10 million Euro ERC Synergy Grant awarded for study of medieval populations

The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History’s Johannes Krause among four principal investigators to head study

October 16, 2019
The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and its international partners have received a 10 million euro Synergy Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to fund a multidisciplinary study of more than 100 medieval cemeteries located across central and eastern Europe. The project, HistoGenes - Integrating genetic, archaeological and historical perspectives on Eastern Central Europe, will seek to understand the impact of migrations and mobility on the population of the Carpathian Basin from 400-900 CE, based on a comprehensive analysis of samples from 6,000 ancient burial sites. HistoGenes will, for the first time, unite historians, archaeologists, geneticists, anthropologists, and specialists in bioinformatics, isotope analysis, and other scientific methods in understanding this key period of European history.  

The team's four principal investigators, representing these various disciplines, are Patrick Geary (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, USA), Johannes Krause (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany), Walter Pohl (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria), and Tivadar Vida (ELTE, Budapest, Hungary). In Germany, the research team includes Doctor Choongwon Jeong, among others, a population geneticist associated with the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History’s Archaeogenetics department who also serves on the faculty of the School of Biological Sciences at Seoul National University. 

"We expect insights into the settlement history and genetic legacy of mobile groups in Pannonia, a region that saw many cultural changes in the second half of the first millennium of our era," says Prof. Dr. Krause, director of the department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. "This unprecedented large scale project aims to understand the social structure, health status and biological connections of early Medieval people within our study region and beyond".

The core objectives of the project are to explore the impact of mobility on early medieval populations, refine the methods of archaeogenetic research, and establish a multidisciplinary model for future research.

According to a member of the ERC panel, "This project fuses cutting edge techniques in genetic testing with familiar archaeological and textual analysis to examine a half-millennium of migration and settlement in a crossroads region of Eurasia. It is big, original, methodologically sophisticated and will push the study of human history in new directions."

The HistoGenes team is comprised of the world's preeminent scholars, who are leading specialists in their fields. Prof. Dr. Johannes Krause focuses on the analysis of ancient DNA to investigate such topics as pathogens from historic and prehistoric epidemics, human genetic history and human evolution. He contributed substantially to deciphering the Neanderthal genome and the shared genetic heritage of Neanderthals and modern humans. In 2010, while working at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, he discovered the first genetic evidence of the Denisovans, an extinct hominin discovered in Siberia. His recent work includes revealing the genetic heritage of ancient Egyptians, reconstructing the first Pleistocene African genomes, uncovering the source of the epidemic plague bacteria that periodically caused historic and prehistoric epidemics in Europe, and clarifying the complex history of Europe’s prehistoric mass migrations.

HistoGenes - Integrating genetic, archaeological and historical perspectives on Eastern Central Europe is among 37 research groups to receive funding from the ERC as part of its 2019 Synergy Grant competition, which supports the world's top researchers to address the most complex research problems. The ERC announcement can be found here: https://erc.europa.eu/news/erc-2019-synergy-grants-results.

Go to Editor View