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Landscape Archaeology Research Group

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    Giannis Apostolou, Paloma Aliende and Arnau Garcia-Molsosa reporting:

    After several months in dry-dock, with work advancing only from our home computers, we can finally retake our aerial surveys! We have really missed the outdoors and the rewards of fieldwork and it is now time for us to go back to the field and acquire new data for our tests on automatised methods for archaeological survey. The main objective of our first flight was to extend our machine learning-ready training dataset of high-resolution images of potsherds as they appear in the field surface. It was also an opportunity to test our new multirotor UAVs and improve our piloting skills. We had a lovely spring sunny day at Empúries and travelled around the Empordà region. As always, our colleagues from the Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya (MAC – Empúries) have been excellent hosts!

    Potsherds at Empúries
    Giannis Apostolou and Arnau Garcia flying the drone at Empúries
    Arnau Garcia and Paloma Aliende at Empúries monitoring the drone flight

    Archaeosurvey project team: Hector Orengo, Arnau Garcia-Molsosa, Merkourios Georgiadis, Toby Wilkinson, Giannis Apostolou, Iban Berganzo, Paloma Aliende and Felipe Lumbreras

    For more information on our project see


  • GIAP goes to India: a new project investigates the origins of the Indus Civilisation

    Hi, this is Francesc! I’m a postdoctoral fellow at GIAP, and this is my first blog post – just about time! I joined ICAC during the worst months of the pandemic back in Spring last year to closely work with the remote sensing team under Dr Orengo. My research focuses on developing computational workflows to work with Big Earth Data (vast collections of multi-temporal and multi-sensor satellite imagery) to detect archaeological sites -and the risks that threaten their preservation- quickly and efficiently over large areas. Much of my research is centred on drylands, particularly in the semi-arid monsoonal landscapes of the Bronze Age Indus Civilisation in South Asia. 

    Today I’ll briefly introduce our new Indus initiative in the Kachchh region in the state of Gujarat, north-western India. The “Kachchh Archaeological Project: trade, pastoralism and the origins of the Indus Civilisation” (2021-2023) has been generously funded by the Palarq Foundation, and it right now in its very initial stages – just gearing up all the pieces. 

    The project aims to shed new light on the role that rural areas played in the development of the Indus Civilization. Most of the Indus academic corpus has focused primarily on the urban period or Classic Harappan phase (c. 2600-1900 BC). However, we know very little about the pre-urban or Early Harappan phase (c. 3300 and 2600 BC). It is during this early formation stage of the Indus world when complex agricultural and pastoral practices in Kachchh were first seen, thus defining its own regional socio-economic dynamics until the full integration of the area into the Indus Valley. 

    Until recently, there was only a few evidence for Early Harappan sites in Kachchh,  in contrast with the abundant archaeological remains for the urban phase (hey, see for example the impressive archaeological site of Dholavira!). This picture started to change with the 2019-2020 excavations of the Early Harappan cemetery of Juna Khatiya by Profs. Rajesh S.V. and Abhayan G.S. from the Department of Archaeology, University of Kerala. 

    One of the c. 50 burial chambers excavated so far at Juna Khatiya. Note the mounted structure, which was covered with a sandstone block.

    The excavations at Juna Khatiya sets our starting point. Our investigations will focus on three key archaeological contexts to better understand the beginnings and development of the Indus Civilization in the region: 1) Early Harappan cemeteries, through the bioarchaeological analysis of the remains at Juna Khatiya, including biogenic isotope from human teeth and residue analysis from artefacts (e.g. microbotanical remains and lipids); 2) Early Harappan settlements, through the detection and excavation of new potential domestic spaces, and 3) the cultural landscapes of Kachchh. through the study of ethnographic evidence, long-term land use and multi-temporal remote sensing datasets. The integration of these three contexts will allow us to fully meet our project’s objectives during the next three years, and unravel new  ‘histories’ of the Indus civilization.

    Dr Ahayan G.S. documents Early Harappan pottery with a possible origin from the neighboring Sindh region in the Indus Valley.

    The sherd puzzle at Juna Khatiya is quite large – waiting for lipid extraction! 

    Timely organisation for on-site meals – can’t wait to have my Gujarati Thali again!

    The project is an ongoing GIAP-ICAC collaboration with the University of Kerala and the Spanish National Research Council. It also includes researchers from the University of La Laguna, in Tenerife, as well as from Albion College and the Rochester Institute of Technology, both in the United States. 

    Do you want to know more? Check the new National Geographic Spain post showcasing the project (in Spanish)! Stay tuned and follow our Twitter for more posts on this topic as we move forward to our first satellite observations and analysis!



    On the 17th of March GIAP is hosting the second talk of the webinar series ‘Recent Advances in the Study of the Ancient Mediterranean’ to be delivered by Dr Jane Rempel (University of Sheffield, UK).

    Dr Rempel’s talk examines the late Classical/early Hellenistic monumental burial traditions from Sinope and Amisos on the south coast of the Black Sea. It argues that, while these burials are locally informed, they were designed to participate in larger networks of elite competition. These include the regional network of the central Pontic region (Paphlagonia and the Pontic kingdom) and also that of the other Greek settlements around the Black Sea. During a period of marked prosperity and mobility, as well as dynamic political competition, new monumental and lavish burial traditions played an important role in proclaiming elite identities across political and cultural boundaries.

    You can join Dr Rempel’s talk (17/3/2021 at 18:00 CET) at the following link:

    ‘A view to the sea: Monumental burial traditions in the southern Black Sea region during the late Classical and early Hellenistic period’



    On the 1st of March Lídia Colominas joined the permanent staff of ICAC/GIAP with a Ramón y Cajal contract.  

    Dr Colominas is an archaeozoologist, with a particular emphasis on the Mediterranean between the 5th century BC and the 5th century AD. Her work has focused on the development of 4 main research lines: animal husbandry, animal trade, diet/food studies, and ritual practices.  Lídia has integrated innovative methodologies with more traditional archaeozoological research, such as ancient DNA analyses (e.g. research contract at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge, 2012-2014) and Geometric Morphometrics (research stay at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, 2017). 

    Dr Lídia Colominas working on a Roman animal bone assemblage

    During the last 5 years prior to her incorporation as Ramón y Cajal researcher, Lídia was a postdoctoral researcher also at ICAC (FPDI-2013-18324 and 017.42). where she completed three multidisciplinary financed projects. These provided new insights into the characteristics and nature of ancient livestock practices in high mountain areas and led to fresh hypothesis about the emergence of transhumance in the Iberian Peninsula during the Early Roman period.

    With this new position, she endeavours to consolidate archaeozoology at ICAC as an important and cutting-edge line of research to investigate ancient societies. 

    For more information have a look at:



    GIAP’s new webinar series ‘Recent Advances in the Study of the Ancient Mediterranean’ is hosting Dr Veronica Aniceti on the 24th of February at 18:00 (CET). Dr Aniceti will be talking about ‘Animals and their roles in the medieval society of Sicily‘.

    You can join the talk here:

    Here is a taster of what the talk will be about:

    This talk will highlight how zooarchaeology can contribute to our understanding of the medieval history of Sicily and how this can also help in gaining a better insight into the broader mechanisms of cultural exchange, transmission and replacement, as well as the co-existence of different ethnic identities. In particular, the results of a number of faunal samples recovered from different site-types and dated to the medieval period in Sicily are compared and discussed revealing significant changes in the use of the main domesticates in the Byzantine-Arab and in the Arab-Norman/Swabian transitional periods. In the Arab period, the socio-cultural effects of the Islamisation of the island are attested by an overall dearth of pigs at most urban sites. By contrast, similarly to the Byzantine period, pigs continue to be represented at contemporary rural settlements, thus suggesting a higher resilience of rural communities toward the newly imposed socio-cultural and religious rules. Sheep become larger in Arab times; this was likely driven by an interest to maximise outputs from caprine husbandry, and can be seen as part of the ‘Arab Green Revolution’. During the Norman/Swabian rule, changes in dietary practices in comparison with the previous period are noticed. Although caprines maintain an important economic role, pigs are again present at urban and military sites; this might be an indicator of an ongoing ‘de-Islamisation’ of the island. At the same time, a further improvement of sheep size indicates a continuity in the Norman/Swabian period of animal husbandry strategies initiated by the Arabs. 

    Have a pick of the next speakers that form part of our first webinar series, celebrating leading research across the Mediterranean:



    Skyscapes, religion, plants and ancient economy are some of the themes to be investigated by the two successful 2020 Marie Sklodowska Curie fellows that will join GIAP. They are two brilliant female researchers: Dr Efrosyni Boutsikas and Dr Charlotte Diffey. Both of them will be working on the Aegean with new technologies, involving loads of 3D reconstructions!

    Dr Boutsikas is an established scholar and with this fellowship aims to amplify her analytical toolkit with cutting-edge techniques on advanced 3D modelling and landscape analyses, while delving into current theoretical approaches on the cognitive formation of space and experience in ritual performance. This will be achieved through applied research on ancient Greek ritual practice collaborating and guided by Dr Hector Orengo at GIAP and also by Dr Schjødt’s team at the Department of the Study of Religion at Aarhus University (Denmark), where she will have a short stay of about 2 months. Her project, STAR-AGESS aims to recreate immersive environments that incorporate ancient sky and astronomical simulations, horizons, detailed topography and architectural 3D models of the sanctuaries at Sounion, Aegina and Perachora in Greece.

    Efrosyni Boutsikas brief biography:

    Efrosyni Boutsikas is a Senior Lecturer in Classical Archaeology at the University of Kent and a member of the Council of the International Society for Archaeoastronomy in Culture (ISAAC). Her research focuses on ancient Greek religious experience, memory, myth and the role of time, space and landscape in ritual performance. She has written and co-authored papers on the role of astronomy and catasterism myths in shaping ancient religious experience and ritual practice. She has directed research projects in Greece, Cyprus, Sicily and Turkey funded by the British Academy, the Society of Antiquaries (London) and the Royal Society of New Zealand. Her research has been published in a range of classical, archaeological, and archaeoastronomical journals. Efrosyni is currently also a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Astronomy in Culture and the Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, and a co-director of the University of Kent’s Interdisciplinary Centre in Spatial Studies (KISS). She is the author of The Cosmos in Ancient Greek Religious Experience: Sacred Space, Memory, and Cognition (Cambridge University Press, 2020) and a co-editor of Studies in Cultural Astronomy in Honour of Clive Ruggles (Springer, 2021).

    Dr Efrosyni Boutsikas

    Dr Diffey is a talented early career researcher, who is specialized in archaeobotany and stable isotope analysis, having been trained in one of the best research teams in the field led by Prof. Amy Bogaard at the University of Oxford, UK. Despite the early stage of her career, Charlotte has a very strong field, laboratory and publication record, with work in Europe, Asia and the Americas, including research at the iconic sites of Çatalhöyük in Turkey and Knossos in Greece. She will join GIAP with the project ‘DarkSeeds’ under the guidance of Dr Alexandra Livarda. Her project aims to provide a new explanatory model of the economic changes observed during the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age in the Aegean, a period often referred to as ‘Dark Ages’, through the application of standard archaeobotanical and stable isotope analyses alongside newly developed methods at GIAP that combine 3D photogrammetry and Machine Learning-aided Geometric Morphometrics (GMM).

    Charlotte Diffey brief biography:

    Charlotte completed her PhD in 2018 and since then she held two post-doctoral positions. First at the University of Oxford and then at the University of Reading where she currently continues working. In her current position Charlotte is working on the ERC-funded ‘Middle East Neolithic Transition: Integrated Community Approaches’ (MENTICA) project. This research concentrates primarily on the establishment of early farming practices and communities at several Neolithic and Chalcolithic sites in Iraq and Iran. Her previous research has focused on large-scale Bronze Age farming and politics in the Eastern Mediterranean and Northern Mesopotamia, working on archaeobotanical assemblages from the major urban centres of Hattusha (Turkey) and Tell Brak (Syria).

    Dr Charlotte Diffey



    2021 started with the publication of the third paper of the bioarchaeology-palaeoenvironment-landscape team of the PALAP research project (Palaikastro Phase 4. Urbanisation in Bronze Age Crete: between palace and landscape at Palaikastro). The project (2012-5) involved:

    • Excavation of part of the Bronze Age (Minoan) town at the site of Roussolakkos, near the modern village of Palaikastro in East Crete.
    • Landscape survey and mapping, which covered an area of 32 km2 around the town. This work, instead of following standard practices to locate sites, focused on the identification of Minoan farmsteads and the examination of the economic organization of the inland territory of the town. The resulting paper can be found here.
    • Multi-proxy palaeoenvironmental analysis of two cores covering the Late Neolithic to the early Bronze Age, which provided important data on the environmental setting of the town and, indirectly, on its economy. More information on this work can be found on the published paper here (paywalled) and its open access post-print version here.

    After the publication of the landscape and the palaeoenvironmental results, we brought together all bioarchaeological (seed, charcoal, animal and fish bone and shell) data recovered during the PALAP excavation. Combined with new palaeoenvironmental data for the Middle Minoan period and the landscape survey results, this unique multidisciplinary assemblage of excavation and survey data, still uncommon in Crete, led to new exciting insights into Crete’s prehistoric past. In particular, comparison and thorough analysis of these diverse datasets resulted in a detailed discussion of agriculture, farming, diet and resource management at the Bronze Age town at Palaikastro and its territory (Fig. 1). 

    Figure 1. The bays of Kouremenos and Chiona divided by ‘Kastri’. Palaikastro, East Crete

    This work has been the result of very close collaboration, often under challenging conditions (Figs 2), of the whole team (Fig. 3 and 4) that worked together from the design stage of the project to the final interpretation of the results. This uniquely holistic approach allowed us to shed new light into the debates on the emergence of social complexity in Minoan Crete. We also delineated the scale of various activities taking place in the east of Crete and identified the ‘roots’ of the Bronze Age system into the Neolithic, whereby the east of Crete appears to be an early area of large-scale olive management, directly related to pastoral activities and landscape management. Our work questioned the need of specialization alone as a trigger for the emergence of hierarchical societies and highlighted the importance of adopting multidisciplinary integrated approaches to local economies. Importantly, our work showcases how the study of organic remains can open new windows into the past, stepping out of the appendices of publications and occupying a prominent place in leading archaeological research.

    Figure 2. Work at the laboratory facilities at Agios Antonios often under challenging circumstances (from left to right A. Livarda, H. Orengo and V. Tzevelekidi with family)
    Figure 3. Part of the environmental team at the flotation station
    Figure 4. Lab work at Agios Antonios: Alexandra Kriti studying seeds under a stereoscope, Mihalis Trivizas and other members of the team sorting heavy residue, Llorenç Picornell-Gelabert can be seen at the very back checking his charcoal

    Read our fascinating results here:

    Livarda, A., Orengo, H.A., Cañellas-Boltà, N., Riera-Mora, S., Picornell-Gelabert, Ll., Tzevelekidi, V., Veropoulidou, R., Marlasca Martín, R. and Krahtopoulou, A. 2021. Mediterranean polyculture revisited: olive, grape and subsistence strategies at Palaikastro, East Crete, between the Late Neolithic and Late Bronze Age. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 61. 



    New research using Deep Learning to extract archaeological information from collections of maps produced during the European colonization of South Asia and Levant 

    New research published this week in Archaeological Prospection presents the results of how archaeological information can be extracted from historical maps using deep learning. The paper demonstrates the potential of this technique for large-scale analysis and showcases its limitations and challenges. 

    Colonial powers undertook massive programmes of systematic mapping of their possessions for military and economic control purposes. Although the historical value of these maps is well known by archaeologists and historians, exhaustive archival work is needed to use the data they contain, including the thousands of potential locations of archaeological sites that can be inferred from those maps.

    This research provides a new tool to facilitate this work and render it accessible to the research community. It explores collections of maps produced by the Survey of India during the British dominion over modern India and Pakistan, and by the French authorities during the control of modern Syria. Using deep learning it is now possible to extract information about 1) mound sites, unintentionally represented as topographical anomalies by the surveyors; 2) sites purposely reported and represented as conventional signs; and 3) toponyms that might refer to archaeological sites. 

    This technique provides the potential of exploring large series of hundreds of maps in a quick and reliable way. That can be an invaluable tool for the management of cultural heritage and the development of historical and archaeological research. 

    British maps of modern Pakistan (left) and Syria (right) depicting thousands of potential archaeological sites inadvertently, as topographic anomalies; on purpose, using conventional sites or identified using toponymic references. Image credit: Arnau Garcia-Molsosa.

    The paper is the result of a collaboration between our researchers Dr Arnau Garcia-Molsosa ( and Dr Hector A. Orengo ( and colleagues from  the University of Cambridge (Dr Cameron Petrie) and the University of Durham (Dr Dan Lawrence, Dr Kristen Hopper and Dr Graham Phillip).

    The paper, entitled: ‘Potential of deep learning segmentation for the extraction of archaeological features from historical map series’, is published Open Access and can be accessed here:

    Funding information: Agència de Gestió d’Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca, Grant/Award Number: 2018 BP 00208; H2020 European Research Council, Grant/Award Number: GA648609; H2020 Marie Skłodowska‐Curie Actions, Grant/Award Number: GA746446; Leverhulme Trust, Grant/Award Number: F00128/AR; Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Grant/Award Number: RYC‐2016‐19637



    Time has flown, in a few days 2020 will be over and just a few days ago we had our final weekly GIAP meeting for the year…although without online drinks and nibbles. We leave these for next year when we can all have our Christmas get together…together, in the same room without looking each other through a screen, drinking a festive sorbete de cava. You know, the Mediterranean version of mulled wine. 

    Well, another year has passed, but what a year! One that has changed everybody’s lives. And yet within this world of pandemia our little, big lives carried on, full of moments of joy, moments of sadness or stress and other, flat moments, moments that we don’t think much about but they have become so precious lately. And our GIAP stories grew, they involved more and new people, new places, and new ideas many of which materialised and have now become new projects that will be developed over the next few years. 

    So….2020, let’s reflect on good things, things that made GIAP better, more interesting and fun.

    First, we became bigger! Some researchers already working with us were ‘stabilised’ (hooray!) and new talent was captured (yeah!):

    1. One new Ramón y Cajal (tenure track) researcher, Lídia Colominas joined the permanent staff of GIAP.
    2. Five new postdoctoral researchers, Arnau Garcia Molsosa (Beatriu de Pinós), Francesc Conesa and Valentina Pescini (Juan de la Cierva), Alfredo Mayoral (GIAP/ICAC research fellow), and Toby Wilkinson (Marie Sklodowska Curie), started working in GIAP on projects stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to India, passing via Italy, Greece and Turkey. (see e.g. more on Valentina’s and Toby’s work here)
    3. Two new PhD students, Giannis Apostolou and Arnau Carbonell (our ‘new’ Arnau petit making our other Arnau, Arnau Garcia, realising that he is now part of the old generation, goshhhh), started their postgraduate adventure. Giannis is working on landscape research in the Aegean combined with new, cutting-edge technologies in the detection of sites and Arnau is working on mountain archaeology in the Pyrenees.
    4. One research contract for the development of deep learning algorithms in collaboration with the Computer Vision Center (CVC, Barcelona), won competitively by Iban Berganzo.

    Meeting each other, working together has been challenging this year but we acted quickly. Since the first moments of the lockdown back in March we put together the GIAP website to reach out to the world, and the GIAP SamePage, a collaborative work management platform where we organised our projects, agendas, shared resources and chatted. And our Friday weekly meetings became our time reference and helped us in structuring our time, a check-in point that we were all there, we were all well and we were still creative or at least as much as we could under the circumstances. And it has worked pretty well! We have been hearing what each of us was doing, listening to each other’s frustrations or excitements, chatting and trying to solve issues arising. We put forward ideas, we set seeds for new projects, and we even made things that seemed impossible… possible. 

    GIAP’s last weekly meeting for 2020 (lacking Iban Berganzo). With all our very best wishes for 2021!

    We crossed borders, physical, conceptual and disciplinary ones, to realise fieldwork and set up new projects! Here are some examples:

    Alfredo Mayoral, Arnau Garcia, Merkouris Georgiadis and Giannis Apostolou working together with colleagues and friends from France, Ana Ejarque (GEOLAB UMR 6042), Jean-François Berger and Vincent Gaertner (EVS UMR 5600 Université Lyon 2 – CNRS), and Greece, Constantina Kallintzi (Xanthi Ephorate of Antiquities) and Eurydice Kafalidou (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens), managed to organise a trip from Spain to Greece that involved 5800 kms of road trip and 700 kms in a ferry, passing through four countries with different COVID-related measures in place (see Abdera summer adventure). Landscape archaeologists, palynologists and geoarchaeologists, supported by new computational approaches led by Hector Orengo, set out to unravel the history of the Greek colony at Abdera, and understand how the landscape changed and how this change impacted but was also initiated by the people living there. As part of this, 54 m of sediment were brought back to Spain, which Alfredo Mayoral has been analysing during the past few months; 20 samples for radiocarbon dating have already been sent for analysis and 5 more will be sent in early January. A growing project, financed so far for its various different parts by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities with an I+D project (TransLands) and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Program (TransMed).

    Resting after the end of a challenging yet successful field campaign at Abdera, Greece

    Back at home, Josep Maria Palet, Lídia Colominas, Abel Gallego, Arnau Carbonell, Paloma Aliende, Valentina Pescini alongside other colleagues, including our long-term friend and colleague François Ricou who crossed the border and came to join them from France, climbed up the mountains to dig Bac de Puigpedrós, Molleres II and Duran II (Meranges, eastern Pyrenees) at more than 2300m of altitude, to continue unraveling the amazing world of high mountains.

    Alexandra Livarda and Hector Orengo based in Spain worked together with their agronomist colleagues Giannis Mylonas (Hellenic Agricultural Organization- Demeter, Institute of Plant Breeding & Genetic Resources) and Elissavet Ninou (International Hellenic University) based in Greece, through numerous video conferences, video calls and hundreds of emails, instead of the pre-pandemic planned meetings in Greece, and altogether managed to successfully set up the experimental cultivation of 22 barely accessions at the Institute of Plant Breeding & Genetic Resources in Thermi Thessalonikis. Blending together archaeobotany, artificial intelligence, 3D GMM, stable isotopes and agronomy they ended up with a heady cocktail of new ideas and methodologies under development that will allow for the first time to use the 3D morphology of cereal grains to directly identify their management in the past and reconstruct agricultural economies. An amazing new project, different parts of which are being financed by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (I+D+i DarkRevisited) and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (iShape3DSeed), bringing together researchers from 14 different Institutions across Europe, the States and Canada. 

    Setting up the experimental cultivations at the Institute of Plant Breeding & Genetic Resources in Thessaloniki, Greece

    More, new collaborations started, like the one between Hector Orengo and Arnau Garcia with the Computer Vision Center’s (CVC, Barcelona) researchers Daniel Ponsa -to investigate the use of multispectral cameras in the detection of ceramic sherds- and Felipe Lumbreras -to co-direct Iban Berganzo’s PhD on the development of deep learning algorithms for the detection and segmentation of different types of archaeological features.

    New agreements were set up between Hector Orengo and the University of Cambridge, UK, to work on MAHSA, a three-year Arcadia-funded project to map the archaeology of the Indus Civilisation using purposely developed algorithms, which join remote sensing, historical maps and machine/deep learning methods. A new project that resulted after several years of fruitful collaboration between Hector Orengo at GIAP and Cameron Petrie at Cambridge Uni. Exciting days of collaborative work to come!

    Riddles were also solved and new ideas were put forward with the completion or the continuation of older projects! 

    Josep Maria Palet and the team at Meranges finally solved the mysterious ‘hiatus’ in the occupation of high mountain spaces in the eastern Pyrenees. Newly excavated contexts revealed very well-preserved huts and enclosures and showed pastoral activities during the transition of the Final Bronze to the Iron Age, supported by fresh, new radiocarbon dates. A heritage treasure of the area!

    Lídia Colomina’s project ‘Behind the steps of ancient mobility: study of livestock practices and cultural landscapes in the eastern Pyrenees through a bioarchaeological approach’ came to an end this year with spectacular results! Links between the Pyrenees and the northeastern Iberian coast during the early Roman period were delineated, involving the first movement of sheep between the coastal lowlands and the Pyrenees. This work has changed the previously established notion that the origin of the intensive exploitation of the Pyrenean highlands as pastures was rooted in the medieval period, pushing back the beginning of this activity to the early Roman period! See, for instance: and

    Moving north to Central France, Alfredo Mayoral with colleagues finalised their multi-proxy geoarchaeological research at the wetlands of La Narse de la Sauvetat in the Limagne plain and Lac du Puy at the protohistoric site of Corent, shedding new light on the human-environment interactions of the area. These studies have been very significant in rewriting the history of the area. The La Narse de la Sauvetat geoarchaeological and palaeoenvironmental work, for instance, demonstrated a significant change in the beginning of the Iron Age (c. 2600 cal BP) probably related to the onset of agricultural activities and drainage, revealing significant anthropogenic impact on natural systems much earlier than previously thought!

    Alexandra Livarda with her colleague Georgia Kotzamani (Directorate of Prehistoric and Classicl Antiquities, Hellenic Republic/Ministry of Culture and Sports, Athens, Greece) added another piece in the puzzle of Minoan ‘villas’, providing the results of the first systematic archaeobotanical study of such sites, in particular of the Minoan ‘villa’ at Zominthos in central Crete. For details see:

    More histories were written for the Aegean islands, this time by Merkourios Georgiadis with his colleague Lilian Karali (Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece), who unraveled the unique local painted decoration on Bronze Age pottery from Halasarna on the island of Kos, and added to the knowledge of the local technology and the network of connections of the island during its prehistoric past in his newly published book ‘Georgiadis, M. and Karali, L. 2020. Halasarna V. Aura editions, Athens’.

    Hector Orengo, Francesc Conesa and Arnau Garcia in collaboration with colleagues at the McDonald Institute – University of Cambridge, CaSEs – University Pompeu Fabra, and the GEO3BCN – CSIC provided exciting new insights into the effect that climate change had in ancient societies. In a research recently published in PNAS, our researchers developed an innovative machine learning-based algorithm that employed multisource and multitemporal satellite data for the purposes of this study. The result? The identification hundreds of previously unknown ancient sites and large towns deep in the Cholistan desert of Pakistan that shed a whole new light on the history of the area and provided new clues to the effect climate change and the expansion of the desert had in the decline of the Indus Civilization.

    And we have not been short in other sort of achievements either!

    Paloma Aliende, our clever technician, became our first licensed drone pilot! Merkouris Georgiadis and Giannis Apostolou followed and successfully passed their drone piloting test too…(see two new drone pilotes at GIAP). Adding Toby Wilkinson to our crew, we now have 4 active drone pilots in GIAP with more to follow soon. Thanks to Paloma’s efforts ICAC has also become a drone operator, which means that we can now plan our flights, design missions and directly ask for flight permits. An important and necessary legal step in setting up and developing our drone-based methods and applications. Hoorayy!

    International events too! An international exhibition on the historical and environmental heritage of transhumance in Liguria was organised by Valentina Pescini and colleagues. 

    And just before the lockdown the International workshop ‘Computational approaches to archaeological site detection and monitoring’ was held at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, organised by our very own Hector Orengo, Arnau Garcia and Francesc Conesa in collaboration with Cameron Petrie (University of Cambridge). A workshop that brought together a group of pioneers in the application of computational techniques to site detection, setting new standards for the discipline.

    Publications, publications, publications…of course! Several and very exciting ones! We saw our work published in a series of books, edited volumes, and international peer reviewed journals, adding small pieces of knowledge to help us remember and better understand our past, understand what made us be who we are and shed light on everyday stories hidden away from official texts.

    European, national and regional grants were secured. We were also successful in competitive grants by private foundations, such as for the project, ‘Drone-Based Intelligent Archaeological Survey’ directed by Hector Orengo, which was generously funded by the BBVA Foundation with a Grant for Research Teams in Digital Humanities. The last one we got by private foundations was announced in December: The Palarq Foundationfunded Francesc Conesa (co-PI with Juan José García-Granero, IMF-CSIC, and with the collaboration of Rajesh S.V. and Abhayan G.S., University of Kerala, India) the project ‘Kachchh Archaeological Project: trade, pastoralism and the origins of the Indus Civilisation’.

    And an award! Yes, there has been an award this year! A great treat to a great piece of work! Hector Orengo and Arnau Garcia got the Emerging Investigator Award 2019 by the Journal of Archaeological Science and the Society for Archaeological Sciences for their paper “A brave new world for archaeological survey: automated machine learning-based potsherd detection using high-resolution drone imagery”. The panel commented on the visionary combination of drone-based photogrammetry, machine learning and parallel computing in an open source environment, with the potential to revolutionise traditional field survey methods’. Thank you people!

    So, indeed a very full year. Reflecting back, it hasn’t been that bad then! 🙂

    And what about the new year that is coming?

    Our new year’s resolutions? Very simple and yet challenging!

    Continue working together, break more limits, cross more and new borders and don’t get ground down by the adversities of life.

    And let’s close with a few wishes for 2021:

    1. Get rid of the pandemic!
    2. Travel freely and be together with friends and dear colleagues.
    3. See a reduction of administration work in the Spanish research micro-cosmos (…ok, ok, we know, but let us keep dreaming!)
    4. Make our international seminar series happen! A project led by Giannis Apostolou, Abel Gallego, Arnau Carbonell and Valentina Pescini.
    5. See our institution reforming ICAC’s lab space to finally get our much-desired new state-of-the-art bioarchaeology and computational archaeology lab where researchers of all stages will be able to work together and make innovations happen!
    6. Keep creating together and giving birth to new ideas! 

    And of course, WE WANT MORE! More projects, more people working with us, more people to become permanent in our team, and more fun!




    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!