New Publications

Decor-Räume in pompejanischen Stadthäusern.

January 5, 2021

Cover of publication   This new book by Annette Haug, PI of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, examines the decorative principles at work in the city houses of Pompeii for the time between the end of the second century BC and the beginning of the imperial period. For the first time, the decorating phenomena are analysed not only individually, but they are also examined in relationship to their spatial and social context.

Das Buch von Annette Haug, PI im Exzellenzcluster ROOTS, untersucht die decorativen Prinzipien, die in den Stadthäusern Pompejis zwischen dem ausgehenden 2. Jh. v.Chr. und der beginnenden Kaiserzeit wirksam werden. Dabei werden erstmals nicht nur einzelne Decorphänomene isoliert, sondern auch in ihrem räumlichen und sozialen Wirkungszusammenhang untersucht.

Decor-Räume in pompejanischen Stadthäusern. Ausstattungsstrategien und Rezeptionsformen (Decor spaces in Pompeian town houses. Furnishing strategies and forms of reception) by Annette Haug, De Gruyter (2020), Series: Decor 1, 620 pages, 427 illustrations (in German)

The book can be viewed here (De Gruyter)

What was inside? Lipid residue analysis on grave gifts manifest the ritual status of cattle in Neolithic societies in Northern Germany.

March 20, 2019

GrabbeigabenIn the 4th millennium BC, domestic animal husbandry became an integral part of the Neolithic economy in the North German lowlands and southern Scandinavia. An increasing importance of domesticated animals as well as a concentration on the husbandry of certain animal species can be observed. At the same time, this phenomenon is linked to changing intensities of land-use strategies, and the increasing importance of domestic animal husbandry is also changing social practices within societies.
Lipid analyses by the CRC 1266 on highly decorated and ornamented ceramic vessels from a passage grave (Wangels LA 69) of the Funnel Beaker societies revealed that these vessels contained predominantly cattle fat and dairy products. Additionally, a fatty acid distribution indicative for Sea Buckthorn oil was found in samples from Globular Amphora, which have served as an exclusive burial gift. Contrary, the pots from the contemporaneous domestic site Oldenburg-Dannau LA 77 contained a mixed composition of plant and milk resources. Thus, the exclusive use of cattle meat in the burial indicate the important role of cattle in the ritual and spiritual sphere of Neolithic societies in northern Germany and Southern Scandinavia.

Weber, J., Brozio, J. P., Mller, J., Schwark, L. 2020. Grave gifts manifest the ritual status of cattle in Neolithic societies of northern Germany. Journal of Archaeological Science 117, 105122.

Kiel University press release


Nature scientific reports: New study on genetic composition in Cucuteni-Trypillia complex

6 March, 2020

Maidanetske ReconstructionA new study conducted within the CRC 1266 shows that the genetic steppe component arrived in eastern Europe farming communities as early as 3500 BCE. Genome-wide data generated from the skeletal remains of four females excavated from two Cucuteni-Tripyllia sites in Modova are consistent with the hypothesis of ongoing contacts and only gradual admixture between incoming steppe and local western populations. Overall, the different genetic makeup of the CTC individuals indicates a relatively high diversity, which is surprising given that they all dated to the same Late CTC period. The finding suggests population dynamics also within a culture.

Immel, A., Terna, S., Simalcsik, A. et al. Gene-flow from steppe individuals into Cucuteni-Trypillia associated populations indicates long-standing contacts and gradual admixture. Sci Rep 10, 4253 (2020).


New PLOS ONE paper on Early Neolithic house orientation


Bild Magnetikplan

Human behaviour is influenced by many things, most of which remain unconscious to us. One of these is a phenomenon known among perception psychologists as "pseudo-neglect". This refers to the observation that healthy people prefer their left visual field to their right and therefore devide a line regularly left of centre.
A study published on Friday, 10th of January, in the online magazine PLOS ONE now shows for the first time what effect this inconspicuous deviation had in the prehistoric past. A Slovak-German research team has investigated the alignment of early Neolithic houses in Central and Eastern Europe. Scientists of the subprojects C2 and G2 as well as the Slovakian Academy of Sciences were able to prove that the orientation of newly built houses deviated by a small amount from that of existing buildings and that this deviation was regularly counterclockwise. With that, even houses that were detected by geo-physical methods can now tentatively be assigned chronologically.
A complete press release of Kiel University can be found here.
The publication already attracted quite some attention. So far, it was mentioned in  BBC World Service, the Tagesspiegel, Archaeologie online, SciTechDaily, FR24news, La Brújula Verde, and Eurekalert.

Müller-Scheeßel, N., Müller, J., Cheben, I., Mainusch, W., Rassmann, K., Rabbel, W., Corradini, E., Furholt, M. 2020. A new approach to the temporal significance of house orientations in European Early Neolithic settlements. PLoS ONE 15(1): e0226082. DOI

Imprints of Loyalty and Corporate Identity in Early Modern Landscapes


cover biederbickA nearly 450 years old book from the University Library Kiel is the key to an understanding of a distinct sign culture, which formed special landscapes of corporate identity in southern Europe in the Early Modern Times. Now the DIALOGO DELL‘ IMPRESE MILITARI ET AMOROSE from 1574 (Signature: Cb 6371) was newly edited and for the first time translated into German.
The PhD thesis by Maren C. Biederbick which was realised within the Graduate School 'Human Development on Landscapes' focusses on the analysis of over 200 corporate identity signs described in the old book, and their effects on landscapes. The outcome – including thesis, catalogue and annex – is a more than 1k pages strong opus, which was generously co-funded by the  association of the 'Alumni und Freunde der CAU e. V.'.
Biederbick, M.C. 2019: Die Entstehung von Landschaften durch Markenzeichen in der frühen Neuzeit. Neues Handbuch zum ‘DIALOGO DELL‘IMPRESE MILITARI ET AMOROSE Di Monsignor Giouio Vescovo di Nocera; Et del S. Gabriel Symeoni Fiorentino. Con un ragionamento di M. Lodovico Domenichi, nel medesimo soggetto. Con la Tauola. IN LYONE / Appresso Guglielmo Rouillio. 1574.‘, Dissertation zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades der Philosophischen Fakultät der Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel 14. März 2017, Typoskript, Ingolstadt 2019.

Recent palynological research on subsistence transformations in the costal zones of Mesolithic Norway

January 08, 2018

Examples of settlement plans in Central and Southeast Europe.Based on previous palynological research, the new publication “Towards a refined understanding of the use of coastal zones in the Mesolithic: New investigations on human–environment interactions in Telemark, southeastern Norway” deals with transformations in prehistoric subsistence. In collaboration of Kiel University together with colleagues from Oslo, M. Wieckowska-Lüth, CRC 1266 subproject F3 researcher W. Kirleis, S. Solheim and A. Schülke, both Museum of Cultural History, Oslo University, could identify anthropogenic manipulations in Mesolithic woodlands in the costal hinterland of southeastern Norway. The joint publication tackles the question if early woodland management was an intended or unintended process and in which sense hunter-gatherer strategies of costal hinterland exploitation contributed to forest alteration. Besides evidence for the repeated use of the forested costal hinterland in Mesolithic times, a highlight of their research findings is the consistency of archaeological and palynological data, as both material culture and pollen proxies’ support the fact that the availability of the resource lime (providing timber for dug out canoes and bast for ropes) was one potential trigger for the production and use of Noestvet axes, as the number of sites with these artefacts increases with the onset and peaks in the Tilia pollen curve. Based on this data, as well changes in the woodland composition (occurrance of lime) as transformations in the site pattern (establishment of special workshop activity areas in the coastal hinterland) can be explained.

Figure: Summed probability distribution plot of all published 14C-dates (n = 57) from 18 sites containing Nøstvet axes and production waste in southeastern Norway plotted against the percentage curves of Tilia and Betula. The decreases in the Tilia curve represent opening up of the forest canopy and the potential use of the timber and bast of the lime e.g. for dug out canoes, whereas the increases in the Betula curve demonstrate the starts of the woodland regeneration phases with the pioneer species birch. Figure: Steinar Solheim/Carsten Reckweg (Institute for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology, University of Kiel). M. Wieckowska-Lüth et al. 2018, p. 848, fig. 10

M. Wieckowska-Lüth, S. Solheim, A. Schülke, W. Kirleis, 2018: Towards a refined understanding of the use of coastal zones in the Mesolithic: New investigations on human–environment interactions in Telemark, southeastern Norway. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 17 (2018) 839-851. DOI:10.1016/j.jasrep.2017.12.045

Developments of Population Agglomerations, Social inequality and Centralized Control in Neolithic to Iron Age times

October 23, 2017

Examples of settlement plans in Central and Southeast Europe.

Three new publications of CRC 1266 speaker Johannes Müller concentrate on aspects of developments and forms of population agglomerations connected to the origin of social inequalities and centralized control in prehistoric Europe. The settlements and Chalcolithic mega-sites in Southeast Europe, especially the Balkan and the North Pontic region. Additionally to the scope of the GSHDL “Human Dresearch benefits from long-term project collaborations and excavations of Neolithicevelopment in Landscapes”, the studies are of main interest for questions related to social and economic transformations addressed in the CRC 1266 (e.g. subproject A1D1interlinking groups “Economies: Stability and transformation” and “Social organisation and Built Space”).

In “From the Neolithic to the Iron Age – Demography and Social Agglomeration. The Development of Centralized Control” Müller takes a diachronic look on patterns of economic and social structures present at sites of population agglomerations and concludes the breakdown of these proto-urban structures as a response of vulnerable societies to internal changes of the state system. Not a general population growth but the concentration of people and the magnitude of control exercised within these communities prevented the development of sustainable socio-political systems, which stays in contrast to the Near East. In co-authorship with CRC 1266 and GSHDL colleagues Vesa Arponen, Robert Hofmann and René Ohlrau, the paper “The Appearance of social inequalities: Cases of Neolithic and Chacolithic Societies” presents a new methodological approach how to detect social inequality and forms of social control. The archaeological record of households from Late Neolithic Balkan villages and Chalcolithic North Pontic mega-sites is examined in order to establish proxies addressing these issues, for instance the social meaning of households by comparing architecture and inventories.  “Inheritance, population development and social identities” discusses the role of households and inheritance rules in Southeast Europe from 5200-4300 BCE related to questions concerning changes of political structures within these societies. Along concrete examples, he considers the institutional and regulatory characteristics of these concepts connected to certain archaeological proxies, such as house size, settlement structure, degree of population agglomeration and regional population density.

Müller, J., From the Neolithic to the Iron Age – Demography and Social Agglomeration. The Development of Centralized Control. In: Manuel Fernández-Götz und Dirk Krause (Ed.): Eurasia at the Dawn of History. Urbanization and Social Change. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017, p. 106–124.

Müller, J.; Arponen, V. P.; Hofmann, R.; Ohlrau, R., The Appearance of social inequalities: Cases of Neolithic and Chacolithic Societies. In: Andrea Cardarelli, Alberto Cazalla und Marcella Fangipane (Ed.): Preistoria e protostoria delle civilta antiche. Thematic issue: The Origin of Inequality. [S.l.]: GANGEMI (Origini. Preistoria e protostoria delle civiltà antiche - Prehistory and protohistory of ancient civilizations, XXXVIII, 2015-2), 2017, p. 65–83.

Müller, J., Inheritance, population development and social identities. Southeast Europe 5200-4300 BCE. In: Maja Gori und Maria Ivanova (Hg.): Balkan Dialogues. Negotiating Identity between Prehistory and the Present. Florence: Taylor and Francis (Routledge Studies in Archaeology) 2017, p. 156–168.

Figure: Müller, Examples of settlement plans in Central and Southeast Europe. The principles of the spatial distribution of houses, the size of houses and continuities and discontinuities might be interpreted as the reflection of different inheritance rules in the archaeological record: Primogeniture contra partible inheritance (J. Müller, Inheritance, population development and social identities, p. 162).

Socio-Environmental Dynamics along the Historical Silk Road

March 21, 2019

Cover_SilkThe edited volume ‘Socio-Environmental Dynamics along the Historical Silk Road’ discusses socio-environmental interactions in the middle to late Holocene, covering specific areas along the ancient Silk Road regions. The 22 chapters provide insight into this topic from various disciplinary angles and perspectives, ranging from archaeology, paleoclimatology, antiquity, historical geography, agriculture, carving art and literacy. Versions of most of the chapters were initially prepared for the international workshop entitled “The Rise and Fall: Environmental Factors in the Socio-Cultural Changes of the Ancient Silk Road Area”, which was convened by the Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ (GSHDL) at Kiel University during September 27-28, 2017.

The Silk Road is a modern concept for an ancient network of trade routes that for centuries facilitated and intensified processes of cultural interaction and goods exchange between West China, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. Coherent patterns and synchronous events in history suggest possible links between social upheaval, resource utilization and climate or environment forces along the Silk Road and in a broader area.

Studies in the volume indicate both that climate conditions significantly influence human socio-cultural systems and that the socio-culture systems are certainly resilient to climate impacts. The cross-cutting theme has been to reach beyond simple explanations of environmental or human determinism, but social resilience under environmental impacts.

Both the workshop and the volume were jointly sponsored by the Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ at the Kiel University (GSC 208/2) and the Past Global Changes project (PAGES).

The publication is freely accessible online via the publishing house Springer, but can also be purchased as printed versions:

Yang, L., Bork, H.-R.,  Fang, X., Mischke, S., 2019. Socio-Environmental Dynamics along the Historical Silk Road. Springer-Nature, Cham, Switzerland. 535 Pages. ISBN 978-3-030-00727-0

Early seafaring: Sicily later populated as previously thought

Di Maida SicilyIt is a complex archaeological task to prove when and where our ancestors crossed the seas. So far, it has been suggested that people belonging to the Paleolithic culture of the Aurignacian Mountains (ca. 38,000 to 29,000 BC) were the first one who crossed the Strait of Messina between the Italian mainland and Sicily.

A study conducted by a team of international scientists from various disciplines has re-examined the site and performed radiocarbon dating on plant remains and human teeth. Gianpiero Di Maida of the Graduate School "Human Development in Landscapes" and Professor Ben Krause Kyora of the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology, Kiel University (Kiel University), refute the previous theory of colonization history in Sicily: The age determined by the dates is between 7960 and 6530 BC, much later than previously assumed, thus assigning the finds to the Holocene. It seems that Fontana Nuova was inhabited not by Paleolithic but by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers.

press release (in German) 

Original publication: Di Maida G., Mannino M.A., Krause-Kyora B., Jensen T.Z.T., Talamo S. (2019) Radiocarbon dating and isotope analysis on the purported Aurignacian skeletal remains from Fontana Nuova (Ragusa, Italy). PLoS ONE 14(3): e0213173.