Back Five archaeological projects in the Humanities Department receive a grant from the Palarq Foundation for the 2021 campaign

Five archaeological projects in the Humanities Department receive a grant from the Palarq Foundation for the 2021 campaign

Carla Lancelotti, with a project located at the Nile cataracts in Sudan, receives the grant for the first time, while M. Eugènia Aubet (Tyre, Lebanon), Stefano Biagetti (Botswana), Marco Madella (Indus Valley, Pakistan), and Sandra Montón (Mariana Islands, Western Pacific) have renewed theirs.


Imatge inicial

Five ongoing archaeological projects led by Carla Lancelotti, Stefano Biagetti, Marco Madella, M. Eugènia Aubet, and Sandra Montón-Subías, researchers at the UPF Department of Humanities, have received funding from the Palarq Foundation (2020 announcement) to help them achieve their goals with a view to next year’s campaign. This year, the Palarq Foundation has funded a total of 59 projects (fifteen new ones) relating to archaeology and human palaeontology conducted by teams from Spain that are carrying out their work outside Europe.

The UPF projects that will receive grants from the foundation are part of three different research groups: Culture and Socio-Ecological Dynamics, Laboratory of Archeology and Colonialism, Gender and Materialities.

The UPF projects that are to receive grants from the Foundation (totalling 40,000 euros) belong to three different research groups: the Culture and Socio-Ecological Dynamics (CaSEs) research group, with the projects FiCaPro, by the researcher Carla Lancelotti, located in Sudan in north-eastern Africa, the first campaign for which she has received a grant; GEA, led by Stefano Biagetti, in Botswana, southern Africa; and ModAgrO, by Marco Madella ICREA-UPF research professor, in the Indus Valley in Pakistan (second and third campaigns funded, respectively).

The other two research groups from the Department of Humanities involved are the Archaeology Laboratory, with the Tyre project, in Lebanon, led by Maria Eugènia Aubet, UPF emeritus professor, and finally, the Research Group in Colonialism, Gender and Materialities (CGyM), with the project ABERIGUA, by Sandra Montón-Subías, ICREA-UPF research professor, which is to be conducted in the Mariana Islands in the Western Pacific. All of the above have received a Palarq grant in four campaigns.

Carla Lancelotti is to explore the area of the fifth Nile cataract, in Sudan

The only new UPF research project in the list of funded projects is “The Fifth Cataract Project: human-environment interactions during late prehistory” (FiCaPro), led by Carla Lancelotti. “It’s a new project, in fact the funding from Palarq will be used to carry out a detailed exploration of the area of the fifth cataract of the Nile, in Sudan, to identify settlements for later study. The main goal of this first campaign will be to systematically explore the area of investigation to catalogue and map archaeological evidence”, Carla Lancelotti explains.

The development of FiCaPro is framed in the research being conducted by Carla Lancelotti through the project Starting Grant awarded by the European Research Council (ERC), obtained in 2017, under the acronym “Raindrops”. “The FiCaPro project has the same questions, uses the same study methods and, in fact, can be considered a spinoff of the ERC grant”, she assures. FiCaPro, in collaboration with the University of Shendi (Sudan), involving Hassan Mustafa Alkhidir (universities of Cologne and Shendi) as co-director, “seeks to understand and reconstruct population dynamics over time, the use of land in the past, and human adaptation to climatic and environmental changes”, Carla Lancelotti explains.

According to the researcher, this will be achieved through a combination of various techniques and actions: study of the geomorphology and evidence of heritage by means of satellite images of the area; field study, recording and precise mapping of archaeological evidence; systematic excavation of exploratory trenches in key positions; retrieval and analysis of bio-archaeological remains; and the integration of local traditional ecological knowledge, recorded and collected through ethnographic interviews with locals to understand adaptation to an arid, changing environment.

Botswana, Pakistan, Lebanon and the Mariana Islands, the locations of the four projects renewing their grants

Geo-ethnoarchaeology and the use of space” (GEA) is a project being undertaken by Steffano Biagetti, a researcher with CaSEs. The project uses a portable X-ray fluorescence analyser to study the chemical traces generated by human occupation present in the soil in Iron Age sites in Botswana, southern Africa. The researcher explains that “next year we hope to continue our fieldwork and obtain samples from new areas of the site”.

GEA, which aims to create a richer archaeological record through an innovative geo-ethnoarchaeological methodology applied to anthropogenic sediments in “Stone Walled Sites”, is co-funded by the Palarq Foundation, the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies of the University of Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa) and the University of Botswana.

Modelling the Agricultural Origins and Urbanism in South Asia” (ModAgrO), a project led by Marco Madella, coordinator of the CaSEs research group, is a collaboration between UPF and Shah Abdul Latif University, conducted in the Indus Valley (Pakistan): “The project aims to understand the agricultural dynamics that sustained urban growth, throughout the third millennium BC, of the Indus Civilization and the formation of some of the largest cities in the pre-history of the Old World”, Marco Madella explains.

The researcher reports that excavations were carried out in 2019 and 2020 at the archaeological site of Bhandar Qubo, and the extracted material is being analysed. “The first results of the analysis of animal and plant remains are revealing that the agricultural strategies of the Indus Civilization were highly diverse and well adapted to the environment and the climate, and at the same time, indicate that urban development was based on changes in agricultural strategies”. 2021 will see the start of excavations of the archaeological site of Taloor Je Bhitt, on the edge of the Thar desert.

The “Tyre Archaeological Project” in Lebanon (Middle East), led by M. Eugènia Aubet, director of the Archaeology Laboratory at UPF, which has received funding from the Spanish Ministry of Culture as well as from the Palarq Foundation, has conducted digs in the area since 1999, in collaboration with the Direction Générale des Antiquités (DGA), in Beirut.

“Right now we are working on the acropolis of the ancient city, an ancient island, where the metropolis was located that founded the colonies of Carthage, Cadiz and Ibiza (9th - 7th centuries BC). We are excavating the remains of a monumental temple at the top of the upper town”, says M. Eugènia Aubet. In the first phase, from 1999 to 2010, a systematic excavation of the Phoenician necropolis of Al Bass on the mainland was performed. Since 2013, the second phase has focused on the acropolis of the insular enclave where, after exploring Ottoman, Byzantine and Roman strata, a late Phoenician temple dating from around 600 BC was found.

Archaeology of cultural contact and of Spanish colonialism in the Mariana Islands” (ABERIGUA) is led by Sandra Montón-Subías, who leads the Research Group on Colonialism, Gender and Materialities. Professor Montón-Subías explains that the aid obtained will be used to study the colonial necropolis of San Dionisio and changes and continuities in funerary behaviour of Chamorro societies before and after modern-era Spanish colonization.

“The project, for which excavations at the site of San Dionisio are now finished, is considering opening new excavations in the residential districts of one of the reductions of the colonial era (reductions are the centres where the local population was concentrated after colonization) and in Latte settlements prior to or contemporaneous with the first colonization”, the ICREA-UPF professor comments.

ABERIGUA is a long-term project investigating the processes of cultural change and continuity associated with the inclusion of Guam and the Mariana Islands in the colonial network of the Spanish empire in modern times. It pays special attention to gender construction in colonial contexts and the so-called Maintenance Activities.



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