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Toponymies between Rhine and Elbe – Onomastics in the European Area

Important witnesses of settlement history Toponymies are of unique value to historical research. They are resilient enough to survive population changes and are therefore important witnesses of settlement history. The comparably recent endeavor of the Goettingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities “Toponymies between Rhine and Elbe – Onomastics in the European Area” took a remark by Jacob Grimm to heart, for whom proper names constitute the oldest testaments to human language and “the analysis of which [sheds] light on the language, customs and history of our ancestors”. Since the beginning of 2005, researchers of the project have primarily investigated the toponymies of Northern and Central Germany, since the past years have shown that regions of this area are particularly important and interesting. The names of Westphalia, Bremen and Lower Saxony noticeably indicate relations to European neighbor states, especially to England, the Scandinavian countries and East-Central Europe. For example, there is strong evidence that the settlers of England did not come from Schleswig-Holstein, as was long believed to be the case, but from Lower Saxony. The names of past and existing places are to be collected from 50 toponymical books and will then be presented in their historical tradition and treated etymologically.