Returning to the Field: The SFB "Transformation Dimensions"

International in location and participation

Following a successful international call for proposals earlier this year, members of the Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 1266 "Scales of Transformation" are currently carrying out fieldwork in five countries with students from both Kiel University and international partners. As a fundamental element of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental research into past societies and their environments, these field work projects not only enable the retrieval of new data and expansion of their investigations into past transformation processes.

"It is so important to finally be back in the field. For archaeology students, fieldwork abroad is usually the first opportunity to build international networks that often last a lifetime," said Dr Nicole Taylor, scientific coordinator of SFB 1266, adding that today it is more important than ever to maintain and strengthen these social connections. "Since past transformation processes such as population concentration, climatic shifts or new trade and communication routes - and their far-reaching effects - rarely follow today's national borders, it is essential that SFB 1266 researchers are able to carry out their investigations over a wide area."

Digging, coring, floating and counting

A diverse set of activities is taking place across the various fieldwork campaigns. In Romania, the "Sultana Summer School" brings together scientists from Kiel, Bucharest and Belgium as well as students from Italy, Ukraine, England and the Netherlands. Many disciplines have been brought together to investigate why the Copper Age communities in the lower Danube region collapsed, while so-called "mega sites " formed not far away. Specialists in archaeological find analysis, archaeological excavations, geophysics, archaeobotany and geoarchaeology are involved in the interdisciplinary investigations. In the settlement landscape of Sultana, dating to c. 4,500-4,100 BCE, the settlement mound, a cemetery, and an open settlement are being excavated. A floating drilling platform was used to take a pollen and sediment core from below the nearby Mostiştea Sea. Dr Marta Dal Corso, archaeobotanist at CRC 1266, has high hopes for this core: "In addition to the prehistoric plant remains gathered using the complex floatation installation, which will provide us with quantifiable botanical data on subsistence strategies and the environment, we also hope that the lake core will provide environmental archives wihich are as yet missing for southeastern Romania," she said. "The lake sediments will allow us to integrate the signals on the lakeshore into the long-term vegetation development," said Dr Ingo Feeser (also CRC 1266).

The nearby tell settlement of Chiselet is also being researched. The geomagnetic survey indicated about 20 well-preserved houses, located in the field via survey and coring. The remarkable find of a set of miniature furniture models has been able to show what the interiors of the houses might have looked like and provides information that is usually missing in prehistory. Another insight into Copper Age interior decoration and daily life was provided by a collapsed shelf - including the dishes - found on one of the house floors. "Something like this is rarely found in Central Europe and belongs tot he magical moments in archaeology," says CRC 1266 archaeologist Dr. Robert Hofmann.

Research questions related to cultural phenomena of Tripolian societies are being pursued in two fieldwork projects, each at a different stage of the archaeological process. A Copper Age settlement is being excavated in Kisnytsia, near Kryschopil (Ukraine), where waste pits of different sizes have so far revealed a wealth of pottery, bone and tool material. Together with environmental data from the site, these will undoubtedly provide valuable insights into the collapse of the Tripolye mega sites in this region. This fieldwork project is being carried out by CRC 1266 (in particular subproject D1) in collaboration with the Institute of Archaeology of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. In Moldova, post-excavation work is in full swing, carried out by a team from CRC 1266 (sub-project D1), the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS and students from Kiel, Chişinău, Kiev and Odesa. The impressive collection of finds from previous excavations in cooperation with the Şcoala Antropologică Superioară (Chişinău) and the Romano-Germanic Commission (Frankfurt/Main) is being processed so that the daily life and ideological structures of this “mega site” can be brought to light.

Closer to "home", an international team is working in cooperation with the CRC 1266 (sub-project C1) and Lower Saxony Moor and Wetland Archaeology to excavate of a timber plank path datingto the 3rd millennium BC in the Aschen Moor. The route is assumed to be over two kilometres long and 3.3 metres wide, crossing the moor from west to east. Such prehistoric trackways have been known to archaeologists since the 19th century and served prehistoric societies as a means of interaction and mobility. They made it possible to create or maintain paths through shifting landscapes in the face of climatic changes. To locate the pathway, the team carried out a coring programme in long transects across the moor. Now the excavations have begun and have already revealed very well preserved timbers – even some with axe-marks visible on them – and insights into the construction of the wooden trackway. Due to the nature of the landscape, a wooden path would still be of great use to the team today, who often have to carry their own heavy equipment for kilometres across the otherwise impassable moorland. Also in Germany, excavations have also started at Wittelsberg, west of Marburg. Despite having only just begun to dig, many artefacts have already been found – including a stone axe.
"We are excited to see what other discoveries this year's field campaigns will uncover and what they can tell us about prehistoric and archaic transformation processes across Europe and beyond," says Nicole Taylor.

Photo of a rectangular hole in the ground from above. Three people can be seen in the hole looking down at the ground.
© Jan Piet Brozio, Kiel University

The timbers of the wooden trackway are excavated carefully.

Three people stand together and point to a small object. The person in the middle holds it in his outstretched hand.
© Christoph Rinne, Kiel University

The stone axe found at Wittelsberg.

Two people hold ropes and apparatus. They stand on a metal surface by the water.
© Johannes Müller, Kiel University

Drilling for a sediment core on the Mostiştea Lake.

Studio shot of small pieces of handmade stone furniture against a neutral blue background.
© Agnes Heitmann, Kiel University

Miniature models show what furniture looked like 6500 years ago.

Scientific contact:

Dr Nicole Taylor

Scientific coordination of CRC 1266


Press contact:

Christin Beeck
Press, Digital and Science Communication