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10 January 2007

Archaeometry Transfers to the University of Heidelberg

Measuring the past — Major congress in January marks the transfer from the Academy of Sciences and Humanities — Archaeometry research goes on at the University of Heidelberg

Though a relatively youthful research field, archaeometry has already notched up successes that have made it a talking point all over the world. Thanks to the innovative measuring techniques it has developed it is now possible for the first time to date many prehistoric finds accurately, including Trojan pot-shards, remnants of Bronze Age settlements in the Kraichgau region, significant events in landscape history or the precise identification of the famous Nazca Lines in Peru. Archaeometry has provided archaeologists and humanities scholars from a wide variety of disciplines with invaluable scientific covering fire for their research projects.

Luminescence dating is the main technique enabling scientists to supply quite accurate estimates of the periods in (pre)history when geological deposits took place or ceramics, fire sites and other significant historical tokens of human activity originated. This not only makes it possible to situate the finds in their archaeological context but also to reconstruct the interactions between human agency and the natural environment in prehistoric landscapes.

As planned, the Archaeometry Research Centre terminated its work under the aegis of the Academy of Sciences and Humanities in mid 2006. To mark the occasion a concluding conference entitled "Progress in Archaeometry" took place on 19/20 January 2007 at the Academy. Some 100 scientists assembled to outline the achievements in this research field and trace its development over the last two decades. The range of subjects represented included Egyptology, palaeo-anthropology, archaeology, American studies, genetics, biology, physics, materials research, geo-archaeology, chemistry and others.

Given the scientific reputation of the former Archaeometry Research Centre it is an immensely gratifying development for the overall research landscape in Heidelberg that the Centre will be transferring to the University of Heidelberg. The luminescence dating lab formerly housed at the Max Planck Institute of Nuclear Physics will be re-established at the Chair of Physical Geography (Institute of Geography, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel). The building work required for the transfer began some weeks ago on the Neuenheimer Feld campus and the lab is expected to move there at the beginning of the summer semester.

To facilitate scientific collaboration, the newly established lab at the Institute of Geography (Neuenheimer Feld 348, 69120 Heidelberg) is intentionally located in close proximity to the Radiometry Research Centre (Academy of Sciences and Humanities, housed at the University's Institute of Environmental Physics) and the University of Heidelberg's institutes of earth and environmental sciences.

This development has been prompted not least by the new Heidelberg Master course in geo-archaeology, in which the University's Institutes of Middle Eastern Archaeology and Prehistory and Protohistory (both located in Heidelberg Old Town) are also involved. This reflects the key standing of archaeometric and geo-archaeological research at the University of Heidelberg as a bridge between the sciences and the humanities.

Please address any inquiries related to the University of Heidelberg to:
Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel
phone: 06221/544543, secretary's office: 544571, fax: 544997

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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