Notes from Spain – Tuesday – July 20th

22 07 2010

July 20, Lori and I spent most of the day in the computer labs at the University of La Rioja assisting the field school students with the processing and preparation of their datasets. They will present their work and results in a symposium scheduled for tomorrow. In the late afternoon we had the opportunity to visit three dolmen sites and a Medieval walled town with our friend and personal guide, Alvaro Rodriguez Miranda.

 Dolmens are a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb that usually consist of a number of upright stones that support a large, flat, horizontal capstone.  Most of these megalithic structures date to the early Neolithic period (circa 4000 to 3000 BC), but have been used repeatedly by various later populations up to at least the Middle Ages. Dolmens were usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow, or low hill. The large stones that are visible today were actually the subsurface foundational “skeleton” of the structure of the burial mound that have been revealed by exposure to long-term weathering and erosion of the covering soil. The sites that we visited are located in the Basque Region, in the southern foothills of the Sierra de Cantabria. We were told that more than 80 of these structures have been located in the surrounding countryside.

 Many questions about the specific purpose(s) of the dolmens remain. For example, were they originally contructed as burial sites or was this use a later manifestation? Were they placed in specific locations to act as waypoints or directional markers for travelers or traders? Or did they serve some other purpose? A multidisiplinary archaeological project is currently being conducted in the region by the University of Vitoria. They are investigating these intriguing structures using traditional excavation methods, geophysical surveys, and also employing high resolution documentation methods (e.g., 3D laser scanning and photgrametric techniques) and exceedingly accurate spatial mapping technologies (e.g., GPS, GIS, total stations, and aerial LiDAR). These new types of data will provide extensive information regarding a variety of issues relative to the dolmens and there use over time.

 Later, we also visited the Medieval town of Labraza, located in the province of Álava, in the Basque Country of northern Spain. This is another walled town that sits atop a prominent rocky outcrop with a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. Unlike Laguardia, Labraza is seldom visited by outsiders, a situation that gives a visitor a chance to see life without the trappings of tourism. The relative isolation of this friendly and prosperous town has helped to preserve the architecture and one can see and experience the lifestyle that has changed little over the past 500 years. All in all, it was a great early evening.

 We returned to Logrono for dinner and the unexpected surprise that followed. The participants from HafenCity Universität Hamburg (Germany), brought out cases of their local German beer, the Greeks from National Technical University of Athens offered bottles of ouzo, and Italian wine from the students of the Universita degli Studi Siena (Italy). Students from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid supplied an Iberian ham (a complete pork leg that has been soaked in salt and cured for up to a year). Universidad del País Vasco (Spain) brought excellent chocolates from the Basque Country as did students from Vilniaus Gedimino Technikos Universitetas in Lithuania. The after-dinner celebration was a lot of fun, and it was great to see students and professors from six different countries sharing and enjoying their foods and traditions.



Notes from Spain – Sunday July 18th

20 07 2010

Sunday, July 18, was our day off from the field school activities, and Lori and I visited a Medieval town we had glimpsed on our trip to Vitorio earlier in the week. Laguardia is a village in the southern foothills of the Sierra Cantabria Mountains of La Rioja, Spain. Sitting atop a high rock outcrop that dominates the surrounding landscape, Laguardia is an exceptional example of a walled village that has changed little since the 13th Century. The town is also a major center of the Rioja wine industry and almost every house within the confines of the defensive walls,contains a wine bodega (cellar).

 The old walls and buildings are almost completely intact, including the four entrance gates, so when you enter the historic 13th Century village you are literally transported back in time. Laguardia was originally established in the 10th century when a castle was built on the site. During the Middle Ages, village residents dug cellars into the rock below their homes to create cool areas for food storage and to act as places of refuge during periods of siege. Interestingly, so much of the village has been undermined by these tunnels that automobiles are not allowed within the walls of the village.

 The earliest written evidence of the existence of grapes in La Rioja dates to AD 873, and The King of Navarra and Aragon granted the first legal recognition of Rioja wine in 1102. In 1560, harvesters in the area established a symbol to represent the quality of the wines. As wine production became prominent in the region, the underground passages of Laguardia were found to be ideal for the fermenting of wine. Many of these cellars continue to be used to age the wines of La Rioja and can be visited today. With wine being such an important part of the social and economic lives of the residents, we tried our best to support their crafts and traditions.


Notes from Spain – Friday July 16th

19 07 2010

Today was last full team field day. Smaller groups will return to the site on Monday and possibly one other day next week to collect data to fill any gaps, but the majority of the field work is now completed. Now the teams are turning to processing the data, including GPS, total station, laser scanning (short and long range), ortho-imagery, and photogrammetry. Each night, the students have been working on processing and this will all culminate in an exposition of their efforts on our last night next week.

 When our field work was completed today, we hiked our standard walk of 45 minutes down to the bus, but were taken to the village of Clavijo nearby. The village had prepared a traditional meal for us complete with incredible salads, beef and potato stew, and desert. The Rioja wine was from the town´s own bodega called the Castillo d´Clavijo, named after the incredible hill fort atop their village. After our meal, we climbed to the top for some incredible views of the Rioja valley. The town´s historian and the mayor were on hand for our visit, and I had a nice chat in English with the mayor´s wife who as it turns out comes from Scotland (my family on my Father´s side comes from very near her and we had much to talk about). The reception by the people and the village we have been doing our archaeological project at was tremendous, and Travis and I were interested very much in their views as to the significance of the monastery site to them as individuals and to the town in general. The experience for both students and professors was a day to remember.


Notes from Spain – July 15th part II

17 07 2010

On Thursday, July 15, Lori and I traveled to Vitoria-Gasteiz, a city in the Basque Region of Northern Spain. We were invited to tour the campus and facilities of the Álava Campus of Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (Basque), Universidad del Pais Vasco (Spanish), Basque Country University (English). Our hosts were Rosa M. Rio Belver, Vice-Dean for International Relations and Miguel Calvo Melero, Vice-Dean and Director of the Laboratory of Experimental Cartography and GIS.

 The campus is quite impressive and is home to over 50,000 students and faculty. We toured the extensive library and archival collections and the School of Engineering. Students can study specific programs in Cartography and Geographical Information Systems. This department is currently updating their computer labs with new state-of-the-art 3D portal computer systems designed for GIS, visualization, and cartographic applications.

 The cartographic and computer training at the University is in-depth and extensive. Graduates will work, not only in this region of Spain, but will interact with agency across Europe. One of the objectives of these types of programs is to integrate multiple local systems to produce better communications, accuracy, and interactions across the European Union.


Notes from Spain – July 15th

17 07 2010

Today, we returned to the ruins of the Saint Prudencio Monastery on Mount Laturce on the outskirts of the village of Clavijo, La Rioja, Spain. This Monastery, one of the oldest in La Rioja, originated around AD 925 with the burial of Saint Prudencio, bishop of Tarazona. In the 12th century, Cistercian monks took over the administration of the Monastery. During 12th and 13th centuries the church was rebuilt and additional structures were erected. Today, this ancient architectural complex is abandoned and the ruins are subject to collapse and looting.

An international group of students are being given an intensive, hands-on opportunity to use a variety of digital techniques for the acquisition of geometric information. This information will used to preserve and record the ancient structures, as well as trace the construction methods and history.  Global Positioning Systems (GPS), total stations, laser scanners, and photogrammetric systems are all being integrated to produce a foundational record that will be added to in future field schools and projects.

Lori and I are working in various parts of the ruined complex with a German team and students who are using three-dimensional laser scanners to capture the stone and masonry structure in exceptional detail. These datasets will be integrated with the other spatial data to provide a more complete and accurate record of the site. These datasets will provide archaeologists, architects, heritage managers, and restoration experts with multiple forms of information for analysis, research, and planning.


Notes from Spain – Tuesday July 13th

13 07 2010

Yesterday in the field we spent a hard morning hiking into the site with students carrying equipment on the 45 minute hike that goes through very rocky and hilly terrain. We took into the site several (6) total stations, an RTK GPS and rover base set-up, two laser scanners (medium and long-range), and two photogrammetric setups. Travis and I decided to watch the Italian and the Greek professors and international student teams that were doing the photogrammetry. We were concentrating on the main church section of the site which includes several decorative archways. There are a number of building episodes and ‘wall stratigraphy’ to decipher, and it is hoped that the ultra high-resolution detail obtained from the stereo and orthorectified imagery will allow for detailed analyses of the building history. Photogrammetry is a new methodology for us and we are so fortunate to be learning and observing from world-leading authorities. The students are in mixed groups, but all have skill sets relating to cartography, archaeology, architecture, and survey methodologies. Some are PhD students who offer advanced skill sets and assist in the training and development of the other students. The site is truly used as a case study, with the students determining in large part the best documentation approaches and being cross-trained on different methodologies. This school is well-organized and put together and we are fortunate to be part of the endeavor.

 In the evening, Travis was one of three professors to provide the first set of lectures for the group, including local political authorities, dignitaries and representatives from multiple universities in the area. Travis spoke on public archaeology, and used case studies from our own work in Mexico and Guatemala on using technologies to bridge the gaps between multiple stakeholders and the inclusion of tangible and intangible heritage aspects in projects. His talk was very well received and lots of input and thoughts from the students, invited persons, and peer collaborators. My talk will be on Thursday night and I will present some of the more technical and methodological and analytical approaches from projects involving the documentation of stone architecture and monuments (very applicable to this field school work). After Travis’ talk, the professors and field school representatives went out into the town and had a nice evening drink and lots of discussion that lasted fairly late into the evening. We are making new inroads for USF with our European colleagues and are planning to be able to involve USF students at a high level in next year’s field work.

Today (Tuesday) our field work included medium range scanning in the crypt area of the site, and Travis and I observed and assisted with the workflow, setup, and discussion of processing and analysis of the finalized data. The instrumentation being used is new for us, although the methods and approach are similar. There is much more focus on the integration of the scanning with surveying and other methods such as photogrammetry, so we are learning a lot from the experience. Our 30-40 minute hike out is getting easier, and downhill on the way out was easier. We are enjoying some free time this evening and another day of scanning planned for tomorrow.


Notes from Spain – Monday July 12th

13 07 2010

We are high in the mountains of La Rioja, in Clavio, Spain. On a clear day the Pyrenees at the border with France can be seen. The field school students have been put into groups to work with the various spatial documentation techniques at different locations within the monastery compound. Lori and I are learning about new innovative technologies to bolster our assembledge of technologies at AIST. We are also able to demonstrate the effectiveness of our existing methodological approaches. The students are interested in how to consider the viewpoints of the numerous stakeholders of archaeogical heritage and how the technologies they are using can assist in making these perspectives accessible to wider audiences.