The mobility of people, goods and ideas since the Stone Age

Free booklet of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS is now available online or as a print edition.

Mobility, its configuration and its limits are currently highly political and often emotionally debated topics. The Cluster of Excellence ROOTS at Kiel University has now published a scientifically based and at the same time easily accessible contribution to the history of human mobility and its routes since the Stone Age. The booklet ROOTS of Routes - Mobility and Networks between the Past and the Future vividly explains on more than 120 pages the routes that have connected people since the Stone Age, what influenced mobility in earlier millennia and how routes contribute to network formation – until today. The publication is now available for free as a print edition or online in German and English.

"Mobility and migration have always played a fundamental role for human lifeways and cultural processes. History is simply not possible without migration and contacts between different social groups," says Dr Henny Piezonka, Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the Free University of Berlin and one of the booklet's editors.

A long-term perspective can objectify discussions

"Debates about migration are often very emotional today. A scientifically well-founded long-term perspective can help to bring more objectivity to discussions. Many phenomena around the topic of mobility are not new," adds co-editor Dr Andrea Ricci, archaeologist from the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS. 

The booklet ROOTS of Routes now offers this long-term perspective. "Since the Stone Age, the development of human existence has been connected to the emergence, use and expansion of connecting routes, but sometimes also to their abandonment. We can learn from this," emphasises the third editor, classical philologist Professor Dr Lutz Käppel, Kiel University.

The contributions in ROOTS of Routes, written by renowned experts from the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, deal with fundamental, global questions that are illustrated by regional or local as well as transcontinental examples. Which ecological and social boundary conditions influenced the routes and movements of people in the past? What significance did the invention of the wheel, the spread of metal technologies or the search for food have for mobility? How were human and animal paths linked? Since when have people been forced to flee from their homes as a result of changing climatic conditions? These are just a few questions that the booklet explores.

ROOTS booklets as contributions to current debates

As examples of concrete routes, ROOTS of Routes traces the old and new Silk Roads between China and Europe or Africa on a global level, and on a regional level, for example, the Ox Trail across the Jutland Peninsula or old Celtic and Roman roads in southwestern Germany.

Ultimately, however, routes not only promoted the mobility of people and the exchange of goods, but also the spread of knowledge. The booklet also sheds light on this aspect.

After Pandemics and Crises, ROOTS of Routes is the second booklet of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, which utilises scientific findings of archaeological and historical research for current discussions. Further thematic booklets are in preparation.

"Only those who understand the past will be able to sustainably shape the present and develop lasting future perspectives. As a Cluster of Excellence, we would like to contribute to this understanding with new research results," says ROOTS speaker Professor Dr Johannes Müller from Kiel University, explaining the concept behind the booklet publication series.

Scientific contact:

Prof. Dr. Lutz Käppel
Institute of Classics, Kiel University
+49 431 880 2237


Scientific contact:

Dr. Andrea Ricci
Cluster of Excellence ROOTS
+49 431 880-5871


Scientific contact:

Prof. Dr. Henny Piezonka
Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology, FU Berlin
+49 30 838 57221


A herd of goats in a barren mountain landscape.
© Karolina Varkuleviciute

The periodic movement of herds of domestic animals between seasonal pastures in low and high-altitude regions has been in use in the Mediterranean region as early as the Neolithic. This very old form of mobility still remains in practice to this day.

A unpaved path is bordered by trees and bushes.
© Walter Dörfler

Among other things, the booklet explores social and ecological conditions for the exchange of goods, ideas and people - here a typical pre-modern long-distance trade route in the young moraine landscape of Schleswig-Holstein.

Map of Eurasia and Africa showing the shambolic course of the ancient Silk Roads and the modern transport corridors of the Belt and Road Initiative.
© Johanna Hilpert

As an example of a global economic route, the booklet looks at the development of the Silk Road through to the modern Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.

Cover of the booklet and several sample graphics on green background.
© Tine Pape, Cluster ROOTS

Since the Stone Age, the development of human existence has been associated with the opening up, use and expansion of connecting routes, but sometimes also with their abandonment. The booklet "ROOTS of Routes" traces this development through the millennia.

Original publication:

Piezonka, H., Käppel, L., Ricci, A. (eds.): Mobility and Networks between Past and Future. ROOTS Booklet Series 02.
DOI: 10.59641/y1811bk. Free download at


Media contact:
Jan Steffen
Media and Public Outreach, Cluster of Excellence ROOTS