Iberian Peninsula

ArchaeoLandscapes Europe

Increasing Public Appreciation, Understanding and Conservation of the Landscape and the Archaeological Heritage of Europe

Archaeology can be so fascinating – digs in nice and exotic places, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures, teaching students and learning from students, telling stories about the past to the public.

But I am sitting in my office in Frankfurt/Main (Germany) today and trying to cope with our new website. The old one was hacked a while ago to be used for DoS attacks on another server so we had to take it offline. We used that opportunity to refresh the old page so now I am working on tinkering the new site a bit, adding content here and there, trying to find mistakes and replacing some placeholder images with pictures from the project before the site will go live again as soon as the provider has managed the domain transfer.

Sounds all rather boring but in the end it’s exactly part of the things I like so much in archaeology: teaching and telling stories! And the background of the webpage of course is the project ArchaeoLandscapes Europe (ArcLand), funded by the EU culture programme for 5 years (sept 2010 – sept 2015) to foster all kinds of remote sensing and surveying techniques, to spread the knowledge all over Europe within the archaeological community and of course also to the broader public. It’s about telling the public that archaeology is more than a dig in a temple in the jungle or an investigation of a pyramid. It’s also – and mainly (?) – about understanding the history of a landscape and the people that lived in it, it’s about trying to find out how people could cope with their environs and which traces they left – and it’s about finding these traces. From the air (aerial archaeology, LiDAR, satellite imagery) and from the ground (geophysics, field walking) and in all cases non-invasive.

From left to right: near infrared aerial image - rob aerial image - LiDAR scan - geomagnetic survey

From left to right: near infrared aerial image – rob aerial image – LiDAR scan – geomagnetic survey

And yes, this is absolutely fascinating – and it brings me to many nice (though not always exotic) places where I meet new people and old friends, where I experience new and well known cultures and where I have the opportunity to tell the stories that are relevant within the framework of the project. It is talking to archaeologists who know a lot about the remote sensing and surveying techniques and learning a lot from them, it is talking to students to make them aware of the fantastic options of these techniques and it is talking to the public to share the fascination that I still feel when I look at a newly discovered site on an aerial image, on a landscape palimpsest on a LiDAR scan or on the hidden subsoil feature visible in the geophysical data.

I really feel very happy when I can see that the grants that our project provided helped students and young researchers to experience new techniques, to exchange knowledge and expertise with other people and to meet people from different areas of Europe to widen their (cultural) perspective. And I am happy to see that all these activities have always been a lot of fun for all those that have been involved.


ArcLand partners meeting in Amersfoort (NL) in 2013

Sure, it’s a EU project which means that there is a lot of administrational work to do. The EU is supporting us with a lot of money and I can understand that they want to make sure that this money is well spend. Still, I am swearing a lot over time sheets and lists of invoices and all that. But that is a very fair price for all the options this support offers to many people all over Europe and abroad! And it shows that Europe is more than a bunch of bureaucrats that only care about the bend of bananas to be imported into the EU! Seeing all these people from the Baltic to the Iberian Peninsula, from Ireland to the Balkan getting together, learning from each other , exchanging ideas and enjoying themselves at our workshops, at our conferences or when visiting our travelling exhibition really makes me feel the the idea of a joint and peaceful Europe is worth all that money.

So all in all, working on a webpage is not that bad, it’s raining outside anyway, so I am sitting in my dry office and I know that the work that I am doing is one tessera in the large archaeological mosaic. Watch out for our webpage http://www.archaeolandscapes.eu to go live again hopefully soon!

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.