Category Archives: Academics

Experimenting to reconstruct the past

Tarragona host the V International Congress of Experimental Archaeology, organized by three Catalan Research Centers (IPHES, ICAC and ICRPC), together with the EXPERIMENTA association, and with the collaboration of the Port of Tarragona and the University Rovira i Virgili (URV).

The Congress will gather researchers who use the experimental archaeology for solving problems derived from the study of ancient cultures. Within this forum, they will present their last results regarding didactics, dissemination and value-added of heritage.

There will be also a practical day where the specialist will make reproductions of prehistoric hafting, ropes or basketry, between others. The afternoon session will be open to the general public.


In the last decades, the archaeology has produced a higher interest in the experimental methodology used to validate hypothesis about the archaeological formation processes, the technology and the ways of living of past communities. Thus, the main specialists use the experimental reproduction as the way to reconstruct the environmental conditions and the behavioural patterns of the past human groups.

Within this context, Tarragona will host the V International Congress of Experimental Archaeology, between the 25th and 27th of October. This is co-organized by three Catalan Research Centres, IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social), ICAC (Institut Català d’Arqueologia Clàssica), ICRPC (Institut Català de Recerca en Patrimoni Cultural) and the EXPERIMENTA association. These conferences count also with the collaboration of the Port of Tarragona and the University Rovira i Virgili (URV).


The Congress will attend two days to theoretical presentations, both oral and poster communications, and discussion (25th and 26th October) and a day for the presentation of experiments, demonstrations and workshops (27th October). The theoretical sessions will be held in the Aula Magna of Facultade Lletres of the University Rovira i Virgili (Av. Catalunya, 35. 43002 Tarragona). The practical day will take place in the facilities of the Port of Tarragona, Refugi 4 and in the Port of Tarragona Museum (Moll de Costa, s/n).

The theoretical sessions will be organized by large thematic blocks: From hunter-gatherers to producer societies; from the beginning of complex societies to the present; and didactics, dissemination and value-added of heritage.

The practical day will be divided into two parts. The morning will be devoted to the live experiments, workshops and demonstrations to generate a proactive discussion within the participants to the congress. Some of these activities will be related with the action of tying, from the first hunter-gatherers to nowadays. So, the specialists will reproduce prehistoric hafting, ropes and basketry, looms, fishing nets, etc… During the afternoon, these activities will be open to the general public in an attempt to bring experimental archaeology to the society.



Members of IPHES teach to undergraduate students in the History and Arts History degree at URV

In some of the curses, doctoral students contribute significantly


During the 2016-17 academic year, members of the Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES), teach a total of four subjects in the frame of the History and Arts History undergraduate degrees of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili de Tarragona (URV), three of which are mandatory. These are: Human evolution and Culture, and Historic Methodology, by Robert Sala, and Prehistory, by Ethel Allué and Eudald Carbonell. In some of these subjects,  doctoral students, Anna Rufà, Esther López, Leopoldo Pérez and Pedro Piñero contribute significantly.

The optional course is Prehistory of the Iberian Peninsula and is taught by Isabel Cáceres and Anna Rufà. Furthermore, the archaeologist Eudald Carbonell makes a number of sessions dedicated to specific items like violence, diet and technology.

The technology practice by Eudald Carbonell was, focused in a prospection nearby IPHES

In the framework of the Prehistory and Prehistory of the Iberian Peninsula courses recently took place a practical training at IPHES. Like in previous times, in that academic year were offered three workshops: one about zooarchaeology carried outtrained by Isabel Cáceres, the second about microvertebrates, taught by Pedro Piñero, and the last one, on archeobotany, by Ethel Allué.

The technology practice by Eudald Carbonell took also place and was focused, this year, in a prospection nearby IPHES where materials are found in the surface of the so called Tarragona pre-urban zone.

Also, the students visit IPHES guided by Marta Fontanals, member of the Unit of Projects and Transference (UPT). The aim of this practical course is to give an approach to the third year students of History and Arts History degree to the activities made by the members of IPHES. During the workshop, there is a special remark on the different lines of research through the variety of scientific ways such as laboratories, the use of microscopes and fieldwork.

The 2016 Tübingen Prize for Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology goes to Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo of the IPHES

In his PhD thesis, he used ancient animal bone finds to reconstruct human strategies for getting food more than 400,000 years ago

He has demonstrated that early humans were capable of abstract planning, using technology and social skills to get food

The 2016 Tübingen Prize for Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology goes to archaeologist Dr. Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) in Tarragona. Rodríguez-Hidalgo is an archaeozoologist; in his PhD thesis, he used ancient animal bone finds to reconstruct human strategies for getting food more than 400,000 years ago. He found that they used sophisticated hunting strategies. The annual award comes with €5000 prize money, sponsored by Mineralbrunnen EiszeitQuell, making it the richest prize of its kind for archaeological research.

Yvonne Willy (Romina Mineralbrunnen GmbH), Prof. Nicholas Conard (Universität Tübingen), Dr. Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo (IPHES), Achim Jarck (Romina Mineralbrunnen GmbH), Dr. Britt Starkovich (Universität Tübingen).

Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo (born 1978) first studied History majoring in Archaeology in the Spanish town of Cáceres, then in Parma, Italy. He completed his Master’s degree in Quaternary Archaeology and Human Evolution in 2008 in Tarragona. He has been part of a team excavating in the Sierra de Atapuerca near Burgos in northern Spain, where one of the world’s biggest archaeological sites from the Ice Age is located.  In 2015 he completed his PhD on animal fossils in the Sierra de Atapuerca -and what they say about early humans in the region. “I’m very interested in early humans as hunters – which animals they caught, which strategies they used, and how they carved up their prey”.

“Dr. Rodríguez-Hidalgo has found some very old examples of subsistence behaviors we would recognize as being human,” says Dr Britt Starkovich of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen. Finds from the Sierra de Atapuerca include the remains of some 60 bison butchered by humans. Rodríguez-Hidalgo says the differing ages of the animals indicates an entire herd fell into a natural trap exploited by hunters demonstrating that early humans were capable of abstract planning, using technology and social skills to get food.

A monolith dedicated to Camp dels Ninots, first step to enhance the attraction of this 3.1 million years old site

A tour through several panels will be offered soon to explain how life and the environment were at that time

Also an area will be built within a laboratory for in situ research and the development of the Erasmus Mundus Master in Quaternary Archaeology and Human Evolution classes

During the 2015 spring season the field work will restart


The recent opening of a 12 tons monolith, at the entrance of Caldes de Malavella (Girona, Spain), sculpture piece by Marc Niell, has kick-started a whole series of actions that are aimed to enhance the tourist and cultural attraction at Camp dels Ninots, a site located in this locality, where important archaeopaloentological remains reaching up to 3.1 million years old have been recovered over 11 years of continuous research under the IPHES´s direction (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social), and which are also mentioned in the permanent exhibition that for some time has been visited at Cal Ferrer, a medieval building in the old Town at the Hall Square, next to the tourist office.

The mayor of Caldes de Malavella, Salvador Balliu, highlighted the interest of the city council to promote Camp dels Ninots as a cultural and tourist attraction, which will benefit the economy of the village. In this regard, he advanced that during 2015 an interior journey will be offered to the public in the site, through various interpretive panels, it will explain and reconstruct life and the environment at the place 3.1 million years ago.

Rotonda de Caldes de Malavella dedicat al Camp dels Ninots. Ninot
Monolith dedicated to Camp dels Ninots – Gerard Campeny/IPHES

Research Areas

In this regard, it may be noted that each research area that is carried out will be detailed: geology, paleontology of large and small vertebrates, paleoenvironment, excavation methods and history of the research and taphonomy of the site. These panels have been designed and made by the IPHES.

It will also implement various points along the visit with a series of real scale sculptures of the different animals found at the site, as well as leisure and resting areas. This act has a cost of about 55,000 euros paid by the Generalitat de Catalunya, the City Hall of Caldes and the IPHES. The works have been already tendered and could begin in January.

In the same vein, the City Hall is working to rehabilitate the Castell de Caldes building together with a research center around Camp dels Ninots where a practical classroom and the interpretation of hot springs could be developed. The first floor is dedicated to a work place and the logistics of the research project on the site holded by the IPHES, and will be equipped with a restoration laboratory, work areas and rooms, toilets and kitchens, for the accommodation of the research team (about 20 people) during the excavations and the processing of the recovered material during the field work. In the future Master in Quaternary Archaeology and Human Evolution classes will be offered by the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, thanks to the research projects with international projection that holds the IPHES.

The importance of water

The ground floor is basically designed for schools and other groups, where a simulated excavation will be included as a classroom for children, and a couple of rooms, where the importance of water in the municipality is explained through the site of Camp dels Ninots, the Roman baths and hot springs of s. XX.

The rehabilitation of the municipal building and the layout of the spaces have an approximate cost of € 260,150 payable between the Council and a grant from the Generalitat de Catalunya which has been obtained thanks to the interest of the research project.

One of the best science projects

Moreover, during the spring of 2015 fieldwork at Camp dels Ninots will restart as the Generalitat recently praised his research project as one of the best and most interesting of Catalonia and has given to the research proposal a scientific a grant of € 60,000 spread over four years.

According to the co-directors of the excavation, Bruno Gomez and Gerard Campeny, archaeologists at the IPHES, the intention for the next season is to perform a mechanical survey that reaches the base of the volcano. “It is estimated to extract 200 meters or more of sediment that will give valuable information for understanding the climate and ecosystem of the zone, and for extension, of the entire Mediterranean”, have remarked.

Debate with Eudald Carbonell about violence, solidarity, inequality and compassion within Prehistory course of the History Degree from the URV

He also talked about issues such as what is a violent act, bioethics, morality and ethology, among other topics.


Eudald Carbonell, IPHES´s Director (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social) participated recently in a class of the Prehistory course conducted by  lecturer and member of this research center, Ethel Allué,  from the History Degree offered by the URV (Universitat Rovira i Virgili – Tarragona – Spain). The archaeologist referred to a number of concepts such as Violence, Solidarity, Inequality and Compassion in Prehistory, throughout the scientific thinking obtained with different researches in which he participates, along with other scientists of his research team. He also talked about issues such as what is a violent act, bioethics, morality and ethology, among other topics.



The key question done by the student Eduard Jimenez (History student in curricular practices at IPHES) whether if all these aspects of our evolution are innate or hominin cultural adaptations, served to finish Eudald Carbonell intervention.

The IPHES is a new research institute of the Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona

One of the main objectives is to provide added value to the academics

photos – spanish – catalan

The IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social), created in 2006 and directed by the archaeologist Eudald Carbonell, is already a new Institute of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili de Tarragona (URV), after the approval of the Conselleria d’ Economia i Coneixement de la Generalitat de Catalunya, dated on 8 July and published in the Diari Oficial de la Generalitat (DOGC) the last August 4th.

Thereby concludes the formalization of a process that began in May 2013 with the signing of an agreement between such counseling and the URV to achieve this recognition, which once published in the DOGC is already fully effective.

The IPHES, located at the campus of the URV Sescelades, whose main objective is to become a center of international reference in the development of research, teaching and transference in the different branches of the study of evolution and human behavior. In this context, from now on it will enhance the teaching area, ensuring the scientific quality and providing added value.

The approval gives a new context to a rich activity that takes place since 2004 in which IPHES researchers elaborate the program to develop the first URV masters Erasmus Mundus in cooperation with three more European universities. Since 2013 it has been also added the Erasmus Mundus doctorate in Quaternary and Prehistory. The expedition of the degree corresponds to the URV.

With regard to the faculty, teaching will be carry out by the researchers from both institutes, IPHES and URV.

The agreement also provides that the IPHES, and in particular, its teaching staff have access to the support services to help in the study and teaching, research and university extension of the URV.

Its origins

Although IPHES was born 8 years ago, its origins go back to 1988, when the archaeologist Eudald Carbonell, co-director of the Equipo de Investigación de Atapuerca (EIA), arrived to Tarragona to join as a Prehistory Professor in the Universitat de Barcelona delegation (UB). Since then, he has worked hard to promote a transdisciplinary team with international projection on the study of human evolution. The first steps were taken with the Grupo de Autoecología Humana when the Universitat Rovira i Virgili de Tarragona was created in 1991, where he is a Prehistory Professor. Currently, IPHES is among the three best research centers in the world in its field.