LaPaDiS - Laboratory for Past Disaster Science

  • Volcanic eruptions and prehistoric culture change

Project presentation

Large-scale and potentially destructive environmental events such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis have happened throughout human history and prehistory. Yet, disasters are generated only in the interplay between such events and the human societies they impact.

LaPaDiS, the Laboratory for Past Disaster Science, is a physical/distributed research group anchored at the Department of Archaeology that brings together scholars interested in past disasters – the way human individuals and groups in the past responded to and coped with rapid environmental change and punctuated events. We draw broadly on natural scientific methods in order to answer questions arising from archaeological, anthropological, and sociological concerns. We use a wide array of analytical techniques to investigate the relationship between past cultures and environmental events with a current emphasis on volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. The case study we currently focus on aims to clarify the extent to which the Laacher See volcanic eruption (10,966 BCE) impacted on the culture-history of contemporaneous hunter-gatherer populations in northern Europe during this so-called Late Glacial period. By investigating local changes in the archaeological record in relation to this eruption, and by matching these local patterns to global trends seen in the responses of traditional societies to similar events, a more robust interpretative context will be provided to better understand this as well as other cases where such societies were affected by volcanic eruptions. 

Phase 1 ran between 1.7.2011 and 30.6.2013 and was funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research (DFF) Sapere Aude career programme (Research Talent grant #11-106336).

Phase 2 is also funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research (DFF) Sapere Aude career programme (Starting Grant #6107-00059B) and will run from 1.1.2017-31.12.2020.

The project is also associated to the Materials, Culture and Heritage research programme and the  Climate|Culture|Catastrophe Network (C3NET) and the AU Centre for Environmental Humanities.


Core project staff

  • Assistant Professor Felix Riede, Department of Culture & Society, Aarhus University (project director)
  • Professor Christian Tegner, Department of Geoscience, Aarhus University
  • Associate professor Jesper Olsen, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University
  • Postdoctoral researcher Christian Hoggard, Department of Culture & Society, Aarhus University


Affiliated researchers

  • Dr. Ulrich Kueppers, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, LMU München
  • Postdoctoral research associate Dehlia Hannah, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University

Senior advisory panel

  • Professor Katharine V. Cashman, University of Bristol
  • Professor Neil Price, University of Uppsala




Felix Riede

Associate professorSchool of Culture and Society - Department of Archeology and Heritage Studies
H bldg. 4215, 129
P +4587162083
P +4560187382