CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

New Publications

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).

December 20, 2019

An enclosure, settlement systems and climatic changes

Geomagnetic plan of the site of Monte da Contenda

New publications on the F1-research in West Iberia are available. By synchronizing cultural and climatic developments and above all by assessing demographic developments and their spatial development, a much-discussed connection between the two phenomena can be made plausible for the Western Iberian Peninsula. For this purpose, the results of aoristics, 14 C sum calibration and the evaluation of the concentration of long-chain n-alkane homologues of terrestrial origin as precipitation predictor are combined, their correlation is presented and possible responses are interpreted from the mapping of the settlement system development.

In a second article the geomegantic investigations at Monte da Contenda, Arronchs, Portugal are presented. Whereas in the first campaign, in 2013, revealed a very complex ditch system but was unable to expose the site’s full layout, the 2018 campaign was able to reveal the site’s ditch systems in their entirety. Many of the assumptions established in the first campaign concerning the layout of the site were confirmed during this second campaign, namely that the ditch system is delimited to the south by the Ribeira das Argamassas and that the site contains two distinct ditch systems, comprising a total of 17 to 19 ditches, establishing Monte da Contenda as the site with the highest number of ditches currently known in Portugal.

Hinz, M., Schirrmacher, J.Kneisel, J.Rinne, C.Weinelt, M. 2019. The Chalcolithic–Bronze Age transition in southern Iberia under the influence of the 4.2 ka BP event? A correlation of climatological and demographic proxies. Journal of Neolithic Archaeology  21, 1-26. DOI

Ribeiro, A.Rinne, C., Valera, A. 2019. Geomagnetic investigationsat Monte da Contenda, Arronches,Portugal – Results from the 2018 campaign. Journal of Neolithic Archaeology 21, 61-74. DOI

Figure: Geomagnetic plan of the site of Monte da Contenda.

December 20, 2019

Transformation of social practice: The Altendorf grave as a place of memory.

Radiocarbon datings of Altendorf

A new paper presents the surprising results of the collaboration between D2 and G1 on the Altendorf gallery grave.

The re-analyses of the Altendorf gallery grave reveal three different phases of inhumation burial practices: 1. collective burials of a whole community (3250–3100 BC), 2. a hiatus in burial practice (3100–2600 BC), and 3. fewer but continuous single inhumations (2600–1450 BC). These changes can be associated with the abandonment of collective social practices all over Central Europe at the end of the fourth millennium BC, and the establishment of new ideologies and the re-use of older monuments by 2600 BC. In Altendorf, this last phase extends to the next pan-European change in burial practices, the then dominant cremation. The Altendorf grave demonstrates the complexity of cultural memory and tradition in the change from a general burial site to a place of remembrance.

Rinne, C.Drummer, C., Hamann, C. 2019. Collective and individual burial practices. Changing patterns at the beginning of the third millennium BC: The megalithic grave of Altendorf. Journal of Neolithic Archaeology 21, 75-88. DOI

Figure: Radiocarbon datings of Altendorf (KDE Model).

December 20, 2019

Dark Ages in the North?

Plan of the excavation site of Schönhagen-Brodersby

In two new papers the excavation results of two sites are presented by C1 in cooperation with other subprojects. They describe the changes in northern Germany around 2900 B.C. and point to a rather mobile way of life.

Following the peak of megalithic construction by the  Funnel Beaker societies and preceding new building activities by the Corded Ware societies, the period 3050-2800 BCE can be referred as the ‘Dark Ages’ of the north. Our analysis of this period within the context of a German Research Foundation Collaborative Research Centre (CRC 1266) project resulted in a new perspective on the role of settlement patterns associated with a ceramic type known as Store Valby. In addition to small domestic sites, such as Schönhagen LA 107 (Brodersby), which dominate on the western and southern parts of the Cimbrian peninsula, research has identified giant settlements to the west, from around 2900 BCE, and palisade enclosures to the east. Despite the diversity of regional developments in the western Baltic, we think that the general characterization of these centuries as an independent phase of socio-environmental transformations can serve as a model for the entire region.

During the Younger Neolithic (2800 – 2200 cal BC) different transformational processes took place in the Altmark region (Saxony-Anhalt, Germany), which is linked to the northern worlds. Paleo-ecological investigations indicate a significant increase in the human impact on the landscape. We probably are dealing with a highly mobile and translocal society that used smaller seasonal stations and whose economy was based on livestock farming, hunting and fishing as well as crop cultivation. In addition to ecological changes, there are also social changes recognisable in the archaeological material, which are most evident in the funeral practices. After a phase of relatively standardised burials within megalithic tombs a shift to new funeral practices becomes apparent. Sites like Brunau and Lüdelsen also indicate a mixture of different ceramic styles, indicating a strong cultural exchange in this region at that time.

Brozio, J.P.Müller, J.Filipović, D.Kirleis, W.Schmölcke, U., Meyer, J. 2019. The Dark Ages in the North? A transformative phase at 3000 – 2750 BCE in the western Baltic: Brodersby-Schönhagen and the Store Valby phenomenon. Journal of Neolithic Archaeology 21, 103-146. DOI

Pfeiffer, A. 2019. Transformations of semi-mobility? The Younger Neolithic in  the Altmark. Journal of Neolithic Archaeology 21, 147-156. DOI

Figure: Plan of the excavation site of Schönhagen-Brodersby.

November 08, 2019

Two new articles about textiles and textile production coming soon in the proceedings “The Textile Revolution in Bronze Age Europe”

Impressions of textiles on Bronze Age pottery from the site Bruszczewo, Poland

The two studies investigate textile and textile Production in Central Europe during the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (2200– 500 BC). As proof of textiles in the Bronze Age of Central Europe is rare the studies focus on textile imprints, and the distribution of loom weights in Central Europe. Loom weights are found not only in settlements but also in graves and hoard finds. Loom weights have been found since the Neolithic period in the Alpine region, south- east and central Europe, whereas only few finds are known from neighbouring regions to the north and the west. From Lower Saxony and Schleswig- Holstein, loom weights have mainly been documented from the pre- Roman Iron Age and the Roman period. A wide variety of terms for the weights exist in the literature, which have been reduced in this to six basic types. In contrast to the variety of types from the northern Alpine area, central European types are limited to two basic forms. Several case studies show the potential of analysing loom weights and textile imprints for an understanding of ancient textile production. One of the results is the clear transformation of the textile craft from the early to the late Bronze Age to an almost standardized production process of fabrics in Central Europe.

An online database on loom weights is available on the homepage of the Johanna Mestorf Academy.

Kneisel, J.Schaefer-Di Maida, S. 2019. Loom Weights in Bronze Age Central Europe, in: Sabatini, S., Bergerbrant S. (eds.). The Textile Revolution in Bronze Age Europe. Production, Specialisation, Consumption. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 80-116.

Schaefer-Di Maida, S.Kneisel, J. 2019. Textile ceramics as a complement to textile research, in: Sabatini, S., Bergerbrant S. (eds.). The Textile Revolution in Bronze Age Europe. Production, Specialisation, Consumption.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 197-216.

To the publisher Cambridge University Press

Figure: Impressions of textiles on Bronze Age pottery from the site Bruszczewo, Poland.

October 17, 2019

Habitat "field" undergoing change

Recent, charred tubers of tuber oat grass

Tuber oat grass (Arrhenatherum elatius spp. bulbosum) is a subspecies of wild oat grass – a species today widespread at roadsides and on ruderal areas – that is distributed as weed species in western and southern Europe, but also in Great Britain, and reaches as far as to the Caucasus as well as to northwest-Africa. In Central Europe, charred bulbs of tuber oat grass are regularly found in archaeological contexts up to the pre-Roman Iron Age, but they disappear at the turn of the eras. In an article published in the Journal for Environmental Archaeology, results and interpretations of cultivation experiments with tuber oat grass are presented which were carried out in the Botanical Garden of Kiel University and show that the biodiversity in the habitat "field" was restricted by humans already at an early stage. The decline of the weed species is possibly related to the introduction of the clod turning plough at the end of the pre-Roman Iron Age (1st century BCE), together with late ploughing with this tool at the end of the vegetation period. At least in central continental Europe with its harsh winters, the introduction of the new technology probably contributed to the disappearance of tuber oat grass. This led to new competitive conditions in weed societies. In addition, the cultivation experiments provide a tool for determining the time of year when the tubers were charred. Further, a cooking experiment shows that the starchy tubers are hardly palatable, which makes the use of the tussoks of tuber oat grass as tinder material more likely in prehistoric times. Overall, these results make an important contribution to the research of subproject F3  and once again demonstrate the importance of technological innovation for transformation processes in the interplay between humans and nature.

Effenberger, H., Nickol, M., Kirleis, W. 2019. Arrhenatherum elatius ssp. bulbosum Revisited – A Practical Approach to Decode Past Plant-related Activities. Environmental ArchaeologyDOI

Figure: Recent, charred tubers of tuber oat grass (Arrhenatherum elatius spp. bulbosum). (Photo: S. Jagiolla, UFG Kiel)

October 9, 2019

A new study on radiocarbon dating of cremated bone published in Radiocarbon

Cremated human remains from Aarupgaard

Cremated bone has become an accepted material for radiocarbon dating, yet 14C laboratories have divergent perceptions of what sources of contaminants might be present, and employ significantly different pretreatment methods. This of serious concern when examining transformations in prehistory, and has been investigated by researchers from the CRC 1266 subproject G1, in collaboration with researchers from the Laboratory for Radiocarbon Dating in Brussels, the Leibniz Laboratory in Kiel, and the Center for Isotope Research in Groningen.

In a new study published in Radiocarbon, laboratory pretreatment protocols are compared using replicate measurements. The 14C results showed dates to be reproducible between the laboratories and consistent with the expected archaeological chronology.

Rose, H.A.Meadows, J., Palstra, S., Hamann, C., Boudin, M., Huels, M. 2019. Radiocarbon dating cremated bone a case study comparing laboratory methods. RadiocarbonDOI

Figure: Cremated human remains from Aarupgaard, an early Iron Age urnfield cemetery from Southern Jutland, Denmark. (Photo: H.A. Rose)

October 9, 2019

Volume 4 of the CRC1266-series STPAS has been published

Cover How´s Life

“How’s Life? Living Conditions in the 2nd and 1st Millennia BCE” edited by Marta Dal Corso, Wiebke Kirleis, Nicole Taylor, Magdalena Wieckowska-Lüth, and Marco Zanon is now available. This is volume 4 of the CRC 1266-series “Scales of Transformations in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies” (STPAS).

The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age saw many developments in metalworking, social structure, food production, nutrition, and diet. At the same time, networks in Europe intensified and human impact on the environment changed in character. What influence did these transformations have on daily life? Which proxies can researchers use to study these topics?

This volume compiles papers from a session with the same title organized for an international open workshop of the Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’, entitled ‘Socio-Environmental Dynamics over the Last 12,000 Years: The Development of Landscapes IV’, which took place in 2017, in Kiel, Germany. It presents scientific contributions from different fields of expertise within modern archaeology in order to investigate past living conditions through aspects of the archaeological record related to production (e.g. of food and metal), well-being (e.g. diet, health), human relations (e.g. violence), and the local environment (e.g. pollution, waste disposal, and water management). It also critically addresses contemporary graphic representations of Bronze Age living conditions.
The volume can be read online for free and ordered at Sidestone Press.

October 7, 2019

Volume 3 of the CRC1266-series STPAS has been published

Cover Habitus

“Habitus? The Social Dimension of Technology and Transformation” edited by Sławomir Kadrow and Johannes Müller is now available. This is volume 3 of the CRC1266-series “Scales of Transformations in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies” (STPAS).
The problem of the social dimension of technology and transformation seen in the perspective of the habitus has been repeatedly undertaken in various works. However, the complexity of these phenomena causes subsequent attempts to be presented and explained again in new contexts, bringing interesting observations. 
The edited volume aims to contribute to our better understanding of a system of embodied dispositions hidden under the term ‘habitus’ and presents the latest studies in the social dimension of technology and transformation. These studies mainly cover the areas of Europe from Scandinavia to Italy and to the Balkans and from the British Isles to the Ukraine and to the North Caucasus. In one case, ethnoarchaeological field studies were conducted in distant Indonesia, but they are used to interpret the Hallstatt Culture in Europe. In the chronological dimension, they include the time from the Neolithic to the beginning of the Iron Age. Among the topics discussed are rock art, Trypillian megasites, stone axes and adzes, metallurgy, wagons, archery items, pottery produced on a fast wheel, mechanisms of cultural genesis, dualistic social systems and comments on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice, including the concept of habitus. 
The volume “Habitus? The social dimension of technology and transformation” is intended for international academia, representing an important set of information and interpretations for all archaeologists and readers interested in European prehistory.
The volume can be read online for free and ordered at Sidestone Press.

September 27, 2019

A study of CRC 1266 members shows that increasing centralization and lack of participation led to the collapse of mega-sites of the Tripolye culture


The decline of the mega-sites of the Tripolye culture (5000-2700 B.C.) in the North Pontic Steppe inhabited by up to 15,000 people can be attributed to changed socio-political structures, as researchers of the CRC 1266 can show in a study published in PLoS One. This is demonstrated by the diachronic development of certain public buildings. Thus, at the heyday of the Tripolye culture, there were smaller, medium-sized and large buildings that are interpreted as centres of assembly and decision-making. Due to their distribution, the smaller and medium-sized buildings probably served the inhabitants of sub-areas of the large settlements, in which decisions were made on matters at lower and middle level. In the large assembly houses, on the other hand, far-reaching decisions were made. However, towards the end of the Tripolye culture, smaller and medium-sized assembly buildings became less important and eventually disappeared, while large buildings gained in size, monumentality, and importance.
This is interpreted as a concentration of decision-making authority - power - while concerns at the lower and middle levels were no longer addressed. Accordingly, the concentration of power on a smaller group of people or even a ruler increased, while the opportunities for participation of broader population groups disappeared. This socio-political imbalance contributed significantly to the break-up of society and to the final abandonment of the large settlements around 3700 BC. 
The study, in which numerous scientists of the SFB 1266 from subprojects D1, F2  and F3  were involved, was not conducted unilaterally, but also considered other factors, such as an over-exploitation of the environment. However, these could be excluded as an essential cause leading to the decline of the mega-sites.
A detailed press release (in German) can be found here.
Due to its great relevance for the understanding of long-term socio-political developments, the study has already been internationally well recognized, and contributions appeared for example in in NewsweekNew ScientistunianNPLUS1PhysOrgHaaretzLife Sciencealtasoscura and MDR.

Hofmann, R.Müller, J.Shatilo, L., Videiko, M., Ohlrau, R., Rud, V., Burdo, N., Dal Corso, M.Dreibrodt, S.Kirleis, W. 2019. Governing Tripolye: Integrative architecture in Tripolye settlements. PLoS ONE 14 (9): e0222243. DOI

Figure: Aerial view of the 200 hectare settlement area of the Tripolye mega-site Maidanets'ke with excavation areas. The construction of 3000 houses and the feeding of a population of several thousand people meant a considerable intervention in the landscape. The coexistence of 5,000 to 15,000 people also posed a major social challenge, which could only be overcome by establishing functioning political institutions.

September 18, 2019

CRC 1266 involved in a study on earliest globalisation published in SCIENCE

Excavations in Moldova

A recent study published in the journal SCIENCE by 255 international archaeologists, including researchers from the Collaborative Research Centre 1266, fundamentally changes the image of the human transformation of the world. Not only in modern times, but already 4000 years ago, virtually all parts of the earth had been considerably changed by human land use. The research of the CRC 1266 has also contributed to this conclusion, enabling observations on the intensities of settlement patterns and land use.

The complete press release can be found here.

The study has already aroused public interest: Johannes Müller, speaker of CRC1266 and co-author of the study, was interviewed by Spiegel magazine (Spiegel Plus).

Stephens, L. Fuller, D., Boivin, N., Rick, T., Gauthier, N., Kay, A., Marwick, B., Armstrong, C.G., Barton, C.M., Denham, T., Douglass, K., Driver, J., Janz, L., Roberts, P., Rogers, J.D., Thakar, H., Altaweel, M., Johnson, A.L., Sampietro Vattuone, M.M., Aldenderfer, M., Archila, S., Artioli, G., Bale, M.T., Beach, T., Borrell, F., Braje, T., Buckland, P.I., Jiménez Cano, N.G., Capriles, J.M., Diez Castillo, A., Çilingiroğlu, Ç., Negus Cleary, M., Conolly, J., Coutros, P.R., Covey, R.A., Cremaschi, M., Crowther, A., Der, L., di Lernia, S., Doershuk, J.F., Doolittle, W.E., Edwards, K.J., Erlandson, J.M., Evans, D., Fairbairn, A., Faulkner, P., Feinman, G., Fernandes, R., Fitzpatrick, S.M., Fyfe, R., Garcea, E., Goldstein, S., Goodman, R.C., d'Alpoim Guedes, J., Herrmann, J., Hiscock, P., Hommel, P., Horsburgh, K.A., Hritz, C., Ives, J.W., Junno, A., Kahn, J.G., Kaufman, B., Kearns, C., Kidder, T.R., Lanoë, F., Lawrence, D., Lee, G.-A., Levin, M.J., Lindskoug, H.B., López-Sáez, J.A., Macrae, S., Marchant, R., Marston, J.M., McClure, S., McCoy, M.D., Miller, A.V., Morrison, M., Matuzeviciute, G.M., Müller, J., Nayak, A., Noerwidi, S., Peres, T.M., Peterson, C.E., Proctor, L., Randall, A.R., Renette, S., Robbins Schug, G., Ryzewski, K., Saini, R., Scheinsohn, V., Schmidt, P., Sebillaud, P., Seitsonen, O., Simpson, I.A., Sołtysiak, A., Speakman, R.J., Spengler, R.N., Steffen, M.L., Storozum, M.J., Strickland, K.M., Thompson, J., Thurston, T.L., Ulm, S., Cemre Ustunkaya, M., Welker, M.H., West, C., Williams, P.R., Wright, D.K., Wright, N., Zahir, M., Zerboni, A., Beaudoin, E., Garcia, S.M., Powell, J., Thornton, A., Kaplan, J.O., Gaillard, M-J., Klein Goldewijk, K., Ellis, E. 2019. Archaeological assessment reveals Earth's early transformation through land useScience 365, Issue 6456, 897-902. DOI

Figure: Excavations of Copper Age preurban settlements around 3800 B.C. and Bronze Age ash mounds around 1300 B.C. from the D1 subproject in Moldova (Stolniceni) have contributed substantially to the reconstruction of land use and settlement in the forest and grass steppes of Eurasia. (Photo: J. Müller)

September 16, 2019

Exploring climate and landscape transformations between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age onset.

Climate curve

The transition between Copper Age and Bronze Age in the Lake Garda area (Northern Italy, approximately 4150 years BP) saw a radical change in settlement strategies. The relatively sparse Neolithic/Copper age finds leave place to several pile dwelling settlements built along the shores of Lake Garda itself or within the multiple smaller lakes and wetlands present in the area.

A new publication, carried out by subprojects F2, E1 and F3, explores the environmental context before and during the development of the Bronze Age pile dwelling phenomenon. Two major warm/arid shifts occurred during the Neolithic and the Copper Age: a first one is dated approximately between ca. 6300 and 6100 years from the present, while the second occurred between ca. 4600 and 4300 years from the present day. Most notably, a sharp transition into colder/wetter conditions is recorded after ca. 4300 years from the present. This trend persists after the Bronze Age onset, and suggests that the adoption of new building techniques occurred under fast changing climate conditions.

Zanon, M.Unkel, I., Andersen, N., Kirleis, W. 2019. Palaeoenvironmental dynamics at the southern Alpine foothills between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age onset. A multi-proxy study from Bande di Cavriana (Mantua, Italy). Quaternary Science Reviews 221. DOI

Figure: Climate curve produced by combining multiple environmental indicators. Modified from Zanon et al. 2019.

July 18, 2019

Online now! The Holocene Special Issue of the CRC 1266!

The Holocene Special Issue of the CRC 1266

The current research results of the CRC 1266 have been published in a special issue of The Holocene, entitled "Scales of Transformation - Human-Environmental Interaction in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies". From the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age, from Northern Germany to the Ukraine, the twelve contributions cover the extensive field of work of the CRC 1266 in its large chronologic and geographical scope. All contributions focus on the investigation of transformation processes on different scales. These range from the effects of transformations on individuals, on population dynamics and on entire landscapes, which are investigated with modern modelling approaches. The contributions, which also include theoretical contributions, show the high level of content and methodology of CRC 1266. In addition, they reflect the intensive interdisciplinary cooperation within the CRC 1266, and the resulting improved insights into the transformations of prehistoric societies.

The contributions to The Holocene Special Issue „Scales of Transformation – Human-Environmental Interaction in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies“ are already available online. The single articles and the abstracts can be found here: Abstracts and Articles. The print version will be published in October.

Figure: Examples from contributions with skull and modelled landscapes. Complied of figures from Fuchs et al. 2019 and Knitter et al. 2019.

July 09, 2019

Out now: Embracing Bell Beaker. Adopting new ideas and objects across Europe during the later 3rd millennium BC (c. 2600-2000 BC)

Cover Embracing Bell Beaker

In the newly released volume of the CRC series “Scales of Transformation in Prehistoric and Historic Societies”, Jos Kleijne shows that local communities adopted ideas and objects in different ways based on settlement evidence from the Bell Beaker period. While some prehistoric communities adopted the Bell Beaker phenomenon fast and as a package, other communities adopted it slower or reworked the ideas to fit them their own cultural sphere. These varying strategies and tempi were related to the existing social networks of information exchange within these communities, Kleijne's research has demonstrated. These emerging Bell Beaker networks of information exchange were based on long-distance mobility of a limited number of individuals, distributing new technologies and practices.

To Publisher Sidestone Press

Kleijne, J. 2019Embracing Bell Beaker: Adopting new ideas and objects across europe during the later 3rd millennium BC (c. 2600-2000 BC), Scales of Transformations 02. Leiden: Sidestone Press Dissertations. 

July 07, 2019

The Kiel conference “Megaliths - Societies – Landscapes” has just been released


The 5th and 4th millennium BCE saw the emergence of monumental architecture in Neolithic and Chalcolithic contexts throughout different parts of Europe. Current research is using a set of diverse methodologies and produces multilayered interpretations in order to create multi-faceted narratives on this phenomenon.

The international conference “Megaliths – Societies – Landscapes. Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation in Neolithic Europe” aimed to bring together researchers from various regions and contexts, thus providing an up-to date perspective on prehistoric monumental architecture. The conference was also an opportunity to present the results of the DFG- Priority Program 1400 “Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation. On the origin and development of Neolithic large-scale buildings and the emergence of early complex societies in Northern Central Europe” which focused on the appearance of monumentality in the context of Neolithic Funnel Beaker communities. 

These proceedings present the results of this conference, covering topics such as monuments made of stone, wood and earth, as well as interpretative aspects such as the importance of monumentality for landscape construction and the social significance of monumentality. They are comprised of wide-ranging case studies with a continental scope that illustrate the manifold implications and manifestations of monumentality. They also demonstrate the need of holistic approaches and the integration of diverse data sets for the understanding of a phenomenon of such complexity. For a wider understanding of varying forms of monumentality, ethnoarchaeological studies on megaliths from different continents were integrated as well. 

The conference proceedings show that the construction of monuments may have been driven by very different factors and was embedded in diverse contexts of social organisation, thus being a highly variable and transformative phenomenon.

To Publisher Habelt Verlag

Müller, J., Hinz, M., Wunderlich, M. (eds.) 2011Megaliths – Societies – Landscapes. Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation in Neolithic Europe, Proceedings of the International Conference "Megaliths – Societies – Landscapes". Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation in Neolithic Europe, 16-20 June 2015 Kiel.,Vol. 2, Frühe Monumentalität und Soziale Differenzierung 18. Bonn: Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH. ISBN 978-3-7749-4213-4 

June 27, 2019

Shedding light on the 4.2 ka event in southern Iberia

Diagramm 4,2 ka Event

The 4.2 ka event had been a several centuries lasting dry spell responsible for major societal and cultural transformations. This is at least what some studies from the Eastern and Central Mediterranean indicate. The manifestation and impact of the 4.2 ka event in the Western Mediterranean, on the other hand, is still intensively debated within the scientific community.

A recent publication from the F1 subproject now brings an important contribution into this debate and shows a more complex pattern associated with the 4.2 ka event in southern Iberia than previously thought. According to the study, between about 4400 and 4300 years ago today there was a drought of about 100 years, which was mainly characterized by reduced precipitation in winter. This was followed relatively abruptly by a more stable, humid phase between approx. 4300 and 3800 years before today, which was mainly characterised by increased precipitation in winter. This rapid change is probably due to a shift in the North Atlantic Oscillation.

Schirrmacher, J.Weinelt, M., Blanz, T., Andersen, N., Salgueiro, E., Schneider, R.S. 2019. Multi-decadal atmospheric and marine climate variability in southern Iberia during the mid- to late-Holocence. Clim. Past 15, 617-634.

June 4, 2019

Atlas of Neolithic plant remains from northern central Europe

Atlas of Neolithic plant remains

The "Atlas of Neolithic plant remains from northern central Europe" has been published as volume 4 of the series "Advances in Archaeobotany". It was compiled by Wiebke Kirleis, speaker of the CRC 1266 and Principal investigator in the subprojects F3 and D1, and originated among other projects from her work in the CRC 1266. The atlas compiles high-quality macrophotographs of ancient plant macro remains from 36 sites of the Linearbandkeramik, Funnel Beaker period, Single Grave Culture and Dagger period, and shows which crops and wild plants were available in the Neolithic in northern central Europe. It thus forms a fundamental reference work for future archaeobotanical investigations of this epoch. The atlas thereby complements the Digital Plant Atlas project and was published with Barkhuis publishing.

Kirleis, W. 2019Atlas of Neolithic plant remains from northern central Europe, Advances in Archaeobotany 4. Eelde: Barkhuis publishing. ISBN 9789492444912 

May 20, 2019

Face urns – Images of humans in the past


Faces fascinate, especially those of the past. Face depictions already attracted the interest of collectors and museums early in history.

Jutta Kneisel, project leader of the CRC 1266 subproject D3, has published a vivid volume on anthropomorphic vessels. In the Bronze and Iron Ages they were mainly used as grave urns. This book contains the latest research results on face urns.

In this richly illustrated volume, the reader can expect an insight into the life of a society almost 3000 years ago. Who was the important woman and what role did the old man play? We get to know children and warriors and learn something about trade and exchange networks, which already then led across Europe. Face recognition and the meaning of the face play an essential role for the investigations.

To Publisher Habelt Verlag

Kneisel, J. 2019Gesichtsurnen. Menschenbilder der Vergangenheit.Bonn: Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH.

May 15, 2019

Long-term effects of human interventions in the Stymphalia lake ecosystem

Lake Stymphalia

The legend says that Herakles fought against the Stymphalian birds at Lake Stymphalia. Today, the lake is fighting for survival because of the overexploitation of its water resources, although it should (actually) be protected as a Natura2000-area.

An article of the E1 subproject published in the current issue of Quaternary Science Reviews shows that drastic changes in the lake ecosystem have already occurred during the last 2500 years. These changes had already been caused by human intervention.

Especially in times of global warming and environmental degradation caused by humans, this exemplary view into the past is particularly important in order to better understand the long-term effects of human interventions in the environment.

Seguin, J. et al. 2019. 2500 years of anthropogenic and climatic landscape transformation in the Stymphalia polje, Greece. Quaternary Science Reviews 213, 133–154.  DOI

Figure: Joana Seguin during fieldwork at Lake Stymphalia, Greece.

April 26, 2019

Continuities and discontinuities of settlement locations during transformation processes in the Middle and Young Neolithic in Eastern Holstein

Oldenburg settlement

Subproject C1 presents the results of the excavations at a Middle and Late Neolithic settlement site with wet soil conservation in the study area Ostholstein in the current issue of Praehistorsichen Zeitschrift. The results were achieved in cooperation with subprojects B2, F3 and F5. The article links in a detailed way archaeological, archaeobotanical and archaezoological results, which were achieved interdisciplinary within the CRC 1266 in the years 2016-2018. Starting from the newly excavated site, continuities as well as discontinuities could be proven on a regional level. In particular, the continuity of settlements on the site is of crucial importance for understanding the transformation process from the Middle to the Late Neolithic in the North German Plain.

Brozio, J.P.Filipovic, D.Schmölcke, U.Kirleis, W.Müller, J. 2018. Mittel- bis jungneolithische Siedlungshinterlassenschaften zwischen 3300–2600 v. Chr. Der Fundplatz Oldenburg LA 232 im Oldenburger Graben, Ostholstein. Praehistorische Zeitschrift 93 (2), 185-224. DOI

Figure: Reconstruction of the domestic site Oldenburg LA 232 in its local surroundings.

February 18, 2019

Bronze Age People: Newest research on population genetics, life style and culture in the Caucasus

Culture in the Caucasus

A paper recently published in Nature Communications gives proof of the complex interaction of people from the eurasian steppe and the Near Eastern countries from 6,500 and 3,500 BC.

The study is based on the analysis of  genome-wide data from 45 prehistoric individuals along a 3000-year temporal transect in the North Caucasus. The project was coordinated by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena and the Eurasia Department of the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin. Two of the individuals are from the grave site “Kudachurt 14“, research focus of the interdisciplinary thesis of co-author Katharina Fuchs (CRC project Z1).

Read more: Kiel University Press Release

To the article Nature Communications

Chuan-Chao Wang et al., 2019. Ancient human genome-wide data from a 3000-year interval in the Caucasus corresponds with eco-geographic regions. Nature Communications.

Picture: Mount Elbrus, Northern Caucasus (S. Reinhold, DAI Berlin).

February 18, 2019

Special Issue

Think global, act local! Bell Beakers in Europe

Publication Think global, act local !

Special issue 4 of the Journal of Neolithic Archaeology presents a selection of papers from lectures of the “Archaéologie et Goblets“ Bellbeaker Workshop that took place in May 2017 at Kiel University. “Archaéologie et Goblets“ is a network of European archaeologists dedicated to the exploration of the Bell Beaker phenomenon which plays a major role in the transregional distribution of material culture as well as social and economic innovations during the 3rd mil BCE in Europe.

The papers of the special issue provide an international background of the transformations studied within several CRC projects, in particular C1 and F1 which focus on Neolithic transformations in Northern Germany and the Western Mediterranean. The print version of the special issue will be available soon.

Journal of Neolithic Archaeology, Special Issue 4  

Kleijne, J.P., Furholt, M., Müller J. (eds.) 2018. Think global, act local. Bell Beakers in Europe, Proceedings of the Bell Beaker Workshop Kiel 2017. Journal of Neolithic Archaeology  2018, Special Issue 4.

January 9, 2019


A recent study shows numbers for the population development in Europe and the Near East from 6000 to 1000 B.C.

Prähistorische Demographie Karte

Spatial arrangement of sites in Europe and the Near East.



Exact numbers for long gone populations can only be determined indirectly by the evaluation of archaeological finds. A new study published in the online magazine PLOS ONE on 2 January now presents new results on the population density in Europe and the Near East for the period from around 6000 to 1000 before Christ. Aleksandr Diachenko from the Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kiev, and CRC 1266 speaker Johannes Müller managed to reconstruct the population numbers for large parts of Europe and Mesopotamia by bringing together expert knowledge from scientific studies on different small regions thus gaining absolute numbers of inhabitants and information on the population densities from thousands of years ago. 

press release (in german)



Müller, J., Diachenko, A. 2019. Tracing long-term demographic changes: The issue of spatial scales. PLoS ONE 14 (1): e0208739. PlosOne 

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