Drones don’t fear lava: Remote and ground archaeological survey during the 2021 volcano eruption in La Palma, Canary Islands

“The study of how eruptive events affected past societies and their environment has been a recurrent field of research that has gained relevant insights towards reducing present-day geohazard risks and vulnerability [1, 2, 3]. Archaeological volcanology also has close ties with the so-called “disaster archaeology” [4, 5], which aims at improving our engagement and risk management strategies in response to contemporary calamities such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes [e.g 6, 7, 8, 9] or even nuclear accidents [e.g. Fukushima, see 10]. Much of these works have focused on the social benefits of archaeological work amongst at risk-communities and the use of remote-based approaches to map endangered Cultural Heritage in post-event scenarios. But what about recording and surveying archaeology at risk during an emergency such as an ongoing volcano eruption?”

Read the full text by Francesc C. Conesa (GIAP-ICAC), who’s guest editor in in the latest Online SAS Bulletin.

For more information, you may also check Francesc’s blogpost after he came back from his intervention in La Palma: “Heritage at risk: remote and ground monitoring of endangered heritage in La Palma volcano eruption“.


[1] Elson, M., Ort, M., Archaeological Volcanology, 2018. En López-Varela, S. (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Archaeological Sciences. Wiley. 

[2] Riede, F., Doing palaeo-social volcanology: Developing a framework for systematically investigating the impacts of past volcanic eruptions on human societies using archaeological datasets. Quaternary International. 499B:266-277.

[3] Riede, F., Barnes, G., Elson, M., Oetelaar, G., Holmberg, K., Sheets, P., 2020, Prospects and pitfalls in integrating volcanology and archaeology: A review. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 401. 

[4] Torrence, R., Graham, J., 2002, The archaeology of disasters: past and future trends. En Torrence, R., Graham, J. (eds.), Natural Disasters and Cultural Change. Routledge. 

[5] Riede, F., 2017. Past-Forwarding Ancient Calamities. Pathways for Making Archaeology Relevant in Disaster Risk Reduction Research. Humanities 2017, 6.

[6] Buren, M.V., 2001, The Archaeology of El Niño Events and Other “Natural” Disasters. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 8:129–149. 

[7] Bagwell, M., 2009. After the Storm, Destruction and Reconstruction: The Potential for an Archaeology of Hurricane Katrina. Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress 5,1:280-292.

[8] Tapete, D., Cigna, F., 2020. Poorly known 2018 floods in Bosra UNESCO site and Sergiopolis in Syria unveiled from space using Sentinel-1/2 and COSMO-SkyMed. Scientific Reports 10, 12307.

[9] Jusseret, S., 2014. Earthquake Archaeology. A future in ruins? Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 1.2: 277-296. 

[10] Schlanger, N., Nespoulous, L. & Demoule, J., 2016. Year 5 at Fukushima: A ‘disaster-led’ archaeology of the contemporary future. Antiquity, 90, 350:409-424. 

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