GIA Newsletter

Spring/Summer 2016

A word from the Director

My tiny room on the first floor of the fieldwork house at the protohistorical site of Crustumerium provides a beautiful view over the ancient settlement and burial grounds we are excavating here since 2006. While residing in plain countryside, I can in the distance see the silhouette of St. Paul’s cathedral and in front of it the outskirts of Rome. It has been a hot day, but with good results. GIA staff members and students have worked hard, side-by-side with their Italian colleagues of the Archaeological Service of Rome, to disclose and excavate tombs dating to the Iron Age and bringing to light a Roman villa complex that was erected on the ancient site long after its abandonment.
I am certainly not the only GIA staff member ‘out there’ on fieldwork and  many more have ‘flown out’  which makes me already looking forward to the “I know what you did last summer” session that will be organized at the Institute early in the new academic year with short pitches on recent fieldwork campaigns in the Netherlands and abroad.
However, it  is not only scientific fun and archaeological games; this year November, GIA will receive a peer review committee (PRC)  of renowned international scholars who will evaluate GIA’s performance over the last five years, its current state, mission and aims for the next decade. To this end GIA is in the process of writing a self-evaluation report that will serve as the basis for discussion with the PRC. The GIA management is confident that it is good on track, but also that it has to keep abreast of new developments, both scientific, institutional and in the field of public outreach.
This edition of the GIA Newsletter will inform you on new staff (yes, it is possible!) whom we heartily welcome, grants obtained (congratulations!), public outreach (yes, John Kerry and yes, an exhibition in the Glyptotek in Copenhagen), new publications, and news on recent fieldwork from places nearby and faraway.

I have to stop now, it is time to have dinner with the students. What kind of pasta will it be tonight?

Have a good summer!


New staff members

New research and teaching assistant at Archaeozoology Lab

Since July the GIA archaeozoology lab has a new research and teaching assistant. Hans Christian Küchelmann will be responsible for the identification of faunal remains from ongoing research projects of the GIA in the Netherlands and abroad, in the lab and in the field as well as for the curation, maintenance and advancement of the lab's reference collection. He will be supporting teaching and training students in lab courses in assistance of Canan Cakirlar, and participate in outreach activities of the lab. Christian starts his work as a two days per week position until the end of the year, from January onwards he will be working four days per week. He will also be a contact person for anybody who would like to use the lab facilities for research.
Christian received his diploma in Biology at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg in 1997 with a work on bone remains from Bronze Age Jordan. From then on he worked as self-employed researcher in a variety of archaeological and archaeozoological projects covering different chronological periods and geographical regions, from local research in Northern Germany to projects in Turkey, Armenia and Morocco, and from neolithic to post-medieval times. Current larger projects include research on the appearance of the woolly sheep in South-West Asia and South-East Europe and investigations on the Hanseatic trade with Iceland, Shetland and the Faroes. The former is a large scale r
esearch project  entitled "The Textile Revolution" within the Excellence Cluster Topoi, a cooperation between the German Archaeological Institute, the Freie Universität and other institutions in Berlin. The latter is a Leibniz Association funded project located at the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven. Both projects fit well into the research objectives of the GIA in the Near East and in the Arctic and apart from the daily work at Groningen Christian’s current affiliations will hopefully lead to fruitful scientific collaborations with the mentioned institutions. Anybody interested may get in contact with Christian at the GIA bone lab.

For further information see

Christian Küchelmann with a recently caught whale bone.

Visiting PhD student

Kate Layton Matthews is a PhD student in Trondheim. Her project is on population dynamics of high arctic barnacle geese: disentangling density dependence from effects of climate change and trophic interactions. She will develop statistical models to analyse the long-term individual based dataset of the Arctic Centre and is supervised by NTNU staff Vidar Grøtan and Brage Bremseth Hanssen and GIA staff Maarten Loonen.
This summer she has spent some days in the field and this autumn she will stay several weeks at the Arctic Centre.

Visiting geologist/glaciologist

Wieslaw Ziaja from the University of Krakow is spending one week (12 to 16 September) at the Arctic Centre and will teach in the minor Arctic and Antarctic Studies. He has published about retreating glaciers on Spitsbergen and his visit has been made possible by an Erasmus staff travel grant.
The retreat of the Blomstrandglacier has created a new island in only a few years. From: Ziaja, W. and Ostafin, K. (2015). Landscape–seascape dynamics in the isthmus between Sørkapp Land and the rest of Spitsbergen: Will a new big Arctic island form? 
Ambio, 44: 332-342.
New publications

Proceedings of a specialist workshop on “Early states, territories and settlements in protohistoric Central Italy” published

In April of 2016 the GIA published the proceedings of a specialist workshop on “Early states, territories and settlements in protohistoric Central Italy”, which was hosted in Groningen in 2013 as part of the PhD-programme of Jorn Seubers. The full-colour book, containing 11 chapters in English edited by Peter Attema, Jorn Seubers and Sarah Willemsen, was published as the second volume in the Corollaria Crustumina series. The Corollaria Crustumina aims at the publication of conference proceedings, doctoral theses and specialist studies concerning the Latin settlement of Crustumerium (Rome) and Italian protohistory. It contains multidisciplinary papers of an international group of archaeologists discussing new fieldwork data and theories of broad relevance to Italian archaeology and with specific relevance to the study of Crustumerium’s settlement, cemeteries and material culture in light of the site’s cultural identity.

Early states, territories and settlements in protohistoric Central Italy.
Proceedings of a specialist conference at the Groningen Institute of Archaeology of the University of Groningen, 2013

Publisher: Barkhuis Publishing, Eelde
Editors: Peter Attema, Jorn Seubers and Sarah Willemsen

Atlas Beckeringh

In the 1750's Theodorus Beckeringh surveyed the province of Groningen. His work resulted in a detailed manuscript map of the province (1767) and an engraved map which was published in 1781. Hundreds of sketches, maps and detailed drawings of the mansions of the gentry have been preserved in the collections of the University of Groningen, Groningen Museum and Groningen Archives.
For the first time all drawings are brought together in 'De Atlas van Beckeringh’. The atlas gives a splendid overview of the various aspects of the landscape in the 18th century: infrastructure of waterways, land reclamation, peat exploitation, fortification, industry, estates etc. Until 23 October 2016 all maps are on view in the Groningen Museum.

De Atlas van Beckeringh. Het Groninger landschap in de 18e eeuw

Publisher: WBOOKS, Zwolle and Groninger Historische Publicaties
Authors: Reinder Reinders and Martijn van Leusen (Groningen Institute of Archaeology), Egge Knol, Jan Molema and Tonnis Musschenga
Research (abstracts)

Certainty about Uncertainty

At the occasion of the 2014 meeting of the Society of American Archaeologists a forum discussion was organized by Dr Hans Peeters (GIA) and two American colleagues, Drs Marieka Brouwer Burg (University of New Hampshire) and William Lovis (Michigan State University) on the topic of uncertainty and sensitivity analysis in archaeological computational modelling. Since the 1980s, computer modelling increasingly gained field for research and heritage management purposes. However, aspects of model uncertainty had received hardly any attention hitherto. What are the diverse sources of uncertainty and how can we deal with these? Is there a research design role for sensitivity analysis (as a means to measure variability in model outcomes and potentially reduce uncertainty) in archaeological modelling?
Taking from the discussion forum in the USA, a book (edited by Brouwer Burg, Peeters & Lovis) has been published in the Springer-series ‘Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology’, collecting nine chapters written by specialists in the field. Among the contributions is a chapter by Dr Hans Peeters and Dr Jan-Willem Romeijn (Dept. of Philosophy, RUG), who approaches the matter of uncertainty and model selection from an epistemic perspective. The authors argue that model calibration through validation on archaeological empirical facts is problematic and that it is particularly important to critically (re)consider the relationships to be built in models from a theoretical perspective.
In a more general sense, the chapters in the book make clear that there is no quick fix for uncertainty; indeed each model requires intensive consideration of uncertainty and specific applications for calibration and validation. The issue of uncertainty does not only concern practitioners of computational modelling; it is just as much an issue for the development of non-formal models (in fact narratives) of human behaviour in the past. The only certainty we have, is that all models in themselves bear uncertainties to some extent: if we are able to define those uncertainties and evaluate how these influence our narratives about the past, models provide useful tools for thought.

Sampling for structural analyses of salt marsh turf

In early February first steps were taken in setting up a new approach to experimental turf construction. During a three-day working visit to the Netherlands, Dr. Tanja Romankiewicz (University of Edinburgh) initiated an informal pilot project together with GIA PhD Daniël Postma, to design and test a more science-based approach to the study of ancient building techniques. In Firdgum (Fr.), soil samples were collected from the walls of the reconstructed early medieval turf house and nuclear density and moisture measurements were conducted as a means for comparison. In a meeting with Dr. ir. Hans Huisman (Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands), possibilities were discussed for using micromorphological analyses to establish the composition of and differences between turves more  accurately, which is necessary to transpose any test results from modern turves to archaeological findings.
As a first follow-up on this, additional block and ‘micro’ samples of archaeological turf walls were collected during a short excavation in the terp of Anjum-Terpsterweg in July and samples previously taken from the collapsed first turf house in Firdum and various locations in the salt marsh of Friesland Buitendijks, were also prepared for structural and micromorphological analyses. Whilst in Groningen, Romankiewicz presented a lecture at the GIA Research Seminar on new evidence for Bronze Age turf construction in Scotland and how the use of such a building material may have tied in with a sustainable use of the prehistoric landscape. A key aspect of her research is on the way prehistoric use of building materials and ancient design concepts can inspire new forms of sustainable architecture. The working visit and analyses are financed as part of Romankiewicz’s Leverhulme Fellowship project ‘Building Ancient Lives’.
Tanja Romankiewicz coordinating the nuclear measurements at the turf house reconstruction in Firdgum (Fr.).

International exhibition on Crustumerium in Copenhagen

Over the last months the GIA team working on the ancient Latin site of Crustumerium near Rome has been quite busy preparing for the international exhibition “Death and Afterlife at the Gates of Rome”, which was opened on the 18th of May in the famous Glyptotek in Copenhagen. The exhibition shows the results of decennia of fieldwork by various universities, among which GIA, aimed at investigating the protohistoric burial grounds and settlement of Crustumerium.
Although the exhibition focuses above all on the spectacular funerary record dating from the 9th c. BC to the end of the 6th c. BC, the accompanying catalogue paints a broader canvass including the settlement itself and its countryside. Most  interestingly the exhibition shows the long journey from excavation to showcase. The exhibition is the result of intensive collaboration between GIA, the Archaeological Service of Rome and the Glyptotek at Copenhagen. It was received very well by the critics (in fact rated very high) and the general public.

Cover of the catalogue for the Crustumerium exhibition.
Especially the archaeological laboratory that has been installed in the exhibition is a big success. Here the public can see experts at work excavating so-called block-lifts (blocks of soil including skeletal remains and ornaments that can only be excavated under controlled circumstances) and ask questions. Among those experts is GIA’s Gert van Oortmerssen.
Another novel development are the life stream sessions with the archaeologists at  work at Crustumerium this summer. Peter Attema and Bert Nijboer, currently present at Crustumerium, already interacted directly with the public in the museum from the site. In addition, work at the site can be followed all day via via cameras that are put up at the site. This summer’s campaign is again very promising. GIA students and staff are also this year excavating extremely interesting contexts among which a number of early Iron Age tombs that were at a later stage incorporated in a giant artificial mound. For those interested in the exhibition on Crustumerium we refer to the Copenhagen website.
Sign in the museum inviting visitors to ask questions to the conservators.

Turf house pitch for Impact Award

A video pitch has been made that highlights the societal impact of the GIA’s Turf House Project, which was coordinated by the Terpen Research Group from 2012-2015. This project revolved around the experimental reconstruction of an early medieval turf-walled byre and was conducted as part of Daniël Postma’s PhD research on the development of medieval building traditions in the north of the Netherlands. The 60 second clip was well received when it was first presented during the Faculty of Arts research meeting on societal impact on 16 June. It will now contend for the  Impact Award for PhD’s of the university’s Sustainable Society research programme, which is to be handed out in September in celebration of their first lustrum. The video was made by Timescale with support from the GIA, using footage from Omrop Fryslân’s one hour documentary on the Turf House Project.

Societal impact pitch for 'Lost building traditions' project
Video pitch of the Turf House Project for the Sustainable Society Impact Award (video).

Museo Agro Pontino showcases results of GIA fieldwork

On Saturday 19 March the exhibition ‘Dalle Pomptinae Paludes all’Ager Pomptinus’ opened in the Museo Agro Pontino in Pontinia (Lazio, Central Italy). It showcases the results of archaeological fieldwork carried out by GIA’s Minor Centres project on and around the Roman road stations of Forum Appii and Ad Medias, situated along the Via Appia in the lower Pontine plain. The exhibition, created by Gijs Tol and Tymon de Haas in close collaboration with the museum staff, is accompanied by an archaeological laboratory. Here, school classes, under the guidance of Italian archaeologist Carmela Anastasia, can become archaeologists for a couple of hours, studying archaeological materials collected by the project. The exhibition has already drawn over 2500 people to the museum and has recently been extended until mid-September.     
Carmela Anastasia guiding a number of school children through the exhibition.

Terps Menu

Restaurant ‘Café Hammingh’ in Garnwerd and Museum Wierdenland in Ezinge have joined forces in a project that seeks to inform the general public on the eating habits of people living on terps before the permanent embankments of the coast (dikes). This so-called ‘Wierdenmenu’ (Terps menu) is a major part of the ‘knowledge utilisation’ paragraph in Mans Schepers Veni-project. Where the museum provides the opportunity to witness historic cooking practices, as well as a chance to see real archaeological remains with the help of a microscope, Restaurant Hammingh serves a special menu with a wink to the past. Archaeological background information is available on four different placemats, allowing the restaurant's guests to learn about history between courses. In addition to Mans, several other former GIA employees or students are involved, including Johan van Gent, Wietske Prummel, and Ens Grefhorst. GIA student Wim-Paul Jager is involved as ‘junior director’ at Museum Wierdenland. The Wierdenmenu is open until 30 October this year.

Drone footage of Celtic fields excavation

Opgraving raatakkercomplex Westeinde door het Groninger Instituut voor Archeologie (video: Hans Haas)
Drone footage of an excavated Iron Age farmstead amidst the Westeinde Celtic fields (fieldschool 2016) (video).

A virtual tour of Palmyra

With the capture of Palmyra by IS in May 2015, threatened Syrian heritage became world news. Lidewijde de Jong has extensive experience working in Syria and with archaeological remains from Palmyra. She is currently developing various initiatives to increase public awareness of the archaeological heritage and its vulnerability in times of conflict. She assisted izi.Travel, a company devoted to providing digital tools for cultural tourism, to develop a digital tour of the ancient site of Palmyra. The tour can be found at their website. Unifocus made a brief video about these activities and de Jong’s work (see below).
Virtual tour of Palmyra
Bedreigd werelderfgoed Palmyra te zien in virtuele tour
Lidewijde de Jong explains her research for Unifocus (video)
GIA in the media

What the polar bear has to say

‘Polar bear says’ is a Facebook Page about Arctic archaeology. It is the initiative of Frigga Kruse of the Arctic Centre and shares a polar bear’s experiences with a team of archaeologists from the University of Groningen while they plan and conduct their fieldwork in Svalbard in August 2016. With almost 200 likes, ‘Polar bears says’ is proving very popular internationally.
Polar bear will also be spearheading the team’s public engagement in Svalbard. We will be cooperating with a tourist operator to encourage tourists to visit the site and interact with our excavations, and we will host outreach activities based on our finds at the Svalbard Museum.

John Kerry almost visits arctic station

For the biologists of the Arctic Centre, field work on Spitsbergen is also meeting all kind of people. This summer these were the US secretary of state John Kerry, the Norwegian minister of Foreign Affairs, the German minister for environment and the Dutch Arctic ambassador. The arctic environment, the wildlife and the international setting attracts tourists, diplomats, politicians and researchers.
There has also been a journalist of the regional television RTV Noord, who even covered Dutch whaling history.
You can follow it all on the website of the arctic station.
From left to right, the Norwegian foreign minister Børge Brende, US foreign minister John Kerry, Martine van den Heuvel Greve and Maarten Loonen.
Grants - awards - prizes

Hot of the presses!

Rocco Palermo was awarded a VENI grant for his project Beyond the Rivers of Babylon: Rural Landscape and Settlements in Hellenistic Mesopotamia. He will come to Groningen to collaborate with Lidewijde de Jong on the collections from the Erbil Plain Archaeological Survey.

Description of project
The archaeology of North Mesopotamia after the conquest by Alexander the Great is scarcely known. Yet the Hellenistic Age (4th – 2nd c. BC) coincided with a significant enlargement of its socio-political and economic life when different traditions merged in a trans-regional framework that shaped the ancient world from the Mediterranean to Central Asia. Whereas the impact of these dynamics have been studied for the urban contexts, the countryside and rural landscape still remain uncharted. The success and failure of Seleucid control, however, depended largely on its ability to create a productive and connected countryside. This project investigates the impact –and lack thereof – Seleucid imperial power on the highly fertile, though fragile, steppe lands of North Mesopotamia. The research is based on the analysis of newly collected evidence in the Kurdistan region of Iraq by archaeological survey projects and excavations. It builds on a collaboration of Groningen University with Harvard, Udine, and Université de Lyon 2 – EPHE/Sorbonne.

Wadden Academy

Mans Schepers has been appointed one of the five first members of the so-called Young Wadden Academy. This academy seeks to connect young researchers working on Wadden Sea related topics, and encourages new talent to focus on the area in their research. The Young Academy will organize an annual conference, but will also independently express their opinions and give advice on various topics concerning the Wadden Sea and its adjacent coast and islands.

Gratama subsidies for two GIA projects

This year, the private Gratama foundation granted two of five subsidies to GIA projects. The foundation supports small, short-duration research projects by scientists affiliated with the University of Groningen. The granted projects typically have an experimental or pioneering character. This is certainly the case for the two successful GIA projects, “Context in grotten – grotten in context” (“Context in caves – caves in context”) and “Van Giffen 2.0: een voorstel voor een nieuwe atlas van de Nederlandse hunebedden” (“Van Giffen 2.0: towards a new atlas of Dutch megalithic monuments”).

The project proposal “Van Giffen 2.0: towards a new atlas of Dutch megalithic monuments” was submitted by prof.dr. Daan Raemaekers in collaboration with GIA PhD candidate Jorn Seubers and the provincial archaeologist of Drenthe, dr. Wijnand van der Sanden. In this project all megalithic monuments of the Netherlands (most of which are in Drenthe) will be recorded in 3D on the basis of a technique called photogrammetry. The 3D models will then be referenced to geographical coordinates to acquire their exact measurements and layout and to be able to export detailed and up-to-date 2D renderings of the current condition of the monuments. By comparing this new ‘geodata’ to the drawings of dr A.E. van Giffen (founder of the GIA) made in 1918, we can analyze how the monuments have changed over the last century. The project pioneers a new and revolutionary approach to Dutch heritage management.

The project “Context in caves – caves in context” was submitted by GIA PhD candidate Wieke de Neef. With the grant she will investigate the suitability of two geophysical techniques, ground penetrating radar and electrical resistivity tomography, for the detection of Bronze Age remains in limestone caves. The research will be conducted at the end of July 2016 in five selected caves in Central Italy, which all have  been partly excavated. The measurements will be taken in uninvestigated parts of the caves, while the excavation data will be used to interpret and evaluate the measurements. The project is innovative because it aims at developing a quick, non-destructive method to detect late prehistoric features under challenging (underground) conditions, and unique because it is a comparative study of five nearby caves. 

Fellowship for Frits Heinrich

GIA PhD Frits Heinrich has been awarded a Mercatus Adam Smith Fellowship in Political Economy at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University (Arlington, VA, USA). He will be an Adam Smith Fellow for the academic year 2016-2017.  The scholarship covers expenses and provides a stipend, representing a value of $10,000.

Subsidy for the Arctic Centre extended

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has extended the subsidy to the Arctic Centre to represent the Netherlands in the Arctic Council and to be a point of contact for scientific issues concerning the Arctic for another 5 years. The total subsidy is close to €700.000. This subsidy makes it possible to participate in working groups and meetings all over the world and to run the Netherlands Arctic Station on Spitsbergen. Frits Steenhuisen will cover pollution issues, Annette Scheepstra will cover sustainable development of arctic people and Maarten Loonen will participate in working groups on biodiversity and migratory birds. Visit the website for more information.

The Arctic Council, where 8 Arctic countries and indigenous peoples meet to discuss the future of the Arctic, celebrates its 20th anniversary. The Netherlands is an official observer since its establishment in 1996.
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