ROOTS assesses mid-term results and discusses future goals

Scientific Advisory Board praises interdisciplinarity and gives hints for further development of the Cluster of Excellence


Studying the past of human societies in order to draw lessons for the present and future - that is the aim of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS at Kiel Christian Albrechts University. In mid may members of the cluster met with the scientific advisory board at the Kiel Science Center to apply this approach to their own large-scale project. Together, they reviewed the scientific results and successes of ROOTS to date, discussed the priorities for the coming years and possible plans for an application for a second funding period starting in 2026. CAU President Simone Fulda also participated in the discussion and provided valuable input on the development of the German Excellence Strategy.

Looking back at the past 3.5 years of the cluster, the Scientific Advisory Board especially praised the practiced interdisciplinarity in ROOTS. In the Cluster of Excellence, researchers from the fields of archaeology work hand in hand with colleagues from the natural, life, social and historical sciences. "Human societies are very complex. In order to be able to recognize the roots of basic human phenomena, their connectivities and their relation the environment, we need this broad approach. Collaboration across disciplinary and thematic boundaries has even intensified since the start of ROOTS 2019," says cluster spokesperson Johannes Müller from the Institute of Prehistory and Protohistory at Kiel University. "This broad professional approach is truly unique ," confirmed Helle Vandkilde, spokesperson of the Scientific Advisory Board, from Aarhus University (DK). She and the other members of the advisory board expressed their appreciation of the amount of third-party funding that cluster members have raised in recent years. "This makes Kiel one of the world's leading locations in the field of archaeology," said Tim A. Kohler from Washington State University (USA).

At the same time, the international panel gave constructive advice on how the new insights into the past that have been gained in ROOTS so far can be disseminated to society more strongly than before. In this way, ROOTS should contribute even more to a better understanding of current crises and provide help for finding ways out of them. 

With a view to a possible follow-up application, both Claus von Carnap-Bornheim, Director of the Center for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology ZBSA and the Archaeological Museum Schloss Gottorf, and the CAU President emphasized the importance of the non-university partners. Currently, these include the ZBSA under the umbrella of the Schleswig-Holstein State Museums, the German Archaeological Institute DAI, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, and the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education IPN in Kiel.

Further discussions focused, among other things, on how to further intensify the collaboration between the various disciplines as well as possible focal points of a follow-up application. A letter of intent for the follow-up application must be submitted to the German Research Foundation as early as December 2022.

“I experienced the discussion at the ROOTS retreat as very stimulating. I am of course very pleased that the ROOTS Scientific Advisory Board describes Kiel as one of the world's top locations for archaeology and the study of the past as a whole. With the Cluster of Excellence, the Johanna Mestorf Academy and the Collaborative Research Center 1266, we have exceptional expertise in this field, which contributes to the CAU's special profile,” CAU President Simone Fulda concluded. 

"Of course, we cannot determine all the details of our work in the coming years during a two-day retreat. But the lively and constructive discussions showed that there is great enthusiasm within ROOTS. It forms the basis for jointly raising the study of human societies in the past to new levels for our present and future," cluster spokesperson Professor Müller added.

The Cluster of Excellence "ROOTS - Connectivity of Social, Environmental, and Cultural Connectivity in Past Societies" was officially granted in 2018 and will run in its first phase until the end of 2025, funded by the German Research Foundation with a total of 33 million euros.

More INformation

Two men and a woman talking
© Jan Steffen, Uni Kiel

Prof. Johannes Müller (l.) welcomes CAU President Simone Fulda at the ROOTS Retreat.

Two people stand in front of a poster and speak
© Jan Steffen, Uni Kiel

PhD student Anna Loy in conversation with Dr Søren Wichmann: During the retreat, the PhD students of the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS presented their projects.

A woman at the lectern gives a lecture in front of many people
© Jan Steffen, Uni Kiel

The spokesperson of the Scientific Advisory Board, Prof. Helle Vandkilde from Aarhus University, praises the interdisciplinarity lived out in the ROOTS cluster.

Two people from behind and a man speaking into a microphone
© Jan Steffen, Uni Kiel

Prof. Johannes Müller, spokesperson of the ROOTS Cluster of Excellence, is pleased about the great enthusiasm within the Cluster of Excellence.


Jan Steffen
Media and Public Outreach
Cluster of Excellence ROOTS
 +49 431 880-5871


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