Research Programme

In their theses, doctoral students studied one or more specific concepts of humans and nature, within one culture as well as comparing various cultures, based on sources that may be written, iconographic, or archaeological, within an area that comprises the ancient Near East, the Mediterranean, and Europe, during any period from 100.000 years B.C.E. to the Middle Ages.

The focus was on the types, representation, and evolution of these concepts (mechanisms of transmission, creation, application, etc.), and moreover on their natural, local, temporal, generic, linguistic, iconographic, sociocultural or individual forms, and on temporal or regional continuities and discontinuities.

Early ideas about humans and nature often show a surprising similarity on the surface between one culture and another. This makes it imperative to distinguish between concepts that are universal and those that are specific and individual, before claiming that interchanging has taken place. The wide range of disciplines that were part of our RTG provided opportunities for focusing research projects in such a way that they at the same time advanced knowledge in one specific discipline and also provided answers within the wider framework of the universal or individual character of such concepts. We had students from different disciplines work on identical or similar topics in order to facilitate ground-breaking studies for such a comparison.

Four partly overlapping research domains:

A) Concepts of original state and primordial elements, the origin and the end of the world

B) Concepts of natural phenomena, the forces of nature, and natural catastrophes

C) Concepts of flora, fauna, and natural environment

D) The conceptualization of the human body, of disease, healing and death


Further information (in German)