What we've been up to...

We've been actively developing the database thesaurus in Russian, Chinese and English (whew!) and consolidating the many complex terms, especially the time periods, some of which are still debated among scholars in different countries. While this is ongoing Marco and Gai have been visiting teams in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for GIS training so that as soon as the thesaurus is finalised people can begin looking at the area via satellite and seeing what there is to see. Gai and the team from Archaeological Expertise (Kazakhstan) have been doing ground survey with UAVs. Tim wrote a short report of what they explored at Bunjikat, Tajikistan with only a couple of days on the ground working with Bobomullo of the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography named after A. Donish.

Inside the archives, teams have taken an inventory and scanning is underway. How fascinating it is to see what archaeologists discovered and the records they created. We are looking forward to sharing some of these with you. A single folder encapsulates the site but also the archaeologists and the socio-economic, political and sociocultural times in which they lived and carried out their research. These records are being added to an open access interactive map where – soon – you will be able to search and find out more about sites. Scroll down to the bottom of any page on the website or this link helps you Take Action where you can get in touch as well as subscribe to the newsletter which you'll receive monthly. We want to hear from you!

As melting glaciers in Central Asia are already causing changes to local environments (see Sarah Forgesson's inaugural blog) it is important to understand how these put added stress on already at-risk archaeological landscapes and the communities who live in them. While CAAL teams use remote sensing to look carefully at the landscapes we are flagging endangered places and making this data available to decision makers on the ground. The ability of stakeholders to develop resilient management plans depends on their access to information and we proudly contribute to the knowledge base. #climateaction

Stay tuned…this is a massive project and while I'd love to share all the behind-the-scenes (resulting in soooo many photos of people at conference tables looking at screens) believe me when I say we are beavering away constructing a stable first of its kind digital inventory for a geographically, linguistically and culturally diverse region with an equally varied group of teams based in 6 countries (resulting in soooo many photos of people on the phone). As archival scans and remote sensing images become increasingly available and interconnected, we will Tweet and post so follow the project at @uclcaal.

a wedding in Kashgar

UCL team member Yunxiao took some time off from fieldwork to attend the wedding of some Tajik friends in Kashgar. The excitement was palpable as the groom (on the right with red and white band on his hat) awaited his bride but finally they left to begin their new life in his home. Thereafter much dancing was had by every guest…including Yunxiao…we know she is a very good dancer!

The happy couple leaving to begin their new life together, Kashgar. Photo by Liu Yunxiao, Licensed by CC BY-NC-ND.

The happy couple leaving to begin their new life together, Kashgar. Photo by Liu Yunxiao, Licensed by CC BY-NC-ND.

Dancing in the courtyard at a Tajik wedding, Kashgar. Photo by Liu Yunxiao, Licensed by CC BY-NC-ND.

Dancing in the courtyard at a Tajik wedding, Kashgar. Photo by Liu Yunxiao, Licensed by CC BY-NC-ND.

Murghab River by satellite

This week CAAL UCL has enjoyed seeing the fruits of student Rory Calvin’s labours while he mapped 500 sites in the Murghab River region. We’ve got some details in the brief case study. Soon these sites and many many more will be available in our open access maps…the wheels are turning…

Sites along an ancient watercourse, with new agriculture spreading westward from the current river channel (right of image).

Sites along an ancient watercourse, with new agriculture spreading westward from the current river channel (right of image).

post-Samarkand workings

The workshop in Samarkand, attended by representatives of CAAL project teams from UCL, Central Asia, and China (find a more comprehensive list here) saw everyone come together for several days of discussions about Arches, GIS, standards and policies, information dissemination, and how these tools can forward the systematic documentation of archaeological landscapes in the region. Talk centred around digital platforms, methodologies, and the complexities of taking on such a wide-ranging project across geographies, languages, political landscapes. While everyone sees the long-term benefits of creating a digital inventory the project is not without obstacles - small and large - challenges viewed with open eyes. With the vast experience of team members from the various institutions as well as participation from affiliate partners the project is an opportunity to address some of the long-term concerns about threats to the archaeological record due to deteriorating archival materials, ongoing development projects which put unknown or little-known sites at risk, climate-related changes in the environment and effects on agricultural and socioeconomic systems.

A feeling of excitement and anticipation permeated while individuals finally got their hands on the much talked-about ArchesProject and began experiencing the test data in real time.

Participants’ overwhelming attitude during the workshop was absolutely can-do and will-do and how quickly can we begin? Now, individual teams are being assembled, added to, and beginning to take inventory of their own archives and sites and within a few months advanced training on the digital platforms will begin. Soon this website and our social media channels will have formal introductions to team members, institutions, and affiliate partners so please check back often, follow us @uclcaal , and of course, subscribe to the newsletter.

Colleagues from Turkmenistan enjoying the mosaics (and a bit of shade) at the Shah-i-Zinda mausoleum.

Colleagues from Turkmenistan enjoying the mosaics (and a bit of shade) at the Shah-i-Zinda mausoleum.

friends in Samarkand

Today we are meeting up with old friends and making new ones at our CAAL kick-off workshop in Samarkand. Hosted by IICAS and held at the University of Samarkand. We are discussing ArchesProject implementation and GIS and Remote Sensing methods as well as the impact of climate change in the region. We are exchanging views on the challenges and potential of digitisation and working in open access knowledge platforms. We are excited about the ‘totality of understanding complex landscapes’ (Tim Williams) and building strong interpersonal relationships which will enable the project to document, protect, and promote the wonderful archaeological heritage of these lands.

making progress

The CAAL team head out to Samarkand, Uzbekistan for an inaugural workshop hosted by Dima Voyakin at the International Institute for Central Asian Studies. We will be joined by dozens of participants from partner institutions from China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Together we plan the future of creating this digital inventory and how it will serve to record and protect the archaeological heritage so important to us all.