CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

New Publications

Feb 23, 2021

Societies in Balance

Megaliths line on path
Megaliths line the paths from the villages to the fields in Nagaland, commemorating their builders (Photo: Maria Wunderlich).

CRC 1266 publishes study on the social significance of stone monuments in Northeast India

The construction of stone monuments, or megaliths, is a tradition in Nagaland, Northeast India, which, although no longer continued today, is still deeply embedded in the collective memory of the communities concerned. Megalithic construction has been abandoned in large areas of Northeast India in the course of the severe transformation processes that have taken place within the last 100 years. It can now only be comprehensively reconstructed through the memories of older village members, as well as the stones themselves. Thus, the study represents an important reference point for a chain reaction in which transformative impulses led to the transformation of further interwoven social aspects. In the course of ethnoarchaeological fieldwork in cooperation with the University of Nagaland in 2016 and 2018, it was possible to visit Angami and Chakhesang-Naga villages and document the memories there of the construction of megalithic structures, as well as the Feasts of Merit, i.e. complex merit festivals, in their social embeddedness. 

The recently published article "Societies in Balance: Monumentality and feasting activities among southern Naga communities, Northeast India" presents the manifold social, economic and political aspects of megalithic building traditions in a recent context. It showed the intertwining of complex but permeable social hierarchies, the attainment of social prestige through feasting activities, the importance of solidarity and cooperation, and megalithic construction. The article thus makes an important contribution to a holistic and differentiated understanding of possible socio-political meanings of megalithic monuments. This opens up points of departure not only for further ethnoarchaeological studies, but also for an expansion and diversification of the interpretation of prehistoric megalithic monuments and their significance within phases of social transformation. 

Click here for the press release on the CAU Newsportal.

The published results have already been picked up by the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Original publication:

Wunderlich, M., Jamir, T., Müller, J., Rassman, K., Vasa, D. 2021. Societies in balance: Monumentality and feasting activities among southern Naga communities, Northeast India.  PLoS ONE 16 (3): e0246966. DOI


Feb 10, 2021

Rare Diseases in the Bronze Age

Menschliche Knochen
Right and left femoral bones of the male individual from the North Caucasus. The bones exhibit pathological changes examined in the study. © Katharina Fuchs

A new study examines the phenomenon of Rare Diseases in ancient societies with participation of the CRC 1266

Rare diseases are a special field in medical-pharmaceutical research and treatment today. "Rare" means that no more than five in 10,000 people suffer from a particular disease. Patients affected by a rare disorder are often severely restricted, both physically and in their social life, and require a high level of social and medical care.

But what do we know about Rare Diseases in the past, so-called Ancient Rare Diseases, and above all how can we define and diagnose them in skeletal human remains?

This question was investigated by Dr Katharina Fuchs (Subproject F4) who works as physical anthropologist at the the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology at Kiel University. Using the disease history of a male individual from the North Caucasus Bronze Age (ca. 2200 to 1650 BC), she came to the conclusion that the criteria for Rare Diseases used today cannot simply be transferred to the past. The recently published study in the International Journal of Paleopathology shows that not only the diagnosis of Rare Diseases and the calculation of incidences and prevalence, i.e. frequency, are challenging for the researchers. Individual impairment and the degree of social integration and support are also difficult to reconstruct.

There are many conclusions that the anthropologist K. Fuchs can draw from the skeleton of the man from the Caucasus that she examined as part of the study: Since his youth, he suffered from a rare hip disorder, the Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease, and he had a limping gait due to this inwards twisted leg. Moreover, as an adult he survived severe fractures of his skull and thigh. Apart from this, the wear patterns of his teeth show that he used them as tools during working processes, as was customary. Also, from the objects that he was buried with can be inferred that he did not hold a particularly high social position.

"Taken together, the results show that this man was important to society. The fractures he endured required a high level of care. He probably survived his injuries because his fellow human beings took care of him. This gives us an idea of how people in the North Caucasus treated each other 4,000 years ago and how they treated someone who was physically limited for most of his life", Fuchs explains. Such considerations go beyond the topic of Ancient Rare Diseases, but illustrate the social dimension of their investigation.

Find the whole press release here.

Original publication:

Fuchs, K., Biaslan, A., Witzmann, F., Gresky, J. 2021. Towards a definition of Ancient Rare Diseases (ARD): Presenting a complex case of probable Legg-Calv´e-Perthes Disease from the North Caucasian Bronze Age (2200-1650 cal BCE). International Journal of Paleopathology 32, 61-73. DOI

Feb 1, 2021

CRC 1266 members publish interdisciplinary study on genetic diversity and the immune status of humans in Central Europe 3200 years ago

Schädel eines Kindes
The dead of Niedertiefenbach: Skull of an infant with bony symptoms at the roof of the eye, the so-called Cribra orbitalia - typical for a strongly increased formation of red blood cells. Like many others of the buried, this child was suffering from clear physical stress at the time of his death. © Sarah Jagiolla

Our cultural and genetic diversity, as well as the functions and significance of our immune system, are a constant subject of current public and scientific discourse. Scientists of the CRC 1266 subprojects F4 in collaboration with D2 are also dealing with the important question of who we Central Europeans are and where we come from. They recently published new discoveries from their research in the renowned journal Communications Biology; looking at one of the most important epochs of humankind, the Neolithic Period (5500-2200 BC), which is characterised at the beginning by the transition from a hunting and gathering way of life to sedentism, crop cultivation, and animal husbandry.

The focus of the interdisciplinary study is on palaeogenetics, but experts from anthropology and archaeology were also involved. A central role within the study, and the research of the CRC 1266, is played by the archaeological site of Niedertiefenbach (Hesse), where a gallery grave from the Neolithic Period was recorded. More than 150 people found their final resting place in the collective grave around 3200 BC.

Genetic investigations on the skeletal remains of 42 people from the collective grave led to surprising results. They provide insights into the significance of demographic processes in the Neolithic period and serve to answer the question: To what extent was the genetic heritage of the early hunter-gatherer societies of Western Europe and the first farmers of South-Eastern Europe transmitted to the later populations of Central Europe? The group buried in the Niedertiefenbach grave is characterised by a high genetic diversity, which is based on the mixing of genomic components of the hunter-gatherers and the farmers. The respective proportion of these two components was individually very different.

Find the press release on the CAU news portal.

Original publication:

Immel, A., Pierini, F., Rinne, C., Meadows, J., Barquera, R., Szolek, A., Susat, J., Böhme, L., Dose, J., Bonczarowska, J., Drummer, C., Fuchs, K., Ellinghaus, D., Kässens, J.C., Furholt, M., Kohlbacher, O., Schade-Lindig, S., Franke, A., Schreiber, S., Krause, J., Müller, J., Lenz, T., Nebel, A., Krause-Kyora, B. 2021. Genome-wide study of a Neolithic Wartberg grave community reveals distinct HLA variation and hunter-gatherer ancestry. Communications Biology 4:113.  DOI

Online available for free here.

Jan 20, 2021

CRC 1266 members published study on climate changes about 4,200 years ago

Plos One Artikel

In the period from about 3800 to 4400 years ago, the Mediterranean region was threatened by a widespread drought. In some cases, with severe consequences for the civilisations at that time. In the archaeological and palaeoclimatic literature this climatic anomaly is known as the 4.2 ka BP event. Until now, intensive research has focused primarily on the spatial and temporal manifestations of this potentially worldwide event. The drivers of this climatic anomaly in the Mediterranean region were largely unknown. The analysis of the drivers was part of a study of the CRC 1266 subproject F1 which was recently published in the online journal PLOS ONE. To investigate the driver of the 4.2 ka event in more detail, geochemical analyses were performed on leaf waxes from a marine sediment core in the Alboran Sea, south of the Iberian Peninsula. The study provides new results regarding the seasonal nature of the drought and shows that it was most pronounced in the summer months. Furthermore, the analyses showed that the intense summer drought during the 4.2 ka event was probably due to a reduction in the Mediterranean influence on the southern Iberian Peninsula. The Western Mediterranean Oscillation (WeMO) apparently played a special role in this.

Find the press release on the CAU news portal.

Original publication:

Schirrmacher, J., Andersen, N., Schneider, R.R., Weinelt, M. 2020. Fossil leaf wax hydrogen isotopes reveal variability of Atlantic and Mediterranean climate forcing on the southeast Iberian Peninsula between 6000 to 3000 cal. BP. PLoS ONE 15 (12): e0243662. DOI

Online available here.

Jan 18, 2021

Volume 11 of the CRC 1266 series STPAS has been published

Cover Kudachurt

The transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age in the Northern Caucasus (2200-1400 BCE) is characterised as a period of decisive social and subsistence transformations. This was accompanied by changes in mode of life, dietary strategy and burial rites.  However, little has been known about the people themselves and interdisciplinary research approaches have only recently been pursued. Situated in the central foothills of the North Caucasus, the cemetery of Kudachurt 14 represents a key temporal and spatial position in the context of these substantial developments. 

The aim of the recently published study "Interdisciplinary analysis of the cemetery Kudachurt 14" is the interdisciplinary examination of social inequality, demography, oral health and nutrition for the North Caucasian Bronze Age on the basis of the burial collective of Kudachurt 14.   Volume 11 of the series "Scales of Transformation in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies" (STPAS) therefore examines 130 graves, 2332 grave goods, 265 in situ counted and 108 osteologically recorded individuals, 2651 tooth positions as well as 59 human and animal samples of bone collagen using social archaeological, osteological, palaeopathological and chemical analytical methods. 

The results provide information on the demographic structure, differences in socio-ritual status and the economy of the Bronze Age population in the North Caucasus. The linking of archaeological and biological information allowed to confirm gender concepts that had previously only been suspected. In addition, hereditary structures in social status have been demonstrated for the first time. Completely new aspects about the daily life of the people is provided by the dental data, from which both work processes and an agrarian diet can be deduced. 

The volume can be read online for fee and ordered from Sidestone Press.

To the publisher Sidestone Press.

Fuchs, K. 2020. Interdisciplinary analysis of the cemetery Kudachurt 14. Evaluating indicators of social inequality, demography, oral health and diet during the Bronze Age key period 2200-1650 BCE in the Northern Caucasus, Scales of Transformation in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies 11. Leiden: Sidestone Press.

October 20, 2020

Echoes from kettle holes - new approach brings Palaeolithic remains to light at Tyrsted, Denmark

Images from the research at Tyrsted, Denmark
A new study conducted by the CRC 1266 – subprojects B1 and G2 – in collaboration with Horsens Museum (Denmark) has been published in Quaternary International. The project was able to develop an effective yet low-cost means of detecting Palaeolithic remains and reconstructing palaeolandscapes which will no doubt prove to be a valuable planning tool for local museums and other heritage institutions.

Kettle holes are common ice decay features in formerly glacial landscapes and have a high potential for organic preservation. In 2017 the Horsens Museum (Denmark) carried out a rescue excavation at Tyrsted which revealed Late Palaeolithic flint of the Bromme type (12,000-11,000 BCE) and worked reindeer antlers. Nowadays, the organic artefact inventory from the Bromme culture is largely unknown due to the scarcity of organic remains and the general lack of proper stratigraphic observations. The available dates concentrate in the (late) Allerød and early Younger Dryas chronozones, but unfortunately most of these datings are only tentative. Therefore, this connection in a Late Glacial horizon at Tyrsted is unique and it has the potential to provide new information for the current archaeological debate.

The exemplary cooperation and the interdisciplinarity between two CRC 1266 subprojects (B1, G2) and the Horsens Museum enabled the investigation and reconstruction of a small kettle hole using geophysical methods and excavations. Ground penetrating radar (GPR), electromagnetic induction (EMI), and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) estimated the extension of the feature, while Shear wave reflection and refraction seismics (SH Seismics) were able to detect the whole shape and the bottom of the former lake.

Furthermore, a seismic event is visible which can be associated with the transition between the Allerød and Younger Dryas sediment, making the detection of the Bromme horizon possible. For museum archaeologists with a limited budget for conducting logistically complex excavations, these results will provide a very important planning tool. And most importantly, this prospective planning tool will enable archaeological and palaeoenvironmental research groups to reconstruct palaeolandscapes and to identify possible locations of these very rare, but highly important, Palaeolithic remains.

Corradini, E., Eriksen, B.V., Mortensen, M.F., Nielsen, M.K., Thorwart, M., Krüger, S., Wilken, D., Pickartz, N., Panning, D., Rabbel, W. 2020. Investigating lake sediments and peat deposits with geophysical methods - A case study from a kettle hole at the Late Palaeolithic site of Tyrsted, Denmark. Quaternary International 558, 89-106. DOI

October 08, 2020

Volume 10 of the CRC 1266 series STPAS has been published


A fundamental characteristic of Hellenistic built space during the 4th to 1st centuries BC is the way in which architecture and social practices interact. Generally speaking, space comes in to being by means of its physical constituents (landscape, architecture, human bodies), arranged and rearranged through movement and observation. These practices, in turn, were directed by means of the constituents’ materiality. Hellenism in the Greek Mediterranean turned out to be a phase of major transformation as this mutual relationship between architecture and human action was considered much more deliberately than ever before. Landscape and architecture were thus continuously manipulated in order to structure human behaviour.

Between 30/10/2018 and 01/11/2018 a conference called “Hellenistic Architecture and Human action” took place in Kiel, organised by the CRC subproject E3 (Transformations in the Interrelation between Humans and Landscape between the 7th and 1st Centuries BCE in the Eastern Mediterranean). Assembling famous researchers of Hellenistic architecture, the conference addressed the mutual relationship of architecture and human action by drawing upon central case studies (Messene, Samouthrake, Pella), as well as overarching principles of architecture-landscape design. As spaces like sanctuaries, agorai and caves proved, the far-reaching entanglement of architecture and human action was neither restricted to highly architecturalised nor to sacred spaces, but is characteristic of Hellenistic built space in general.

The volume can be read online for free and ordered at Sidestone Press.

To the publisher Sidestone Press

Haug, A, Müller, A. (eds.) 2020. Hellenistic Architecture and Human Action. A Case of Reciprocal Influence, Scales of Transformation in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies 10. Leiden: Sidestone Press.

August 13, 2020

The age of metals, warriors, fortified settlements and new foods: broomcorn millet was first cultivated in Europe in the mid-2nd millennium BCE

Millet spread

A large-scale study by the Collaborative Research Centre 1266 “Scales of Transformation – Human-Environmental Interaction in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies” at Kiel University is now published in Scientific Reports. It reveals that broomcorn millet appeared on the food menu in Europe in the mid-2nd millennium BCE, at the height of the Bronze Age.

In cooperation with almost thirty research institutions throughout Europe, the archaeobotanists Dragana Filipović and Marta Dal Corso from Wiebke Kirleis' team, together with John Meadows from the Leibniz Laboratory for Age Determination and Isotope Research at CAU Kiel and the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA), were able to radiocarbon date millet from 75 prehistoric sites from the 6th-1st millennium BCE. The results show that millet cultivation in Europe only began around 1500 BCE and that the new crop spread astonishingly quickly over large parts of Central Europe. The origin of the broomcorn millet lies in northeastern China, where it was domesticated around 6000 BCE and quickly became a staple food. For thousands of years, broomcorn millet spread from East Asia to Europe, where it established itself as a common crop during the Bronze Age, a period marked by significant social transformations around 1500 BCE. Not only the regional forms of settlement or the decorative style of material culture, especially bronzes, changed, but also an increasing hierarchization of the communities of that time is assumed. These changes happened while broomcorn millet was introduced to be a versatile addition to the cuisine dominated by wheat and barley at that time.  

Further research will investigate the social dynamics associated with the introduction of the new crop during this pronounced period of upheaval in European prehistory.

A detailed press release can be found on the CAU news portal.

The study is publishes 'Open Access' in Scientific Reports and is a joint work of the CRC 1266 subprojects F3, D1 and G1. It can be downladed from here for free.

Filipović , D., Meadows, J., Dal Corso, M., Kirleis, W., Alsleben, A., Akeret, Ö., Bittmann, F., Bosi, G., Ciută, B., Dreslerová, D., Effenberger, H., Gyulai, F., Heiss, A.G., Hellmund, M., Jahns, S., Jakobitsch, T., Kapcia, M., Klooß, S., Kohler-Schneider, M., Kroll, H., Makarowicz, P., Marinova, E., Märkle, T., Medović, A., Mercuri, A.M., Mueller-Bieniek, A., Nisbet, R., Pashkevich, G., Perego, R., Pokorný, P., Pospieszny, Ł., Przybyła, M., Reed, K., Rennwanz, J., Stika, H.-P., Stobbe, A., Tolar, T., Wasylikowa, K., Wiethold, J., Zerl, T. 2020. New AMS 14 C dates track the arrival and spread of broomcorn millet cultivation and agricultural change in prehistoric Europe. Scientific Reports 10 (1), 13698. DOI

Figure: Earliest finds of common millet in Europe: spreading like wildfire. Map of the temporal distribution of broomcorn millet and sites with millet finds dated by 14C.

April 23, 2020

Volume 7 of the CRC 1266 series STPAS has been published

Cover "Maidanets'ke. Development and decline of a Trypillia 'mega-site' in Central Ukraine"

In the forest-steppe north of the Black Sea, at the end of the fifth millennium BCE, some of the largest settlements of their time were established. These so-called Trypillia 'mega-sites' reached sizes of up to 320 hectares with up to 3000 houses in one place.

How did people come together in these large settlements with several thousand houses? How long were such 'mega-sites' inhabited and how many people lived in them at the same time? Are these the first urban settlements, even before the Mesopotamian development?

These are the questions that the study "Maidanets'ke. Development and decline of a Trypillia 'mega-site' in Central Ukraine", a cooperation within the subproject D1 of the CRC 1266, approaches. Based on new excavations by an international team, volume 7 of the CRC 1266 book series "Scales of Transformation in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies" (STPAS) investigates the settlement history and structure of Maidanets'ke and as well as its regional context. Results on the pottery kiln, the enclosure and several houses are presented in detail. Calculations on population size and development provide information on how 'mega-sites' were established. Extensive radiocarbon dating and modelling from different parts of the settlement allows for the first time to present a phase model for the development of a 'mega-site'.

Targeted geophysical surveys in the main distribution area of 'mega-sites' prove an uniform structure of small and large settlements. The study’s results on population density and settlement structure are used to reassess the urban character of Trypillia mega-sites.

The volume can be read online for free and ordered at Sidestone Press.

To the publisher Sidestone Press

Ohlrau, R. 2020. Maidanets’ke. Development and decline of a Trypillia mega-site in Central Ukraine, Scales of Transformation in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies 07. Leiden: Sidestone Press.

April 06, 2020

Early steppe influx: Genetic composition of Cucuteni-Trypillia complex individuals suggest high genetic diversity and steppe-related ancestry from 3500 BCE onwards

Map with relevant sites and the spatiotemportal extent of the CTC and mentioned contemporaneous archaeological complexes

A new study conducted within the CRC 1266, in cooperation of subprojects F4 and D1, now published in Nature scientific reports, reveals that the genetic steppe components arrived in eastern Europe farming communities as early as 3500 BCE.

Even though the Cucuteni-Trypillia complex (CTC) is a well research archaeological phenomenon due to its connection to the so called ‘mega-sites’, settlements of high population density and big spatial extend, very few burials are known. Now, genome-wide data was generated from the skeletal remains from a multiple burial of three adults from the site Pocrovca V and a children’s burial from in Gordinești I, both located in northern Moldova. All of the burials can be dated to the late CTS periode, c. 3500-3100 BCE. The bioinformatic data analyses show that all four individuals were female and in case of the multiple burial the individuals did not shared biological kinship.

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 ancestry of Linearbandkeramik (LBK), Anatolian Neolithic farmers, Starčevo, and Hunter-Gatheres could be identified. This findings are complemented by the study on skeletal remains (only from male individuals) from the cave burial site of Verteba, Ukraine, which also date to the late CTC periode. But, the indiduals from Pocrovca V and Gordinești I had a considerable amount of steppe ancestry, which is consistent with the hypothesis of ongoing contacts and only gradual admixture between incoming steppe and local populations. The gene composition of the sample individuals also show the earlier connections of CTC communities to the West, with LBK (c. 5100-4600 BCE) or Funnel-beaker (c. 4600-3600) societies and the later bridging geographic position between Globular Amphora communities and the steppe in the East (c. 3600-2400 BCE).

The results of the study confirm that the steppe component arrived in eastern Europe farming communities maybe as early as 3500 BCE. Further, they are in agreement with the hypothesis of ongoing contacts and gradual admixture between incoming steppe and local western populations during that period of time.

The full article is Open Access and can be downloaded here.

Immel, A., Țerna, T., Simalcsik A., Susat J., Šarov, O., Sîrbu G., Hofmann, G., Müller, J., Nebel, A., Krause-Kyora, B. 2020. Gene-flow from steppe individuals into Cucuteni-Trypillia associated populations indicates longstanding contacts and gradual admixture. Scientific reports 10 (1), 4253. DOI

Figure: Map with relevant sites and the spatiotemportal extent of the CTC and mentioned contemporaneous archaeological complexes.

March 30, 2020

Between Solidarity and Conflict: New Study on the Social Organization of an Early Neolithic Large Settlement (5250-4950 BCE)

Reconstruction of the early Neolithic settlement site of Vráble, showing houses and the enclosure system.

In a new article published in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal (Open Access), a group of researchers from the Subproject C2, the University of Oslo and the Slovak Academy of Sciences presents the main results of their joint excavation activities at the Slovakian site of Vráble. Since 2012, the team has been studying one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Central Europe to investigate how the social organization of such early concentrations of population developed in a situation where there was no institutionalized government or other centralized control. Despite a three hundred year history of this community, the social experiment finally ends in conflict, and in the dissolution of the village. Nevertheless, studying the history of the village provides fascinating insights into the development of social interaction, not least into previously unknown burial customs.

After the foundation of the settlement around 5250 BCE, the settlement in Vráble gradually developed into a centre of attraction for farmstead communities living in the surrounding area. Around 5100 BCE Vráble consisted of about 70 farms. However, Vráble did not turn into a densely built-up village with uniform rows of houses or other settlement layout, as one would expect, but into a loose arrangement of spatially and economically autonomous farmsteads, which were simultaneously integrated into various systems of social cooperation and sharing of resources. After 5100 BCE, however, conflicts within the village intensified, resulting in an increased emphasis on three neighbourhoods within the settlement. One of these neighborhoods even went so far as to build a complex rampart-ditch-palisade complex that sealed it off from the other two neighborhoods. Within the neighborhoods, too, certain social groups were separated from each other, as became clear in the burials at the enclosure ditch. These indicate a growing degree of social inequality, which had a negative effect on community solidarity and ultimately led to the rapid decline and dissolution of the village.

Furholt, M., Müller-Scheeßel, N., Wunderlich, M., Cheben, I., Müller, J. 2020. Communality and Discord in an Early Neolithic Settlement Agglomeration: The LBK Site of Vráble, Southwest Slovakia. Cambridge Archaeological Journal. DOI

Figure: Reconstruction of the early Neolithic settlement site of Vráble, showing houses and the enclosure system.

March 17, 2020

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

Stable carbon isotope composition of individual fatty acids in lipid residues of animal origin from Neolithic pottery vessels of the Megalith tomb Wangels (red) and domestic site Oldenburg (blue)

In the 4th millennium BCE, 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 on highly decorated and ornamented ceramic vessels from a passage grave (Wangels LA 69, Schleswig-Holstein) of the Funnel Beaker societies revealed that these vessels contained predominantly cattle fat and dairy products. 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.

Another special feature is the fatty acid distribution of a sample from a globular amphora from the passage grave, which indicates that the vessel contained sea buckthorn oil. This circumstance is of great interest, since sea buckthorn oil can be regarded as an exclusive and valuable grave gift. Globular amphora are a type of vessel found between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, which thus shows a supra-regional distribution in contrast to regional ceramics (e.g. the other vessels investigated). Should globular amphora have been specially designed for storing valuable oils?

The presented study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, has been carried out in the context of the collaboration of scientists from subprojects C1 and E1 and bears witness to the high level of interdisciplinarity pursued by the CRC 1266.

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

Figure: Stable carbon isotope composition of individual fatty acids in lipid residues of animal origin from Neolithic pottery vessels of the Megalith tomb Wangels (red) and domestic site Oldenburg (blue).

March 04, 2020

Volume 8 of the CRC1266-series STPAS has been published

Cover „Detecting and explaining technological innovation in prehistoric Europe“

"Detecting and explaining technological innovation in prehistoric Europe", edited by Michaela Spataro and Martin Furholt, presents the results of the International Workshop of the same title, which was organized by the CRC 1266 in Kiel in November 2017 and carried out as an initiative of the subproject F5. It is the eighth volume in the series "Scales of Transformation in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies" (STPAS).

The workshop challenged the participants to identify and explain technological change in the past and its role within transformation processes by means of archaeological as well as ethnographic case studies.

Are egalitarian communities less innovative? Is craft specialization indivisible from social complexity? Are innovations more likely to be accepted in stable or uncertain times? Is it really the case that mostly external influences lead to changes in technical practices? Is there a relationship between innovation and the degree of interconnectedness?

In answering these questions, the contributions show a high integration of different and interdisciplinary research approaches, in which field archaeology, archaeometric analysis, experimental archaeology and ethnographic research are brought together to make technical innovations and changes within the chaîne opératoir of material commodities visible. The results go beyond the simple observation of change and show how essential the understanding of technological innovations and involved processes are for the dimension of social transformation in prehistory.

The 12 contributions mainly present examples from prehistoric Europe, but with case studies from Iran, the Indus Valley and today's Central America, the volume also opens up a global perspective.

The volume can be read online for free and ordered at Sidestone Press.

To the publisher Sidestone Press

Spataro, M., Furholt, M. (eds.) 2020. Detecting and explaining technological innovation in prehistory, Scales of Transformation in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies 08. Leiden: Sidestone Press.

February 03, 2020

Volume 6 of the CRC1266-series STPAS has been published

Cover „Gender Transformations in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies“

The international workshop 'Gender Transformations in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies' took place in Kiel from 8 to 10 March 2018 - now the proceedings with 25 contributions have been published by Julia K. Koch and Wiebke Kirleis as volume 6 of the Series "Scales of transformations in prehistoric and archaic societies" by sidestone press.

In which chronological, spatial, and social contexts is gender a relevant social category that is noticeable in the archaeological material? How can transformations in social gender relations and identity be recognized archaeologically? Is the identity of prehistoric people defined by gender? If so, what is the accompanying cultural context? What about gender equality among the scientists working in archaeology? In how far are research teams, as well as their scientific approach, biased today?

The workshop offered a platform to discuss a broad range of approaches on the inter-dependencies between gender relations and socio-environmental transformation processes. Beyond a focus on the archaeology of women, gender archaeology offers a variety of possibilities to reconstruct the contribution of social groups differentiated e.g. by age, gender, and activities related to cultural transformation, based on the archaeological materiality. Thus, this volume includes papers dealing with different socio-economic units, from south-western Europe to Central Asia, between 15,000 and 1 BCE, paying particular attention to the scale of social reach. Since gender archaeology, and in particular feminist archaeology, also addresses the issue of scientific objectivity or bias, parts of this volume are dedicated to equal opportunity matters in archaeological academia across the globe. This is realised by bringing together feminist and female experiences from a range of countries, each with its own specific individual, cultural, and social perspectives and traditions.

The volume can be read online for free and ordered at Sidestone Press.

To the publisher Sidestone Press

A (German) review of the book was published March 19, 2020 on

Koch, J.K.Kirleis, W. (eds.) 2019Gender Transformations in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies, Scales of Transformation in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies 06. Leiden: Sidestone Press.

February 03, 2020

Volume 5 of the CRC 1266-series STPAS has been published

Cover „Megalithic monuments and social structures. Comparative studies on recent and Funnel Beaker societies“

Megalithic monuments represent an overarching and multifaceted phenomenon during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods in Europe. The interpretations of these monuments are as diverse as the features themselves and range from links to the emergence of social inequality to those as spaces of memory of social collectives. However, there are still open questions that can be dealt with in a differentiated and further-reaching perspective by incorporating cultural-anthropological data. For example, how are socio-economic characteristics of associated households reflected in megaliths?

Megalithic construction is also a recent phenomenon that is particularly prevalent in South and Southeast Asia. The new published volume 5 of the STPAS-series  “Megalithic monuments and social structures. Comparative studies on recent and Funnel Beaker societies” by Maria Wunderlich deals with megalithic monuments in a comparative perspective and includes recent examples in Sumba (Indonesia), Nagaland (India), as well as Funnel Beaker societies in today's northern Germany, which can be archaeologically located in the Early and Middle Neolithic period. The book presents an extensive body of new data, as well as an expanded understanding of the interrelation and significance of specific modes of action, the socio-economic context of megalithic construction, and the participation and role of specific social groups. The inclusion of recent data allows for further interpretations and points of contact also within prehistoric archaeology.

Wunderlich, M. 2019Megalithic monuments and social structures. Comparative studies on recent and Funnel Beaker societies, Scales of Transformation in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies 05. Leiden: Sidestone Press.

The volume is open accessible on the website of Sidestone Press.

January 17, 2020

Starčevo ceramic technology: the first potters of the Middle Danube Basin

Microscograph of a ceramic thin section

In the 4th and recent published volume of the UPA Series Studien zum Neolithikum und Chalkolithikum in Southeast Europe Michela Spataro presents in her book “Starčevo ceramic technology: the first potters of the Middle Danube Basin” the results of the technological analyses and interpretation of early Neolithic ceramics of Southeast Europe.

During the 6th millennium cal BC the first farmers of the early Neolithic Starčevo groups in the Middle Danube basin manufactured the first ceramic and burned clay cult objects. This study of everyday pottery, figurines and four legged vessels from Slavonia, Serbia and Romania shows that the same chaîne opératoire was used throughout time and in different regions. Spataro’s work reveals a tradition of pottery production within and between generations. This similarity of pottery technology serves as an indicator of the connectedness and intermixing of Starčevo communities. However, the lack of technological exchange with contemporaneous Adriatic Impressed Ware reveals a conservative society, in which intergenerational transmission of technical skills and a strong network may have helped to maintain social stability over time.

The publication is the result of a grant by the Leverhulme Trust Project The early Neolithic in the Balkans: ceramic analysis and cultural processes. Final interpretations were done during the Mercator fellowship at Kiel University within the Collaborative Research Centre CRC 1266, subproject F5. The author demonstrates not only the importance of the scientific data, but of its historical and anthropological interpretation, which is only possible with the detailed knowledge of the aspects of these early societies. Insofar Michela Spataro’s work proofs the necessity of a close transdisciplinary approach to past societies.

Spataro, M. 2019Starčevo ceramic technology: the first potters of the Middle Danube Basin, Neolithikum und Chalkolitikum in Südosteuropa 4, Universitätsforschungen zur Prähistorischen Archäologie 341. Bonn: Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH.

Figure: Microscograph of a ceramic thin section (Photo: M. Spataro).

January 15, 2020

New publication concerning Early Neolithic house orientations

Magnetischer Plan einer frühneolithischen Siedlung

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 contribution already gained publicity and was addressed by the 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

Figure: Magnetic plan of an early Neolithic settlement. Each two of the dark lines with a length of 20 to 30 meters represent the part of a house (Graphic: N. Müller-Scheeßel).


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