Arcadia: a project for highlighting the archaeological heritage
Cristina G. Pedraz/DICYT Arcadia is an Institute for Cultural Promotion that arose in the year 2000 from the Department of Prehistory, Archaeology, Social Anthropology and Science, and Historiographical Techniques of the University of Valladolid. It is attached to the General Foundation of the University of Valladolid (Fundación General de la Universidad de Valladolid, FUNGE) and its main objective is the promotion of projects of the research, dissemination, and highlighting of heritage matters.
The story of Arcadia runs parallel to the professional development of its instigator, the lecturer Manuel Rojo Guerra. He started his research into the megalithic monuments of the Iberian Peninsula, particularly those of the northern sub-plateau, defending his doctoral thesis on The Megalithic Phenomenon in the La Lora area of Burgos in 1992 under the supervision of the Professor of Prehistory Germán Delibes de Castro. Subsequently he immersed himself in the Valle de Ambrona sites of the province of Soria, where he took a closer look at the implementation of the production economy in the central area of the Iberian Peninsula. As a result of this work more than twenty papers and three books have been published on the significance of fire in the funeral rituals of the Neolithic, the monumental tombs, and the open-air Neolithic settlements of the Valle de Ambrona. Moreover, he has organised a travelling exhibition that has given rise to guidebooks and catalogues.
“The creation of Arcadia filled the need for an almost commercial research structure that would allow the capturing of a multitude of different projects, essentially to promote research”, Manuel Rojo Guerra explains. Since its inception it has been constantly active and dozens of research contracts have been entered into and research projects carried out.
“Over the years we have awarded some 150 research grants and we have maintained two full-time contracts for researchers, for which the University of Valladolid gave us the University-Society Dissemination Prize in 2004”, he recalls.
One of the most important projects of Arcadia is precisely the Integrated Action Plan in the Valle de Ambrona, an innovative initiative that aims to achieve integration between the university and society in numerous fields, from top-level scientific research to the encouraging of rural employment and the restoration and dissemination of the archaeological heritage of Castilla y León. All this is done by means of continuous collaboration between the university, institutions, and the business world.
The integrating project of the Valle de Ambrona was therefore implemented in collaboration with the German Archaeological Institute of Madrid and various public and private entities such as the Regional Government of Castilla y León, the Spanish National Employment Institute (Instituto Nacional de EMpleo, INEM), the Soria County Council, the Spanish Ambulance Association (ADEMA), Cervezas San Miguel, Caja Rural, Santana Motor, Fasa Renault, Monte Pinos, La Hoguera, Tejedor, and the town councils of the towns of Medinaceli and Miño de Medina in the province of Soria.
Scientific research and the revealing of results
The scientific results of this project have not only generated specialised publications but also popular activities aimed at all audiences. One of the most striking finds of the Valle de Ambrona was that of the remains that when duly studied revealed that the oldest beer in Europe had been made there some 4,400 years ago. This discovery led to the production of the scientific documentary The oldest beer in Europe by the University of Valladolid and the San Miguel beer company, of which 50,000 DVD copies were made in 2004.
More recently in 2012, the Numantino Museum opened a new hall to the public as part of its permanent exhibition on the research carried out in the Valle de Ambrona between 1995 and 2011. It reflects the study of the introduction of agriculture and stockbreeding into the economy of the interior of the Iberian Peninsula by means of the intense exploration of a narrow strip of land some 15 kilometres long by 1’5 wide where 107 prehistoric sites from different periods were located, including notably an important open-air ensemble of 11 Early Neolithic settlements and some thirty tubular structures that housed collective tombs.
The research in the Valle de Ambrona has also made its mark on television with two documentaries broadcast as part of the programme The Adventure of Knowledge of Televisión Española.
Regional and national projects
Apart from the activities of the Valle de Ambrona, the Arcadia Institute for Cultural Promotion has carried out all kinds of research projects and initiatives for promoting our heritage at a regional level. These include the museumisation of Coca Castle and the Project of the Rural Life Interpretation Centre in Santa Espina in the province of Valladolid. National activities have included excavations on the Chafarinas Islands and the projects of the National Plan Paths of the Neolithic along the Ebro valley.
The current economic situation has influenced the volume of projects of Arcadia, which during its most active years “reinvested all its economic surplus in research”, Manuel Rojo Guerra points out. A current ongoing project is being carried out in collaboration with the Regional Government of Navarra on the Los Cascajos site, an open-air habitat that is most significant for its Early and Middle Neolithic remains, although it was also occupied during the Chalcolithic period, the Bronze age, and the Iron Age.
Several urgent excavations were carried out on the site as it was at risk owing to its location in a gravel pit. Arcadia's role consisted of processing all the documentation generated with a total of 21 different analyses and of coordinating the publication of the scientific results and the proposals for conservation action.
The continuation of the Paths of the Neolithic project is also under way; it will include the analysis and documenting of all the material produced since 2009 during the excavations at the Els Trocs Cave in the Alta Ribagorza region in the province of Huesca, a Neolithic site that is 7,300 years old.