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Field school in Portugal: Romans, drones and monasteries

Staff and students from the Faculty of Archaeology are just back from a newly started Field School in the inland of Portugal.

The Field School is part of a new collaboration between Leiden University (Dr. Tesse D. Stek) and the University of Évora (Prof. André Carneiro), which is funded by a special grant from the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.

Western Iberian Roman archaeology

The wider project aims to advance the study of Western Iberian Roman archaeology in an international academic environment by a close collaboration between Portuguese, Dutch and other international researchers and students. The project is punctuated by two main events: a joint archaeological Field School in Alentejo, Portugal; and an international conference in June in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Campaigning in Fronteira

The first campaign in this westernmost part of the Roman Empire started mid-January. The campaign targeted the area of Fronteira in Northern Alentejo, a beautiful landscape with rolling hills and plateaus, and was coordinated by Dr. Stek, Prof. Carneiro, Dr. Jesús García Sánchez and Rogier Kalkers, helped by a team of find or remote sensing specialists and PhD/MA level team leaders.

The identification of sites

With a group of 32 participants from 9 different nationalities, we worked together on a didactic programme of field survey, aerial archaeology by means of small drones, geophysical prospection, finds analysis, and digital data processing. The schedule was further packed with excursions to archaeological sites and museums, and a series of lectures on Landscape and Roman archaeology. The hard work in the field and the lab paid off: through intensive survey strategies in tandem with remote sensing techniques, a large number of archaeological sites was identified and investigated. Both quantitatively and qualitatively we were able to shed new light on the settlement and exploitation of a landscape on the fringes of the Roman province of Lusitania.


During the campaign we were housed at the Centro Ciência Viva in the Convento das Maltesas, a beautiful 15th-century monastery, which today houses a geological museum in the town of Estremoz and offers excellent facilities for research and hands-on teaching and lecturing.

International conference

The analysis of the freshly acquired data is of course still in process, but the first results of the Frontier Landscape Project will be presented at the three-day international conference on the Archaeology of Roman Portugal, which we host in Leiden on June 13-15 this year.

A word of thanks

We would like to thank all participants in this campaign for their enthusiasm and hard work in what we experienced as a very fruitful and pleasant campaign! A special word of gratitude to our survey team leaders, Sabrina Bianco, Ana Martins, Manuel Peters and Jamie Dodd, Mónica Rolo of the University of Lisbon for her invaluable help with the ceramic analysis, Prof. Victorino Mayoral Herrera of the Spanish National Research Council for his very valuable input and lecture, and Prof. Lázaro Lagóstena Barrios of the University of Cádiz and his excellent team of geophysicists.

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