Public Release: 

Conflicts 4,000 years ago

New LOEWE focus on prehistory and early history at the Goethe University

Goethe University Frankfurt

This news release is available in German.

FRANKFURT. The Goethe University (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt) once again has reason to celebrate a success in the Hessian LOEWE excellence initiative. It was revealed that the application for research focusing on "Prehistoric Conflict" under the direction of Rüdiger Krause, Professor of Prehistory and Early History in Frankfurt was successfully defended before the external jury. The approved state funds totalling approximately 3.7 million Euros over three years will make it possible to fill a major research gap in Central European archaeology and to use an interdisciplinary approach to study Bronze Age forts between the Taunus and the Carpathian mountains.

"We are delighted about the new LOEWE research focus on archaeology at our University", said Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz, Vice President of the Goethe University, after the outcome had been announced. "The decision is further confirmation that research at the Goethe University is also strong in the humanities and social sciences", according to Schubert-Zsilavecz. The Goethe University now acts as the lead institution in six LOEWE centres and nine LOEWE focal research areas.

Prof. Krause will coordinate the new research focus jointly with Prof. Svend Hansen, Director of the Eurasia Department at the German Archaeological Institute, Berlin. Other persons involved will include Frankfurt's Sociologist Sighard Neckel, Historian Bernhard Jussen and Geographer Heinrich Thiemeyer. A partner outside the University is the Roman Germanic Commission of the German Archaeological Institute in Frankfurt.

Roman forts and medieval fortifications are well known, and some still shape Europe's cultural landscapes today. However, during the Bronze Age, starting at the turn of the 17th to 16th century BCE, people were already constructing the first settlements fortified with strong walls to protect themselves against attackers and to control transit routes. Until now, little research has been performed on these Bronze-Age forts, even though they were a phenomenon that marked Central Europe for almost two millennia.

Moreover, a new view of the Bronze Age reveals a darker side to the subject, explains Prof. Rüdiger Krause, who will be the lead in this research area. This is because the subject of war and conflict has only very recently become a focal point of research on this phase of prehistory. The absolute certainty that there were military conflicts on a major scale is evident not only from the existence of fortifications but also from the development and spread of new weapons such as single-edged and stabbing swords, as well as protective shields. Research no longer refers to the "Bronze Age Heroes" whose weaponry and equipment were primarily symbols of prestige, but rather to the idea of warrior groups who systematically attacked their neighbours and sometimes committed large-scale massacres.

The LOEWE research focus will now provide a new empirical basis for the phenomenon of the Bronze-Age fort: modern methods in prospecting will enable new and more insights into the structure of the facilities, while excavations will be planned and conducted with precision. The focus of this work will be on the social histoical perspective of violent conflict in the Bronze Age and a comparison with conditions in the early Middle Ages.

The LOEWE Fund was launched in 2008 with the goal of providing impetus for research and strengthening the position of the state of Hesse as a research location. It primarily promotes collaboration between higher education and other research institutions, providing universities with an opportunity to sharpen their profile further. Moreover, the intent is to lay the groundwork for additional federal and state-funded research institutions. Within the eighth grant echelon, three new projects are being funded with a total of 12 million Euros for a period of three years. Apart from the archaeologists at the Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main, two focal areas of research are also being supported at the Technical University in Darmstadt.

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