A storm approaching by Schreckenstein Castle by Ludwig Richter, Oil on canvas 1835, © Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig


The Department Humans and Environment

Researchers from the disciplines of archaeology, history, onomastics and climate history are working on a »climate history« of Eastern Europe in the narrow sense.

Prof. Dr. Matthias Hardt heads the department.


Humans and Environment

Human influence on the natural and cultural landscape of Eastern Europe since the transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages and into the present lies at the heart of this department’s focus: How did the appearance of the earth’s surface change under the influence of political, social and economic factors? How did inter-ethnic relationships develop, with a particular focus on settlement structures? How have rural and urban ways of life shifted over the course of modernisation processes since the Middle Ages? What impact do confessionalisation, industrialisation and political upheaval as well as the consequences of wars, conquests and both natural and anthropogenously shaped catastrophes have? 

Widely different disciplines work hand in hand to investigate human influence on the environment. These examinations link methods, accesses and approaches from archaeology, medieval history, Byzantine studies, historical East-Central European studies, linguistics as well as architectural and environmental studies. The research projects also comprise approaches from the natural sciences, such as geography and climate history. 

Hacksilver from a hoard found by Cortnitz

Subject Areas of the Department Humans and Environment

Climate and Landscape

This subject examines relationships between humans and its environment through interdisciplinary cooperation between archaeology, history and earth and natural sciences. These disciplines offer insights into the connection between climate change, changing landscapes and human influence on these processes.


Spatial movements and encounters between persons, groups or objects unleashed varying impacts on the societies they touched. In East-Central Europe, such processes can be continually observed and examined from Late Antiquity to the modern age.


Whether ethnic, social, cultural, political, economic or religious — borders are omnipresent in every sphere of life. This subject area illuminates them across different sources, disciplines and epochs, making use of modern investigative methods from the natural sciences.

Resource Use and Land Development

The question of resource use plays an important role in the history of Eastern Europe. Interdisciplinary teams explore the complex processes of cultivation, land development, hunting and the development of raw material sources.

Completed Research Themes and Projects




Publications 2017–2020

From the Department’s Work

Digital exhibition »Weathered History«

Objects as witnesses of historic climate change. The GWZO’s virtual exhibition »Die Wetterseiten der Geschichte / Weathered History« by Google Arts & Culture was curated by Diana Lucia Feitsch (GWZO) and Dr. Martin Bauch (Freigeist Junior Researchers’ Group The Dantean Anomaly (1309–1321) at the GWZO). In the first episode of the GWZO video series »Ostblick« [Eastern View], the curators offer a detailed insight into how the exhibition came to be. They explain the motivations behind its development, relate the difficulties of searching for exhibition objects and present their personal favourite pieces.

watch video
Thumbnail zur GWZO-Videoreihe "Ostblock"

Castellum Pannonicum Pelsonense

Working with partners, we are publishing a book series on interdisciplinary research in the Central Danube region.

learn more
Büchertisch mit Ausgaben der Reihe Castellum Pannonicum Pelsonense

We’re blogging...

about »The Dantean Anomaly Project: Climate History and Society in the Late Middle Ages«.

learn more
Startseite des Mittelalterblogs auf Hypotheses

Digital exhibition »Castrum Virtuale: Time Travel to the Roman Fortress of Fenékpuszta«

This virtual exhibition centres around a 15 ha. Roman fortress in Keszthely-Fenékpuszta in today’s Hungary, erected in the 4th century and surviving until the 7th century. Three-dimensional reconstructions of defensive and monumental structures in models, animations and films offer insights into around 300 years of local history. In addition, the exhibition risks a glance into the future: a panorama of visualisations of partial and complete reconstructions, as well as protective constructions of a planned archaeological park show ways of preserving and valorising this significant cultural monument.

Curated and academically supported by Orsolya Heinrich-Tamáska (GWZO), Roland Prien (HCCH University of Heidelberg) and D. Zsolt Vasáros (Budapest University of Technology and Economics).

learn more
Modell 1 aus der Ausstellung "Castrum Virtuale"

Early East-Central Europe

We are publishing this book series in cooperation with the Institute for Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Institute for Archaeology of the University of Rzeszów. The volumes present a broad spectrum of historical phenomena, observable at the dawn of East-Central European history and evidenced by written, archaeological and onomastic sources.

learn more


Guest Research at the GWZO



Conferences, Guest Lectures and More

02.05.2024, 14:00 -
03.05.2024, 17:00


Assessing the Fluvial Anthropocene. Agency, Materiality and Culture in Eastern European Hydroscapes

Location: GWZO Leipzig

Show PDF


Making Research Results Accessible

19.03.2021 -
Guckkastenbild des Hochwassers von 1784 in Würzburg. Stadtarchiv Würzburg, Karten und Pläne B 88, gemeinfrei.

Weathered History

Location: Google Arts & Culture

read more
13.07.2021 -
Modell 1 aus der Ausstellung "Castrum Virtuale"

Castrum Virtuale: Time Travel to the Roman Fortress of Fenékpuszta – digital

Location: online

read more
25.06.2021 -
Modell 2 aus der Ausstellung "Castrum Virtuale"

Castrum Virtuale: Time Travel to the Roman Fortress of Fenékpuszta, 3rd station

Location: Katona József Múzeum in Kecskemét

read more

No Results

Sorry, we couldn't find any results. Please check your filter for errors or try another combination.