One of the fundamental questions of archaeology is the linking of spatially situated material culture to identities. Without taking recourse to the essentialist assumptions that have lately fallen under scrutiny concerning the existence of static and hermetic entities, this project investigated the dynamic correlation between collective identities, knowledge and space.


The interdependence and dynamics of collective identities, knowledge and space can best be explored by examining cultural exchange and knowledge transfer in contact situations caused by spatial mobility. In the humanities and social sciences there are numerous theories on this subject, theories whose applications and limitations in the ancient studies have not yet been systematically analyzed. In addition to contemporary theoretical reflections from the fields of postcolonial studies and globalization research, promising new perspectives for the analysis of archaeological results are presented by approaches adopted from research into cultural transfer, innovation and anthropological consumption as well as from material cultural studies.

These approaches have been discussed in detail within the scope of the junior research group leader’s research and of a PhD fellowship. The goal was to obtain a closer view of the identities of cultural players through social practices, or rather through collective courses of action resulting from the interplay of “knowing how”, bodies, things and actions. Additionally, while working on a concept for a thematically related museum exhibition planned for 2020/21 Lothar Schulte shed light on the usage of the sensitive terms “Germanen” and “Germanien” in prehistoric science. He examined how the terms have been used and how their utilization changed during the last seventy years.

The initial point of the project “Shifting Things and Identity” was the conference: “Massendinghaltung in der Archäologie”. It focused especially on the material turn in Social, Cultural and Material Culture Studies thus providing a first theoretical emphasis for the project. The connection with the Key Topic Identities was extremely productive, as well as the collaboration with external fellows. During their stay with Topoi they offered interdisciplinary workshops on subjects like object biographies, hybridity, the material relation of ethnicity and identity, entanglement and the translational turn. This input helped to develop the theoretical perspective of the project further.

The so-called “Roman imports” were used for the topic “Shifting Things and Identity” in order to examine and apply the theoretical perspective empirically. With the focus on re-use, translations and appropriations, it was possible to investigate both antique practices and transformations of things, as well as contemporary research practices like mapping and edition projects, together with public narrations in museums.

The PhD project (B-4-4-1) Travelling Things: Thinking on the character of ‘Roman imports’ in Central Germany’s ‘Barbaricum’ was successfully finished. Furthermore, a number of papers about material culture and things were written. They were published in various handbooks and provide an interdisciplinary useful overview of the topic.