Geoarchaeology and Environmental Hazards

The research group Geoarchaeology and Environmental Risks investigates human-environment relationships on different spatial and temporal scales, using integrative and interdisciplinary research approaches. Our scientific aims focus on the development of soils and landscapes, both in the past and in the present, under the influence of human agency.

Savanna SerengetiMain research questions address changes in soil properties due to climate change and land use, and the analysis of the related soil processes. Soil is an important natural resource, but soil degradation and desertification threaten many agricultural areas today. Can this be demonstrated also for prehistoric societies? Which influence did and do environmental conditions have, especially the soils, on the development, maintenance or even abandonment of settlement structures or habitats? How did people in turn influence the properties of soils? Which traces do different human activities leave behind in soils?

Current study areas are located in the European and Asian loess and steppe landscapes, with a focus on Central Europe, Russia and the Middle East, in the Alps and in the African savannah. The applied methods include field-work, soil-chemical and sedimentological analyses, as well as specific geoarchaeological methods.


Current Research Projects

  • Formation and management of ridge and furrow field systems in Saxony-Anhalt (DFG WI 4747/2-1, PhD student Theresa Langewitz).
  • Formiguer Soils – The Mediterranean analogue to terra preta de Indio in the humid tropics? (DFG WI 4747/5-1, PhD Student Steven Polifka).
  • Exploring geological and pedological factors as potential drivers of the Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti ecosystem, N-Tanzania (East Africa). In cooperation with Dr. Simon Kübler (PI, Dept. für Geo- und Umweltwissenschaften, LMU München). more
  • Setting the scene – formation of landscapes and exploitation of natural resources for emerging settlements in ancient Near East. In cooperation with the „Peshdar-Plain-Project“ (PIs: Prof. Dr. Karen Radner, Lehrstuhl für die Alte Geschichte des Nahen und Mittleren Ostens, LMU München and Prof. Dr. Florian Janoscha Kreppner, Institut für Altorientalistik und Vorderasiatische Archäologie, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster), Peshdar Plain Project: Exploring a Neo-Assyrian Border March to Iran
  • Geoarchaeological investigations in the Karwendel (Austria). In cooperation with Dr. Caroline von Nicolai (Römisch-Germanische Kommission des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Frankfurt), Archäologie im Karwendel

Current Teaching Projects

  • E-Learning Project GeoWIKI@LMU, with Dr. Donjá Aßbichler, Dept. für Geo- und Umweltwissenschaften, LMU München

Former Research Projects

  • Chronosequence of soil degradation and wind erosion and in the semi-arid Kulunda steppe in Western Siberia. DFG EC 401/3-2 (2015-2016).
  • Quantification of wind erosion and soil degradation in the semi-arid Kulunda steppe (Western Siberia). DFG EC 401/3-1 (2014-2015).
  • Spectrophotometric analysis of prehistoric pit fillings as an indicator for ancient topsoil parameters. DFG EC 401/1-1 (2010-2013).
  • An attempt to understand the absence of Natufian charcoal. Fellowship of the Swiss Society of Friends of the Weizmann Institute (2009-2010).
  • A geoarchaeological approach to investigate human-environment interactions in the Valle Leventina. Fellowship “Forschungskredit”, University of Zurich (2007-2008).
  • Participation in the "Forchtenberg project" to investigate the effects of fires in Central European deciduous forests on soil properties.

Members of the Department