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Guest researcher Ignasi Grau: taking the comparative perspective

"Landscape archaeologists often face similar research questions across regions, whether working in the Mediterranean with its long history of studies or in other areas. Understanding settlement systems, connectivity or the role of identity formation as linked to places and place-making, such as ritual sites and sanctuaries, are just some of them. Sometimes therefore, new clues for studying and understanding such questions arise precisely when we leave our study area, and take a comparative perspective."

Landscape archaeologist

"That is precisely what brought me to the department of World Archaeology at the Faculty of Archaeology here in Leiden: my name is Ignasi Grau, I am senior lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Alicante, Spain. I am a landscape archaeologist and I study the pre-Roman societies of Mediterranean Iberia and its development in the encounter with the expanding Roman empire. For this purpose, I carry out survey and excavations in the northern mountains of Alicante, and I also develop investigations in Cadis, Andalusia, as well as in Umbria, Italy."

The role of sanctuaries

"Working comparatively, I got to know the research of Dr. Tesse Stek on the role of sanctuaries in ancient Samnium, which displays close similarities with those I study in the Iberian Contestania, in the Alicante area. Discussing these issues, later on, at various conferences with Tesse, reinforced my impression that our respective study areas underwent similar processes during the first contact period with Roman power, although they occurred in different areas and followed a different time path – and have been interpreted differently in different national research traditions.

To test this hypothesis and understand the interplay between Roman strategies and local responses, I proposed a collaborative project at Leiden, which was fortuitously funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science. This grant made my visit to Leiden, between December 2017 and March 2018 possible."

Dr. Ignasi Grau giving instructions to the archaeological survey team in Alicante

Collaborations in the Iberian Peninsula

"The research stay centers on our comparative analysis, but in a broader sense it is an excellent opportunity to get to know the researchers and projects from Tesse’s group, especially now that they are starting a new project in the Iberian Peninsula. But it is also the opportunity to meet and engage with a large team of excellent archaeologists, some of them that I already knew from having read their works, such as Miguel John Versluys, Marleen Termeer or Hanna Stöger, to name only a few.

This experience allows me to expand my own studies, but also to establish links that can grow scientifically and collegially over time. Maybe in the future students of Leiden can come to study in Alicante or investigate with us the landscapes of the Iberian Mediterranean. Time will tell, but I am sure of one thing, among my colleagues of the department of World archaeology I have found one of the essences of the Mediterranean: the generous hospitality towards those coming from other places."

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