ERC Grant for DECOR


Fantastic news: GS member Annette Haug has received an ERC Consolidator Grant for research into Decorative Systems in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Annette Haug in the Antikensammlung of Kiel University

Annette Haug has been a professor of Classical Archaeology at Kiel University’s Institute of Classics and a member of the GSHDL since 2012.
Photo/Copyright: Raissa Nickel/Kiel University

When Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, it easily destroyed the cities on the coast of the Gulf of Naples: Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried under ash and volcanic rock, and only saw the light of day again due to the efforts of archaeologists. The city ruins tell fascinating tales of antiquity. The insights into life during these times will soon become more multifaceted: Professor Annette Haug, Director of the Department of Classical Archaeology at the Institute of Classics at Kiel University, has received one of the highly-coveted ERC Consolidator Grants for this purpose from the European Research Council (ERC). Her project, “Decorative Principles in Late Republican and Early Imperial Italy” (DECOR), has received two million Euros in funding over a five-year period. Haug will receive support from the Graduate School. In the last competitive funding round, only two ERC grants were awarded in the whole of Germany for humanities and social sciences, one of which went to Annette Haug.

Casa degli Amorini Dorati, Pompeii

Buildings will be reconstructed in their entirety, as far as possible, to provide examples of different types of functional spaces. On this basis, deductions can be made about the relationship between interior decoration and room functionality. The picture shows a room of the Casa degli Amorini Dorati, Pompeii.
Photo/Copyright: Prof. Dr. Annette Haug

In the DECOR project, the research team around Professor Haug investigates how the people in Italy visually embellished (i.e. decorated) various areas of their antique world, between the late Republic and the end of the early Imperial period (2nd century BC to 1st century AD). The term “decorate” includes all forms of design, from murals to mosaics and structural ornaments right through to sculptures. Individually, these forms of design have all been studied extensively by archaeologists. Now, for the first time, the DECOR project attempts to examine all elements and their combined effect. Haug and her team wish to apply this new, holistic approach to houses and sanctuaries as well as main streets. In particular, the ancient settlements of Pompeii and Herculaneum offer many opportunities to do so.

“The city ruins in the Gulf of Naples provide tourists with a first impression of urban Roman life and living conditions at that time. Compared with today, many things have changed, of course, but nevertheless it is understandable that the décor in a church will be different to that in our bedrooms,” said Haug. Even then, tastes and preferences changed over time. “It becomes more complicated to question the reasons for the selection of décors, or to investigate the combined effect of the furniture and artworks chosen to decorate a living room.” This is the project’s methodological challenge. Where possible, buildings will be reconstructed in their entirety, to provide examples of different types of functional spaces. On this basis, deductions can be made about the relationship between interior decoration and room functionality.

Exterior view of the Temple of Isis in Pompeii

Exterior view of the Temple of Isis in Pompeii, with remnants of the original stucco décor. The main focus of the DECOR project is on houses, sanctuaries and main streets.
Photo/Copyright: Prof. Dr. Annette Haug

The material culture of that ancient period of upheaval is well-preserved. The architecture and decorative structures are suitable for further detailed studies. What aesthetic ideas were behind the decorative systems? How was the living space presented? Is there a social significance to decorative principles? “In Roman houses, it was typical that specific social groups had different opportunities to access individual rooms. I am interested in the relationship between social interaction and architectural features,” said Haug. For example, there are many erotic murals, which give rise to unanswered questions. “Such differentiated scenes were found in a well-known brothel. It is possible that they enabled the communication of personal wishes.”

In connection with the start of the project in October 2016, Haug is especially looking forward to exchanges with many other researchers, and the opportunity “to devote more time and attention to my research.” With the ERC Consolidator Grant, Kiel University is strengthened in one of its main research focus areas – social, environmental and cultural change (SECC). The externally-funded academic positions provide a boost to research in this area, and enable networking with other big projects. Haug said: “This topic could become a new area of focus for the arts and humanities in Germany. And I am particularly delighted that the focal point can be established in Kiel.”

About the ERC grant:
ERC grants are one of the most prestigious individual scientific awards and subsidy formats in Europe, with enormous benefits not only for the researcher, but also for their host university. Only 15 percent of all applicants pass the multi-level international selection process. There are massive differences between the various disciplines: while German institutions receive 18 percent on average of all ERC grants in life sciences, engineering and natural sciences, the figure for humanities and social sciences has only been 3 percent to date.

About the person:
Annette Haug has been a professor of Classical Archaeology at Kiel University’s Institute of Classics since 2012 and the deputy coordinator of the Graduate School “Human Development in Landscapes” since 2015. She obtained her doctorate with a thesis on urban life in northern Italy during late antiquity, followed by habilitation (postdoctoral qualification) investigating body images and role models on Attican vases of the 8th and 7th centuries BC. In 2010 she started her second habilitation in Munich, where from 2010 to 2012 she obtained a Heisenberg Fellowship from the German Research Foundation (DFG). Her research interests lie in the areas of investigating antique urban cultures, on the one hand, and the analysis of antique images, on the other. Her latest project, DECOR, sponsored by the European Union, combines these two aspects, and investigates decorative principles that were present in urban life in Italy.

More information about the DECOR project (grant agreement number 681269) can be found here: