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Cultural Heritage Enhancement in the Region of Maghreb. Integrated approach to the Mediterranean prehistoric cultural heritage: the case of Maghreb.

Final Report Summary - C.H.E.R.M. (Cultural Heritage Enhancement in the Region of Maghreb. Integrated approach to the Mediterranean prehistoric cultural heritage: the case of Maghreb)

The C.H.E.R.M. project idea aimed at the promotion of a Euro-Mediterranean scientific network for stimulating multidisciplinary collaborations on Maghrebian prehistoric studies. This region is a key area where to further the understanding of Plio-Plistocene population dynamics of hominins, very much influenced by climatic and environmental factors which have shaped the Maghreb alternatively as a geographical frontier for the peopling of Europe, or a cul de sac where micro-evolutionary events occurred independently. North African prehistory is a matter of great interest and several national and international teams are developing geo-archaeological surveys and excavations, though the need of both sharing information and expertise is something to keep running, as to analyse human evolution through a global approach that focuses on the changing of the environment and geography throughout time, in particular in a region trapped between the sea on one side and the progressive desertification of the Sahara on the other.

The CHERM project was oriented towards both a scientific and a public target: the scientific target is related to the development of a pan Euro-Mediterranean network capable of stimulating multidisciplinary collaborations on Maghrebian prehistoric studies, exchanging expertise in the different disciplines, sharing objectives and methodologies of research, and stimulating new collaborations between the partners involved. The public target is related to the raising of public awareness of the importance of defending and evaluating the cultural prehistoric heritage, by making this subject more appealing and accessible through public presentations in occasion of the partnership meetings in the Maghreb, and by providing for an interactive website for public dissemination.

The consortium so far involved is formed by multi-disciplinary teams from prehistory, palaeoecology, geo-archaeology, physical anthropology and anthropo-genetics sciences. Almost all the research units were already active in the territory before the beginning of the project, through consolidated cooperation with the national organisms of protection of cultural heritage, developed also thanks to bilateral agreements and scientific protocols. More partners adhered to the consortium already consolidated in the previous CHERK project.

Collaborative activities: thematic meetings, namely the Archeo-GIS, the PALAEOENVIRON and the BIO-Archive, were the tools through which exploiting the strategy of the project, offering opportunities for meetings and scientific round tables between international experts and local Maghrebian scientists of same areas of interest. These meetings were occasions for:
- presenting unpublished scientific results;
- work in progress of the respective projects of different teams;
- ideas for future research investment in the area and beyond;
- debating about standard methodologies for recording, analysis, and management of data, towards the definition of agreed protocols to be promoted by the local national agencies;
- disseminating the potentials of use and application of high technologies in loco in the study of both the biological and material records, in particular the most delicate and rare ones, not to risk to expatriate the goods, on the contrary investing on a local expertise to sustain national efforts towards the protection and preservation of the cultural heritage;
- enabling mutual exchanges between African and European institutions by developing new networks, and progressively enlarging the partnership to other North African and European Institutions;
- raising reciprocal interests in the partners' different topics, all intersected in the prehistoric studies, but still based in different departments and often using specific 'channels' for the publishing of data that does not ease the dissemination of the information.
During the workshops, discussions on methodologies of approach and analysis produced provisional documents of guidelines that will serve further occasions of discussion, beyond the end of the project. During the Bio-Anthropological workshop the consortium agreed to adhere to the codebook produced by a NSF project 'The global history of health', as to create comparable databanks, compatible with the wide Euro-American consortium that is already applying it.

The C.H.E.R.M. website will continue to publicise the project activities, by offering general support material to understand the purposes of the project, links to the participants' contacts and institution webpage, and a wall to advertise events pertaining to the sphere of interest of the consortium, with particular reference to conferences, fieldworks, and latest published papers related to North African prehistory.