Environmental Archaeology/Archaeobotany

Environmental Archaeology

Prof. Dr. Wiebke Kirleis | Tel. 880.3173 | Room: 036| Consultation Hours: Thu. 12:30 - 2:00 pm | Current lectures (UnivIS)

Environmental Archaeology takes a look at interrelations of past humans and environments. In Kiel, archaeobotany (analysis of pollen and macro remains) has become the centre of environmental archaeology. It studies continuation and change of economies and diets in (pre)historic times, extrapolates vegetation dynamics close to former settlements, burial sites and other anthropogenic sites and finally contributes to the study of the history of crop plants. Thanks to macro remain analysis, archaeological sites can be spatially differentiated by e.g. identifying particular work areas in a settlement complex. Moreover it indicate the social stratification of former societies.

Research and Projects

Research focus for Central Europe is on the oldest crop farm cultures (Linear Pottery, Funnel Beaker Culture) of the Neolithic, the transformation of farming during the Bronze and Iron Age, as well as the advancements in agricultural economies of the Medieval and Post-Medieval periods. Additionally the significance of plants in Post-Medieval burial rituals is being examined. The first anthropogenic thinning of tropical rainforests is being investigated in Central-Sulawesi, Indonesia. Most of the finds stem from settlement archaeological research carried out by the institute and often sponsored by the German Research Society (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft).

A list of current and completed research projects can be found here.

Literature database ArchbotLit

The New Search Engine for Literature on Archaeological Remains of Cultivated Plants ArchbotLit

With the literature database ArchbotLit on the wiki portal of CAU Kiel, a tool is now provided for specialists, students and interested members of the public in order to inform them about the history of cultivated plants. The database makes archaeobotanical literature on ancient crops accessible, which is otherwise scattered over a large number of international journals and excavation reports, but also in grey literature. The new wiki platform ArchbotLit is a sustainable continuation of the literature-based online database on archaeological remains of cultivated plants by Helmut Koll, Rainer Pasternak (both from Kiel) and Aleksandar Medović (Novi Sad), which includes literature from the years 1981-2004. ArchbotLit enables access to previous entries via online access at Kiel University and it is currently being successively expanded with new entries from international experts. This makes it an important hub in which archaeobotanical literature from the worldwide community is bundled and kept up to date. The ArchbotLit database makes it possible, for example, to find the earliest records of spelt for the transition from the Late Neolithic to the Bronze Age.

Comparative collections - physical and digital

As a basic tool, various comparative collections are available in environmental archaeology.

Comparative collection KielComparison of tropical pollen grains and spores (Asia-Indonesia)
The collection currently comprises microscopic specimens of approximately 400 pollen grains and spores of tropical plant species predominantly from Indonesia/Asia. The embedding medium is predominantly silicone oil but also glycerin. Pollen and spores were collected in various herbaria (National Herbarium Nederland, Leiden; Herbarium Bogoriense, Indonesia) and supplemented by material from the collection of Dr. Heike Culmsee, University of Göttingen. Photographs of pollen grains and spores from the comparative collection are also accessible via the Australasian Pollen and Spore Atlas (APSA) from Palaeoworks, ANU Canberra, Australia.

Taxalists tropical pollens (PDF) and spores (PDF)

Photo archive of subfossil plant remnants
Large plant remains from soil archives are exposed to numerous environmental influences during their deposition. The texture, form and color change and the remnants are only partially comparable with recent material. Therefore it's particularly important to apply comparative collections with subfossil material in addition to extensive collections of modern seeds and fruits. The photo archive includes more than 200 photographs of Dusanka Kucan (NIhK, Wilhelmshaven) and Wiebke Kirleis. It's intensely used for teaching.

Comparison of living fruits and seeds
An extensive comparative collection of recent fruits and seeds (about 14,000 taxa) is available for archaeobotanical research. The focus is on Central Europe but also alpine and mediterranean species are available.

Comparison of Central European and Mediterranean pollen grains and spores
The institute's comparative collection of modern pollen grains and spores from Central Europe and the Mediterranean region comprises about 3,200 taxa.

Non-pollen-palynomorhs (NPP) database as NPP-wiki-platform
Non-pollen palynomorphs (NPP) are microfossils that are regularly deposited in sediments. Data on NPP are usually collected in conjunction with pollen analyses. NPPs comprise a variety of organic remains, including fungal spores and hyphae, algal cells and cysts, cyanobacteria, test amoebae, eggshells of parasites and other remains of invertebrates and plants that occur in a variety of ecological niches, e.g. on rotting wood, in dung, under certain moisture, nutrient and salinity conditions, or after fire or erosion events. With their specific properties, many NPPs are important indicators of local deposition conditions. In the NPP-Wiki-Platform the NPP types (>1400) described so far are listed centrally and provided with a photograph, description of the specific properties and with references to literature; the database is updated regularly. The database allows direct, bundled access to this information, which is otherwise scattered in various publication organs, and is thus an important tool for the determination and interpretation of NPP.

Suggestions for sampling and processing

  • Pointers on Dredging ("Hinweise zum Schlämmen") (PDF)

Research Staff

Title Email Description
Dr. Marta Dal Corso mdalcorso(at)ufg.uni-kiel.de CRC-1266-D1 Project: Chalcolithic North Pontan Region ROOTS-Dietary cluster: Routine activities in Bronze Age northern Italy
Dipl.-Biol. Yasmin Dannath ydannath(at)ufg.uni-kiel.de Project Coordinator Botanical Platform GS Human Development in Landscapes
Dr. Sofia Sonja Filatova, M.A. s.filatova(at)ufg.uni-kiel.de Research Assistant, Environmental Archaeology (Archaeobotany); ROOTS Cluster of Excellence, Dietary ROOTS: Genetic Variation in Ancestral Crops
Dr. Dragana Filipovic d.filipovic(at)ufg.uni-kiel.de Research Assistant, CRC-1266-F3 Dynamics of plant economies in ancient societies
Dr. Anna Elena Reuter areuter(at)sfb1266.uni-kiel.de
Dr. Magdalena Wieckowska-Lüth mwickowska(at)ufg.uni-kiel.de CRC 1266 – F2: Socio-environmental Transformations and Interdependencies

Scholars and Alumni

Title E-Mail Description
Jingping An   Vergleichende Studie zur Landwirtschaft in der Bronzezeit in Zentralchina und der Haidai Region, China
Vanessa Elberfeld velberfeld@gshdl.uni-kiel.de   
Anna Wierzgon, M.A. awierzgon@gshdl.uni-kiel.de Archaeobotanical investigations on urban settlements in northern Germany from the 12th to the 17th century; The
case studies of Luebeck, Kiel and Uelzen


Title E-Mail Description
Dr. Magdalena Wieckowska-Lüth mwieckowska@ufg.uni-kiel.de PhD, 2011, Kiel: Paläoökologische Studien zur Rekonstruktion des Mensch-Umwelt-Verhältnisses an insularen Fundplätzen Schleswig-Holsteins, GS HDL
PostDoc-Projekt: Early farming in South Norway: pollen analytical investigations at Lake Skogtjern, Bamble (Telemark). Kooperation mit dem Vestfoldbaneprosjektet, Universität Oslo, Norwegen
Research foci: non-pollen-palynomorphs (NPP), pollen, multi-proxy analyses, agriculture in remote areas, Mesolithic
Mindaugas Grikpedis mindaugas.grikpedis@gmail.com PhD-thesis with Prof. Dr. Giedre Moutezaite-Matuzeviciute, Vilnius University, Lithuania, DAAD-exchange 10–11/2017
Dr. Stefanie Klooß s.klooss@ufg.uni-kiel.de

Archäologisches Landesamt Schleswig-Holstein, Gebietsreferentin Nord | Zum Profil

PhD, 2010: Holzartefakte von endmesolithischen und frühneolithischen Küstensiedlungen an der südwestlichen Ostseeküste (GS HDL)
Aktuelles Projekt: Differenzierung von Landschaften, Teilprojekt SPP 1400 Frühe Monumentalität und Soziale Differenzierung

Dr. des. Henrike Effenberger (Röhrs) M.A. henrike.röhrs@web.de BA, 2010: Die Pflanzenreste aus dem Megalithgrab "Brutkamp" in Albersdorf, Schleswig-Holstein
MA, 2012: Zur Wirtschaftsweise im Neolithikum anhand verkohlter Pflanzenreste aus der trichterbecherzeitlichen Siedlung Oldenburg-Dannau LA77, Schleswig-Holstein
Preisträgerin des Archäologiepreises 2011 der AGSH
Aktuelles Projekt: Landwirtschaft und Ernährung der nordischen Bronzezeit (PhD CAU Kiel/Univ. Göttingen 2015: Pflanzennutzung und Ausbreitungswege landwirtschaftlicher Innovationen in der nordischen Bronzezeit und angrenzenden Gebieten)
Dr. Welmoed Out wo@moesgaardmuseum.dk

Moesgaard Museum, Aarhus, DK | Zum Profil

Research foci: Phytoliths, Eurasian cereals, non-dietary crop products, hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies, Neolithic

Dr. Hannes Knapp hknapp@gshdl.uni-kiel.de

Universität Mainz

PhD, 2012: Habitat Harz: The Environmental History of a Mountain Area and its Foothills (GS HDL)
PostDoc-Projekt: Holzkohlenuntersuchungen an mittelalterlichen und frühneuzeitlichen Meilerplätzen im Erzgebirge