Workhop: Geomorpholoy

17th January 2017, Pisa

Conveners: Marta Pappalardo and Giovanni Boschian

Scientific Committee: Giovanni Boschian, Mladen Juračić, Marta Pappalardo and Renata Šoštarić


Reconstructions of past landscapes based on geological evidence are of great value for archaeologists when investigating landscape use by humans. Moreover, evidence from archaeological sites provides relevant information to better understand environmental evolution and processes through time.

This workshop will focus on sharing theoretical knowledge and field experience within the MendTheGap community. The aim is to establish common background and methods to study the late Pleistocene and Holocene coastal human settlement and fauna migrations across the Adriatic. The seminal part of the workshop will deal with the theoretical aspects of palaeocoastline reconstruction and with cutting-edge field techniques for coastal landform interpretation. Contributions from an as wide as possible spectrum of disciplines are welcome.



Tuesday, 17th January, Department of Biology, Aula Savi, via Porta Buozzi 3, Pisa from 8:00 to 16:30

8:00-10:30 Meeting of the Management Committee (only for members, including the administrative team)

10:30-11:00 Coffee break

11:00-11:30 General introduction to the Workshop

  • Welcome talk – Giovanni Boschian and Biology Department Head (Prof. Alberto Castelli)
  • Illustration of the workshop programme – Marta Pappalardo


11:30-12:00 – General theory of sea level change and fundamentals on GIA (Glacial Isostatic Adjustment) models (Giorgio Spada).

12:00-12:30 – Review of Late Pleistocene-Holocene sea level change on the Croatian coast (Mladen Juračić)

12:30-13.00 – Evidence of Quaternary sea level change on the Italian northern-Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Coast (with focus on the Late Glacial-Holocene) (Marta Pappalardo)

13.00-14.00 – Lunch break

14.00 -14.30 – Palaeoenvironmental evidence from geoarchaeological investigations in archaeologically relevant coastal caves (Giovanni Boschian)

14.30-15.30 – Presentations from participants (15’ each)

  • Stašo Forenbaher – Palagruža/Pelagosa: Archaeological record of a small island in a rising sea
  • Igor Felja – Karstic estuaries in the eastern Adriatic: Environmental changes and human impact during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene
  • Silas Dean – Identifying submerged prehistoric sites for palaeo-shoreline reconstruction through remote sensing survey: a geomorphological approach


15:30-16:30  – Open discussion

20:30-23:00 – Social dinner for all participants

Field trip: Wednesday to Friday, 18th to 20th January 2017, Liguria

Wednesday, 18th January, from 9:00 to 18:00

Destination: Luni archaeological area (La Spezia)


  • Archaeological markers (dock)
  • Sedimentological markers (cores), compaction
  • Biological markers (oysters)
  • Geomorphological markers (palaeocliff)


Overnight in Ameglia (La Spezia): Hotel Ala Bianca, Via Camisano, 94, 19031 Ameglia (La Spezia)


Thursday, 19th  January 2017, from 9:00 to 18:00

Destination: Palmaria Island – Varignano archaeological area – Chiavari (Genoa)


  • Geomorphological markers (coastal caves and stratified scree)
  • Tectonic stability and sediment compaction
  • Archaeological markers
  • Sedimentological markers
  • Pleistocene terraces


Overnight in Bordighera: Hotel Mar Ligure, Via Aurelia 22, 18012 Bordighera (Imperia)
Friday, 20th  January 2017, Field trip from 9:00 to 18:00

Destination: Western Liguria (Imperia): Balzi Rossi archaeological area


  • Notches
  • Coastal caves
  • Marine terraces
  • Bioconstructions


Return to Pisa

Archaeological record of a small island in a rising sea


Stašo Forenbaher
Institute for Anthropological Research, Zagreb, Croatia

The tiny island of Palagruža/Pelagosa is unique among the Adriatic islands due to its strategic location in the middle of the Adriatic Sea. Its extraordinary archaeological record begins some 8000 years ago with Early Neolithic and can be followed, with occasional breaks, until the present. That record testifies that the character and intensity of human activities on the island varied widely from period to period.

In order to explain those diachronic changes in human activities over the last eight millennia, one must take into account geomorphological changes caused primarily by the rising sea levels. Changes in size and shape of the island would have determined the kinds and quantities of the island’s resources, as well as its suitability to serve as a shelter for seagoing vessels.

Over the last couple of decades, Palagruža has been the focus of intensive archaeological and geological investigations, but comprehensive integration of those two strands of evidence has not been attempted. This presentation shall illustrate what kinds of details archaeologists sometimes hope to learn from geologists, and why those details may be important to them. Its purpose is to spark a discussion about which of those details of geomorphological history are recoverable, and by what means, and which may be beyond our reach.

Karstic estuaries in the eastern Adriatic:
Environmental changes and human impact during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene


Igor Felja
Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb

The eastern part of the Adriatic coast is built mostly of carbonate rocks, and in prevailing humid climatic conditions chemical weathering of limestone and dolomites dominates. Generally, along the eastern Adriatic coast, the surface hydrographical network is poor and the sedimentary inputs reaching the sea are rare. However, there are a few exceptions, like Neretva, Mirna or Raša river systems, which have high terrigenous load from allogenic sources in the catchments and as a consequence developed deltas at their mouths.

Development of recent coastline was related to oscillations in sea level caused by interchanges of glacial and interglacial periods during Pleistocene and Holocene. After large volumes of ice were melted, since the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), 19,000 years ago, sea level was rising rapidly. The Adriatic Sea flooded karstic river valleys along the eastern shores and deep karstic estuaries were formed. In the last 8000 – 6000 years, when sea-level rise slowed, allogenic rivers carried large quantities of material to the sea, which caused gradual filling of estuaries and formations of intra-estuarine deltas. Progradation of these deltas during Holocene led to changes of environments, from estuarine, transitional (inner estuary/lagoons, marshes) to finally complete filling of former valleys and development of recent delta plains. These changes in environments were recorded in sediments deposited in deltaic plains, with distinctive sedimentary characteristics and fossil assemblages for each environment.

Besides natural causes (sea-level changes and sedimentation) which had major impact on development of these environments, human influence was also significant in the last few thousand years and is still significant today.

Identifying submerged prehistoric sites from palaeo-shoreline reconstruction and remote sensing surveys:
A geomorphological approach


Silas Dean
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Pisa

Rise in sea level since the Last Glacial Maximum has submerged Early Holocene landscapes along the Adriatic coast. Previous researchers have documented several underwater archaeological sites from this period. Additional geomorphological and archaeological data from the Croatian littoral zone can be a rich source of information on prehistoric settlement patterns and the formation of landforms and islands in response to environmental change and sea-level fluctuations.


This project will conduct geomorphological mapping of the coastal and shallow underwater littoral environment, particularly in areas of lower post-transgression sedimentation, to describe submerged landscapes and locate prehistoric settlements. The results of landscape reconstructions and archaeological survey will provide valuable data for prehistorians, as well as additional index points for sea-level researchers.


Methods will include analysis of the coastal environment and prehistoric settlement patterns to specify optimal regions for study in accordance with established archaeological practice for locating submerged sites. High-resolution marine remote sensing surveys will be conducted and integrated with existing bathymetric data into digital elevation maps for visualization in GIS. Coastal sediment cores will be used to connect marine and terrestrial data. In areas of high archaeological and geomorphological interest, divers will be deployed to perform mapping surveys and collect non-destructive grab or core samples for dating and sediment analysis.