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Three ERC Advanced Grants for Leiden researchers

Archaeologist Frans Theuws, Buddhism specialist Jonathan Silk and mathematician Ronald Cramer have each been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant of 2.5 million euros.

The European Research Council (ERC) awards these prestigious subsidies to excellent researchers whose pioneering research will have an impact on both science and society. 

Frans Theuws, Professor of the Medieval Archaeology of Europe

How did Western Europe recover after the fall of the Roman Empire? It is generally assumed that the elite had a defining role in this recovery. However, Theuws believes that the role of the upper classes has been largely overestimated. He bases his opinion on the unexpected wealth found in the countryside: since the 19th century an enormous number of beautiful and exotic objects have been excavated from thousands of different sites. Theuws will use the grant for his Rural Wealth project to chart the wealth of farming communities. 

He aims to discover how these communities were integrated into networks within which goods circulated between the Indian Ocean and the North Sea. As part of his studies he will trace the composition and origin of these objects and explore the mobility of country dwellers using skeleton research. Theuws will also study the relationship between changing ideologies, rituals and economic growth. His aim is to develop a new vision of the recovery of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.  

Jonathan Silk, Professor of the Languages and Cultures of India and Tibet

Silk is receiving an ERC grant for his research project on ‘Open Philology: The Composition of Buddhist Scriptures’. Silk, a Buddhism specialist, studies sutras, preserved texts from ancient Indian literature that are seen as the preachings of Buddha. These sutras are fundamentally  important to understanding Buddhism. The classical philological approach to these texts, based on an original version and linear development, is too narrow. It ignores the true value of tradition, Silk explains, because the texts have no author, they are linguistically very diverse and they are also modular. 

Silk and his team want to make the sutras available in digital form and link them to one another, in the same way that the Chinese, Tibetan and Sanscrit versions  are linked. A digital environment will allow researchers throughout the world to make additions and add comments. The ERC subsidy is good news, and not only for Leiden researchers. 

Ronald Cramer, Professor of Cryptology

Cramer, a mathematician, is being awarded an ERC subsidy for his research on 'Algebraic Methods for Stronger Crypto'. He is head of the Cryptology Research Group at the Centre for Maths and Information Technology (CWI) in Amsterdam and is a professor at Leiden's Mathematical Institute. He earned his stripes with his fundamental contribution to the development of cryptography, the design and use of secret scripts. He will use the ERC subsidy to improve the functionality and the fundamental concept of encrypted security in the face of strong opposition, including from the quantum computer.

Cramer will use recent arithmetical codes for his research. The applications will vary from ‘public-key’ cryptography to the protection of 'multi-party computation’, the collaboration between parties where there is no mutual trust. Together with  Victor Shoup, Cramer developed the so-called Cramer-Shoup system, an asymmetrical encryption algorithm that is used for securing networks.  

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