Just another day in class… or is it?

Breathtaking landscapes – impressive formations – admirable settings: While observing all these features in the environment, a number of questions may arise as: How were all these features formed? Are they related with past landscapes? Can we predict how is it going to be in the future? One way to tackle all these questions is by looking at the record of the elements and the processes that took part in it, and that is no other than the landscape itself.

Through the study of soils, sediments, flora and fauna, paleoenvironmental studies are crucial for understanding present and past landscapes. Thus, a group of PhD students from ICArEHB, with the direction of Dr. Cristina Veiga-Pires and Dr. Ana Gomes had a fieldwork in the Algarve region, in order to see how researchers can ‘read’ the environmental record in the field. Three different sites were visited, based on their different characteristics and environments.

Our first stop was at the Varjota’s Mega Karren, located in the Águia hill. The landscape is characterized by ‘islands’ of rocks, created by the differential dissolution of the rocky substrate, among an extensive and low vegetation.

Fig. 1 – Varjota’s Mega Karren

Our second stop was at the Algibre stream, an ephemeral water line surrounded by modern and old alluviums. By observing the terraces and the mud deposits, we were able to follow the changing positions and dynamics of the steam.

Fig. 2 – Algibre steam.

Our third and final stop was at Ria Formosa, a shallow lagoon system located on the Algarve littoral. There, we had the opportunity to collect some sediment samples with a hand auger, in order to describe their composition, texture, and identify some biogeochemical indicators.

Fig. 3 – Ria Formosa.

An important lesson of the fieldwork was that the landscape we are living in is both an end-product and an archive of a complex set of processes and elements. Our goal as archaeologists is to learn how to interpret the remnants of these relationships, so we can have a better understanding of the environments that past humans were living in.

Author: Anastasia Eleftheriadou

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