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GIA Newsletter Summer/Fall 2015

A word from the Director

The new academic year has started successfully for GIA. While on excursion and fieldwork in Italy, the fantastic news reached me that both Corien Wiersma and Mans Schepers had obtained an NWO Veni grant, enabling them to realize their research ambitions in respectively the field of Greek prehistory and bioarchaeology of the Netherlands. Auguri, Corien and Mans! You can read about their research plans in this newsletter.
Also a warm welcome to Wouter van Gorp and Luca Alessandri who have been appointed in the NWO funded ‘Avellino’ project, an interdisciplinary project on the environmental and demographic consequences of the great Bronze Age eruption of Mount Vesuvius, dated shortly before 2000 BC. This project started in June of this year and is led by Martijn van Leusen and myself, and carried out in collaboration with researchers from the Faculty of Archaeology of Leiden. I wish Wouter and Luca much success in this exciting project. You can read up on this project in this newsletter and on the GIA web-site. Being all post-doc appointments for several years, this is good news for GIA’s PhD students! There is life after the PhD defense, so check out possibilities and make plans at an early stage!
PhD student Tekke Terpstra of the Arctic Centre, now doctor, convincingly defended his thesis titled “Inuit outside the Arctic. Migration, Identity and Perceptions” a few weeks ago. Earlier, i.e. before summer, Sandra Beckerman (on corded ware communities) and Annet Nieuwhof (on ritual deposits in Frisian terp contexts) got their doctor’s degrees. However, their accomplishments do not shorten the substantial list of GIA PhD’s as Karla de Roest and Karen de Vries both obtained PhD positions, on funerary customs in North-western Europe, and the formation of social groups in the course of Iron Age and Roman Period on the Fries-Drents plateau respectively, while Sandra and Annet continue working at the Institute. Well done and lots of success for the coming four years.
A special welcome also to three newly inscribed PhD students who start their PhD trajectories as affiliated researchers, facilitated by the Graduate School of the Humanities and the GIA. Tineke Roovers will study rural settlement patterns in South Italy in relation to Greek colonization, Agnese Fischetti the material culture of a Roman villa complex near Rome and Mario Rempe Aegean material culture of South Italy. It is hoped that the GIA brand will help them securing grants to carry out their research! Where possible GIA will help them realize their research ambitions.
What challenges are we facing in the new academic year? For one thing we will have to prepare for the peer review of GIA by an international committee. Around summer 2016 a report on the functioning of GIA over the last five years will have to be ready, in preparation of a site visit scheduled end of 2016. This, as we all know, is no sine cure, as we want to show our qualities and vigour and be judged for what we are worth! For another, we will have to further develop our scientific aims and goals for the next years. To this end the GIA management team will plan gatherings to discuss the introduction of new methods and techniques and to discuss scientific interests that GIA’s research groups may share between them in order to increase our synergy.

New Staff Members

E-learning subsidy granted to 3D-archaeology educational project “From Pick Axe to Pixel”

The ICT and e-learning committees of the university have granted a subsidy to employ Jorn Seubers for the development of a pilot with 3D learning environments. Jorn will be available to develop and apply innovative 3D learning materials with input of teachers of the GIA over the course of the academic year 2015/2016.  
Jorn Seubers recording photogrammetric 3D-models of excavated tombs at Crustumerium in July 2015.

New PhD Students

For my PhD, supervised by Daan Raemaekers and Stijn Arnodussen, I study funerary customs in North-western Europe, during the later prehistory (ca. 1500 BC-500 AD). The aim of my research is to gain insight in the way past societies variously handled their dead and the reasons behind (shifts in) their behaviour. In this research identity and social roles are studied through later prehistoric graves and human remains, in order to establish (1) which funerary norm(s) were followed for what periods and on what scales, (2) what selection criteria were employed, and (3) how and why identity expression in mortuary customs changed during the late prehistory and protohistory of North-western Europe. The framework of this research consists of five components: (1) study of landscape with the aid of GIS to investigate locations and create map models; (2) study of material culture and (grave) features (3) bioarchaeological study of human remains; (4) study of historiographic and iconographic sources; and (5) study of anthropological and ethnographical literature.

The aim of my research is to understand the formation of social groups in the course of Iron Age and Roman Period (c. 800 BC – AD 250) on the Fries-Drents plateau. This period witnessed the gradual stabilisation and nucleation of house-sites, resulting in the first ever well-defined hamlets in the area. Even though these hamlets are a clear expression of growing sense of community, the underlying process is still ill understood. During my research I will compare regional variations in house building traditions, the production of domestic material culture and social practices. In this way I hope to gain insight in how people formed social groups, expressing on the one hand their association with larger cultural groups and on the other hand their regional or local identities.


VENI for dr. Mans Schepers

Mans received a VENI for his research entitled "Fields of opportunity: crop cultivation in Northwestern Europe's coastal salt marshes, 600 BC to 800 AD". In close cooperation with several partners inside ánd outside academia, including Restaurant Hammingh in Garnwerd and researchers from Leiden University and Tübingen University, he will show how people managed to cultivate a wide variety of crops in the terps area.

VENI for dr. Corien Wiersma

Corien received a VENI for her research entitled ‘Where Helen of Troy lived: reconstructing the urbanization of the Mycenaean town at Ayios Vasilios’. In the following four years she will, by means of field survey, geophysical research and the digging of test trenches, reconstruct the spatial development of the settlement at Ayios Vasilios, located in Laconia, Greece.

Assessing the Gain of Commercial Archaeology

The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) has commissioned a project that involves the scientific assessment of the gain of 10 years of commercial archaeology regarding the early Prehistory (Palaeolithic to Middle Neolithic) of the Netherlands. The recent evaluation of the ‘Malta legislation’ (which provides the basis for archaeological heritage management in the Netherlands) has made clear that the majority of excavation and survey reports lack an acceptable level of synthesis in connection to the National Archaeological Research Agenda (NOaA). The project proposal of the GIA won in competition from a total of four proposals. Within 15 months a team of GIA researchers (Gary Nobles, Mans Schepers, former GIA PhD Izabel Devriendt, student assistant Pir Hoebe) led by Dr Hans Peeters and Prof. Daan Raemaekers, will perform an analysis of the ‘Malta reports’, and synthesize the information from a range of thematic perspectives and analytical scales relative to the NOaA. This analysis has to make clear what we have actually learned about the early part of Prehistory from 10 years of field work, and has to provide the basis for an update of the research agenda, as well as further policy making. In order to make the results available to the international research community, the report will be published in English.

Piles of paper, hundreds of maps, thousands of drawings and photographs .... but what’s the story?

Start of NWO funded project "The Avellino Event"

This summer the NWO funded project “The Avellino Event: cultural and demographic effects of the great Bronze Age eruption of Mount Vesuvius’ led by Prof. Peter Attema and Dr. Martijn van Leusen started. Two post-doctoral researchers were appointed at the GIA for this project, archaeologist Luca Alessandri and geologist Wouter van Gorp.
The research program, which also involves researchers at Leiden University, aims to demonstrate and document any significant demographic, environmental and cultural impacts that would have resulted from the presence of Early Bronze Age refugees that would have fled from the giant eruption of Mount Vesuvius around 1995 BC to the coastal areas of the Agro Pontino and the Fondi basin in present Southern Lazio.
Luca’s task will be to help designing a coring program that will systematically identify archaeological ‘indicators’ of Early and Middle Bronze Age settlements. Afterwards, he will conduct test pits in a selected number of archaeological sites that have the potential to demonstrate the appearance of ‘Campanian’ cultural affinities at pre‐existing ‘Latial’ sites for the period immediately following the eruption. He will also try, by means of petrographic analysis, to identify pottery transported from Campania and to prove the presence of post‐AV Event Campanian immigrants in south Lazio by  means of Strontium (Sr) isotope analysis on human skeletal material.
Wouter started in August. His main job will be to carry out a physical geographical landscape reconstruction of the Early Bronze Age landscape of the Agro Pontino and Fondi basin and to construct and maintain the project geodatabase, using available physical geographical and soil data as well as newly derived data. Wouter and Luca and students are currently in the field together with physical geographer Prof. dr. Jan Sevink to execute the first coring campaign. Early August already a pollen core had been taken by members of the project team in the Fondi plain for analysis at Leiden University by post-doc palynologist Marieke Doorenbosch. Marieke is the third post-doc in this project and she works closely together with Leiden palaeobotanist Mike Field.
Part of the activities carried out in the project are being covered by a team from Mediastiek of the Hanzehogeschool Groningen who have joined the team in the current fieldwork.

Wouter van Gorp

Luca Alessandri

New European PhD training network for GIA

ArchSci2020 – Archaeology on the Edge: Northern Europe and the Circumpolar World

Peter Jordan, director of the Arctic Centre, has been awarded major European funding to support a Horizon2020 Innovative Training Network (ITN). The University of Groningen will join the universities of York, Copenhagen and Stockholm in training a new generation of PhD researchers in the latest transdisciplinary methods in archaeological science, including ancient genomics, new radiocarbon dating methods, and organic residue analysis. Daan Raemaekers, Hans Peeters and Stijn Arnoldussen (GIA) are also key members of the project team; Hans van der Plicht, from the Centre for Isotope Research at ESRIG, also plays a major role. The ERC awarded the project 4.0 million Euros, with 0.8 million Euros coming to Groningen.
A total of 15 new PhD positions are supported; each PhD project addresses the inter-locking themes of health, diet, technology, and human-environment relations, and applies new scientific methods to archaeological case-studies set across the Northern World. Three PhDs will be based in Groningen, and will spend 12 months at a partner institution; three further PhDs from the partner universities will spend 12 months in Groningen.  
The PhDs all start in September 2016. Further information about the training network and individual PhD projects can be found at: Please note that the exact application procedures (including deadlines) are currently being confirmed.

For further information contact Peter Jordan:


GIA Research seminars / Capita Selecta

The GIA organized 19 lectures in the previous academic year, covering a wide range of topics: from 3D imaging and ancient DNA to mortuary practices in Turkey and miniature pottery in Italy. Speakers came from Germany, Italy, Turkey, Czech Republic, the US, the UK, as well as from various Dutch universities and the GIA itself. Three GIA master students also presented the topics of their thesis. Below a complete list.
The organizing committee is currently planning the program for 2015-2016. Lectures usually take place in the afternoon of the last Tuesday of the month. Please contact Lidewijde de Jong ( if you wish to stay informed.

A remarkable research visit to the United States

As part of her PhD project on Prehistoric Food Technologies, Maritime Adaptations and Climate Change in the North Pacific, this summer Marjolein Admiraal travelled to the United States to collect samples from pottery and stone bowls. She came home with over 90 samples collected by drilling into pottery sherds or scraping burnt food crust off the surface of stone bowls. In hopes of determining vessel function these samples will be studied using organic residue analysis in spring 2016 under the supervision of Dr. Oliver Craig at the University of York, UK. 
Various places were visited, among them the Smithsonian’ National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. Here Marjolein strengthened previously established connections with the Arctic Studies Center and the Paleoindian Department. In Eugene the University of Oregon’ Museum of Natural and Cultural History was visited where in collaboration with Dr. Don Dumond pottery from the Alaska Peninsula was sampled.  The same was done at the National Park Service, and at the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Food crust samples of stone bowls were collected at the Museum of the Aleutians in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska Island. Finally the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak was visited where pottery from the Koniag period was sampled. Marjolein describes the trip as a success with a lot of good samples and important research collaborations established, as well as a special experience altogether.   
“Through this PhD project I was able to travel to one of the most remote places in the world, which I would never have seen otherwise. Actually visiting these places has created a much broader understanding of the lifeways of ancient peoples in these areas. It has been a very inspiring and successful journey”.

Collecting a ceramic sample

Participation in a collaborative international excavation on Rebun Island, Japan

As part of her research on NE Asian hunter-gatherers Liz Matthews joined a month-long field season with the Rebun Archaeological Field School which is organized by Hokkaido University and the Baikal-Hokkaido Archaeology Project (the latter joint-funding my PhD research). The excavation, which ran throughout the month of August, uncovered material remains from several thousand years of hunter-gatherer (pre-)history and saw contributions by researchers from Japan, Canada, Russia, the US, UK, Denmark and of course The Netherlands! Many specialists from different fields were involved and lunch-time lectures were given by the various participants twice a week. The time on Rebun, as well as the time spent in Sapporo and Nibutani before and after the excavations, was of great benefit to Liz's core research themes as well as helping to improve herJapanese language skills.
An Epi-Jomon ‘ceremonial’ area featuring a hearth and a concentration of sea lion skulls with evidence for ritualized butchery and deposition which was associated with a dense pottery and lithic scatter. A similar feature was uncovered during previous excavations at a site nearby.
Ren Iwanami from Hokkaido University giving one of the bi-weekly lunch-time lectures. Presentations were given on varied topics by many Japanese and international researchers.
One of the sea lion skulls (Steller, male) after lifting. Look at the size of that thing!

GIA archaeologists on board the expedition

GIA was represented by three archaeologists during the nine-day expedition in August 2015. SEES is short for the Scientific Expedition Edgeøya Svalbard, and Frigga Kruse (post-doc), Sarah Dresscher (PhD), and Marthe Koeweiden (Bachelor student) were fortunate enough to be among 55 Dutch scientists from different fields. The archaeological focus lay on the sites and activities of Russian walrus hunters, the Pomors, of the 18th and 19th century. Phosphate survey formed an integral part of their fieldwork. They also took a chance to work interdisciplinarity with experts of reindeer, whale, and walrus DNA and successfully carried out some community archaeology by taking other scientists and tourists alike into the field with them. Working long hours under Arctic conditions with such a diverse group of people left many lasting impressions on the archaeologists. The popularity and scientific success of was perhaps one of the reasons why the Foreign Ministry recently enlarged the budget for polar research.
Seeing what the Pomors saw: from the old lookout, walrus, ice conditions, and a ship are clearly visible.
Where have all the walrus gone: butchered animal remains at Kapp Lee.

A commentary on the expedition, including an interview with Maarten Loonen, was broadcasted in VPRO's radio show 'Vroege Vogels' on August 23rd.

Noordpoolexpeditie 2015 deel 5: Weerstation plaatsen op gletsjer

All reports on the SEES expedition from the NOS (by Martijn Brink and Ruben Kocx) are available online.

Fieldwork in North Cemetery, Ayios Vasilios completed

In 2015 we had the last campaign at the North Cemetery in Ayios Vasilios. (Almost) all  the located tombs have been excavated, and we finally finished the excavation of the large built tomb (Grave 21, see photo) which must have contained around 30 burials. We also expanded the excavation in order  to ascertain the extent and to establish the boundaries of the cemetery. We continued also the study of the pottery which reveals the complex history of the use of the site. We also took 3-D photos of the entire cemetery which we will use for the spatial analysis of the sherd material, but also the interpretation of the findings of the soil micromorphology analysis. We also continued with the study of the human skeletons, and the various scientific analyses  on the human remains.
Celebrating the end of the excavation of Grave 21

GIA team excavates Iron age tombs below gigantic artificial hill at ancient Crustumerium

The 2015 campaign at Crustumerium was in many aspects pretty exceptional. Not only was it the tenth anniversary of the GIA excavation at this important Iron Age settlement in Central Italy at only 16 kilometers from the heart of Rome, it also featured two remarkable discoveries: one being a 4.5 m deep chamber tomb with a long entrance corridor (dromos) leading to a spacious chamber closed off with massive stones, the other an Iron age tomb covered by a mound preserving unique Iron Age funerary architecture. The tomb, just like others that were recognized by the excavators, is encapsulated in an immense artificial hill that over time had been erected by the people of Crustumerium over this specific part of the extensive Monte Del Bufalo burial ground. So far only a tiny part of the artificial hill has been excavated. To reveal its biography and to obtain insight in its possible function as a funerary memorial more campaigns are needed! As to recording of this complex monument, the team experimented with photogrammetric 3D recording, a technique that is being further developed at the GIA.

The 2015 campaign has been documented by a film crew, resulting in a number of video clips which can be consulted via the RUG website. One example is shown below.
Crustumerium  impression

Video impression of the 2015 fieldwork campaign at Crustumerium.

GIA in the News

The excavations at Ayios Vasilios receive world-wide press coverage

The press release issued by the Greek Ministry of Culture on the excavations at Ayios Vasilios went viral: The news were reported widely in the Greek press and on TV news, but also in newspapers, archaeology websites  and science blogs around the world.

Palmyra in the news

Due to its conquest by IS in May of this year, the ancient city of Palmyra suddenly made the news headlines. Dagblad van het Noorden interviewed Lidewijde de Jong of the GIA about the importance of this Roman city in the Syrian desert (‘Archeologe RUG houdt hart vast voor bezet Palmyra’, 23-05-2015). De Jong also spoke with Paul van Liempt of BNR Nieuwsradio (01-06-2015) and presented two public lectures at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (‘Op de rand van het Rijk: Romeinen in Palmyra’, 23-08-2015).

News on the GIA website

Press clippings are now being published on the GIA webpage. Please send PDF's or links of any articles, interviews or film clips to

Films, clips and documentaries

Fryslân DOK broadcasted a documentary titled 'De pracht fan de macht' about the rise of early medieval kingdoms along the coast of the Netherlands, northern Germany and southern England. The book "The splendour of power" by Johan Nicoaly and the exhibition "Gold. Found treasures from the Middle Ages" in the Fries Museum induced the creation of the film.

Celtic Fields: A visible past

Timeschale made a short film about Stijn Arnoldussen's research on the Celtic Fields titled "Celtic Fields, a visible past".

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