Donnerstag, 28. Dezember 2017

Vortrag von Prof. Dr. Detlef Gronenborn zum Thema „Zyklische Prozesse als Erklärungsansatz in der aktuellen Erforschung des Neolithikums“

Ein Beitrag von Katharina Zartner.

In der abschließenden Plenumssitzung für das Jahr 2017 am 14. Dezember war Prof. Dr. Detlef Gronenborn zu Gast. Er ist Vor- und Frühgeschichtlicher Archäologe, ist als Oberkonservator am Römisch-Germanischen-Zentralmuseum in Mainz (RGZM) tätig und an verschiedenen Forschungs- und Ausgrabungsprojekten beteiligt. Seit 2007 ist Prof. Gronenborn außerplanmäßiger Professor an der JGU Mainz und gehört seit kurzem dem Kreis der Kooperationspartner des Graduiertenkollegs 1876 "Frühe Konzepte von Mensch und Natur" an. Erste Kontakte mit dem Kolleg und den Kollegiaten konnte Prof. Gronenborn bereits im Zuge der Vorbereitungen auf die Begehung durch die DFG im September diesen Jahres knüpfen, wobei ihm bereits mögliche Anknüpfungspunkte seiner Forschungen an den Forschungsschwerpunkt A ("Konzepte von Urzuständen und Urelementen, Weltentstehung und Weltuntergang") auffielen. Im Rahmen der Plenumssitzung nutzte er nun die Gelegenheit, sich selbst sowie seine aktuellen Forschungen vorzustellen und mit dem Trägerkreis und den Kollegiaten ins Gespräch zu kommen.

Forschungsgeschichtlicher Ausgangspunkt

Auf die sog. New Archaeology (auch Prozessuale Archäologie oder Prozessualismus), einen entscheidenden Wendepunkt im Bereich der Theoriebildung innerhalb der Archäologie(n), der in den 1960er Jahren seinen Anfang nahm, folgte im Zeitraum von ca. 1990 bis 2010 die sog. Postprozessuale Archäologie, die u.a. noch bis vor kurzem die archäologischen Forschungen zum Neolithikum prägte. Der ursprünglich aus England stammenden Denkströmung lag der Historismus, der von der Einzigartigkeit historischer Ereignisse ausgeht, als fundamentales Konzept zugrunde. Weitere zentrale Ideen waren Individualität, individuelle Entscheidungen, soziale Integration, Identität sowie der Mensch als handlungsfähiger Akteur innerhalb seiner Umwelt. Es wurde eine interne Perspektive eingenommen, von der aus man versuchte, historische Ereignisse oder archäologische Befunde aus sich selbst heraus zu erklären.


Neuere Entwicklungen in der Erforschung des Neolithikums

Seit einigen Jahren bewegt man sich in der archäologischen Forschung allerdings wieder weg von dieser Sichtweise: Die neue Form der neolithischen Archäologie greift teilweise wieder auf Ideen des Prozessualismus zurück, d.h. sie nimmt gezielt ablaufende Prozesse, Dynamiken und Zyklen in den Blick. Prof. Gronenborn fasst diesen neuen bzw. wiederbelebten Ansatz unter den Begriff Neo-Prozessualismus. Welche Mechanismen, welche externen oder internen Auslöser sind dafür verantwortlich, dass es zu einem bestimmten historischen Ereignis kommt? Um diese Frage beantworten zu können, wird eine externe Perspektive eingenommen (oft auch von nicht-Archäologen), die Daten wie Bevölkerungs- oder Klima-Dynamiken explizit berücksichtigt und somit andere Wissenschaftsfelder mit einbezieht. Man geht davon aus, dass ein Zusammenspiel aus verschiedenen äußeren und inneren Einflussfaktoren jegliches Geschehen auf die eine oder andere Art bedingt und dass es unbedingt notwendig für das Verständnis eines archäologischen Befundes oder Sachverhaltes ist, diese Faktoren in der Analyse zu berücksichtigen.
Entscheidend dafür ist die Anwendung neuer methodischer Ansätze: An erster Stelle sind hier die sog. "Big Data" zu nennen, d.h. die Berücksichtigung möglichst umfassender Datenmengen. Wichtig ist auch, Ergebnisse anderer Forschungen mit einzubeziehen, da sich so die Möglichkeit ergibt, Vergleiche zwischen verschiedenen Perioden oder Regionen anzustellen. Der Fokus soll hierbei explizit auf Prozessen liegen und nicht auf Einzelphänomenen; Ziel ist es, die in der Vergangenheit abgelaufenen Dynamiken zu identifizieren. Darüber hinaus können naturwissenschaftliche Daten zu weiteren Erkenntnissen verhelfen, betrachtet man beispielsweise nicht nur die soziale sondern auch die biologische Identität eines Menschen oder einer Gruppe. Schließlich lassen sich über mathematische Modellierung einzelne Faktoren innerhalb eines zuvor erstellten Modells verändern, um so alternative Erklärungen für verschiedene Phänomene in Erwägung zu ziehen, zu testen und gegeneinander abzuwägen.
Trotz oder gerade wegen aller Unterschiede: Prof. Gronenborn betonte, dass Post-Prozessualismus und (Neo-)Prozessualismus sich keineswegs ausschließen müssen, sondern sich ergänzen können. Eine Vereinigung beider Perspektiven kann zu einem vollständigeren Bild von der antiken Lebenswelt führen.


Zyklische Prozesse

Wie es der Name bereits verrät und wie oben erläutert, ist das zentrale Element des (Neo-)Prozessualismus die Betrachtung von Prozessen; einzelne Ereignisse werden nicht isoliert betrachtet, sondern immer als Teil eines solchen dynamischen Prozesses gesehen. Prof. Gronenborn und andere Forscher gehen davon aus, dass die genannten Prozesse in bestimmten Zyklen ablaufen. Diese sind nicht statisch, sondern weisen eine gewisse Anpassungsfähigkeit auf, weshalb auch von adaptiven Zyklen gesprochen werden kann. In Bezug auf eine (antike) Gesellschaft/ein Gesellschaftssystem bedeutet das also, dass auf äußere Einflüsse, wie Umweltkatastrophen oder klimatische Veränderungen, reagiert wird. Eine sozio-ökonomische bzw. gesellschaftliche Gruppe besitzt die Möglichkeit, sich an veränderte Faktoren anzupassen und so schädlichen Einflüssen zu widerstehen, sodass diese keine Gefahr für das weitere Funktionieren und den Fortbestand der Gruppe darstellen. Es besteht also eine Widerstandsfähigkeit, eine Resilienz, die wie ein Schutzmechanismus für das System wirkt.
Vereinfacht gesagt läuft der Prozess also folgendermaßen ab: Ein funktionierendes Gesellschaftssystem wird durch eine Krise bedroht, diese muss erkannt und durch entsprechendes Eingreifen abgewendet werden; gelingt dies, so steht am Ende wieder die (angepasste) funktionierende Gesellschaft. Es ist dieser Mechanismus, der für den Zusammenhalt und das Funktionieren von Gesellschaften sorgt. Die menschliche Handlungsfähigkeit, die Fähigkeit auf verschiedene Faktoren zu reagieren und einzugreifen, formt auf diese Weise die immer wiederkehrenden, sich teilweise überschneidenden zyklischen Abläufe.
Um dieses recht theoretische Konzept zu verdeutlichen, führte Prof. Gronenborn die Beispiele der europäischen Linienbandkeramik und der Michelsberger Kultur an und zeigte, wie sich Resilienz als Ausdruck sozialer Dynamik im materiellen Befund niederschlägt. So kann Dekoration auf Keramikgefäßen bzw. die Veränderung derselben als Indikator für soziale Diversität herangezogen werden, welche ebenfalls zyklisch zu- und wieder abnimmt. Veränderungen der sozialen Diversität wiederum können Prof. Gronenborn zufolge als zyklische Resilienzstrategien gedeutet werden.


Ausblick: Mögliche Anknüpfungspunkte an die Thematik des GRK

An den Schluss seines spannenden und informationsreichen Vortrags stellte Prof. Gronenborn einige Anregungen, inwiefern sich die von ihm präsentierten Ansätze mit der Thematik des Graduiertenkollegs in Verbindung bringen lassen könnten. Unter anderem schlug er die Untersuchung von verschiedenen Zyklenmodellen über einen langen Zeitraum hinweg vor, bspw. von antiken Kulturen über das Mittelalter bis hin zur Neuzeit und Gegenwart. Die verschiedenen am Graduiertenkolleg beteiligten Disziplinen bieten für solche periodenübergreifenden Untersuchungen einen optimalen Ausgangspunkt.
Der Vortrag lieferte auf verschiedenste Arten Denkanstöße für unsere Dissertationsprojekte und wir freuen uns nun auf vertiefende Gespräche mit unserem neuen Kooperationspartner.

 

Mittwoch, 20. Dezember 2017

International Workshop "Resurrecting the Ancient Mind"





Logo of the International Workshop
“Resurrecting the Ancient Mind. Cognitive Science in Archaeology and Philology”
(Courtesy of Aleksandar Milenković and Evgeniya Kochkina).



On December 5th and 6th – after months of planning and preparing – the international workshop “Resurrecting the Ancient Mind. Cognitive Science in Archaeology and Philology” organized by doctoral candidates of our Research Training Group took place at the Institut Français in Mainz (see here the entire programme). The workshop started off with an opening talk and was divided into three panels corresponding to our different fields of research: 

  • Panel 1: Cognitive Theory in Art and Archaeology (speakers: Prof. Bob Kentridge, Prof. Paul Pettitt [both Durham], Prof. Christoph Huth [Freiburg]), organized by Katharina Zartner and Sonja Speck, with the kind help of Prof. Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser
  • Panel 3: Cognitive Linguistics and Philology (speakers: Dr. Ines Köhler [Berlin], Prof. Anthony Corbeill [Oxford], John R. Taylor [Otago]), organized by Shahrzad Irannejad, Mirna Kjorveziroska, Marie-Charlotte von Lehsten and Oxana Polozhentseva, with the kind help of PD Dr. Annemarie Ambühl and Prof. Tanja Pommerening


Read about the enlightening talks, short presentations by the PhD students, the ensuing fruitful discussions and the various outcomes of the workshop in four separate blog entries.



Opening Talk: Archaeology, Mind and Material Engagement: On the Cognitive Ecology of Marks, Lines and Traces

A Weblog Entry by Aimee Miles


Our international workshop, “Resurrecting the Ancient Mind,” opened with a talk by Dr. Lambros Malafouris. His central query: How do the artistic and technological achievements of early prehistoric cultures help us interpret the interactive relationships between brain, body, and nature that have conspired to shape human cognitive evolution over millennia? 

This is the territory where archaeology and cognitive sciences converge, and it remains terra incognita in the field of archaeology, where few attempt to bridge the divide between the material and cognitive realities of the past. That must change, says Dr. Lambros Malafouris, who dares archaeologists to inquire: “Where is that mind that we cannot excavate?” 

In his talk, “Archaeology, Mind and Material Engagement: On the Cognitive Ecology of Marks, Lines and Traces,” Dr. Malafouris invited colleagues to think about how the conception and production of material culture, as well as physical engagement with it, inform the organization and constitution of human minds. The aim of the opening talk, he said, was to challenge the line of reasoning that divorces the mind from the material world. 

Dr. Malafouris is Johnson Research and Teaching Fellow in Creativity, Cognition and Material Culture at Keble College and the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. Together with Professor Colin Renfrew, a pioneer of social and cognitive archaeology based at University of Cambridge, he has been developing an integrative analytical approach to the archaeology of mind, which he outlines in his 2013 book, How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement (Cambridge). 


Mind meets matter: Material Engagement Theory 


In a nutshell, Material Engagement Theory (MET) codifies the feedback processes connecting mind, matter, and agency. Its basic premise is that human minds develop relationally, meaning that our modes of physical action and collaboration with elements of the material world have gradually reordered our thought patterns in the course of human evolutionary history. To put it another way: We humans sense, conceptualize, and orient ourselves with respect to the material world, and when we make things or act on the environment, we also shape our own intelligence through habitual mental action that is linked to our embodied behaviors. 

“Humans construct signs, draw lines, and leave memory traces”, Dr. Malafouris elaborates. “Importantly, they maintain a transactional and creative relationship with other things, human and nonhuman, that surround them. This applies to the modern forager of digital information as it applies to the Paleolithic hunter-gatherer and tool-maker.” 

This Theory of Material Engagement, as presented by Dr. Malafouris, derives from three core tenets: First, the concept of the extended mind holds that elements of the material world are intellectually assimilated by minds in action, so that the former become “consubstantial“ with the latter. Second, the hypothesis of enactive signification holds that abstract concepts emerge from embodied experience with the material world (i.e. making things), and that artifacts (material signs) have a dual nature as both conveyors and receptacles of meaning. Finally, the principle of material agency holds that objects can themselves behave as agents that influence human thought and action. 

Dr. Malafouris cites the classic example of the blind person‘s stick first put forward by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Michael Polanyi, whereby tactile sensation is projected from the environment to the tip of the walking stick, and the brain treats the stick as an extension of the body. In this scenario, it is difficult to say where the blind person‘s self begins and where it ends, as the stick is employed as a perceptual prosthetic. The takeaway is that human experiences “are mediated and often constituted by use of technology and artifacts,” Dr. Malafouris says, and should therefore be considered to be a “continuous, integral and active part of human mind.” 

“Whatever actual form the stick might have taken in the history of our species,” he continues, “from earliest Paleolithic stone tools to the latest technology, its primary function was that of the pathway instead of the boundary. Through the stick the human species, much like the blind man in our example, feels, discovers, and makes sense of the environment, but also enacts a way forward.” 


Dr. Lambros Malafouris delivering the Opening Talk (photo by Sandra Hofert).


The ontology of lines in Paleolithic cave art 


To underscore what this interplay of mind and matter meant for early human cognitive development, consider the Upper Paleolithic (Aurignacian culture) cave paintings from Chauvet, in southern France. Dr. Malafouris devotes particular attention to the "Panel of the Horses" on the north wall of the Hillaire Chamber, which was inscribed in charcoal ca. 32,000 to 30,000 years ago. In the lively tableau, horses and aurochs gallop in profile across the limestone wall and a pair of rhinoceri clash in the foreground, rendered in fluid black lines. 

But there is more to an image than its visual content. Dr. Malafouris focuses on the kinds of lines that are employed in early cave art, drawing inspiration from the work of Tim Ingold (2008), who points out that a circle could be perceived either as a static perimeter, or as a trajectory of human movement. He also follows in the footsteps of Carole Fritz and Gilles Tosello (2007), who attempt to decipher painted walls by diagramming the order of line-making that resulted in formal pictures, thereby re-enacting the interaction of mind and matter. In that vein, Dr. Malafouris proposes that a close study of individual, intersecting strokes – the isolated gestures that compose a line drawing – should be the first move towards empirical characterization of the cognitive processes implicated in the creation of early prehistoric images. 

Taking this enactive perspective, lines are no longer viewed as solid boundaries, but rather as dynamic interfaces between thought and action. A picture is a combination of lines presented as meaningful information, which serves to transfer information across time and space, Dr. Malafouris continues. But a picture is also a form of “representational illusion”: it depicts something identifiable — like a rhinoceros — and yet the viewer easily intuits that the image, however evocative, is not the real thing. It is this phenomenology of perception that interests Dr. Malafouris, who observes, “Every image embodies an analogous perceptual puzzle.” 

Early pictorials are not to be interpreted merely as passive representational objects, he reasons, but rather as an “active prosthetic means through which humans learn to perceive and make sense of world around them” – akin to the blind person‘s stick. In this case, the Paleolithic cave painting is the probe that extends our visual perception and permits us to build perceptual consciousness. The image itself can question or challenge the way its audience experiences the world. The emergence of image-making thus goes hand-in-hand with that of image reception, representing an important inflection point in our cognitive evolution – and indeed pointing to the question of when we became human, he says. 

“The image makes it possible for the visual apparatus to interrogate itself and thus acquire sense of perceptual awareness not previously available. More simply, the image provides the scaffolding device that enables human perception to become aware of itself.” 

The more pressing question for cognitive archaeologists, according to Dr. Malafouris, is not when we began creating representations of our world, but when and how we began to comprehend what we were doing; thus, reaching the shores of meta-cognition and meta-representation. 

Dr. Malafouris’s challenging lecture set the stage for subsequent thematic discourses that structured the workshop; encompassing cognitive theory in archaeology and the study of art, cognitive approaches to natural phenomena and landscape, and cognitive linguistics and philology.


Panel 1: “Cognitive Theory in Art and Archaeology”

A Weblog Entry by Katharina Zartner and Sonja Speck





Aims and initial questions 



The first panel “Cognitive Theory in Art and Archaeology” at our international workshop was organised by the PhD students Sonja Speck and Katharina Zartner with the kind support of Prof. Dr. Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser. The main focus of the panel lay on iconographic and archaeological sources, as well as on the cognitive concepts embedded within them. In order to represent the broad spectrum of the theme and to mirror the particular interests in concepts of humanity and nature in our Research Training Group, we devised some thought-provoking questions as initial impulses for the invited speakers, as well as for the comprehensive and conclusive panel discussion. These questions were: 

  • What are possible applications of visual cognition in the field of art and visual studies?
  • How do shape, texture and colour of objects display their cultural meaning? 
  • What role do abstraction and simplification play in the production of images? 
  • How can cognitive sciences contribute to the understanding of the development of concepts of representation? 

The three invited speakers dealt with particular aspects of these and related questions as they were linked to their respective fields of research: 


From the psychological point of view 


The first contribution in the panel came from Prof. Bob Kentridge from the Psychology Department of Durham University who read a paper entitled “Can factors in the psychology of visual perception account for stylistic regularities in Palaeolithic art?”, which had been co-authored by his colleague Prof. Charles Heywood. 

At the beginning of his talk, Prof. Kentridge pointed out that there are certain consistencies in Palaeolithic rock art that persisted over several millennia, using horse depictions as an example. There are various theories why this might be the case, e.g. it could have been art for art´s sake or boundary markers, it could have been connected to some kind of hunting magic or shamanic rituals or psychological and neurophysiological factors could have played a role. Afterwards, Prof. Kentridge focused on the latter explanation. For the Palaeolithic hunter there were two main tasks linked to visual cognition: firstly, to detect prey in the landscape, and secondly, to differentiate between different types of prey. By explaining how the human eye works and how small our field of direct vision is, he demonstrated that the hunter is only able to discriminate his prey once it is fixated. With the help of a few simple graphics it was illustrated in a fascinating way that a certain oddity in single features (such as brightness, colour, motion and so on) attracts attention and – in case of a hunter – directs the gaze to a possible target. In contrast: oddity in combinations of different features does not attract special attention. 

The aim of the current research of Prof. Kentridge and his colleagues is to detect salient features of different prey animals with the help of photographs (where are primary and secondary fixations of a human observer?). In a second step, these results can be compared with the representations in ancient rock art to check if there are any correspondences between important salience points and the striking and recurrent features in the depictions. This might bring us one step closer to solving the puzzle why some features in rock art are depicted in a certain way and stay consistent over such a long period of time. 


On the origins of art 


The second speaker of the panel was Prof. Paul Pettitt from the Archaeology Department at Durham University who gave a lecture on “Cave art, cognitive style. Materials and methods for the scientific investigations of the origins of art”. 

In the beginning, Prof. Pettitt presented three different phases of the earliest art: The first one is the “Peripersonal phase” (~500.000 BP) during which art focuses on the body or on objects that are intimately associated with the body. The origins of art lie perhaps in body decoration practices. In the following “Extension phase” (~100.000 BP) art becomes extended to smaller and portable objects which are not closely associated with the body but can be carried around. Finally, in the third and so-called “Extrapersonal phase” (~40.000 BP) art is transferred to places and landscapes with increasing elaboration. 

While interpreting early art, one may be easily misled by symbolism – that is, we try to read too much into early “art” which might be nothing more than plain babbles and scribbles. Prof. Pettitt stressed that we should not look for symbolic or non-symbolic behaviour when interrogating the archaeological record. Full symbolism is intended when we can detect underlying evidence for some kind of cosmology or mythology or, more neutral, when material culture is used to make an explicit statement in the form of a coded message. Otherwise, there are plenty of other options why, for example, a certain set of colours may have been used, e.g. for decoration purposes or to enhance something, but there is not necessarily a symbolic meaning behind the colour. As another interesting example, Prof. Pettitt showed “pierres figures”, stones that naturally resemble the form of a human body and that have been intentionally modified to enhance those features. The phenomenon of pareidolia (to see human features in objects) is common in prehistoric art but the enhancement of the mentioned features may just be a hint to those resemblances rather than an expression of any symbolic meaning. This and other examples made it clear that we should be very careful when interpreting early art and that we tend to see too many symbols from time to time. 

After this fair warning, Prof. Pettitt raised the important question “Why cave art?”, or in other words: Why is cave art suitable for the study of the origins of art? Firstly, unlike in the case of archaeological excavations, we can still study the three-dimensional environment of the cave art which most closely resembles the original experience the creators of these artworks had. Secondly, a cave is a psychologically stimulating environment which may provide strong examples of cognitive effects due to the complexity of its visual resolution. This makes it possible to use methods from the field of visual psychology (e.g. as presented by Bob Kentridge). And last but not least, it is possible to study cave art over a long period of time which allows us to have a diachronic perspective to detect developments and changes. 


Principles of prehistoric art 


The panel’s third speaker, Prof. Christoph Huth from the Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology department at Freiburg University, presented a paper titled “The many faces of prehistoric pictorial representations” which focused on how prehistoric pictures work and why. 

Prof. Huth identified a set of characteristics that seem to be effective in most pictorial depictions of prehistoric cultures and are clearly distinct from those of literate state-like societies. Prehistoric depictions of wagons illustrate those characteristics very well. They are made in the same way everywhere from Europe to China in not following the rules of projective geometry, but using changing views in foldout pictures and not being able to show overlapping features and depth. It can be concluded that these pictures are not derived from a view. In fact, they are constructed by the mind. That is why they contain what is known and thought to be essential about the subject. 

The characteristics of prehistoric images correspond with some pictures produced by younger children. That does not mean that the people of prehistoric societies were childish, but rather adjusted to the requirements of life in small-scale agricultural communities. As Prof. Huth stated, acquiring different levels of pictorial skills happens in the same order for all humans and in accordance with the development of cognitive abilities in that area. So, conclusions about the level of cognitive abilities underlying the production of prehistoric images can actually be made. 

Another important property of pictures in prehistory is the notion that they work the same way as the depicted subject. Therefore, the pictures possess effectiveness, also vitality and agency is ascribed to them. In this context, Prof. Huth referred to the very essence of a picture as the “agens”. It is a fundamental property of an image that remains effective even when an image is copied, abbreviated or again substituted by the actual object. A perfect example can be found in Bronze and Iron Age situla art. To the South of the Alps in close proximity to the Etruscan civilization, situlae are decorated with a coherent pictorial sequence, while north of the Alps the same pictures occur but in an abbreviated manner as single motives rather than a whole story. According to Prof. Huth, in the context of prehistoric societies the “agens” of a picture alone is important. 


Composite beings 


Following the lectures of the invited speakers, the PhD students Sonja Speck and Katharina Zartner gave a brief lecture related to common aspects of their PhD projects to initiate the comprehensive panel discussion. Titled “Composite Beings – Mental Images in the Material World”, the lecture focused on images first formed in the mind through the human creative imagination by combining several elements known from previous sense perceptions and then transported into the material world as terianthropic representations. 

Composite beings are present amongst the earliest figurative art representations as demonstrated by the 35.000 to 40.000 years old so called “Löwenmensch figurine" from the Hohlenstein-Stadel cave in the Lonetal and remained part of human imagery in most cultures ever since. That is also the case for Neolithic Upper Egypt around 3700 to 3300 BC. From this period Sonja Speck presented a group of highly stylized anthropomorphic clay figures with the lower body fashioned in a solid pointed block and a small head formed like that of a bird. 

PhD students Sonja Speck and Katharina Zartner delivering their short presentations (photo by Sandra Hofert).

In her PhD project Katharina Zartner deals with a figure – the so-called hero with six curls – that we also see as some kind of hybrid, not because it is therianthropic but because it combines human and supernatural aspects. The major differences from concurrent human representations indicate the supernatural part of the composition. In the case of the hero with six curls these are an extraordinary hairstyle, nudeness and the face depicted en face. 

The aim of the brief lecture was to close in on the apparent popularity of composite beings in so many cultures and periods and the concepts lying behind them, as well as the effectiveness of those images in the visual communication process. In this light, hybrid forms were looked at with regard to their minimal counter-intuitiveness as stated by Pascal Boyer and Scott Atran, that is, the merging of only two categories like human and animal. Their minimal counter-intuitiveness makes the hybrids more memorable and attractive to human attention. Therefore, it was assumed that minimally counterintuitive elements can be vehicles for essential concepts in images that are to be transported in the process of visual communication. 

Today, we lack the background knowledge to understand concepts that were transmitted in ancient art. That is, questions such as “how to decode concepts in ancient images” and “how significant the observations of the modern researcher can actually be” were asked to spur the comprehensive panel discussion. 


Discussing cognitive theory in art and archaeology 


Falling in line with the questions asked, it was discussed how we can verify that a present-day observer is actually able to identify the correct animal elements in prehistoric and antique representations of hybrid beings. It was shown that through perceived similarity various associations can occur. Those associations can be ranked as more or less likely only by comparison with other contemporary representations. 

It was shown that through similarity there could be many different associations, that can be more or less likely only informed by other contemporary representations. 

On a more important note, it was asked what we mean, when we use the term “art”. A view shared by many is that art can be understood as visual culture in the sense that it is “an imposition of form or a physical realization of a concept” as phrased by Prof. Pettitt. If that is true of an object, may it be as simple and practical as a hand axe, it is part of visual culture and therefore art. Another argument put forward by Prof. Kentridge was that whenever there is a tension between sensation and perception, which are naturally different from each other, it might be the point where art comes into play. As perception is nothing else than becoming acquainted with the properties of the things in the world, subsequently we cannot help depicting these properties, rather than depicting what we actually see. This tension is essentially an artistic problem. 

Hence, as an example, pictures of chariots with the body folded up and four wheels represented, as we know them from many prehistoric cultures, are depictions of what people know, not what they see. It is very likely that this also applies to paleolithic art. Especially the highly accurate cave paintings of animals seem to represent the very sophisticated knowledge of their makers. 

Creating a link to panel 2 "Cognitive Approaches to Natural Phenomena and Landscape”, the discussion also moved to the relation of outdoor art and its correspondence to the surrounding landscape. This type of representation often holds information about the landscape itself and what happens in it. It shows the crucial importance of context for the interpretation of representations. Context, in this case, does not only include landscape, but also the medium, effort and organization needed for making the representation, the receiver of signals and many other aspects connected to the planning, making, using and perceiving of images.

Panel 2: “Cognitive Approaches to Natural Phenomena and Landscape”

A Weblog Entry by Sina Lehnig 




On the 6th of December, the speakers and audience gathered again at the beautiful location of the Institut Français to “resurrect the ancient mind” one more time. On this second day of our workshop, we were curious to find out more about how our ancestors and we ourselves engage with the surrounding environment, perceive and make use of its natural resources, influence the appearance of landscapes, and are, ourselves, in return inevitably shaped by nature. The second panel, “Cognitive Approaches to Natural Phenomena and Landscape” was designed to address these interesting issues of human-environment interaction. The PhD students Laura Borghetti and Mari Yamasaki had conceptualized and organized Panel 2 with the support of Prof. Tanja Pommerening. One of the major concerns of the organisers was to bring together researchers from different disciplines to achieve a varied and differentiated view on the topic of discussion. Therefore, representatives – including the organisers – of ecology, archaeology, anthropology and Byzantine Studies participated in the panel. 



Bridging the Gap between Human and Nature 

 


The first speaker of the panel was ecologist Prof. Almo Farina, from the University of Urbino. Beside being a founder of the new discipline of Soundscape Ecology, which uses the sound of an environment – including human, animal and weather-related sounds – to measure the health of a location, he is also interested in the development of human-nature relationships from past to present. The major issue of Farina´s presentation was the introduction of a new agency called the “Rural Sanctuary”. By Rural Sanctuary – a term usually associated with a holy place – he means an area where man and nature harmonise. He sees the developments of this relationship in modern times, the “Anthropocene Era”, in contrast to this concept: The human intrusion into the structure and function of many ecosystems results in the reduction of habitat for animals and a loss of biodiversity. On the other hand, the direct contact and communication between the individual consumers of resources like food and drink and nature is not given anymore. The acquisition of material and immaterial resources by humans passes through an abstract and diffuse system that does not allow building a relationship between the human consumer and the natural origin of the product. As a result, Farina calls for a revisiting of human-nature relationship. As a good reference to rethink the present lifestyle that excludes humans from their natural context, he draws attention to the heritage of ancient societies and their close interaction with the surrounding environment. The concept of the Rural Sanctuary is based on this natural, ancient relationship between man and nature. It has a dual mission: on the one hand, it provides resources that can be used by humans in a sustainable way, on the other hand, it offers support for the species that are adapted to the rural landscape: birds benefit from fields and plantations by eating remaining fruits which have not been harvested. Farina describes this condition as a “full world” where people and nature live in harmony, in contrast to an “empty world”, where nature is separated from people. In the Rural Sanctuary of Ortolando, Farina studies animal behaviour, eco-field recognition and ecoacoustic theories, and animal perception. In particular, in such sanctuaries, he could observe how new cognitive patterns develop in birds in connection to food procurement strategies. Similarly, the contact with nature opens to new thought pathways and new stimuli in the people engaged with it. Beside providing a good possibility to investigate the mutual impact on cognitive development of humans and animals, the Rural Sanctuary is also a place to educate people about sustainable land-use patterns. Farina states that humans need to understand the signs and messages nature sends to us to renew their relationship with it. 



Human Evolution in the Cultural Landscape 

 


The second speaker of the panel was archaeologist Dr. Fiona Coward from Bournemouth University. Her research focuses on the Palaeolithic periods of human history and particularly looks at how and why our ancestors were able to scale up their social lives from the small groups we lived in for much of our prehistory to the globalised world of today. In order to come closer to answering this question, she studies the interrelation between the physical and social environments in which this human evolution has taken place. 

In the framework of our panel, Coward made this last point a central issue of her presentation “Putting the 'fit' back into 'survival of the fittest': environments, landscapes, and multi-scalar evolution in the human lineage”. Beginning with Darwin's "survival of the fittest", she stated that his concept of fitness is often misunderstood as being the strongest, fastest or biggest, but actually should refer to how an individual fits into its surrounding environment, including climate, resources, etc. In this context, Coward highlights the social and cultural aspects – knowledge, artefacts, structures – that characterise a landscape. From her point of view, fitting into a special environment is equally important for evolution, as fitting in socially. In the creation of social and cultural landscapes, which becomes visible in the marking of and name assignment to special places, but also in the negotiation of landscape by drawing boarders and putting them down in maps, in which she sees an important factor that contributes to the shaping of the human behaviour and cognitive development. Against the hypothesis that these cultural landscapes emerged in the Upper Palaeolithic, she argues for a more gradual development that already began with chimpanzees that, for example, mark “special” places through accumulating stones and other objects in specific tree hollows or niches. As a result of cultural landscape formation for the human behaviour evolution, Coward sees features she refers to as "promiscuous sociality" involving non-humans, which resulted in phenomena that include the emergence of architecture, sacred places, animals that enter into relationships with human, tool making and trading networks. In her future research, she aims at clarifying whether cultural landscapes have the same impact on cognitive development in different climatic environments. 


Final Discussion 

 

The final discussion was guided by the chairs of Panel 2, Laura Borghetti and Mari Yamasaki. By providing an insight into their own research – connected to the topic of human-environmental interaction –, they intended to give a stimulus for further discussion. The objective of Mari Yamasaki's PhD project “Evolving concepts of seascape and marine fauna in the eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age”, is to find out how coastal communities conceptualised and interacted with their maritime environment. As indicators for human-seascape-interaction and a way to measure its intensity, she investigates parameters like the use and consumption of marine resources (shells, snails, fish etc.), the material culture that was developed for the exploitation of seafood (fishhooks, fishing nets, boats etc.), the location of sites and their orientation towards the sea, as well as the architecture of the coastal settlements. All these factors may also suggest whether a liminal environment, such as the coast, might have played a significant role in the development of specific cognitive patterns relating to the exploitation of its resources and potentials. 


Laura Borghetti and Mari Yamasaki delivering their joint presentation (photo by Sandra Hofert). 


Laura Borghetti presented her PhD project “The depiction of natural phenomena in the Byzantine literature of the 9th to 11th century”. The major aim of her study is to acquire an insight into how people from the Byzantine world perceived the appearance of natural phenomena like wind, storms, rainbows, tides, dew, etc. Therefore, she investigates mainly textural remnants of this period, including poetry, historiography and epistolography. 

After providing this trigger for further discussion, the guiding questions for the presented topics of the chairs and invited researchers were: 

  • Does the environment affect human cognitive development? 
  • Is it possible to apply cognitive paradigms to the study of landscape and natural phenomena? 
  • What archaeological evidence is there for the interaction between environment and cognitive development? 





Panel 3: “Cognitive Linguistics and Philology”

Ein Beitrag von Mirna Kjorveziroska.



Das dritte Panel des internationalen Workshops, organisiert von den Doktorandinnen Shahrzad Irannejad, Mirna Kjorveziroska, Marie-Charlotte von Lehsten und Oxana Polozhentseva mit Unterstützung durch PD Dr. Annemarie Ambühl und Prof. Tanja Pommerening, beschäftigte sich mit der Anwendung der Kognitionswissenschaft auf sprachliche Fragestellungen. Da dieser methodische Transfer an sich unter dem Rubrum der Kognitiven Linguistik bereits erprobt wurde und nunmehr gut etabliert ist, allerdings in erster Linie spezialisiert auf moderne Sprachsysteme unter dem Signum der Synchronie, bestand das Novum in der Eröffnung einer diachronen Perspektive: Im Zentrum des Interesses stand die Operationalisierbarkeit der Kognitionswissenschaft für vormoderne Sprachen bzw. ältere Sprachstufen. Prospektiv sollten daraus Impulse für eine weitere Transferleistung gewonnen werden – neben dem interdisziplinären Transfer (Psychologie‒Sprachwissenschaft) wurde auch ein intradisziplinärer Transfer angestrebt, indem der Fokus von der bisher favorisierten Wortebene auf Satz-, Text- oder Diskursebene verlagert wird. Es galt, linguistische und philologische Initialstimuli für die Überlegungen zu bekommen, inwieweit das kognitionswissenschaftliche Instrumentarium auch für die Analyse größerer sprachlicher Einheiten, in letzter Konsequenz fiktionaler Erzähltexte, fruchtbar gemacht werden kann.
 
For the english abstracts of the three talks see the post on our facebook-page!


Sturm und Zorn: Sprache als Schattentheater kognitiver Strukturen



Dr. Ines Köhler (Ägyptologie, Berlin/Leipzig) widmete ihren Vortrag ("Let the Sky Fall. How Landscape and Nature Shape Ancient Egyptian Thinking") der illustrativen Konkretisierung der prominenten abstrakten These, dass die Sprache im kognitiven System fest verankert ist bzw. einen integralen Teil des kognitiven Systems darstellt. Die Sprache wurde als sichtbares Symptom zur Diagnostik von unsichtbaren altägyptischen Denkmustern betrachtet, wobei vor allem Präpositionen als Kondensate solcher zu rekonstruierenden Konzeptualisierungsmuster fungierten: Während der Ausdruck ,im Regen‘ eine Konzeptualisierung des Regens als Container verrät, signalisiert sein in einigen Sprachen übliches Pendant ,unter dem Regen‘ eine Konzeptualisierung des Regens als Dach über unserem Kopf. Aber auch metaphorische Annäherungen von Sturm und Zorn indizieren die Berührungen der entsprechenden Konzepte im kognitiven System: Beides wird als eine Schrecken einjagende, bedrohliche, schwer zu kontrollierende Gewalt aufgefasst. Eine äußerliche Bewegung im Naturraum wird also mit einer inneren Bewegung im Emotionsraum parallelisiert.




Maskulina, Feminina und die Ordnung der Welt: Das grammatische Geschlecht als Chiffre des Denkens



Prof. Anthony Corbeill (Latinistik, University of Virginia) untersuchte in seinem als "Übung im linguistischen Determinismus" kategorisierten Vortrag ("Perceiving the Roman World through Latin Grammatical Gender") den Einfluss des lateinischen grammatischen Geschlechts auf die Weltwahrnehmung der Römer. Unter der Prämisse, dass das Genus nicht nur eine formale morphologische Kategorie darstellt, sondern auch mit semantischer Energie aufgeladen ist und daher Bedeutungen generieren und freisetzen kann, kreiste der Vortrag eben um die Frage, wie das grammatische Geschlecht das Denken über die Welt zu infizieren und die einzelnen Sinnstiftungsakte in Bezug auf die menschliche Umgebung vor- und mitzuformen vermag. Ausgangspunkt war ein großes, altes Fragezeichen der Indogermanistik, die sich in ihrem komparatistischen Zugriff mit der Variabilität des Genus in miteinander verwandten Einzelsprachen konfrontiert sah, dass beispielsweise ,Baum‘ maskulin, arbor aber feminin ist, obwohl der deutsche und der lateinische Signifikant einen identischen Referenzbereich in der empirischen Wirklichkeit haben. Anhand einer Synopse von Äußerungen aus der lateinischen Tradition bis hin zu Jacob Grimms Überlegungen in der Deutschen Grammatik wurde der theoretische Diskurs über die Genus-Problematik diachron nachgezeichnet, während konkrete Beispiele aus der lateinischen Dichtung aufzeigten, dass die Dichter selbst – namentlich Vergil – für die weitreichenden Implikationen des grammatischen Geschlechts ebenfalls sensibilisiert waren und dieses grammatische Phänomen literarisch ausbeuteten. Ein Seitenblick auf empirische Studien über Genuszuordnungen als kognitive Vorgaben in modernen Sprachen komplettierte diese Apotheose des Genus, das vor diesem Hintergrund seine grammatische Sterilität abwarf: Indem die Maskulina und Feminina mit ihrem physischen Geschlecht korreliert werden, profilieren sie sich zum substantiellen Kriterium für die Ordnung der Welt, die in männliche und weibliche, aktive und passive Kategorien zerlegt und somit ihres Status eines undurchschaubaren Monoliths beraubt wird.


Prof. Anthony Corbeill bei seinem Vortrag "Perceiving the Roman World through Latin Grammatical Gender" (Foto: Sandra Hofert).


Die Saga eines Liquids: Wor(l)d ‒ Wort und Welt


John R. Taylors (Linguistik, University of Otago) Vortrag "Words and the World" widmete sich den Mechanismen der sprachlichen Referenz, dem Verhältnis zwischen Sprache und Welt, prägnant eingefasst in die englische Assonanz der Relationsglieder word und world, wobei der minimale lautliche Unterschied, kondensiert in einem einzigen Liquid, in einer Disproportion mit der maximalen Komplexität ihrer Interaktion steht. Diese Überlegungen sind unter das Hyperonym der Bedeutungsforschung zu subsumieren, die der Bedeutung eines Wortes als einer sinnlich nicht greifbaren Größe entweder intrasprachlich, durch Erforschung der syntagmatischen und paradigmatischen Relation des interessierenden Wortes zu anderen Wörtern innerhalb derselben Sprache, oder durch Transgression des rein sprachlichen Skopus, unter Berücksichtigung der mit den konkreten Wörtern bezeichneten außersprachlichen Gegenstände und Zustände, näherzukommen versucht. Letzteres, legitimiert durch eine Autorität des britischen Empirismus, John Locke, dem zufolge die Bedeutung einiger Wörter, die für physische Qualitäten wie ,heiß‘, ,schwer‘, oder ,scharf‘ stehen, ausschließlich auf der Grundlage körperlicher Erfahrung zu erschließen ist, findet eine große Anwendung unter anderem als Explikationswerkzeug innerhalb der modernen Übersetzungstheorie, die das bidirektionale Potential der binären Chiffre ,Wort‒Welt‘ exponiert: Ein Wort der Ausgangssprache generiert ein mentales Bild beim Übersetzer (word-to-world), das dann seinerseits mit einem Wort der Zielsprache ausgedrückt wird (world-to-word). Zu bedenken ist jedoch, dass die Wörter nicht nur isolierte Einzeldinge benennen, sondern dass die referentialisierte Welt feststehenden Skripts, Szenarien oder Handlungssequenzen unterworfen ist und somit einen prozessualen Charakter hat. Zudem ist der Polyvalenz der Wörter Rechnung zu tragen bzw. der Tatsache, dass die Relation zwischen Wort und Welt keine monogame ist: Zur Füllung onomasiologischer Lücken in einer Weltdomäne werden gelegentlich Wörter in Anspruch genommen, die mit einer anderen Weltdomäne bereits in Beziehung stehen. 


Die Weinpresse im Gehirn: Griechisch-arabischer Übersetzungsrausch


Entsprechend der organisatorischen Maxime, einen möglichst engen Bezug der Diskussion zu den einzelnen Promotionsprojekten des Graduiertenkollegs sicherzustellen und von der Expertise der eingeladenen Teilnehmer im Hinblick auf konkrete Aspekte des eigenen Forschungsthemas zu profitieren, hat Doktorandin Shahrzad Irannejad (Mainz, Medizingeschichte) innerhalb des Textpanels ein kurzes Fallbeispiel präsentiert und die Anwesenden geradezu durch ein Schlüsselloch in ihre Dissertation ("Localization of the Avicennean inner senses in a Hippocratic body") hineinblicken lassen. Thematisiert wurde die vormoderne Benennung einer anatomischen Struktur, Torcular herophili. Während Galen sich für die terminologische Lösung ληνός (lēnos, ,Weinpresse‘) entscheidet und somit ein Instrument zur Traubenverarbeitung, also ein Wort aus dem Register der Kulturtechniken in der vegetabilen Natur als Bild zur Referentialisierung eines neurologischen Bestandteils des menschlichen Körpers mobilisiert, gibt im 9. Jahrhundert der arabische Übersetzer Hunyan Galens ληνός mit al-miʿṣara wieder. Dabei handelt es sich beim arabischen terminus technicus möglicherweise um ein mechanisches Konstrukt, um eine ad-hoc-Bildung vom arabischen Verb für ,pressen‘, da die Weinpresse als Gegenstand der empirischen Wirklichkeit dem Übersetzer möglicherweise nicht bekannt war, sondern lediglich die morphologischen Regularien für ihre substantivische Derivation im arabischen Sprachkosmos. Daran lässt sich zum einen die Arbeit am anatomischen Fachvokabular beobachten, zum anderen aber auch die Abkoppelung einer sprachlichen Entität von ihrer nicht existenten kognitiven Grundlage.

Donnerstag, 7. Dezember 2017

Vorstellung des Habilitationsprojekts von Sebastian J. Müller: "Natürliche Ideen"

Ein Beitrag von Rebekka Pabst.
 
In der Plenumssitzung am 23. November 2017 gewährte der am GRK 1876 assoziierte Dr. Sebastian J. Müller dem Trägerkreis sowie den Kollegiatinnen und Kollegiaten einen Einblick in sein Habilitationsvorhaben "Natürliche Ideen". Während seiner Präsentation erläuterte er, welche Fragestellungen ihn zur dieser Thematik geführt haben und beantwortet werden sollen.
 

Ziele des Projektes

Ziel des Habilitationsvorhabens von Sebastian J. Müller ist es, dazu beizutragen, soziale und kulturelle Phänomene aus Geschichte und Gegenwart vollständiger erklären zu können. Dabei geht Sebastian J. Müller davon aus, dass bestimmte mentale Repräsentationen natürlicher sind als andere. Sie treten deshalb häufiger auf und besitzen gegenüber anderen, unnatürlichen Repräsentationen einen Vorsprung bezüglich ihrer Dauerhaftigkeit und Wirkmächtigkeit.
 

Fragestellungen und zentrale These

Fragestellungen des Habilitationsvorhabens sind zunächst, weshalb es zu Persistenzen, d. h. dem Bestehenbleiben eines Zustandes über einen längeren Zeitraum hinweg, von religiösen Welterklärungen, Moralsystemen und autoritären Herrschaften kommen kann, die selbst weder universalistisch sind noch sich auf Schaden und Nutzen beschränken.
Die zentrale These von Sebastian J. Müller ist dabei, dass soziale, kulturelle, politische und historische Tatsachen teilweise durch die natürliche Beschaffenheit des menschlichen Geistes erklärt werden müssen. Dieser Umstand führt dazu, dass bestimmte Ideen natürlicher erscheinen als andere. Anders formuliert bedeutet dies, dass manche Ideen für den menschlichen Geist einfacher nachzuvollziehen sind als andere.
 

Evolution und Architektur des menschlichen Geistes

Das Projekt verbindet dabei ganz wesentliche Ergebnisse aus Evolutionsbiologie und -psychologie, Vor- und Frühgeschichte sowie sozialer Anthropologie miteinander. Die Evolution über Millionen von Jahren stellt hierbei die einzige plausible Erklärung für die Bildung einer Struktur des menschlichen Geistes dar, die bestimmte Ideen natürlich und andere unnatürlich macht.
Für die Evolutionäre Psychologie gilt dabei, dass soziale und kulturelle Befunde stellenweise psychologisch erklärt werden können. Annahme ist hierbei, dass es eine universelle kognitive Natur des Menschen gibt und dass die natürliche Beschaffenheit des Geistes die Variabilität menschlichen Handelns und der menschlicher Kultur ermöglicht und begrenzt. 
Dagegen können psychologische Befunde teilweise evolutionär erklärt werden. Zentrale Mechanismen der menschlichen Evolution sind Mutation und Selektion. Diese Regeln der Evolution gelten dabei nicht nur für den menschlichen Körper, sondern auch für den menschlichen Geist. 
Anders formuliert bedeutet dies, dass die Beschaffenheit des menschlichen Geistes eine Folge der Bedingungen ist, unter denen sich dieser entwickelte. Der menschliche Geist ist dabei nicht als Allzweckwerkzeug, sondern viel eher als Werkzeugkasten zu verstehen (Modularität des Geistes).
 

Natürliche und unnatürliche Ideen

Um eine "natürliche Idee" von einer "unnatürlichen Idee" abgrenzen zu können, hat Sebastian J. Müller vier Kriterien entwickelt, die eine Idee erfüllen muss, um als "natürlich" bezeichnet werden zu können. Diese Kriterien sind:
  1. Verständlichkeit: Die Idee ist für den menschlichen Geist einfach nachzuvollziehen und nicht sonderlich komplex.
  2. Relevanz: Die Idee ist in einem bestimmten Kontext von großer Wichtigkeit.
  3. Interessantheit: Die Idee umschreibt ein anregendes Thema/ Themenfeld.
  4. Erinnerbarkeit: Die Idee ist leicht zu memorieren und wiederzugeben.
Nur wenn eine Idee alle vier Kriterien erfüllt, ist sie als eine "natürliche Idee" zu verstehen. Für den Fall, dass keines oder eines dieser vier Kriterien nicht erfüllt werden, ist eine Idee als "unnatürlich" zu definieren.
 

Soziale und kulturelle Phänomene vor dem Hintergrund natürlicher Ideen

Zur Veranschaulichung, was eigentlich "natürliche Ideen" im Gegensatz zu "unnatürlichen Ideen" sind, gab Sebastian J. Müller ein Beispiel zu persistenten Welterklärungen.
So definierte er religiöse Welterklärungen als eine "natürliche Idee". Religiöse Welterklärungen sind bis zum heutigen Tag universell verbreitet und erfreuen sich einer enormen Akzeptanz innerhalb der jeweiligen Glaubensgemeinschaften. Dies steht jedoch im Gegensatz zu ihrem geringen explanatorischen Erfolg. Dagegen dürfen wissenschaftliche Welterklärungen als "unnatürliche Idee" verstanden werden. Sie waren lange Zeit nicht vorhanden und haben sich erst spät entwickelt. Im Gegensatz zu ihrem enormen explanatorischen Erfolg werden sie heute nur stellenweise akzeptiert.
Vereinfachend erklärt, bedeutet dies, dass Religion eine natürliche Idee ist. Die Akteure (Götter, Heilige) der jeweiligen Glaubensrichtungen sind für den menschlichen Geist leicht vorstellbar und nachvollziehbar. Ihre Gefühle, Aktionen und Handlungen besitzen einen hohen Wiedererkennungswert. Der menschliche Geist ist in der Lage, sich mit diesen Figuren zu identifizieren. Dagegen sind (Natur-)Wissenschaften unnatürlich. Ihre Akteure besitzen keinen Wiedererkennungswert und sind für den menschlichen Geist nur schwer zu verstehen. So haben wir beispielsweise keine Idee, keine Vorstellung, kein Bild von einem Elektron, d. h. davon, wie ein Elektron aussieht und was es tut.
 

Fazit

Zusammenfassend lassen sich folgende Erkenntnisse aus dem Vortrag von Sebastian J. Müller ziehen:
  1. Der Geist ist evolutionär entstanden und an die Herausforderungen angepasst, mit denen die Menschen in der Hauptzeit ihrer Entwicklung konfrontiert waren.
  2. Hierdurch sind manche Ideen natürlicher als andere, da sie für Menschen verständlicher, relevanter, interessanter und erinnerbarer sind.
  3. Dies ermöglicht die Erklärung bestimmter sozialer Phänomene, zum Beispiel die Persistenz religiöser Welterklärungen.

Samstag, 25. November 2017

Byzantine Winds at the National Conference of Italian Association of Byzantine Studies

A weblog entry by Laura Borghetti

When the honour of an official invitation to an important conference matches a bit of homesickness, travelling for academic reasons might turn into a truly marvellous experience. This is the way I felt after being invited to present a paper at the "XIV Giornata di Studi dell’AISB – Bisanzio nello spazio e nel tempo. Costantinopoli, la Siria", which took place in Rome on November the 10th-11th, 2017. The two day-long conference was organized by the "Associazione Italiana di Studi Bizantini" – in particular by Prof. Dr. Silvia Ronchey and Dr. Francesco Monticini – under the patronage of the Pontificio Istituto Orientale in Rome that kindly made the grand Aula Magna and other rooms available to the speakers and the audience [fig. 1]. 

Figure 1. Prof. Dr. Silvia Ronchey (Università degli Studi Roma Tre), Prof. Dr. Peter Schreiner (Universität Köln), Laura Borghetti (Universität Mainz) (Photo by Laura Borghetti).


The main aim of the "XIV Giornate" was to offer a wide overview of several aspects of the more recent research in the framework of the Byzantine Studies, from the philological, historical and artistic points of view. What distinguished this conference was its intention to match the authority of university professors – both Italian and international – with the more recent results of younger PhD students’ ongoing projects. This is how students from all over the world (Bloomington – Indiana, Mainz, Oxford, Roma) had the chance to sit and discuss together with outstanding academic personalities, such as Prof. Dr. Giuseppe De Gregorio (Università degli Studi di Salerno), Prof. Dr. Marc Lauxtermann (Oxford University), Prof. Dr. Paolo Odorico (EHESS Paris), Prof. Dr. Antonio Rigo (Università di Venezia Ca’ Foscari, president of the Associazione Italiana di Studi Bizantini), Prof. Dr. Yuri Saveliev (Russian Imperial Academy of Arts), Prof. Dr. Peter Schreiner (Universität Köln) [fig. 2]. The dean of the Pontificio Istituto Orientale himself, Father David Nazaar, also underlined how important it is to support younger scholars in their scientific path, especially in our historico-political era, when much of the former territories of the Byzantine Empire – together with their heritage of artistic masterpieces and manuscript tradition – are constantly threatened by dictatorships, internal wars and terrorism.

Figure 2. The Aula Magna at the Pontificio Istituto Orientale (Rome) (Photo by Laura Borghetti).

In conclusion, I can say that the experience of the "XIV Giornate dell’AISB" was for me very positive and fruitful. Going back to places such as the rooms and library of the Pontificio Istituto Orientale, where I spent long days during my studying time, and having the chance to present the most recent results of my dissertation project ("The Wind in the Macedonian Constantinople. Physics, Topography and Literary Role of a Natural Phenomenon") in that very framework, has been exciting and bracing. Both the exchange of ideas about sources and methodology with PhD colleagues and the positive feedbacks that I received from several academic personalities have made the conference in Rome a great incentive for my upcoming months of research.


Mittwoch, 15. November 2017

A report of the 2nd Meeting of the Research Network “Food in Anatolia and its Neighbouring Regions”, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Istanbul, November 03-04, 2017

A weblog entry by Sina Lehnig.

Once again, our research network "Food in Anatolia and its Neighbouring Regions" came together at the beautiful location of the Istanbul Department of the DAI (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut). Right behind the building, we were able to enjoy a stunning view of the Bosporus (Fig.1). What could be a better place to discuss the close interrelation between food and culture, than this melting pot between Europe and Asia?

Fig.1: The foreign researchers – including myself – were accommodated in one of the guestrooms at the DAI. From here, we had a wonderful view of the Bosporus (Photo by Sina Lehnig).
The demand for food is a basic human need and therefore a defining characteristic of all societies. What we eat and drink strongly reflects our cultural background, status, mobility and the knowledge we have of our natural environment. Although the investigation of diet could contribute to our understanding of past human societies, research approaches that address the interrelation between food and culture are still rare in the ancient cultural studies. In order to attract more attention to the important topic of past human diet, the Istanbul Department of the DAI has established the research network "Food in Anatolia and its Neighbouring Regions". It is one in a set of five networks that took place over the past ten years, addressing several themes like "Power and Hierarchies in the Urban and Rural Environment" and "Nature and Cult in Anatolia". Each network works for a period of three years, with up to two meetings each year. During the first meeting of the research network in March 2017, the participants – both junior and senior researchers from international institutes and universities – introduced themselves with their main research topics, focusing on dietary issues. It turned out that the participants of our network are investigating food in many different time periods, by using a great variety of methods reaching from the analysis of ancient written sources, over to the examination of pottery, to the study of faunal and botanical remains. These different research approaches obviously bear a great diachronic and interdisciplinary potential for the investigation of ancient diet within the network. A further point of our first meeting was the discussion of key questions that will frame the following sessions. For each session, we assigned a group of participants that will bear the responsibility for the organisation of themes, contributions and the invitation of guest speakers.

Finally we got together again in November 2017 to talk about the topics of "Food and Landscape" as well as "Food and Mobility". The organisational issues of the session were taken care of by Jesko Fildhuth, Bernhard Ludwig, Wolf-Rüdiger Teegen and me. 

It was my responsibility to open our meeting with an introduction to the topic of "Food and Landscape". The aim of my presentation was to sensitize the audience for the theme and to trigger questions that can be asked regarding the several types of landscapes that can be found in Anatolia and the surrounding areas. Since there is still no consistent definition of landscape in archaeology, as a first step, the term itself had to be discussed: Following several definitions of landscape from the scientific disciplines of ecology, geography and archaeology, landscape can be understood as a concept in between human cognition and action on the one hand, and independently existing natural resources on the other hand. Humans encounter a natural landscape and develop techniques to exploit and use this region. Here, the demand for food and drinking, is probably one of the most important factors that caused the human impact on the natural environment. Nevertheless, human knowledge of resource exploitation and cultural techniques, and also the preferences for specific food as well as climatic conditions differ in the case of each time period and region. Therefore, it can be assumed that we are dealing with a great diversity of landscape types in the research area. In order to achieve an interregional and diachronic comparison of the different landscapes in Anatolia, I made the proposal to gather information from the research areas that congregate in our network according to: natural resources available, resources that were actually used or not, cultural techniques applied to exploit a region, introduction of non-local plants and animals, as well as human-induced negative impact on the natural environment. 

Following my introduction, we had two contributions to the topic of "Food and Landscape": Peter Pavúk from the Charles University of Prague talked about natural resource exploitation, animal husbandry and storage in Troy during the Late Bronze Age period. Furthermore, Jean-Denis Vigne from the Muséum national d´Histoire in Paris, France gave a lecture about Early Neolithic Cyprus (Fig. 2). In the focus of his presentation was the introduction– both intentional and unintentional – of animal species, including wild boar, deer and mice from the mainland to the island of Cyprus. While it was possible to observe a transfer of animals, plants, raw material and architecture from the Anatolian mainland during the Early Neolithic, the island had a more isolated and independent development during the later periods. Although we already gained a great insight into food and landscape creation by these two lectures, the topic has the potential for much more presentations, which we will continue to pursue in our next sessions. 

Fig. 2: Jean-Denis Vigne talking about Early Neolithic Cyprus (Photo by Sina Lehnig).
My co-organiser Wolf-Rüdiger Teegen, who is an anthropologist and archaeologist at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, gave a further introduction to our second guiding theme: "Food and Mobility" (Fig. 3). Here, he focused on indicators of food and human mobility that can be traced by the application of isotope analysis. The study of oxygen isotopes allows us to determine geographic origin. They can help us to understand the trading of animals and the interconnection of different regions. Another interesting point of his introduction was the topic of parasites as markers of mobility. Matching this aspect of mobility, his guest speaker Piers Mitchell from the University of Cambridge, gave a great insight into his studies of parasites, originating from latrines in medieval Palestine (Fig.4). Furthermore, we heard a lecture by Elif Ünlü from the Bogazici University, about the increased trade of agricultural products within Early Bronze Age trade networks in the Eastern Mediterranean. Finally, Eva Winter from the University of Jena closed our conference day with a very entertaining lecture on her research on the role of donkeys in antiquity. 

Fig. 3: My co-organiser Wolf-Rüdiger Teegen giving his introduction to "Food and Mobility" (Photo by Sina Lehnig).

Fig. 4: Our guest speaker Piers Mitchell gave his lecture on parasitology via Skype (Photo by Sina Lehnig).
After discussing food in ancient times the entire day, we developed a great appetite to test some contemporary Turkish dishes. Therefore, to round off the day, the DAI invited us to one of the cosy restaurants nearby the Istiklal Caddesi (Fig. 5). My highlight was the Künefe, a Turkish and Arabic pastry, made from cheese and kadaif noodles, which was served as a dessert. 

Fig. 5: Enjoying Turkish dishes! (Photo by Sina Lehnig).

The next day was dedicated to the visit of the Süleymaniye Mosque (Fig. 6) and its kitchen complexes. Here, we got a guided tour around the area (Fig. 7). 

Fig. 6: Beautiful Süleymaniye Mosque (Photo by Sina Lehnig).

Fig. 7: Our guide and the network in front of the mosque (Photo by Sina Lehnig).

This month's meeting of our research network was again a very fruitful experience for me. I had the possibility to exchange with people who not only have the same research interests as mine, but also are nice, friendly and valuable new contacts for me. It was a lot of fun to talk shop, eat, drink and experience wonderful Istanbul with them. I am already looking forward to our next meeting in March 2018. 

Will keep you posted!