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The HistoGenes Team at the Second Plenary Meeting from 23-25 Sep in Vienna

photo_ Dagmar Giesriegl

From left to right: Paul Klostermann, Doris Pany-Kucera, Olga Spekker, Bendeguz Tobias, Corina Knipper, Erika Molnar, István Koncz, Margit Berner, Tamara Leskovar, Balázs Mende, Sabine Eggers, Tamás Szeniczey, Tivadar Vida, Walter Pohl, Johannes Krause, Patrick Geary, Ronny Friedrich, Alexander Herbig, Lumír Polacek, Zuzana Hofmanová, Alina Hiss,
Matej Ruttkay, Sandra Wabnitz, Salvatore Liccardo, Karin Wiltschke-Schrotta, Luca Traverso, Guido Gnecchi Ruscone, Vujadin Ivanisevic, Denisa Zlámalová, Zsófia Rácz, Falko Daim, Levente Samu, Mária Krošláková, Ingrid Hartl

picture credits: Dagmar Giesriegl


Sabrina Bodling | Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

I started working as a lab assistant at the Max-Planck-Institute for the Science of Human History Jena in 2019. Since then I am responsible for the technical and organizational support and sampling of bio-archaeological material such as petrous bones and teeth.


In 2021 I joined the HistoGenes Project at the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig to assist in collection, documentation and sampling of samples derived from archaeological collections in Germany.


Norbert Faragó | ELTE – Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

I earned a BSc in IT engineering at the Gábor Dénes College and an MA in prehistoric archaeology at the Eötvös Loránd University.
The intra-site examination of knapped stone tools from the Late Neolithic site of Polgár-Csőszhalom was the subject of my doctoral dissertation (2019).

I am interested in studying household archaeology, Neolithic and Copper Age stone tools, GIS, statistics, and more recently stable isotope analysis and assessment in the context of bioarchaeology. Since receiving my degree, I have worked as a co-researcher on several significant research projects at the Eötvös Loránd University, Institute of Archaeological Sciences. My main responsibility for the Histogenes project is to support the analysis of stable isotope data.


I studied Pre- and Protohistory, Medieval Archaeology and Archaeological Sciences at the University of Tübingen, Germany. After completing my M.A. in Tübingen, I started my Ph.D. in Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena in 2018 and finished it in 2023. Since 2015, I have been working on several ancient DNA projects focusing on Pleistocene palaeontology, the demography of Holocene hunter-gatherers in South Africa, and the population history of Iron Age and Early Medieval Central and Northern Europe to answer questions about social structure, migration, and admixture in ancient humans and animals.

Within HistoGenes I am currently working as a PostDoc at the MPI Eva in Leipzig. My work focuses on the population history of Roman and early medieval Germany, Poland and Ukraine. Using fine-scale population structure methods, I aim to reconstruct the formation of the local gene pool and investigate how admixture and migration contributed to the establishment and maintenance of genetic diversity. By comparing genetic diversity with the archaeological record, I hope to identify patterns of social structure and identity projection, and to link demographic trajectories with environmental and political fluctuations over the last 2000 years.

Joscha Gretzinger | Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig


Balázs Gyuris | Laboratory of Archeogenetics, Eötvös Loránd Research Network, Budapest

I have finished my studies as a Molecular Biologist in Eötvös Lóránd University in 2019. After that I joined to the Laboratory of Archeogenetics (Institution of Archeology) at Eötvös Lóránd Research Network, Research Centre for Humanities. In 2020, I have joined to the HistoGenes project and sucessfully applied for a Phd scholarship in genetics/population genetics at Eötvös Lóránd University. In the first part of the project, I take part in the preparation of aDNA libraries for sequencing, in the Budapest lab. Later I will perform population genetic analysis mainly focusing on Southern-Pannonia, Migration Period sites.


Alexander Herbig | Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

I graduated from the University of Tübingen, Germany in Computer Science (2008) and received my PhD in Bioinformatics in 2015. After my work as a post-doctoral researcher and lecturer in the field of ancient pathogen genomics I started a research group on Computational Pathogenomics in the Department for Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for Human History in Jena, Germany, which is now continued at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.


In the context of the HistoGene project I focus on the identification of pathogens in human remains. Reconstructing and comparatively analysing their genomes helps us to understand how human pathogens evolved evolutionary. Interpreting these genetic results by integrating information from archaeology, history and human genetics we can learn which infectious diseases were relevant, what were the patterns of their transmission within social groups and how they might have influenced their life. 

See also his Researchers of HistoGenes-Video here.


Alina Hiss | Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

After graduating from University Jena in 2020, I am now a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. I am studying the emergence, evolution, and spread of pathogens that have been influencing humans in the past, using genetic methods.

As part of HistoGenes, I am screening the generated data for a wide variety of pathogen DNA. The extensive sampling of entire cemeteries combined with comprehensive information from Anthropology, Archaeology, and History provides us with a unique opportunity to not only gain insights about which pathogens have been around in the early medieval period, but also their transmission and evolution within and between social groups.

Zuzana Hofmanová
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Zuzana Hofmanová | Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

After getting my education in anthropology, archaeology and human genetics at Masaryk University in Brno (2010) and Charles University in Prague (2012), I pursued my PhD at Institute of Anthropology, JGU Mainz, Germany (2016) in ancient genomics of European hunter-gatherers and early farmers. I was then awarded EMBO Longterm Fellowship to join the Computational Population Genetics Lab at University of Fribourg, Switzerland, to investigate links between social structure and genetic patterns via novel computational approaches. Later, I established the Ancient DNA Research Team at Masaryk University in Brno funded by EXPRO grant FORMOR and I am now leading the Genetic History Group at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.


A new source of data in the form of ancient DNA is a large promise and challenge for our understanding of the human past. In HistoGenes, I am applying population genetic methods informed by archaeological and historical context to uncover biological connections between individuals. I am concerned with bias-free data analysis, interdisciplinary interpretation and societal impact of our results.

See her Researcher of HistoGenes-Video here.

Paul Klostermann | Department for Anthropology, Natural History Museum, Vienna

Paul Klostermann is a Human Bioarchaeologist working on projects at the Natural History Museum as well as the Institute for Medieval research at the Austrian Academy of Science in Vienna. He holds a BA in Prehistory and Historical Archaeology from the University of Vienna and a MSc in Human Bioarchaeology and Palaeopathology from Durham University. He is mostly focussed on Palaeopathology. Furthermore, he is interested in Bioarchaeology of Children, medical interventions in past populations as well as Historical Archaeology and provenance research.

Within the HistoGenes project he is recording and analysing the human remains sampled in Austria. He is assisting in palaeopathological analysis in order to investigate health and living conditions in past populations.

See also his Researchers of HistoGenes-Video here.

Robin Koger | Department for Anthropology, Natural History Museum, Vienna

I am a biological anthropology student and working as a technical assistant in the HistoGenes Project at the Natural History Museum Vienna. My main task in the project is sampling the petrous bones and tooth samples of the individuals from the archaeological sites housed at the museum in Vienna. I assist in data acquisition for the anthropological in-depth analysis.


István Koncz | ELTE – Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

I graduated from the Institute of Archaeological Sciences at Eötvös Loránd University and I am currently finishing my PhD. I specialised in the archaeology of the early Medieval Carpathian Basin and Western Europe and archaeological theory with main interests in archaeology of identity, migrations and the use of scientific methods (isotopic and aDNA analyses). I participated in various projects with strong focus on the aforementioned scientific methods, such as ‘Changing Societies and Identities. Mobility and Population Transformation in the Carpathian Basin of the 5th to 7th Century A.D.’ a research project on the interaction, dietary differentiation and daily lifestyles of both vertical and horizontal social groups and ’Tracing Longobard Migration through DNA Analysis’ a project on the possible use of genetic analyses on early Medieval group movements.

In HistoGenes my task will be creating and maintaining a comprehensive database and integrating the various datasets (archaeology, physical anthropology, isotopes, aDNA) into a cohesive historical narrative.

István Koncz

Salvatore Liccardo | Institute for Austrian Historical Research, University of Vienna

In 2019 I have earned the title of Doctor of Philosophy (Dr.phil.) with honours under the supervision of Prof. Walter Pohl and Prof. Danuta Shanzer at the University of Vienna with a thesis on the meanings and functions of ethnonyms in Late Antiquity. In autumn 2019, I was fellow of the Austrian Historical Institute in Rome. Since 2020 I have been a Post-DOC Researcher at the Institute for Medieval Research (IMAFO) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW).

Following an interdisciplinary and multicultural approach, my research aims at highlighting Late Antique and Early Medieval strategies of identification and distinctions. Combining my interests for ethnicity and geography, within the ERC Synergy Grant HistoGenes I will analyse how Early Medieval authors constantly adapted and re-negotiated ethnographic and geographical traditions in order to make sense of the ever-changing ethnic landscape of Eastern Central Europe.

See also his Researchers-of HistoGenes-Video here.

Salvatore Liccardo
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Doris Pany-Kucera | Department for Anthropology, Natural History Museum, Vienna

I am a biological anthropologist and a project-based employee at the Natural History Museum Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences. I have worked on many national and international prehistoric and historic skeletal sites, especially of the early medieval period, but also on the Hallstatt skeletons, and on identified skeletal collections.

Within the HistoGenes project, my focus is on osteological scoring as well as on the bioarchaeological and paleopathological analysis. I am particularly interested in paleopathology, enthesopathies, biomechanical analyses and pelvic features. Supplementary to the macroscopic systematic recording of the skeletons, methods like radiography, secondary electron microscopy, endoscopy and micro-Ct complement the bioarcheological assessment and interpretation. The overall findings of the observed changes and injuries on the skeletons will provide a differentiated insight into individual and community living conditions of past people.

See also her Researchers of HistoGenes-Video here.


Daniella Pokker | Institute of Archaeogenomics, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

I completed my studies in the field of archeology of Roman provinces at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. In September of 2020 I joined the Institute of Archaeogenomics at Eötvös Loránd Research Network, Research Center for Humanities and immediately joined the HistoGenes Project.

I work as a laboratory assistant. My task is to drill bone powder from the Hungarian, Slovakian, Slovenian and Serbian samples in the Budapest laboratory. I am also involved in sampling and managing the ERC HistoGenes database and preparation of the photo documentation.


Zsófia Rácz | Institute of Archaeological Sciences, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

Zsófia Rácz is an archaeologist educated at the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest where she has been senior lecturer at the Institute of Archaeological Sciences from 2010. She had previously scholarships in Vienna University and Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. She wrote her dissertation on Avar period goldsmith’ graves which has been published in 2014 in Mainz. During the last years she partcipated in various international projects focusing on early medieval material culture, trade, and mobility. Currently she is the leader of the program „Subsistence strategies in the Hun and Gepidic period Carpathian basin” granted by the Hungarian Research Fund. Her task in ERC project is to evaluate Migration period cemeteries from Hungary.

Zsófia Rácz

Rita Radzeviciute | Max Planck Institute for the Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

I graduated from the Vilnius University, Lithuania in Biology and undertook my postgraduate studies in Zoology. I worked as a research assistant at the University of Leipzig, Germany and at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany before I joined the Archaeogenetics Lab at the Max Plank Institute for the Evolutionary Anthropology. 


In HistoGenes I am responsible for management and coordination of the sample processing in the Core Unit labs at the Max Planck Institute for the Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.

Guido Alberto Gnecchi Ruscone | Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

Guido Alberto Gnecchi Ruscone

I graduated in molecular biology (Bachelor degree at University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy) and evolutionary biology (Master degree at University of Bologna, Italy) and I hold a PhD in molecular anthropology and population genetics from the University of Bologna (2014-2018). Before joining HistoGenes as a postdoc at the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig I completed a two-year postdoc (2018-2020) at the Max Plank Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena. I specialize in human population genomics from modern and ancient DNA in order to reconstruct past populations demographic histories as well as searching for genetic patterns caused by the positive selection and adaptation to the environment. I worked in a number of projects studying different present-day human population and their genetic adaptation to the environment and participated in a number of archaeogenetic studies in collaboration with archeologist and historians. Among them, I recently worked and I am particularly interested in the trans-Eurasian population movements and intercultural interaction between Europe the Steppe and East Asia occurred throughout time since the Iron Age to the Middle Ages.

In HistoGenes, beyond participating in the research projects as a post-doctoral researcher, I am involved with the Leipzig team in the bioinformatic processing of the raw genomic data, performing quality controls and genotype data production for the ancient DNA samples that will be sequenced in the framework of the project.

See also his Researchers of HistoGenes-Video here.


Levente Samu | Institute of Archaeological Sciences, Eötvös Loránd University Budapest

After graduating from the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest in 2012 I worked one year in the Archaeological Institute of the Slovakian Academy of Sciences and focused on the analyzing of 7-8th c. settlements.  Between 2013 and 2016 I was a scholarship holder in the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz and worked on the research project Die Beziehungen zwischen den Awaren und Byzanz aufgrund der archäologischen Quellen.

Between 2016 and 2019 I was assistant research fellow in the Archaeological Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. I finished my cotutelle Phd on the ELTE University in Budapest and Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg in 2020. In my dissertation I was investigating the 6-7th century cultural contacts between the Mediterranean and the Carpathian Basin. My main research interests are the early middle ages in Central Europe, the Avar Age, the Early Slavic problematic, the long-distance cultural contacts and the archaeology of the settlements.

In the HistoGenes research project my task is to build the archaeological database and raise such questions concerning the analyzed early medieval populations which can be answered with the tools of the genetics to reach a more complex picture about this important historical period of Europe.

Olga Spekker | Institute of Archaeological Sciences, Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest, Hungary); Department of Biological Anthropology, University of Szeged (Szeged, Hungary)

Olga Spekker is a paleopathologist, who received her PhD degree in Biological Anthropology from the University of Szeged (Szeged, Hungary) in 2018. Currently, Olga Spekker is a research fellow both at the Institute of Archaeological Sciences, Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest, Hungary) and at the Department of Biological Anthropology, University of Szeged (Szeged, Hungary), where she is conducting research activities in the areas of paleopathology with a special focus on defining and refining macromorphological diagnostic criteria for infectious diseases (e.g., tuberculosis and leprosy). Olga Spekker’s research activities concern the diagnostic value of macroscopic bony changes probably related to infectious disease, especially of those associated with tuberculous meningitis. In the ERC project, “HistoGenes”, Olga Spekker participates in the sample selecting and sample taking processes. Furthermore, she performs basic anthropological examinations (e.g., age at death estimation and sex determination) on skeletons selected from the Hungarian osteoarchaeological series.

Liesa Strondl

Liesa Strondl | Department for Anthropology, Natural History Museum, Vienna

I am a Master's student of Anthropology at the University of Vienna and currently working on my master thesis at the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

Beyond that, I am collaborating in the HistoGenes project as an intern for female students (FEMtech). I am involved with the analysis and post-processing of micro-CT data, x-ray images, secondary electron microscopy and surface scans. Using this data, I am producing physical 3D reconstructions and thus make the material even more demonstrative and tangible.


Yijie Tian | SUNY Stony Brook

I am a PhD student in the Veeramah Lab at Stony Brook University. I obtained my BA in biological science at Peking University in 2018. My research interests are in applying population genetic methods in combination with archaeological and anthropological evidence to answer questions about human history. As part of the HistoGenes project,  I will be responsible for examining the population genetic dynamics of the Little Hungarian Plain(LHP) from the 3rd to 8th century. The LHP served as the frontier during the Roman period and was occupied by different groups of people, including the so-called “Barbarians”, in the later periods. This study will use ~600 samples across 11 sites found near previous Roman towns. I will study how communities transformed spatially and temporally across this region during the Avar period by integrating genomic data with the underlying archaeological record in a unified framework, as well as examining connections between previous Roman populations and newly established early medieval communities.


Bendeguz Tobias | Institute for Medieval Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences

After completing my studies of Prehistory and and Early Medieval Archaeology at the University of Vienna, I received a scholarship from the Römisch Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz. During the eight years in Mainz I completed a dissertation on early medieval smithing graves. From 2013-2019 I worked within the framework of two FWF research projects on „Late Antique and Byzantine weights in the Mediterranean area“ as well as „Contacts across the Alps“ at the University of Innsbruck.

Under the ERC Synergy Grant HistoGenes, around 6000 individuals will be genetically tested. In order to keep track of the vast amount of archaeological data, it is my task to help create the database for the project. Only then will it be possible to capture the historical dimension of the genetic data.

Bendeguz Tobias

Luca Traverso | Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

I am a doctoral student in the Evolutionary Anthropology department at the Max-Planck Institute in Leipzig (DE).

I previously graduated in Biological Sciences (Bachelor’s degree, University of Genoa) and in Molecular Biology (Master’s degree, University of Pavia) in Italy, and I am interested in uncovering how and how much the human genetic evolution and our species’ history are interconnected and mutually causative.


In the frame of the HistoGenes project my tasks will mainly concern the bioinformatic analysis of the ancient DNA data extracted from the individuals throughout our area of study. Here, I apply classical population genetics analysis strategies as well as the development and tuning of new methods to face the always new challenges.
This is aimed at providing the starting points to answer our specific historical and anthropological questions in an interdisciplinary-fashioned approach.

See also his Researchers of HistoGenes-Video here.


Deven Vyas | SUNY Stony Brook

After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in Integrative Biology and a minor in Latin, I started graduate school at the University of Florida in the Department of Anthropology. I completed my PhD in anthropological genetics in 2017. For my doctoral research, I studied genetic variation of southern Arabian and Levantine populations to investigate their population history and make inferences about the route used during modern human dispersal out of Africa (~50-75 thousand years ago). In 2018, I began as a postdoctoral associate in the Veeramah lab at Stony Brook University in the Department of Ecology and Evolution. As part of the Veeramah lab, I also previously worked on three-spined stickleback genomics.


As part of HistoGenes, I analyze genomic data and work with archaeologists and historians to make interpretations of ancient communities. Currently, I am studying fifth and sixth sites south of Lake Balaton (Fonyód, Hács, Balatonszemes, and Szólád). I am interested in studying how these communities have changed through time as well as how the relationships between social kinship and biological relatedness can differ between sites that are so close in space and time. Going forward, I will also be one of the lead geneticists on the sites from Slovenia expanding this approach to the investigations of these sites, which range from the 3rd to 11th centuries CE.

Sandra Wabnitz | Institute for Austrian Historical Research, University of Vienna

From 2012 onwawrds I studied Sinology, History (BA) and Historical Research, Auxiliary Sciences of History and Archival Studies (MA) at the University of Vienna. 2020 I graduated with a thesis about the reprenstation of "barbarian" groups in early medieval latin and chinese historiography.

In my PhD I analyse cultural similarities between early medieval steppe peoples. Focusing on the Avars, the Bulgars, the Tuoba, the Turks and the Uighurs I do not only compare the accounts about these steppe peoples in historiographical, annalistic and chronographical texts of Latin, Greek and Chinese authors, but I also take into account archaeological finds as well as the latest genetic analyses.

See also her Researchers of HistoGenes-Video here.

Sandra Wabnitz

Ke Wang | Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig


I got my Bachelor degree in Biology at Shandong University China (2015), and did my Master in Genetics studying natural selection at UCL, UK (2016). I started my PhD in the Department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena from 2016 October to study worldwide population diversifications and ancient population dynamics in Africa and Central Asia. Then I continued my Post-doc in the same Department of Archaeogenetics since 2020. Overall I am specialised in studying human past through analysing ancient (and modern) genomic data and developing new genomic analytical tools. In Histogenes, I will be focusing on investigating population movements, admixture and social structure with new aDNA data generated in the context of big cemeteries.


Denisa Zlámalová | Department of Archaeology and Museology, Masaryk University, Brno

Denisa Zlámalová is a doctoral student at Masaryk University, Brno. After graduating from molecular biology and genetics in 2021, Denisa focused her interests in archaeogenetics, especially the formation and ethnogenesis of early medieval Slavs. In the Histogenes project, Denisa participates in the sampling process and population genetics analyses conducted at the Brno sampling lab.

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