Universiteit Leiden

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Exploring Roman Portugal with Regato grant

The ancient Roman province of Lusitania, more or less contemporary Portugal, has been the focus of a joint research project by Leiden University, Évora University and the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome. The research project has now been provided with a new boost by a large Regato grant managed by the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds. It forms the second, firm step in the development of the research project that started in 2017.

Consolidation and expansion

Dr Tesse Stek, archaeologist at the Leiden Faculty of Archaeology and Director of Ancient Studies of the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome, is PI and one of the coordinators of the project. ‘My team and I are over the moon! Starting our pilot project in Portugal, now almost two years ago, was something of an adventure, as we were the first Dutch project doing field research in the Iberian Peninsula.

Walking through the cold yet sunny landscape of Evora in winter 2018, we could never have dreamt of this opportunity. Now we can consolidate and expand our field research and student training programme’. Also Dr André Carneiro, coordinator on behalf of Évora University and Director of the Horta da Torre villa excavations welcomes this new step towards integrated research.

Students are involved in processing the survey data.

Frontier Landscape Project

The collaborative research project aims to compare socio-economic and cultural trends in Roman landscapes in Portugal, Spain and Italy. Field work takes center stage; the subproject named Frontier Landscape Project combines survey, remote sensing and excavation to investigate the archaeology of Roman colonialism in the Fronteira area. The area was known as a frontier zone in antiquity. Located in the inlands far from the developing coastal towns, it remained scarcely settled even after the first phase of Roman involvement.

However, with the rise of Roman expansion, the Fronteira area underwent transitions that have been documented elsewhere in the Mediterranean too. The complementarity of Portuguese and Dutch approaches in this project helps clearing the path towards understanding these Mediterranean-wide phenomena, and their possible link to Roman incorporation. Close collaboration with Dr Jesús García Sánchez from the Archaeological Institute of nearby Mérida allows extrapolation and further testing of this hypothesis.

Washing and processing the survey finds in the winter of 2018

International collaboration

Stek indeed stresses the importance of the international nature of the project. ‘The collaboration between Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and other colleagues has been instrumental in shaping this research agenda, and we look forward to further discussions and discoveries, or should I say, descobrimentos.’

The 1,2 million grant will cover the costs of two PhD’s, one Postdoc, a research assistant and four years of fieldwork, as well as a Portuguese language course for Dr Stek.

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