In the Eastern Adriatic, largely situated in Croatia, a large number of archaeological sites and remains have been found and identified, although they are far from being analysed, exploited and/or commercialised to their full capacity. While located in Croatia, those archaeological sites are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological, anthropological or educational points of view. Moreover, the information that we can retrieve when analysing these sites can help us to solve many of the problems we are currently facing. At the same time, they can stimulate the regional scientific community and add to the development of local communities. Thus, can we do better or can we intensify our current work on those archaeological sites is a logical question for a group of researchers in Croatia connected professionally to the Sciences of the Past.

‘Sciences of the Past’

Our term ‘Sciences of the Past’ includes a range of disciplines that study the past physical, biological,  and cultural conditions and processes that formed and shaped the Earth and its organisms, including humans. Archaeology, Geology, Palaeontology, and Anthropology are well known and established examples of such disciplines. Among the others that one could also include are Archaeobotany, Zooarchaeology Palaeoecology, Palaeoclimatology and Palaeoceanography. At the same time disciplines such as Genetics are also demonstrating their power to contribute to the field (Archaeogenetics) and, perhaps, in the future some other disciplines will emerge. We also use the term ‘Sciences of the Past’ because it is inclusive as well as MIT disciplinary in nature. Through the text we use the abbreviation MIT disciplinary substituting the expression multi-, inter- and trans- disciplinary according to the review of Stock and Burton (2011; doi:10.3390/su3081090).

Current status and SWOT analysis

As a first step we made a SWOT analysis, see Table 1, to identify where we are and how to proceed, particularly, as our main motivation was to change the current situation and to ascend to a higher level.

Thus, we see this project as an opportunity to utilise our location-specific advantages (the abundance of ancient organic materials in the Eastern Adriatic) and scientific potentials. Furthermore, we are enthusiastic to transform our approach and obtain MIT disciplinary expertise that is capable to enhance and create a new dimension of research related to the Sciences of the Past in Croatia through the realisation of specific objectives outlined below. The increasing number of MIT disciplinary projects in the EU serves as an indicator of the necessity for such an approach. In this project we are stressing out the importance of Genetics and its integration into the Sciences of the Past.

First, as know-how capacity in Archaeogenetics has not been developed, neither in Croatia nor in the broader region.

Secondly, as Genetics, as well as all scientific disciplines that rely on DNA sequence information have been fundamentally changed in last few years, impelled by the emergence and development of next-generation sequencing (NGS), allowing us to tackle fundamentals of life in nearly all aspects of human activities.

Thirdly, we recently established a collaboration related to the phylogenetic analyses of ancient lagomorph bones (RGB-Net, EU framework programme COST-TD-1101; Lastly, there is a group of researchers showing excellence in Genetics that is highly motivated for MIT disciplinary approach, with future plans to establish an ancient DNA (aDNA) laboratory.

Table 1.

Strengths Weaknesses
– Individual scientific excellence in many disciplines
– Motivation for MIT disciplinary research
– Strong interest for international collaborations
– Abundance of relevant/attractive archaeological sites, with high potential for future economic development in the cultural heritage sector
– Abundance of archaeological artefacts, biofacts and features
– Large number of fragmented and small research units (<4 researchers) in Croatia
– Lack of participation in MIT disciplinary research
– Low publication record, particularly in high-impact journals
– Low participation in EU projects (FP6 & 7, etc.)
– Poor financial and administrative research support
– Lack of access to cutting age technologies relevant to the Sciences of the Past
– Low number of innovations*
– Lack of connection between industry/commercial entities, SMEs and scientific research
Opportunities Threats
– Establishment of a MIT disciplinary research group operating at ERA level
– Capacity to use cutting age technologies in analysing existing artefacts, biofacts and features
– Increased number of publications in high-impact (open-access) international peer-review journals
– Establishment of the team that is motivated and competitive in applying to EU grants
– Intensive collaboration on the promotion of sustainable Archaeotourism
– Inertia of the system
– Administrative barriers
– Inadequate future public funding in Croatia

*In general, it is relevant to note that the Innovation Union Scoreboard (2014) classifies Croatia as a Moderate Innovator. Out of 28 EE member states, Croatia is at the 23rd place.