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Landscape Archaeology Research Group

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    We keep growing! This week, on the 1st of December, Valentina Pescini and Toby C. Wilkinson joined the GIAP research team. Valentina as a Juan de la Cierva postdoctoral researcher and Toby as a Marie Skłodowska Curie Research Fellow. Here is a little bit of information on our new members and their projects on transhumant pastoralism in the Mediterranean and textile industries in the ancient world.

    Valentina Pescini

    Valentina is a bioarchaeologist, specialised in anthracology and archaeobotany, and her research focuses on the study of agro-sylvo-pastoral practices and their environmental impact through time. She received her Bachelor and Masters degree in Medieval Archaeology (2010) and Archaeobotany (2013) respectively at the University of Siena (Italy). In 2019 she completed her PhD in Historical Geography which was followed by a post-doctoral position at the University of Genoa (Italy). There she has worked in the Laboratory of Environmental Archaeology and History (Cir-LASA) and recently she has started collaborating with GIAP’s InterArPa and TransLands projects. Throughout her career she has collaborated in interdisciplinary research projects with archaeologists, naturalists, historians and geographers.

    Valentina’s new Juan de la Cierva project is called ‘Landscape of transhumance: an environmental archaeology research. Here is a brief summary of what she will be doing during her stay at GIAP in the next two years: 

    The overall objective of this project is to bring to light the rich environmental and cultural heritage linked to transhumant pastoralism, highlighting how this practice has built and transformed the rural landscape and its living components. Indeed, transhumance has represented one of the main environmental factors and has profoundly transformed the ecology of environmental systems in the Mediterranean area: from plant to animal populations, to the physico-chemical properties and structural characteristics of the soils. The impact of transhumant breeding is identifiable through the study of bio-stratigraphic markers (e.g. macro-micro charcoal, pollen, phytoliths, soil chemical elements, microorganisms etc.) extracted from soils and sediments. Anthracology, pedoanthracology, dendro-anthracology and archaeobotany will be employed in this project to study these issues. Bio-stratigraphic evidence will be cross-checked with other archaeological, historical, ethnographic sources and historical ecology observations. Two study areas have been selected as they represent two of the most important hubs of the transhumance system of the western Mediterranean region: the Eastern Pyrenees (Catalonia – Spain) and the Maritime Alps (Liguria – Italy).  While the archaeological traces of transhumance activity gradually disappear the environmental impact of the abandonment of this ecosystem management practice is increasingly evident: the decrease in biodiversity, increase in hydro-geological and fire risk are just some of the most evident consequences. This research endeavours to add new information that will contribute to new policies for the management of mountain areas that today are highly marginalized.

    Below you can find a selection of Valentina’s publications:

    A. M. Stagno, C. Tejerizo García, A. Echazarreta Gallegoa, R. Santeramo, M. Portillo, V. Pescini, B. Hernández Beloqui (2020) De montes comunes y sociedades campesinas. Los resultados del proyecto ARCHIMEDE en el País Vasco. Arqueologia de la Edad Moderna en el Pais Vasco. Archaeopress, pp. 165–181.

    V. Pescini (2019) Which Origin for Charcoal in Soils? Case-Studies of Environmental Resources Archaeology (ERA) From the Ligurian Apennines, Seventh to the Twentieth Century. Frontiers in Environmental Science 7-77: 1–15. 

    R. Cevasco, N. Gabellieri, V. Pescini (2019) Une approche historique et archéologique pour l’étude des systèmes de gestion des ressources environnementales : expériences en Ligurie (Italie N-O). Colloque Geohistory of environment and landscape, pp. 383–394. 

    V. Pescini, C. Montanari, D. Moreno (2018) Multi-proxy record of environmental changes and past land use practices in a Mediterranean landscape: the Punta Mesco Cape (Liguria- Italy) between the 15th and 20th centuryQuaternary International 463: 376–390. 

    Check the following link for more publications by Valentina:

    Toby C. Wilkinson

    Toby is a landscape archaeologist whose research interests include spatial and computational archaeology, survey and landscape methodology, open-access and web publication, and deep histories of economy in Eurasia. Previously he was a post-doctoral Research Associate at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research and Junior Research Fellow at Churchill College, University of Cambridge (2016-2020). Completing his doctorate at the University of Sheffield, he also worked as researcher in Turkey, at the British Institute at Ankara, Koç University’s Research Centre for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED) and Istanbul University. 

    His planned Marie Skłodowska Curie project, YARNSCAPES, aims to develop new methodological tools for the analysis of the impact of textile industries on landscape in the past. As one of the major transformative industries of the ancient world, the harvesting of yarns such as wool, cotton, silk to make textiles had diverse consequences for both social and landscape organisation. For example, the expansion of wool production resulted in the settlement and clearing of previously “marginal” landscapes across south-west Asia and Europe. The project will involve developing relevant ethno-archaeological, remote sensing, spatial and palaeo-environmental methods, as well as work in the on-going survey field project in western Turkey, Project Panormos (, on the Milesian Peninsula, in which he is a co-director.

    With an appreciation of fresh air and forests, as well as pixels and paper, he also hopes to walk in Tarragona’s lovely and evocative Parc Ecohistòric del Pont del Diable often!

    Here is a selection of Toby’s publications:

    T. C. Wilkinson and A. Slawisch (2020) An agro-pastoral palimpsest: New insights into the historical rural economy of the Milesian peninsula from aerial and remote-sensing imagery. Anatolian Studies 70: 181-206. doi:10.1017/S0066154619000164

    T. C. Wilkinson (2018) Cloth and Currency: On the Ritual-Economics of Eurasian Textile Circulation and the ‘Origins’ of Trade, Fifth to Second millennia BC, in K. Kristiansen, T. Lindkvist, J. Myrdal (eds.) Trade and Civilization: Economic Networks and Cultural Ties, from Prehistory to the Modern Era. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108340946.003

    N. Strupler and T. C. Wilkinson (2017) Reproducibility in the field: transparency, version control and collaboration on the Project Panormos Survey. Open Archaeology 3: 279–304. doi:10.1515/opar-2017-0019

    Wilkinson, T. C. (2014) Tying the Threads of Eurasia: Trans-regional Routes and Material Flows in Transcaucasia, eastern Anatolia and western Central Asia, c. 3000-1500BC. Leiden, Sidestone Press.

    Check the following links for more information on Toby’s work:


  • FIELDWORK AT THE GREEK COLONY OF ABDERA, THRACE, GREECE: report on our summer adventure

    2020, a complicated (!) year for the whole world. And in the midst of the pandemic we had somehow to move on with our TransLands project to ensure we have good datasets to continue with the palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and analysis of this twice-funded Classical colony. We somehow had to reach our study area and retrieve Holocene sedimentary sequences suitable for multi-proxy palaeoenvironmental analysis. We also wanted to explore the Holocene stratigraphy and reconstruct the palaeogeography around the colony in order to better understand the landscape configuration through time.

    The logistics were very complicated, not least due to the uncertainties until the last minute of whether we would be allowed to travel. Yet, the excellent collaboration between five different institutions (GIAP/ICAC, GEOLAB UMR 6042 UCA-CNRS, EVS UMR 5600 UNIV LYON2-CNRS, Xanthi Ephorate of Antiquities and the Kapodistrian University at Athens) and the determination of Drs Alfredo Mayoral, Ana Ejarque, Arnau Garcia, Mercourios Georgiadis and the rest of the team did the trick! 

    We completed two drilling campaigns in July and in September/October at the coast of western Thrace. And here are our campaigns in numbers: 18 days in the field, 6 people from 3 different institutions, 22 drilling points, several flights, 5800 km crossing 4 countries with a van, 700 km in a ferry, 500 km with an Opel Corsa (some of them off-road), 5 PCRs, several kg of feta, +/- 50 souvlakia, and lots of fun!

    The coastal wetlands around Abdera. Mosquitos apart, there are worse places to be! 

    In total we drilled more than 140 metres of sediment in different wetlands around the Greek colony (max depth 8.2 m). Of these we got 54 m of sediment, which is dated to between the Neolithic and the post-Classical period.

    The Russian corer head full of lagoon sediments (and of palaeoenvironmental information!)

    Dr Alfredo Mayoral is the first one to put his hands on the cores and he has just started the stratigraphic and sedimentological analysis of the cores in the lab at ICAC! Secured in our newly acquired fridge, these cores will be studied during the next few years by a team of palaeoenvironmentalists under the direction of Dr Ana Ejarque (GEOLAB UMR 6042). The analysis will include several proxies and will allow discerning the environmental history of Abdera’s colonization to be compared with the extensive palaeoenvironmental record revealed during the last years at Emporion, in Catalonia, at the eastern coast of Spain. However, given the number, distribution, and depth of the sedimentary records and given the results of our preliminary radiocarbon-dating, we will be able to use them also to study a wide variety of socio-environmental related topics, such as the first human impact on the area (particularly important as the Aegean is considered to be one of the entry routes of the Neolithic in Europe), the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ and so much more! 

    Team in the field: Alfredo Mayoral, Ana Ejarque, Arnau Garcia, Yannis Apostolou, Mercourios Georgiadis and Vincent Gaertner

    Part of the team during a drilling in dry wetland in the Tuzla Gyol area



    Two more members of the GIAP team are now officially trained drone pilots! Today, Monday the 26th of October 2020, the results of the UAV (drone) exams, organised by the Greek Civil Aviation Authority in Athens are out: Mercouris Georgiadis and Giannis Apostolou have successfully passed the test! Many congratulations to both of them!

    Henceforth Mercouris and Giannis will be able to apply our developing drone-based automatic detection techniques to our new survey project at the Grevena region, in NW Greece. Last month, the GIAP team visited the study area for the first time in order to make some first in-field observations and determine the main boundaries of the upcoming surface survey. This will be a project co-organised by GIAP and the Ephorate of Antiquities of Grevena. Stay tuned for more on the Grevena survey!

    Panoramic view of the Haliacmon river near the village of Palouria, SE Grevena, September 2020 (photo taken by Giannis Apostolou)
    Giannis Apostolou just after passing the drone exam

    Merkouris Georgiadis waiting to take the drone test


  • Emerging Investigator Award 2019 for GIAP members

    Hector A. Orengo (writing this post) and Arnau Garcia-Molsosa were awarded the Emerging Investigator Award 2019 by the Journal of Archaeological Science and the Society for Archaeological Sciences for our paper paper “A brave new world for archaeological survey: Automated machine learning-based potsherd detection using high-resolution drone imagery”

    The panel commended the visionary combination of drone-based phtogrammetry, machine learning and parallel computing in an open source environment, with the potential to revolutionise traditional field survey methods.

    We are delighted to have been honoured with this price and we thank the Journal of Archaeological Science, the Society for Archaeological Sciences and the members of the panel for what must have been a very tough decission!

    More information about this price can be found in the following links:

    Awarded paper (open access).

    Post about the published paper (also available in Castillian and English).

    Post about the FBBVA project aimning to extend the published method (also available in Castillian and English) (see also GIAP’s post on 25 March 2020).

    Post from the BBVA Foundation (funding current development of the method) on the award.

    Podcast interview by the Archaeology Podcast Network about the method.

    Journal of Archaeological Science News about the award.

    Videoconference interview about the award with the SAS Bulletin Online Editor Carmen Ting.


  • GIAP opens the period for the pre-selection of Marie Skłodowska-Curie proposals

    GIAP will be open until mid-july to eaccept candidatures for Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSCA) postdoctoral positions. Available supervisors include:

    Francesc C. Conesa for topics related to landscape archaeology, computational archaeology, remote sensing, GIS and machine learning.

    Arnau Garcia-Molsosa for topics related to landscape archaeology, landscape history, survey, computational archaeology, remote sensing, GIS and machine learning.

    Merkourios Georgiadis for topics related to landscape archaeology, survey, material analysis and. Aegean archaeology.

    Alexandra Livarda for topics related to archaeobotany, archaeology of food and taste, Aegean archaeology, Roman and Medieval social bioarchaeology and bioarchaeological approaches to ritual and trade.

    Hector A. Orengo for topics related to landscape archaeology, survey, computational archaeology, remote sensing, GIS, network analysis and machine learning.

    Josep Maria Palet for topics related to landscape archaeology, mountain archaeology, survey, Mediterranean archaeology, archaeomorphology and agrarian landscapes.

    Join a vibrant international community of postdoctoral researchers at ICAC. We are one of the world-leading groups in landscape archaeology, archaeobotany, mountain archaeology, archaeomorphology and GIS and we are pioneering some of the most innovative techniques such as automated drone-based intensive survey, multitemporal multi-source remote sensing, archaeological machine learning, spatial network analysis and 3D geometric morphometrics. Many more topics are available together with multiple study areas all over the Mediterranean and beyond where new research can be conducted as part of ongoing or independent projects.

    ICAC is an excellent research centre to develop MSCA projects with state-of-the-art equipment, laboratories, library and teaching and meeting spaces. It offers MSCA fellows the opportunity to apply for additional funding to complete their research and optional teaching and supervisory roles are available to help further the fellows’ careers.

    Contact one of the available supervisors above to discuss a possible project. We are very experienced in MSCA project preparation and have had a very high success rate during the last few years. Applications from female researchers and members of disadvantaged groups are highly encouraged.

    For other disciplines with available supervisors at ICAC please click here.


  • Call for papers for the new ArcheoLogica Data journal

    ArcheoLogica Data is a new annual Open Access journal by the MAPPA Lab at the Department of Civilisations and Forms of Knowledge of the University of Pisa. ArcheoLogica Data aims at publishing original contributions in the form of long (30k-50k characters) or short (7500 characters) papers linked to a dataset.

    The main difference between ArcheoLogica Data our well-loved Journal of Open Archaeology Data (JOAD) is that the former publishes papers with datasets while JOAD focusses on data papers describing archaeology datasets with high reuse potential. For example if you want to publish one or more useful datasets from your published PhD or a finished research you can go to JOAD. If, instead, you want to publish a new research that includes one or more datasets then you can submit to ArcheoLogica Data.

    There are no publication fees and the data will be stored, accessible, long-term maintained and curated in the Mappa Open Data Archive. All types of archaeological data at diverse processing stages without chronological or territorial limitations are welcome including but not limited to texts, tables, images, videos, 3D models and drawings.

    The call for papers for the first issue is now open until June 15. Contributions following the editorial guidelines should be sent to


  • 1st TIR-FOR symposium: call for papers

    The call for abstracts for the TIR-FOR (Tabula Imperii Romani – Forma Orbis Romani) symposium is now open. As mapping, computational and web-based technologies advance, the TIR-FOR project (one of the longest-running international archaeological projects) is dedicating its first ever symposium to digital cartography and how it interacts with current research on settlement, territory and archaeological topography. The deadline for abstract submissions is very soon, the 30th of April! You can register and/or deliver your abstract here.

    The symposium will feature three sessions:

    The first is dedicated to the project itself, ‘The present and future of the international TIR-FOR project’. A presentation by the Catalan TIR-FOR team will introduce this session.

    The second session, ‘Digital maps of the Roman world and specialised applications’ will be accompanied by a presentation by Johan Åhlfeldt (University of Gothenburg): Digital Maps and historical gazetteers: function and importance for digital historical research.

    The last session, ‘Studies of landscape, settlements and archaeological topography and digital cartography’ will feature a talk by GIAP’s co-directors Josep M. Palet and Hector A. Orengo: ‘Integrated landscape analysis: moving beyond site distribution’. Josep M. and Hector also form part of the Scientific Committee of the symposium.


  • Incorporation of a new GIAP member

    Today GIAP is celebrating the incorporation of a new member! Dr Francesc C. Conesa is starting working with us as a Juan de la Cierva Incorporación postdoctoral fellow for the project ‘Automated machine learning applications in landscape archaeology‘. Francesc will be working for the next three years with the Remote Sensing and Machine Learning teams and he will be developing new collaborations within the group towards new, fresh research ideas!


  • BBVA Foundation grant for DIASur!

    Despite the global pandemic and the confinement of the population, the members of the committee in charge of evaluating the BBVA Foundation Grants for Research Teams in Digital Humanities met virtually yesterday to select 5 projects out of the 81 proposals received in all fields related to digital humanities.

    GIAP was lucky enough to get one of these prestigious grants to carry out the project Drone-based Intelligent Archaeological Survey (DIASur). The project aims to automatise pedestrian archaeological survey.

    Pedestrian archaeological survey is the most common technique for locating and monitoring of archaeological sites. This technique currently requires a great investment of resources and time since it is developed manually with groups of archaeologists systematically walking an area to document the distribution of elements of material culture on the ground surface.

    DIASur will employ a purposely developed drone in combination with parallel cloud photogrammetry and artificial intelligence to automate pedestrian archaeological survey. The drone will fly over the area of ​​interest at low altitude taking continuous photographs of the surface. These images will be combined into a single high-resolution orthophotomosaic that will be used to identify and extract as vector shapes each visible element of material culture through deep learning procedures.

    The pilot study carried out by Arnau and myself (recently published open access in the Journal of Archaeological Science) shows the great potential of this method. DIASur will transform this proof of concept into a tool that can be applied on a large scale by research groups, archaeology companies and entities in charge of cultural heritage in a simple and automated way without the need of technical knowledge.

    In this way, DIASur aims to transform one of the basic techniques for acquiring archaeological data and to have a strong international impact on the automation of archaeological methods.

    The research team also includes Francesc C. Conesa, Merkourios Georgiadis, Toby C. Wilkinson, Paloma Aliende and Iban Berganzo.


  • Meeting virtually

    GIAP team members did their first general virtual meeting last Friday. The meeting focused on the organisation and workings of our new project management platform. There were a few technical problems related to the configuration of the internet browser of two members that did not allow them to intervene. They could still listen to the group conversation though and send text messages. These issues have been now solved and we expect our next meeting this Friday to take place without problems.

    The quarantine situation in Catalonia is hard and is affecting many people. We are lucky that we can continue with many aspects of our work from home. Despite the obvious limitations, this situation is forcing us to develop new ways of working together even from a distance, to keep contact and strengthen our collaborative work. We have no doubt that in the middle term, what we have learnt during this period, and not just in terms of technical capabilities, will become an important asset for the whole group.


  • Working from home

    During the next weeks we will be populating GIAP’s website. With the measures against the expansion of the Coronavirus (ICAC asked us to work from home) some of us will have some extra time to do so while others -like myself- will have the children at home for two weeks at least.


  • Hello World!

    GIAP launches its new website today. During the following weeks we will be updating content… Stay tuned!