Visual History

This Research Priority focuses on the analysis of the material and immaterial dimensions of artefacts bearing images or signs, which have been found in the North and Baltic Sea regions. In principle, we investigate the languages of images and signs in all periods. Traditions that continue over several periods are as important as phenomena of limited duration. A key field of research, covering a number of projects, deals with the characteristic pictorial language in northern Europe during the first millennium AD.

Images and signs are identifying and determining elements in the archaeological remains of even preliterate cultures: today, deciphering them can complement the purely archaeological results and lead to a better understanding of historical conditions and cultural, political and religious developments. However, both the reading and, above all, the interpretation of many of the images, signs and symbols on archaeological objects are contested today. Figurative, ornamental or symbolic depictions can only be understood if their original contexts are identified, together with their former significance and historical importance. However, there are no comprehensive methods or assured access approaches for the reconstruction of such contexts. We fill this void with the project “Archaeological Visual History”. Our aim, in the long run, is to determine the general rules, premises and mechanisms of visual art and find suitable instruments for the interpretation of ancient motifs and signs. Both within and beyond this field of research, our intention is to supply a fresh impetus and build up close cooperation with a widespread interdisciplinary network of partners in other institutions in both Germany and other countries. In particular, we integrate researchers in the humanities for the correlation of the different access approaches to interpretation.

This Research Priority is assigned to the Strategic Research Area Man and Artefact