Non-invasive archaeology to uncover more about an iconic Islamic palace in Southern Spain
Bournemouth University researchers are using new archaeological techniques and technologies to learn more about an iconic Islamic palace in Southern Spain.
|Aerial view of the Madinat-Al-Zhara palace [Credit: Córdoba Patrimonio de la Humanidad]|
What remains of Madinat al-Zahra reveals much about the people who lived there and the goods they created -- giving insight into the cultural and technological transfer of ideas and production methods over the period. The collaborative team involving researchers from BU, Universidad de Cordoba and Newcastle University are using new techniques and technologies to find out more about the site, and which areas to excavate to uncover where and how materials were produced.
"Islamic palaces tend to have a lot of decoration like glazed tiles, and were very lavish, with lots of beautiful things. We're interested in where these things were being made," explains Professor Kate Welham, Professor of Archaeological Sciences at BU. "The reason we're interested in that production is because at the time, there was a lot of technology transfer in the Islamic world between Spain and North Africa and across all of that trade route.
"That's the real archaeological question behind it -- what's going on with these technologies during that period, where is the knowledge coming from, and who's doing what."
|Part of the buried city being grazed by cows in the foreground, with the excavated mosque, reconstructed palace, |
and a more recent standing building behind [Credit: Universidad de Granada]
"The way in which people made things like metals, ceramics and glass gave off a lot of pollutants, which tend to stay in the soil around them," explains Professor Welham. "We found that by combining these two techniques, we can not only pinpoint the areas where these production sites were, but we can also look at the type of kilns and materials produced."
Following initial visits to the site with colleagues from Universidad de Cordoba and Dr Chloe Duckworth from Newcastle University in July last year, the research team has received a grant from the British Academy to complete further surveys and analysis. They will work alongside current students, recent graduates and commercial archaeologists to confirm the locations of production centres at the site, on the western outskirts of Cordoba, Spain.
"There are some quite exciting things that we can find as a result of applying these techniques," says Professor Welham. "We'd like to confirm that we've got the locations of these big production centres and whether they are all in one place or if there are lots of them in other places."
|Students walking survey grids with
magnetometers. The reconstructed remains of the palace can be glimpsed |
in the background [Credit: Universidad de Granada]
Involving the next generation of archaeological talent in the project will not only have tangible benefits for the students and graduates, believes Professor Welham, but also for taking forward these innovative techniques and ensuring they are used to answer new and exciting archaeological questions in future.
"It's really great to give them exposure to an international collaborative site," she says. "They get to experience really different types of archaeology and also have the cultural exchange of ideas.
"Beyond that, I think they are also gaining useful skills and experience using geophysical equipment and the analysis techniques, but more importantly it really boosts their confidence and gives them a lot of transferable skills -- whether that's helping with report writing or organisation -- and builds their professional networks.
|Almodovar del Rio, as viewed from Madinat al-Zahra [Credit: Universidad de Granada]|
"You never know what developments in science and technology will enable you to answer new and interesting questions, which is what makes it so exciting."
For more information, see the project website.
Source: Bournemouth University [February 11, 2017]