not offer a final, comprehensive historical reconstruction of the Xerxes campaign, but is intended to provide an impetus to overcome the familiar paths in historical interpretation and to find new perspectives.

Background Information
Hilmar Klinkott, Xerxes. Der Großkönig in Griechenland. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2023 [here] has been published with financial support by the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS (Subcluster Knowledge).

Mesolithic contacts with the East 8000 years ago

Kiel archaeologist contributes to the largest genome analysis of ice-age and post-glacial ancestors to date

Mesolithic contacts with the East 8000 years ago
Prof. Dr. Henny Piezonka with a burial from Groß Fredenwalde. The grave was discovered in 2019 and secured by block excavation. Since then, it has been examined in a laboratory at HTW Berlin. (Photo: Sara Jagiolla, Uni Kiel)

Modern humans have inhabited Europe for more than 45,000 years. However, the Late Glacial maximum about 25,000 years ago represented a decisive break in the history of human settlement. Were the Homo sapiens populations that previously lived in Europe related to each other? And who repopulated Central Europe after the end of the Ice Age? These questions have been puzzling scientists for more than 100 years.

With the largest genome dataset of European hunter-gatherers ever compiled, an international research team led by the University of Tübingen, the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment, Peking University, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, with participation of Kiel University, has now rewritten the genetic history of our ancestors. The study also places a number of individuals from the Middle Stone Age burial site of Groß Fredenwalde in the Uckermark region in a larger European context. For the first time it demonstrates contacts between Central European and Eastern European human groups 8000 years ago. The results have now been published in the international journal Nature.

For the study, a total of 125 scientists analyzed the genomes of 356 prehistoric individuals from different archaeological contexts, including new genome datasets from 116 individuals from 14 different European and Central Asian countries.

Among the study's co-authors is Dr. Henny Piezonka, professor of ethnoarchaeology at CAU's Institute of Prehistory and Early History and a member of the ROOTS Cluster of Excellence and CRC 1266. Together with colleagues, she has been researching important Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic) human remains from northern Germany since 2019.

The study, now published in Nature, shows, among other things, that a population change occurred in Central Europe about 14,000 years ago with the warming at the end of the Ice Age, resulting in the hunter-gatherer population of the post-glacial period. This post-glacial hunter-gatherer population also includes the people buried at Groß Fredenwalde, the topic of research Prof. Henny Piezonka is conducting together with partners of Göttingen University, the Berlin University of Applied Sciences (HTW) and the Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Archaeological Monuments.

The new study also for characterizes this population in terms of appearance: the individuals had dark skin and blue or green eyes. "What is new is that, for the first time, contacts with hunter-gatherer communities in Eastern Europe can be detected in the genes of the individuals from Groß Fredenwalde. These early eastern Europeans had lighter skin and dark eyes, judging from the evaluation of their genes," explains Henny Piezonka. 8000 years ago, when the individuals in Groß Fredenwalde were buried, the Baltic Sea developed, which presumably promoted east-west contacts.

The burial site Groß Fredenwalde holds another surprise: A young man buried around 7,000 years ago who lived in the region at the same time as early farmers with southeastern European roots and certainly had personal encounters with the immigrants, shows no genetic mixing. The late hunter-gatherers and the first farmers in the area of today's Brandenburg had been in contact for generations at that time, but they obviously did not share bread and bed," says Henny Piezonka's colleague and project partner Prof. Dr. Thomas Terberger of Göttingen University and the Lower Saxony State Office for the Preservation of Monuments.

Overall, the new study provides crucial new insights into the population history of early modern humans: Whereas hypotheses about his development were previously based primarily on archaeological evidence, a more reliable and detailed understanding of the colonization processes and contacts of Ice Age and post-Glacial hunter-gatherer societies in Europe is now available.
Background information:
The research at Groß Fredenwalde was funded by the German Research Foundation (project "The Mesolithic Burial Site at Groß Fredenwalde, Brandenburg - Late Hunter-Gatherers in a Changing World").

More information:
University of Tübingen press release: here

Original publication:
Cosimo Posth et al. Paleogenomics of Upper Paleolithic to Neolithic European hunter-gatherers. Nature 2023. 


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