• Map of study sites throughout the  Mediterranean and northeastern Africa
    Research group A-1 selected eight study sites throughout the Mediterranean and northeastern Africa to investigate different aspects of marginality in areas colonized during antiquity (click to enlarge)
  • Schrägluftaufnahme von Resafa und südliches Umfeld | Foto: Manfred Stephani 1999
    The archaeological site Resafa can be considered an ecological marginal place in the 1st century AD, since it lies in the middle of the Syrian desert steppe and has no direct water supply. Tremendous efforts were undertaken in order to provide water for the settlement | Photo: Manfred Stephani 1999
  • Landschaft um die Siedlung von Yeha (Äthiopien). Autorin: Irmgard Wagner, Orient-Abteilung des DAI. Copyright: DAI, Außenstelle Sanaa
    Local and regional water management at the archaeological site of Yeha is the focus of a joint Ethiopian-German project within research group A-1 | Photo: Irmgard Wagner | Copyright: DAI
  • Temple 300 of the Great Enclosure in the semi desert environment of Musawwarat es-Sufra/Sudan | photo/copyright: Thomas Scheibner
    Musawwarat es-Sufra is the first site colonized by the Kushite Empire outside the Nile valley that featured monumental architecture and a state-supported religious topography. In antiquity the yearly summer rains were the only available source of water in Musawwarat. Image: Temple in the semi desert environment of Musawwarat, ©T. Scheibner
  • Titel: Landschaft in Petra, Autor: Colin Tsoi | Quelle: Colin Tsoi, Flickr | Copyright: CC_BY_ND
    The archaeological site Petra is located in a semiarid region whose seasonal rainfall provokes heavy flashfloods. Detailed mapping of several hundred new find spots and systematic introduction into a developed GIS allow gaining completely new insights as for the organization of the landscape and territory around the ancient city | Photo: C. Tsoi
This research group investigated the nexus between environmental requirements for settlement spaces, the cultural acquisition of these spaces, and the development of technical knowledge. The central working hypothesis is that the development and shaping of settlement spaces in earlier societies was an important engine for the development of technological skills and technical knowledge.
23 Researchers
9 Research Projects
6 Dissertation Projects
46 Publications
3 Events
24 Cooperating partners

This is most plainly evident in places where settlement plans were confronted with suboptimal environmental conditions. Settling here required particular effort with regard to the development and use of technical knowledge and customized settlement strategies. Due to the location of the archaeological sites, aspects of water management played a central role. However, the project also investigated building material production and usage, as well as the transfer, adaptation and development of new building techniques and related aspects. In each case, research was conducted to determine what space-related knowledge (e.g. topographical knowledge, rainwater runoff characteristics, quality of resources) was available to the groups involved in implementing the settlement plan, and how they translated this knowledge into technical and social strategies. This also included the question why settlements were founded under suboptimal conditions – in the wilderness, in difficult-to-access valleys, in arid regions or places at risk for spring tide flooding – and what requirements and goals were being pursued in such cases.

A three-step analytical approach was applied in each case, taking into account the sociocultural motivation for founding a settlement, the bodies of knowledge mobilized in the process, and the environmental preconditions and environmental impact of the settlement.


Research Projects