Archaeoroute: a guided tour to the cultural landscapes of Vall de Núria

Today, Josep Maria Palet was invited to the field day of the 6th European Conference on Permafrost (EUCOP 2023), which is taking place in Puigcerdà in June 18th to 22nd, organised by the University of Barcelona (UB). Together with Marta Flórez, they will guide the participants on a route showcasing not only geological aspects but also providing a glimpse into the landscape archaeology research conducted at ICAC. This unique experience will enable conference attendees to directly observe and contemplate the impact of human activities on the environment.

Starting the ascent, following the Roman road to Coll de Finestrelles. This Pyrenean sector served as an administrative boundary during Roman times, marking the frontier between Gaul and Hispania
Josep Maria Palet presenting our archaeological work to the EUCOP2023 attendants

Our projects in the Pyrenees
Our archaeological endeavors within the natural park of the Ter and Freser river-headwaters have spanned over a decade. Situated in the eastern Pyrenees, this region, safeguarded since 2015, showcases awe-inspiring peaks reaching nearly 3,000 meters. Renowned for its unrivaled natural and cultural heritage, it stands as an exemplary testament to the grandeur of the high Pyrenean mountains descending towards the Mediterranean.

Human influence and livestock communities
Through our research in the area, compelling evidence emerged, attesting to the profound human influence on the Pyrenean valleys since prehistoric times (IV-III millennia BC). The availability of fertile pastures and convenient access to water sources facilitated the establishment of flourishing livestock communities as early as the Neolithic era. As a result, a comprehensive documentation of over 400 archaeological structures, primarily associated with pastoral activities such as orris, huts, fences, and milking parlors, was accomplished.

Four periods of occupation
The enduring human occupation of this territory can be categorized in four distinct periods. Firstly, the Neolithic period witnessed the initial establishment of livestock communities in the Coma de l’Embut and Coma del Freser area. Subsequently, during the Roman era, these valleys fell under the influence of Ceretan populations and the prominent Roman city of Llívia. The late-ancient and high-medieval periods (6th-11th centuries) revealed the earliest archaeological indications of transhumant cattle ranching, wherein the arduous journeys between the flat coastline and mountainous terrain were undertaken. Lastly, the modern period (16th-18th centuries) unveiled a notable surge in livestock activities within the Núria and Freser valleys.

Our research has allowed us to unravel the complex tapestry of human history interwoven with this captivating landscape. These valuable discoveries offer profound insights into our ancestral connection with the environment, fostering a deeper appreciation for the enduring bond between humanity and the natural world.

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