Archaeologists get €1m EU Grant for 3 Year Project in Croatia

Lauren Simmonds

Archaeologists from the University of Cambridge have partnered up with the University of Pisa and have secured a 1 million euro grant for a three year twinning project with the University of Zagreb. This has been granted as part of the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation.

The three year project which will bring together the skills and ability of the University of Cambridge and the University of Pisa together with the expertise of the University of Zagreb goes by the name of ”Mend the Gap: Smart Integration of Genetics with Sciences of the Past in Croatia” (try remembering that when you’ve had a rakija or two) and its aim is to research the rich, diverse and not yet adequately explored heritage of the eastern Adriatic region.

This project was ranked as number 1 of 65 EU funded projects from all research fields within the territory of the European Union. Twinning projects “will help strengthen a defined field of research in a knowledge institution through linking with at least two internationally-leading counterparts in Europe.” claims the European Commission. The leading archaeologist of the Cambridge side of the project, Dr. Preston Miracle also stated that the potential cultural heritage of the aforementioned region is enormous, ranging through the spectrum of human occupation from the Palaeolithic era to the present day.

By providing access to scientific expertise and heightened ability in this field, both Italy (Uni. Pisa) and the United Kingdom (Uni. Cambridge) will enable scientists at the host institution of Zagreb to increase their chances of obtaining/being granted EU funding for further research.

It is no secret that the Eastern Adriatic region is home to a considerable number of important archaeological sites which are of great value and for more than just being a historical point of interest. An example of this is a site in Vela Spila, which sits above the town of Vela Luka on the popular, sun-drenched island of Korcula. Only a relatively small portion of this site has been excavated and explored, and the findings confirm that this little, unassuming area is one of the richest Adriatic archaeological sites to date. One highly significant find was the discovery of 36 ceramic figures, which, following research, turned out to be the first hard evidence of ceramic art in Upper Palaeolithic Europe (a huge 17,000 years ago). There are only two other known ceramic figurine bearing European Upper Palaeolithic sites, which are located in central Europe, humble little Vela Spila is the only Mediterranean example that we currently know of. Among other important discoveries in the area, Vela Spila boasts human remains (both juvenile and adult) directly dated to the Mesolithic period, which is a rare find in this area.

The organisation ArchaeoLink will work alongside the ”Mend the Gap” project and will be the contact and liaison point for the community of Vela Luka and the archaeologists who will be actively working on the project.

If you’d like to find out more about Vela Spila and its archaeological significance, click here.


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