Monday, November 29, 2004


Malta participants in ANSER project


Times of Malta
November 28, 2004

Participants of the first ANSER seminar outside
the Archaeology Museum of Alicante.

Over the past two and a half years the University of Malta, through the Foundation of International Studies, participated in the EU project Anciennes Routes Maritimes Méditerranéennes (ANSER), financed under the Interreg IIIB Medocc programme. Participating countries included Italy, France, Spain, Algeria, Morocco and Portugal.

From within these countries a number of institutions, including the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Alicante, the Underwater Archaeology Centre of Catalonia, the National Centre of Maritime and Underwater Archaeology of Portugal and the Camille Jullian Centre of Aix-en-Provence, all contributed to the success of this project. Dr Nicholas Vella and Timmy Gambin served on the scientific and pilot committees alongside other members from the various participating institutions.

The focus of this project was varied and included the research of harbours, trade routes and commercial exchange in the western Mediterranean, and the communication of this research to the general public. A series of conferences, training courses, publication, and education campaigns were organised to achieve these aims.

The five seminars held so far included: "The evolution of the palaeo-environment of ports and harbours in the western Mediterranean" (Alicante, November 2003); "Ancient port structures" (Rome and Ostia, April this year); "The ancient western Mediterranean: trade and exchange" (Marseille, May); "Mediterranean trade routes and harbours after the fall of the Roman Empire in the West" (Genoa, June) and "Communicating memories of the Mediterranean: tools, experiences and projects aimed at giving value to maritime cultural heritage" (Pisa, October).

Malta participated in all seminars with Dr Vella and Mr Gambin delivering five papers on a variety of themes and chairing sessions at these events. The Regione Lazio is currently working on the publication of the proceedings of the seminars and all five volumes should be ready by early next year. The books will contain contributions by leading experts in archaeology, ancient history, landscape studies and museology.

Another tangible facet of the ANSER project was the organisation of a number of courses aimed at sharing information on the preservation and appreciation of maritime cultural heritage. Malta sent three participants, two archaeologists and a conservator, to two courses held in Italy during the month of June, one in Castiglioncello and the other in Ostia Antica.

Both courses were very intensive and all three participants returned enriched by the experiences gained (as well as a host of new friends and contacts). The third ANSER course was held at Villajoyosa in Spain and consisted of a ten-day training programme in underwater archaeology. In Spain, the three Maltese participants worked alongside divers and archaeologists from Spain, Algeria, Morocco and Italy. They also had the opportunity to dive on a Roman wreck that is being excavated.

One of the main objectives of ANSER is the setting up of a scientific database that can be used by researchers and students alike. This database contains information on objects and materials exchanged in the ancient Mediterranean. Works on its contents are currently in progress but part of it is already up and running. The project Website also contains details on the above-mentioned events as well as others that were organised in the scope of the ANSER project:

Participation in the ANSER project has been a very positive experience for all concerned. The Department of Classics and Archaeology at the University of Malta, Heritage Malta and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage all contributed in varying degrees to ensure that Malta's participation in such a high-profile project was a success. It is hoped that long-term benefits reaped by the individual participants will prove beneficial to the study and preservation of Malta's maritime heritage.

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