Early Concepts of Humans and Nature

Universal, Specific, Interchanged

The German Research Foundation (DFG) funds the Research Training Group (RTG) 1876 since 1st October 2013. The participating disciplines are Egyptology, Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Near Eastern Archaeology, Classical Philology, Classical Archaeology, Middle High German, Byzantine Studies, and Medical History.

The RTG is interested in establishing where and when similar beliefs and concepts originated, whether this happened independently, or if such concepts were transmitted or even exchanged between early cultures, and in how, and why they then changed over time. The time span of the RTG extends from the dawn of history (ca. 3,200 B.C.E.) to the Middle Ages within an area that comprises the ancient Near East, the Mediterranean, and Europe.

The focus will be on the types, representation and evolution of these concepts (mechanisms of transmission, creation, application, etc.), and moreover on their local, temporal, generic, linguistic, iconographic, sociocultural or individual forms, and on temporal or regional continuities and discontinuities. Early ideas about man 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 borrowing has taken place.

The wide range of disciplines that are part of our RTG will provide opportunities for focusing research projects in such a way that they will at the same time advance knowledge in one specific discipline and also provide answers within the wider framework of the universal or individual character of such concepts. We hope to have 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 are envisaged:
A) The origin of the World and the primordial elements
B) Natural phenomena, the forces of nature, and natural catastrophes
C) Flora, fauna, and landscape
D) The conceptualization of the human body, of disease and of 'medical' treatment

In their thesis, doctoral students will study one or more specific concepts of man 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 3,200 B.C.E. to the Middle Ages.

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