Press Release, 04/29/2020

Mycenae, Mosul and metadata: Gerda Henkel Foundation approves 4.4 million euros for projects worldwide

“Corona emergency fund” for scholarship holders | Art historian Prof. Andreas Beyer joins the Board of Trustees

The Gerda Henkel Foundation is supporting almost 60 new research projects worldwide. At its spring meeting, the Foundation approved funding of around 3.4 million euros for this purpose. The spectrum ranges from research into Mycenaean gold to studies examining the Iraqi city of Mosul in both the past and the present to the invisible properties of digital images. An additional one million euros has also been approved for a “corona emergency fund”. In another important resolution, art historian Prof. Andreas Beyer was appointed a member of the Board of Trustees with effect from 1 January 2021.

Mycenaean gold
It is not only since Heinrich Schliemann’s spectacular discovery of gold objects like the so-called “Mask of Agamemnon” that Mycenaean culture has held particular associations with prosperity. Even today, discoveries of Mycenaean gold captivate scientists and the general public alike. A group of researchers under Prof. Ernst Pernicka working at the Curt Engelhorn Centre for Archaeometry in Mannheim has now developed a new process for non-damaging examination of Mycenaean gold, and this system should help archaeologists to answer questions on the origin and dissemination of the materials and to identify counterfeits. Selected objects will be used in the application of the new technique at the National Museum in Athens as well as other European museums.

Research destination Iraq
Four Iraqi-oriented research and culture preservation projects are also being given funding. The reliefs in the throne room of the Southwest Palace at Nineveh, Mosul, are the primary focus of a project managed by Heidelberg’s Prof. Peter Miglus. In 2014, troops from the so-called “Islamic State” destroyed these Assyrian relics, which date back to around 700 BCE, but the reliefs and inscriptions are now being secured, restored and reconstructed virtually. Meanwhile, cuneiform tablets from the collection of the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad are the subject of two Iraqi-German collaborations: A team under Prof. Nawala Ahmed Mahmood al-Mutawalli (Baghdad), Prof. Dr Khaled Ismael (Mosul) and Prof. Dr Walther Sallaberger (Munich) will catalogue, publish and preserve Sumerian tablets from Umma (19th century BCE), while another project co-led by Dr Anmar Abdulillah Fadhil (Baghdad) and Prof. Enrique Jiménez (Munich) is dedicated to various different cuneiform tablets from ancient Mesopotamia. Present-day Iraq, meanwhile, is the focus for Dr Irene Costantini. She is studying Mosul after its liberation from the “Islamic State” and addressing the question of how the city’s reconstruction might take shape with the various players involved.

Security and threats in the digital age
Among the new projects to be incorporated into the funding initiative for “Security, society and state” are three proposals addressing the consequences of digitization. How lone perpetrators, predominantly young white men, become radicalized online is the subject of a research project by Prof. Anna Tuschling (Bochum), while networked digital images are the subject being investigated by Dr Rune Saugmann (Tampere, Finland). These fulfil a variety of functions when it comes to shaping political opinions, mobilizing protests, documenting war crimes, making covert military operations public, and revolutionizing war reporting. Yet it’s not only about what they show, says Rune Saugmann; their invisible properties, such as metadata, also have consequences for security policy. Dr Johannes Thumfart (Brussels, Belgium) is developing a study for five factors of digitization which, in his opinion, present a particular challenge for state sovereignty: cross-border access to information, manipulations in social media, privately regulated online platforms, cyber-attacks and cryptocurrencies.

Corona emergency aid
Libraries and archives closed, archaeological excavation sites out of bounds, research trips cancelled: In many places, the measures to limit the COVID-19 pandemic are making it impossible for researchers in the humanities to carry out their work as planned. To bridge the gap, the Gerda Henkel Foundation is setting up a “corona emergency fund” of initially one million euros. Applications are open primarily to PhD and post-doctorate students. The provision applies with immediate effect and for a fixed term only.

Prof. Andreas Beyer
Prof. Andreas Beyer is full professor for art history of the early modern period at the University of Basel. The focal areas of his work include the art and architecture of the Modern Age (particularly Italy), German Classicism, architecture and painting, and the migration of images and forms, as well as methodology and the history of science. He was a member of the Gerda Henkel Foundation’s Academic Advisory Council from 2009 to 2016, chairing it from 2014 onwards. He will join the Foundation’s Board of Trustees as of 1 January 2021, succeeding Prof. Dr Dr h.c. Hans-Joachim Gehrke, whose term is coming to an end.

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