As a principal investigator:

Land use, social transformations and woodland in Central European Prehistory. Modelling approaches to human-environment interactions

Financed by the Czech Science Foundation (01/2019-06/2022)
Team: Jan Kolář (PI), Vojtěch Abraham, Martin Macek, Peter Tkáč

The project focuses on the interactions between prehistoric societies and the environment in Central Europe. The main questions tackle prehistoric land use, population dynamics, social transformations and woodland. We will use archaeological and palaeoecological datasets to create and compare land use and land cover models for the area of the Czech Republic. The project examines four time slices with significant social transformations with potentially important impact on landscapes – 5500 BCE (introduction of farming and animal husbandry), 4000 BCE (significant decrease in archaeological evidence), 2500 BCE (start of increase of archaeological evidence followed by beginning of the Bronze Age), 1000 BCE (Late Bronze Age with highest amounts of archaeological evidence in prehistory). The anticipated results will shed new light on Holocene land use and land cover changes in Central Europe, the role of human agency in the spread of specific tree taxa, as well as on the legacy of the past land use and settlement dynamics in different regions of the Czech Republic.

As a team member:

From CORrelations to EXplanations: towards a new European prehistory (COREX)

Financed by the European Research Council (2021-2026)
Institutions: Gothenburg University, University of Copenhagen, University College London, University of Plymouth, National Museum of Denmark
Team: Kristian Kristiansen, Mark Thomas, Kurt Kjær, Stephen Shennan, Karin Margarita Frei, Eske Willerslev, Bettina Schulz Paulsson, Jessie Woodbridge, Ralph Fyfe, Fernando Racimo, Adrian Timpson, Claudia Speciale, Jelena Bulatović, Robert Staniuk, Samantha Reiter, Serena Sabatini, Jan Kolář

The study of the past is undergoing a dramatic transformation: researchers in the fields of archaeology, genetics, linguistics, history and archaeometry are blurring the lines delimiting their respective fields, and working in increasingly collaborative efforts to understand how history and prehistory unfolded. Recent debates stress the need for new explanatory models which integrate both micro- and macro-level historical processes, and diverse types of datasets. We approach this challenge by applying novel modelling approaches allowing us to move from correlations to explanations of how changes have been shaped by the dynamic interaction of cultural innovation, migration, admixture, population growth and collapse, landscape transformation, dietary change, biological adaptation, social structure, and the emergence of new diseases. Our findings will serve to determine what the impact of the movement of people was on the European landscape, simultaneously on multiple scales: continental, regional and local, providing a research program defying the boundaries of archaeology, genetics and mathematical modelling. Thus, by identifying prehistoric regularities in the interactions of human biology, social and economic organisation, and demography we will be able to compare them to anthropological and historical models of such processes in recent times, to form a more comprehensive understanding of the nature of migration, integration and cultural change, then and now.

Application of the long-term forest history to forestry practices

Financed by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic (03/2019-02/2021)
Team: Ondřej Vild (PI), Markéta Chudomelová, Jan Kolář, Martin Liška, Silvie Suchánková, Martina Sychrová, Péter Szabó, Radim Hédl

The aim of the project was to provide resources that will be used for the planning and implementation of forest management. These resources will be used by the application guarantor and provided to the users – professional forest managers. The main source for the project was our database of information on long-term forest development. Within the project, this information was supplemented, analysed and transformed into specialized interactive maps, which will integrated into the application guarantor’s map server at the end of the project. In addition, a methodology was prepared to enable the application guarantor to make effective use of its own data for its core activities.

Long-term woodland dynamics in Central Europe: from estimations to a realistic model

Financed by the European Research Council (2012-2016)
Team: Péter Szabó (PI), Jan Kolář, Martin Kotačka, Lucie Křížová, Silvie Suchánková, Petr Kuneš, Lydie Dudová, Eva Jamrichová, Helena Svitavská Svobodová, Radim Hédl, Martin Kopecký, Martin Macek, Ondřej Vild, Jana Müllerová, Martin Kopecký

The interdisciplinary LONGWOOD project connected several disciplines that deal with past environments. Its starting point was the assumption that the vegetation of Central Europe has been directly influenced by humans for at least eight millennia; the original forests have been gradually transformed into today’s agricultural landscape. However, there is more to this landscape change than the simple disappearance of woodland. Forests have been brought under various management regimes, which profoundly altered their structure and species composition. The details of this process are little known for two main reasons. The greatest obstacle is the lack of cooperation among the disciplines dealing with the subject. The second major problem is the differences in spatio-temporal scaling and resolution used by the individual disciplines. Existing studies either concern smaller territories, or cover large areas (continental to global) with the help of modelling-based generalizations rather than primary data from the past. Using an extensive range of primary sources from history, historical geography, palaeoecology, archaeology and ecology, this interdisciplinary project aimed to reconstruct the long-term (Neolithic to present) patterns of woodland cover, structure, composition and management in a larger study region (Moravia, the Czech Republic, ca. 27,000 km2) with the highest spatio-temporal resolution possible. Causes for the patterns observed were analyzed in terms of qualitative and quantitative factors, both natural and human-driven, and the patterns in the tree layer were related to those in the herb layer, which constitutes the most important part of plant biodiversity in Europe. This project introduced woodland management as an equal driving force into long-term woodland dynamics, thus fostering a paradigm shift in ecology towards construing humans as an internal, constitutive element of ecosystems. By integrating sources and methods from the natural sciences and the humanities, the project contributed to a more reliable methodology for woodland management and conservation in Central Europe.

Historical land use of Bohemian-Moravian Highlands in prehistory and medieval period

Financed by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic (03/2013-12/2016)
Team: Zdeněk Měřínský (PI), Jan Kolář, Barbora Machová, Jana Mazáčková, Peter Milo, Jan Petřík, Miroslav Plaček, Klára Šabatová, Jakub Těsnohlídek, Lucie Friedmannová, Karel Staněk, Jiří Doležel, Aleš Bajer, Karel Malý, Petr Hrubý

Landscape is currently the most important bearer of traces of historical and cultural changes in the Czech Republic. One of the exceptional areas is, in terms of preservation of archaeological monuments and the landscape, the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands and adjacent southwestern Moravia. Here, on the edge of the old South Moravian settlement area, the gradual changes in settlements in prehistory and the Middle Ages can be observed. The main goal of the project was to make the information about the historic landscape accessible, and to monitor its development in relation to the natural environment. Emphasis will be placed on a summary and revision of existing knowledge and on the methodology of documentation and protection of endangered archaeological monuments: prehistoric and early medieval fortifications and burial mounds, as well as medieval deserted villages, castles and small fortifications, mining works and roads. The main result of the project was a web-based geographic information system, which included not only the archaeological sites as points or polygons, but will visualized the entire settlement of the region, or smaller areas in relation to natural conditions. With this new approach to the landscape structure, the participating institutions offered the state administration, regional government and property owners a tool for solving long-term plans for the management of the cultural landscape. The richness and diversity of archaeological monuments in the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands offers great opportunities for tourism. The project included therefore also proposals for their presentation.