Saturday, 14 December 2013

Managing Fieldwork Data 2

In these autumn and winter months the EthWAL project is focused on managing the data collected during the summer fieldwork.
The locations of the recorded sites (both in the Vallée de Freissinières and Val Maudagna) have been linked to their attributes (dimension, preservation, etc.), and these data have been managed with two different GIS softwares: QGIS 1.8/GRASS 6.4 and ArchGIS 10. The interaction between the geographical position of sites and their carachteristics will enable to identify hidden patterns, that will shed new light on modern/current spatial strategies in the uplands. Interesting issues, for instance, are the process of abandonment of these sites, and the clustering/dispersion of sites in relation to their structural characteristics (dimension, shape, etc.).
The data collected during the topographic survey of three sites (pastoral huts) of Val Maudagna have been processed, with the fundamental collaboration of Federico Panighel. The second step will be the spatial analysis of artefacts scattered all over the internal surface of these sites. This analysis has just started, and it is carried out using R 3.0.2. The results will be useful to identify intra-site patterns suggesting activity areas and mobility within the huts (according to their function, dimension and forniture).

Two phases of the topographic survey in Val Maudagna (Cuneo province, Italy)

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Managing fieldwork data

The fieldwork activities are finished in September, and this month was essentially dedicated to the management of fieldwork data. The locations of upland structures, recorded using an handheld GPS, have been elaborated and included into a GIS platform. Photographs and information about these sites have been sorted. The transcription of ethnographic interviews and historical documents has started too. The next step will be the management of data collected during the topographic survey of dry-stone huts in the Val Maudagna.

Topographic survey of a casòt near the Brignola lakes (Val Maudagna, Cuneo province, Italy)

Abandoned dry-stone hut near the Fangeas lake (Val de Freissiniéres, Dept. des Hautes-Alpes, France)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Fielwork 3

Last fieldwork campaing

The last fieldwork activities of 2013 have been carried out during the second week of September.

In the library of the Municipality of Freissiniéres I found several books about the exploitation of upland pastures in the valley of Freissiniéres during the 19th and 20th century (I thank Odile Segond for her precious help).

With the collaboration of Catherine Briotet, I found important historical documents (18th, 19th, 20th century) in the Archives Dipartimentales des Hautes-Alpes (Gap). They were related to the use of mountain areas for pastoral activities and hay-making during the modern age. Some interesting maps were documented too.

Field survey in Val Maudagna, aimed at recording abandoned dry-stone structures (casòt and selle), closed the fieldwork activities of summer 2013. It enabled to document (almost) all the seasonal rural structures that are located in the upland area around "La Balma" refuge.

A huge quantity of data has been collected in the last three months in the Val de Freissiniéres and Val Maudagna: spatial data on the landscape distribution and structure of upland sites; soil samples; historical documents and references; oral information from local herders and farmers. These data will be analysed and combined in the next months. New posts will concern the first results of these analyses.

Two casòt recently abandoned in Val Maudagna. These are traditional dry-stone huts that were "restored" few years ago using cement.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Fieldwork 2

Second Fieldwork Campaing

The second fieldwork campaing of the EthWAL project was carried out in July and August

The first phase took place in the Val Maudagna (Cuneo province, Italy). With the help of Giovanni Comino (major of Frabosa Sottana), Gianni Dulbecco ( and the two veterinaries Gian Piero Rinaudo and Irma Bovolo (ASL Mondovì), I visited the pastures around Prato Nevoso and Artesina and I started to record all the pastoral structures in the upland landscape (using an handheld GPS). Several structures have been identified and recorded, and they have been divided in two categories: huts (casòt in the local dialect) where the herders (marghé) live during the summer and produce cheese; cellars (selle) where the herders stock the cheese for maturing. Some of these structures are still exploited by herders during the summer.

Two huts (casòt) near the Brignola lake (Val Maudagna, Cuneo province, Italy)

Cellar (sella) in the Val Brignola (Val Maudagna, Cuneo province, Italy)

Some herders have been interviewed during this research period, and they provided fundamental information for the comprehension of pastoral upland management and traditional rural structures and landscapes. Interesting data about traditional cheese making, building techniques and spatial patterns have also been collected. Besides, the veterinary office of Mondovì provided important documents related to milk exploitation and processing.

The second phase has been carried out in the Vallée de Freissiniéres. Using a handheld GPS, several seasonal structures have been recorded in different upland areas of the valley (Faravel, Pont de Fer, Fangeas, etc.). These structures are mainly dry-stone huts, but rock-shelters and enclosures have also been identified and recorded. All these structures have been used in recent periods (18th, 19th, 20th century), but none is still used nowadays. In order to understand how they were built, exploited and abandoned, I interviewed (with the precious help of Laura Fossati) some retired herders and farmers that still live in the valley. The information provided by these herders and farmers were significant for correlating the use and abandonment of the recorded structures with the evolution of upland management in this valley. Furthermore, some old pubblications concerning the economic activities of this area seem to confirm the information obtained from the interviews. Four different strategies have been identified for the late 19th and early 20th century: short transhumance of dairying cattle; short transhumance of non-dairying sheep and goats; long transhumance of non-dairying sheep and goats; hay-making. In the 21st century only short and long transhumance of non-dairying sheep and goats is still undertaken.

Dry-stone hut built under a rock-shelter (Fangeas, Vallée de Freissinieres, Dept. des Hautes-Alpes, France)

Dry-stone hut near the Fangeas lake (Vallée de Freissinieres, Dept. des Hautes-Alpes, France)

The third and last phase has been the topographic survey of some huts (casot) still exploited by the herders in the high altitudes of Val Maudagna. Four structures have been selected in the Val della Brignola, a small upland valley. The herder that still exploits this grazing area has been interviewed, in order to know exactly how the huts are used and managed. With the help of Federico Panighel, a student of civil engineering at the University of Trieste (Italy), the selected structures have been surveyed using a total station. The walls and the internal spatial organisation (furnitures, heart, etc.) have been surveyed, and the dispersion of material culture within the huts have been mapped too, in order to enable specific spatial analysis and to investigate the relationships between activities and archaeological record within seasonal sites. Soil samples have also been taken inside the surveyed huts, and other huts and cellars have been positioned using an handheld GPS.

Topographical survey of a hut (casòt)

Federico, the total station and me!

The next phases will be the analysis and interpretation of all the collected data. Historical archives and libraries will be also visited, in order to acquire further historical information about the studied area and the recorded structures.

The last fieldwork activities will be carried out in September. The next update will be online at the end of next month!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Fieldwork 01

First fieldwork campaing

The first fieldwork campaing of the EthWAL project was carried out in June 2013

The first part of the research took place in the Monregalese area (Cuneo province, Italy). The activities focused on the small Municipality of Frabosa Sottana, that corresponds to the entire territory of Val Maudagna (see the photo below).

With the precious help of Giovanni Comino, mayor of Frabosa Sottana, I had the opportunity to consult the local historical archive, to meet and interview some shepherds and to know better the study area. I have also acquired some digital cartography (thanks to Gianni Siletto, of the Regione Piemonte) and I have heard of interesting studies on rural landscapes that have been carried out in other mountain areas of the Piemonte Region (thanks to Diego Mondo, of the Regione Piemonte).

The second part of my research took place in the Parc National des Ecrins. In order to understand the current and traditional pastoral strategies in this area, I went to the Maison du Berger, a museum and documentation center for alpine transhumance located in the small village of Champoleon ( I consulted the library of the museum, and the director, Guillaume Lebaudy, explained me the shepherds' lifestyle  in the French Hautes-Alpes.

Afterwards, I went to the library of the Parc National des Ecrins in Gap (Dept. des Hautes-Alpes), where I had the opportunity to read papers and dossiers that dealt with pastoralism in the Ecrins territory.

After this preliminary phase of research in the French Alps, I decided to select as sample area the high Vallée de Freissiniéres, placed in the Briançonais, in the eastern part of the Parc National des Ecrins (see photo below):

In July the second part of the fieldwork will take place. After selecting the study areas and understanding local pastoral strategies (in the recent past as well as nowadays), I am ready to start the proper fieldwork with the shepherds in the high pastures.
Next update in August!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

First fieldwork campaign of the EthWAL project

The first fieldwork campaing of the EthWAL project will start in the second half of June. It will focus on two sample-areas: the Frabosa Sottana Municipality and the Faravel plateau.

These are the uplands of Frabosa Sottana and Frabosa Soprana, in the Monregalese territory (Cuneo province, Piemonte region, Italy).

This is the area of Faravel, in the Parc National des Ecrins (Dept. des Hautes-Alpes, France).

The selected territories are high altitude (around 2000 m asl) grazing areas where ancient and modern rural activities shaped complex seasonal landscapes.

An important feature of these landscapes are the dry-stone huts that were seasonally exploited by herders and farmers until the second half of the 20th century. In the Monregalese area some of these structures are still used by shepherds (see the photos below). They will be one the main focus of the EthWAL project.


Updates on field research will be posted in this blog.