Meet our new MSCA fellow to research the ancient landscapes of Lebanon

Last August, the research group welcomed Dr. Sayantani Neogi, who will be with us for the next two years to work on her MSCA-IF project SIGNATURE (HORIZON-MSCA-2021-PF-01-101067100).

Sayantani completed her PhD in Geoarchaeology at the University of Cambridge (2014) while working on Indus archaeological contexts. Primarily trained as a geomorphologist, she has a  long-standing interest in landscape archaeology to understand human-environment relationships from a “total environment” perspective”. Following her PhD, she worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich on the ERC project “AcrossBorders” where she worked in New Kingdom Pharaonic contexts in Sudan. Before joining us at ICAC, she had been a Training Manager and researcher for the EAMENA project for the past six years, and she has been involved in transferring remote sensing workflows and techniques to young scholars. Her combined expertise and training skills led her to build partnerships with heritage agencies and professionals in the MENA region, particularly in Lebanon. They laid the ground for her successful MSCA proposal. 

SIGNATURE aims to investigate the long-term settlement and land use dynamics that shaped the cultural soilscapes of the Levant, with a particular emphasis on revealing new archaeological sites that have been obscured by recent agricultural encroachment and abrupt land disturbances. The study area encompasses the endangered archaeological landscapes of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and its adjacent fertile plains between the Litani and Orontes rivers. As an aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War and the long-lasting conflict spillovers that followed, the traditional agronomic landscapes of the Bekaa were severely transformed by agricultural autarky. The scarce initiatives that are set in place to map vulnerable heritage have primarily focused on well-known, monumental sites such as the UNESCO complex of Baalbek. Other fragile and less visible archaeological and landscape features, such as eroded earthen mounds or tells, are vastly under-represented.

Sayantani will combine Big Earth Observation Data and high-resolution soil proxies in computational workflows to accurately map and predict the location of anthropogenic soils and landforms, monitor historical and present-day land use trends, and identify acute landscape transformations affecting the preservation of vulnerable archaeological and heritage assets. 

She started her project with an initial reconnaissance trip to the Bekaa Valley in late August to engage with the Directorate General of Antiquities of Lebanon (DGA) and take stock of the nature of the landscape and its resources so that Sayantani could plan the future fieldwork accordingly. She engaged with many Lebanese colleagues during her short stay in the Bekaa region, and she is thankful for the DGA support and involvement. 

We look forward to learning more about past Levantine Mediterranean landscapes! 

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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