Justin Walsh is an archaeologist and assistant professor of art history at Chapman University. He has worked at sites in the United States, Spain, Jordan, and Italy for more than fifteen years. He is the author of "Consumerism in the Ancient World: Imports and Identity Construction" (Routledge 2014), which examines the distribution of Greek pottery in western Europe for evidence of how ancient people created their social identities. He also works on the preservation of cultural heritage and the archaeology of space exploration.

A bell in space

Together with my co-PI, Dr. Alice Gorman, I’ve been developing a new project: the International Space Station Archaeological Project (or ISSAP). Alice and I have actually been thinking about space archaeology for a long time — she has been working on it since 2002, and I’ve been doing it since 2009. But (with one exception), nobody has ever carried out a meaningful investigation of a human habitation site in space until now. Our friend and mentor, Prof. Beth O’Leary started the Lunar Legacy Project, which catalogued the 106 objects left behind at Tranquility Base by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. (Beth and some other colleagues just published a book about the heritage of the Apollo program — check it out!) But our project is much different in scale and time, since over 250 people have visited ISS over almost 17 years of continuous habitation. And it means we have to develop a new method, since we don’t have $75 million to pay for a ride to the space station!

Our idea is to use the millions of images that astronauts and space agencies have taken in the last 17 years showing life on board. By cataloguing and classifying the people, spaces, and objects — and the relationships between them — we can map patterns of behavior over time. Since digital photos have metadata recording the time and date when they were made, we can observe specific moments in ISS’s life. This is not so different from a stratigraphic excavation of a site on Earth. We can also identify how aspects of Earth culture have made the transition to space. How does this work? Let’s look at an example.

A photo of ISS crew in Node 2/Harmony (note the bell at upper left).

A photo of ISS crew in Node 2/Harmony in 2009 (note the bell at upper left). Photo credit: NASA, remixed and used under CC 2.0 BY-NC.

In this photo, we see the American Node 2 module (also known as Harmony), with six astronauts. As archaeologists, we focus on material culture as a means of understanding the development and maintenance of a society — even a microsociety of six people. So we might notice the uniforms worn by the crewmembers, which indicate their affiliations and identities. One of the figures, in the back on the right, is notably different in his gray jumpsuit. This is Charles Simonyi, who was a “space tourist,” a temporary visitor, rather than an astronaut selected and trained by a space agency for a specific mission (he created the programs Word and Excel for Microsoft). You can also see the array of flags and patches above the astronauts’ heads. These are the flags of the US, Japan, Russia, Canada, and the 11 European nations which participate in the ISS project. The patches are related to the specific expedition, or habitation cycle, of the ISS at this time. Note that the flags of the nations of the astronauts who were on board ISS at the time are the ones given precedence.

And then there is one other piece of material culture evident in this photo: a bell. You can see it at the upper left of the image. When we first saw this, we thought maybe it was related to the wide array of musical instruments that have been carried to ISS. But it turns out that it represents the translation of an interesting aspect of naval culture to the paradigm of space…and its location in Node 2 is no accident.

On ships at sea, a bell is often rung to announce the boarding or departure of crew from a different boat. While the Space Shuttle was still in service, Node 2 was its docking point. So when a Shuttle would arrive or leave, the bell in Node 2 would be rung in salute. As NASA astronaut Sandra Magnus, who served on STS-112 in October 2002, described it,

…we have a very nice tradition on the station where they’ll ring us off with the bell and announce that Atlantis is departing, and we knew that was officially the end of our docked stay, and home we go.

But Node 2 wasn’t launched until 2007. So the bell wasn’t located here when Magnus visited. In 2002, it was probably in the US Laboratory module (aka Destiny), adjacent to the Pressurized Mating Adapter where the Shuttle docked. Later, as the station grew, the bell was moved so that it would still be close to the entrance to the station, and so the Earth-bound naval tradition could continue. The bell shows how astronaut crews conceptualize their presence on ISS as being “on a ship,” and they recognize this by acting as though they are on a ship at sea!

You can follow ISSAP on Twitter at @ISSarchaeology or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ISSarchaeology/.

Alice has written a post for Day of Archaeology here

Forvm MMX a Cástulo (Linares, Jaén, España) – Día Internacional de la Arqueología

El equipo de excavación de FORVM MMX en Cástulo (Linares, Jaén), España

El equipo de excavación de FORVM MMX en Cástulo (derechos de autor Forvm MMX).

For an English version of this page, click here.

Años de trabajo, esfuerzo y dedicación han dado como fruto un proyecto que supera todas las expectativas y rebasa los límites de toda idea de excavación arqueológica clásica. El recién nacer de Cástulo es ya un hecho. La ciudad que en el pasado fue capital de la Oretania (región de la Península Ibérica), vuelve a estar viva.


Los muros de aquellos edificios que constituían la urbe, las salas que alojaban a su pueblo, comienzan a resurgir de su letargo. Los ciudadanos vuelven a ver Cástulo como espacio vivo, una ciudad en la que poder caminar por sus calles, un punto de encuentro, un lugar de confluencia para personas de diferentes culturas y nacionalidades donde compartir experiencias únicas e inolvidables.
El Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo comprende un total de 3.141 hectáreas, extendiéndose por los municipios de Linares, Lupión y Torreblascopedro. En el año 1972 pasó a formar parte del Estado y desde 1984 su gestión corresponde a la Consejería Cultura de la Junta de Andalucía.
La ciudad intramuros alcanza las 76,5 hectáreas de propiedad pública. Consta de un recinto amurallado de 4 kilómetros en el que aún se conservan fortalezas y torreones defensivos. Domina un cruce de caminos que une el alto Guadalquivir con la meseta por el norte, el denominado Salto Castulonensis.
Destaca la importancia de esta urbe durante las II Guerras Púnicas que enfrentaron a romanos y cartagineses, uno de los momentos clave de la historia del Mediterráneo Occidental. Su conquista otorgaba el control sobre los recursos mineros de Sierra Morena. Pasó así a convertirse en la capital de la Oretania Ibérica, un municipio romano con derecho propio a acuñar moneda y, posteriormente, a albergar una sede episcopal en época bajo imperial.
Actualmente, las labores de excavación se están llevando a cabo de la mano del Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológica Forvm MMX, que ha centrado su trabajo en una serie de objetivos que abarcaran todas las fases ocupacionales del sitio arqueológico y aquellas zonas más importantes para la ciudad. La primera fase del proyecto ha consistido en localizar el foro de la ciudad romana de Cástulo como lugar de encuentro y núcleo fundamental de la vida y cotidianeidad de la civilización romana. La segunda fase ha permitido excavar la puerta norte, nexo de unión entre la modernidad y la antigüedad desde un punto de vista figurado.

La localización del oppidum ibérico (el más grande de la península ibérica); el puerto fluvial de Cástulo, citado en los textos clásicos y último puerto navegable del alto Guadalquivir como ejemplo práctico de cruce de caminos (nunca mejor representado por el comercio entre civilizaciones); el castillo de Santa Eufemia del siglo XIII, último baluarte en Cástulo y, finalmente, la investigación del templo de la muela como lugar de culto e influencia orientalizante intentando profundizar en las raíces religiosas que dan lugar a estos enclaves.
Forvm MMX ha sido la herramienta capaz de unificar todas las disciplinas necesarias para que una nueva ciudad renazca. Un resurgir no solo desde el punto de vista arqueológico, recuperando esa historia oculta en la tierra, sino social, ofreciendo un enfoque en el que se busca la implicación de la sociedad y la consecución de un proyecto sostenible.

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Detalle del mosaico de los Amores

Detalle del mosaico de los Amores (derechos de autor Forvm MMX). Para imágenes de alta resolución, haga clic aquí.


Forvm MMX at Cástulo (Linares, Jaén, Spain) – Day of Archaeology

The excavation team of FORVM MMX at Cástulo.

The Forvm MMX excavation team at Cástulo. (Copyright Forvm MMX)

Para una versión de esta página en español, haga clic aquí.

Years of work, effort, and dedication have borne fruit in the form of a project that has exceeded expectations and gone beyond previous limitations of excavation in classical archaeology. The rebirth of Cástulo is now a fact. This ancient city, which was once the capital of the Iberian region of Oretania, has returned to life. The walls of the city’s buildings and the spaces where its population lived are rising from their slumber. We’re beginning to see Cástulo as a living space, a city whose streets can be walked, a meeting-place, a place where people from different cultures and nationalities can share unique and unforgettable experiences.
The Cástulo Archaeological Group (Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo), which joins together the site and the Archaeological Museum of Linares, manages a total of 3,141 hectares, including parts of the municipalities of Linares, Lupión, and Torreblascopedro. In 1972, the group came under state control, and since 1984 it has been part of the Andalusian Cultural Council. The urban center covers 76.5 hectares of public property. It is surrounded by fortifications measuring four kilometers in length, which even today preserves both walls and towers. The city dominated a crossroads, called the Salto Castulonensis, between the upper Guadalquivir River and the Meseta plateau of central Spain.
Cástulo reached its greatest prominence during the Second Punic War, between the Romans and the Carthaginians, one of the key moments in the history of the western Mediterranean. The city controlled the mineral resources of the Sierra Morena. It became the capital of the Iberian region of Oretania, then a Roman municipium with the right to coin its own money. Later on, in the later Empire, it became the seat of a bishop.
Currently, excavation efforts are being undertaken by the archaeological team of Forvm MMX. We’ve focused our work on a series of objectives that cover all phases of the site’s occupation and the most important zones of the city. The first part of the project has been to locate the forum of the Roman city of Cástulo – the meeting point and core of everyday life and of Roman civilization. The second part is the excavation of the northern gate, which, from a figurative standpoint, forms the link between antiquity and modern times. Our other plans include locating the pre-Roman Iberian city (the largest on the Iberian peninsula); investigating the river port of Cástulo, mentioned in classical texts and the last navigable port on the upper Guadalquivir, as a practical example of a crossroads for ancient trade between civilizations); investigating the last bastion of Cástulo, the thirteenth-century castle of St. Euphemia; and, finally, studying a Phoenician temple, discovered by earlier archaeological work beside the river, as a place of worship and of Near Eastern influence.


As you can see from the video above, Forvm MMX is bringing together the necessary tools from every discipline for the rebirth of Cástulo. This project signifies a resurgence not only from an archaeological point of view, with the recovery of lost history from the soil, but also from a social point of view, since it includes broad community involvement and a focus on the sustainability of our work.

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Detail of the Cupid mosaic from Cástulo

Detail of the extraordinary Cupid mosaic from Cástulo. (Copyright Forvm MMX) For high-resolution images, click here.