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€10 million project to understand migrations in early medieval Europe

A €10 million research grant is set to fund a multidisciplinary study of more than 100 medieval cemeteries located across central and eastern Europe. The aim of the project will be to better understand the waves of migrations that took place in the early Middle Ages.

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 human remains. 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 project includes many important scholars in the field of medieval studies, such as Patrick Geary (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton), Johannes Krause (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History), Walter Pohl (Austrian Academy of Sciences), and Tivadar Vida (ELTE) and Krishna R. Veeramah (Stony Brook University). The main objectives for the project are to explore the impact of mobility on early medieval populations, refine methods of archeogenetic research and establish a multidisciplinary model for future research.

“This funding will help to advance our decade long international collaboration that seeks to better define migration and settlements across Europe at a crucial time in history,” says Professor Veeramah, a population geneticist. “The project is unprecedented in its scale and will provide a high resolution understanding of how modern Europe was formed after the fall of the Roman Empire.”

“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 Professor Krause. “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 €10 million funding comes from the European Research Council (ERC). In awarding the grant, the ERC commented that “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.”

Top Image: Greek Ptolemy map of Europe c. 1300, in Vatican Library.

 

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