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Radiography of the past. Integrated non-destructive approaches to understand and valorise complex archaeological sites

Final Report Summary - RADIO-PAST (Radiography of the past. Integrated non-destructive approaches to understand and valorise complex archaeological sites.)

Executive Summary:


The project Radio-Past aimed to join together resources and different skills to tackle all aspects of "non-destructive" approaches to complex archaeological sites, from fieldwork to data collection and processing, from interpretation to visualisation of results. The project intended to allow multiplication of method and research approaches, and generate methodological guidelines for future research in archaeological diagnostics. The project was also targeted on providing new tools for Cultural Heritage Management applied to complex sites where archaeological features are still mainly buried, via the development of a model management plan and the presentation of a set of innovative visualization models.


The consortium of 7 partners has chosen an "open laboratory for experimentation" in the abandoned Roman townsite of Ammaia in central Portugal, where the whole range of scientific activities from basic non-invasive fieldwork, over ground truthing, field conservation, digital modelling and museum display could be tested.

Furthermore, a series of other fieldwork projects have been selected in Europe, to be used as reference base for comparative research in different historical contexts and geographic environments.

They are located in France (project Mariana, Corsica), Italy (projects Portus/Ostia and Potenza Valley), Austria (project Carnuntum) and Greece (ancient cities of Boeotia survey). Here too the consortium is involved in refining the efficiency of a wide range of field survey techniques as well as new avenues for data processing, modelling, 3D visualisation and site presentation.


* Finalisation and processing of the full coverage geophysical survey and remote sensing of the city site of Ammaia, as well as a series of tests with different survey approaches and ground truthing.
* Development of activities for comparative research, including field operations on other sites to elaborate a new integrated methodology of non-destructive survey on complex sites and propose methodological guidelines in this matter. Activities included: the training of secondees in several labs of the consortium and during three international Specialization Fora on non-destructive approaches to complex archaeological sites (Ammaia 2010, Ammaia 2011, Hainburg 2012) and organisation of two international colloquia (Valle Giulia meeting on “urban Survey” – Rome 2009, and the International Radio-Past Colloquium “Non-Destructive Approaches to Complex Archaeological Sites in Europe: a Round-Up” - Ghent, 15-17 January 2013).
* Digital publishing of the scientific contributions (posters, abstracts) on the multimedia based website of the project:
* Further development of innovative means of visualization of survey data, including a series of digital reconstructions, visualisations and fusion video material of the full townsite and cityscape of Ammaia and some of the surveyed urban sites in Italy and in Austria.
* Didactic material and a full museum exhibition package (DVD, booklet, panel visualisations) were prepared for presenting the site and the innovative non-destructive approaches at Ammaia in order to test the potentiality of integrating interior museum displays with exterior spaces where non-invasive survey results can be presented. Comparable materials were produced for other sites in Italy and


* A model management plan for the study and cultural management of large and complex abandoned sites (case study: Ammaia) was finalised.


Among the final results obtained after the full 4 year period we mention:

- A high resolution map of the urban site of Ammaia (P) and a series of scientific papers, monographic volumes and presentations resulting from the innovative work on this "test site" (figure 1)
- Publication of a European wide applicable "Guide to Good Practice" in the field of non-destructive survey of large and complex sites.
- Creation of a series of digital reconstructions of Ammaia and Italian and Austrian sites mainly based on survey data and creation of a typical workflow for such reconstruction work (figures 2, 3, 4)
- Production of an educative video on how non-destructive survey can be applied with success to complex archaeological sites
- Development of a typical "Master plan for the study and cultural management of complex abandoned sites"

The impact of these results on wider society is expected in the fields of: Cultural Heritage and Resources Management and on-site and museum display, with the access of the wider public to archaeological knowledge obtained mainly via high tech approaches.

The guidelines drafted as outcome of the project could be adopted by policy makers in the field of CHM, as a link up was pursued between the project and the EU policies for cultural heritage and landscape management. The core field research done within the framework of Radio-Past is fully compliant with Article 3 (ib) of the European Convention on the Protection of Archaeological Heritage, better known as the Treaty of La Valletta 1992, where it is stated that ‘to preserve the archaeological heritage and guarantee the scientific significance of archaeological research work, each Party undertakes: … to ensure … that non-destructive meth-ods of investigation are applied wherever possible’. Cultural heritage management authorities will benefit widely from this approach as such integrated surveys of complex sites will provide them with a very effective tool for gauging the degree of archaeological survival on sites in their care and for choosing appropriate conservation strategies.


The huge “push” towards the internationalization of research activities achieved in some of the open-labs of the project, thanks to the contribution of many internationally renowned specialists of the project and the training activities carried out in the framework of the project, generated a real positive effect on local scientific communities and brought strong support from national funds for research and political institutions. The open-lab of Ammaia in Portugal is the best example: the Fundação para Ciencia e Tecnologia (the Portuguese National Fund for Research), acknowledging the great added value for the training of researchers, supported the projects with the award of many fellowships for technicians and fellows, at the doctoral and post-doctoral level. The site has benefitted of the contribution of many different institutes for research in different sectors (engineering, geology, chemistry, geophysics…) and the research team of Ammaia and its Laboratory for conservation and analysis can be addressed as one of the most advanced in Portugal. The archaeological park of Ammaia has received a strong support from the local municipalities, as the possibilities for developing it as main visitor centre for the Roman archaeology of central Lusitania are at hand, and great benefits for the local economy, that is struggling since long time versus the impoverishment of the economic activities and the abandonment of the rural region of Alentejo by new generations.

In this sense, the Vasco Vilalva Prize for Heritage Rehabilitation and Valorization awarded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to the Project Ammaia, underlining the great historical, cultural and techno-scientific relevance of the project and its applicability to other regions of the country, proves how deep has been the impact of the Radio-Past project on national communities.


ATTACHMENTS: Summary figures, publishablle summary.pdf