Renieblas, Spain: Summer, 2017
With the generous award I received from the Quigley family and their newly established Quigley Endowment, I was able to participate in the Proyecto Arqueológico Renieblas (PAR) in Renieblas, Spain, and visit the Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Madrid. Co-directed by Dr. Alicia Jiménez of Duke University and Dr. Jésus Bermejo of York University, PAR is an excavation project aimed towards understanding the Roman camps at Renieblas, their chronology, and their role in the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Dr. Jiménez is the professor who originally sparked my interest in archaeology, and it has been an honor to continue working alongside her. This was my second consecutive season as a part of PAR, and my goals for this time in Madrid and Renieblas were to increase my archaeological fieldwork experience and further my studies of archaeology, history, and culture by studying artifacts firsthand.
My first day in Spain was spent exploring the Museo Arqueológico Nacional. Equipped with my English guidebook, I set off through the many floors and exhibits to see how much I could learn in one day. While my original plan was to immediately seek out La Dama de Elche, I quickly veered off course upon the realization that there was an entire exhibit dedicated to coins. During the final week of the PAR 2016 season, another member of the team and I uncovered a Roman coin, so I was eager to compare photos of last summer’s find to the museum’s collection. Connections to my coursework also kept entering my mind. Watching visitors excitedly interacting with digital displays and using virtual reality devices reminded me of my Virtual Museums course. We spent the semester discussing the future of museums and the transformative effects of incorporating new technologies into exhibits, and it was rewarding to see how applicable and impactful this type of work could be.
The remainder of my time in Spain was spent working with the PAR 2017 team. Both the physical vastness and historical complexity of Renieblas make it a unique site to study and dig. Apart from Adolf Schulten, a German archaeologist who excavated in the early twentieth century, the site has remained untouched, apart from looters, until PAR. Renieblas contains the remains of several camps used by the Roman army, however the order in which they were constructed and utilized is unknown, making our work towards establishing a chronology monumental. Although I was unable to stay for the entirety of the 2017 season, our PAR team made significant progress while I was on site. We began by analyzing maps, LIDAR images, and aerial photographs before conducting geophysical surveys to determine trench locations. I spent three days working with one of my colleagues to metal-detect sections of the camps and mark the locations of potential material finds. Once our trenches were established, we took the first of many trench photos; due to the destructive nature of archaeology documentation is essential. During my last full day of work in Renieblas, we opened one of our trenches and I assisted Dr. Jiménez with photogrammetry work. Our efforts with photogrammetry will allow us to hopefully reconstruct the entire dig virtually by creating 3D models of each layer of the trench. Following my departure, the team was able to open a second trench, and over the course of the season they made exciting discoveries that will be described in further detail in the future by Dr. Jiménez and Dr. Bermejo.
Since taking a course with Dr. Jiménez during my first semester at Duke, I have sought out as many archaeology related experiences as I can find, but nothing can compare to the opportunity to actually do fieldwork in a field that interests you. Without the Quigley Endowment, my experiences of working with PAR and visiting the Museo Arqueológico Nacional would not have been possible.