Odnos prema Programu rada

Relevantnost za: Twining poziv, EU strategiju pametne specijalizacije i Hrvatsku strategiju pametne specijalizacije

Relevance to the Twining call

MendTheGap project is designed to strengthen research related to the Sciences of the Past in the CrEAMA Initiative, a collaborative research entity represented by University of Zagreb, Faculty of Agriculture [the project is represented by the Faculty of Agriculture (FAZ) from the following reasons:

a) FAZ has strategic plan to develop an archaeogentic laboratory (sustainability point of the CrEAMA) and has strong interest in genetic aspects of domestication of animals and plants;

b) FAZ has interests in the history of agriculture and transition to farming,

c) FAZ has excellence in genetics/genomics and current archaeogenetic collaboration on ancient lagomorph bones and

d) in the CrEAMA Initiative FAZ is the largest and wealthiest Institution represented by many researchers involved in the project and can provide financial support when required.

The main idea of the project is to establish an innovative approach capable of responding to contemporary challenges such as climate change and adaptation to certain environments within the Sciences of the Past. The essence of our concept is that the MIT disciplinary approach to problems produces innovative answers which are far beyond those obtained within a single discipline. This statement can be illustrated by referring to van der Leeuw et al., (2011) philosophy “Toward an Integrated History to Guide the Future” (for explanation read http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-04341-160402).

As illustrated by van der Leeuw et al., (2011) it is difficult to solve the Rubik’s cube without looking at the patterns (symmetries) on all sides simultaneously and not favouring any particular one at any time. Here, we are promoting integration of the Humanities (Anthropology and Archaeology) and the Natural (Geology, Biology, etc.) history disciplines and in doing so we are going to the extremes and are integrating Genetics/Genomics as technologically one of the most propulsive scientific disciplines. The philosophical concept we use is on the same line as in the Arizona State University School of Human Evolution and Social Change, but of course, we are approaching problems from our perspectives and opportunities.

Respecting the recommendation implemented within smart specialisation of the Horizont2020 call and based on the SWOT analysis for the current status of Sciences of the Past in Croatia, we have strategically focused our interests on topics related to archaeological sites placed on the Eastern Adriatic.

Our reasons are straightforward:

a) the number of sites available is large,

b) there is large number of artefacts, biofacts and archaeological features that are at our disposal and

c) some sites available are archaeologically of special interest.

Vela Spila

A good example of an important archaeological site is Vela Spila, situated above the town of Vela Luka on the Korčula Island.

Vela Spila has an almost continuous stratigraphy, containing layers spanning from the Late Pleistocene to Holocene, and cultural remains spanning from the Late Upper Palaeolithic (LUP), Mesolithic, Early, Middle and Late Neolithic, Copper age and Bronze age (Radić and Miracle, in press). Although only a small portion of the total sediment infill of the cave has been excavated and analysed to this day, results confirm that this is one of the richest and most promising Eastern Adriatic archaeological sites. The long stratigraphic sequence with numerous human, animal (wild and domestic), and plant remains, documents important environmental and biological changes at Pleistocene-Holocene, as well as cultural changes at Palaeolithic-Mesolithic-Neolithic transition.

Numerous remains of domestic animals (e.g. sheep, goats,…) give precious insight in the spread of herding into Europe, from both perspectives of the introduction of new species as well as the reconstruction of animal husbandry (i.e. small livestock management). Scarce remains of pigs and cattle enable study of the origin of already domesticated specimens and their relation to the local wild taxa in order to tackle the question about possible local domestication. There are a few, out of many, significant finds yielding from Vela Spila important to single out due to their extraordinary nature.

One of the most significant finds are 36 ceramic figurines, representing the first evidence of ceramic figurative art in late Upper Palaeolithic Europe, c. 17,500–15,000 years before present (Farbstein et al., 2012; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041437). To illustrate the importance of these figurines in a broader context, it is important to mention that there are only two other ceramic figurine bearing European Upper Palaeolithic sites, both of which are situated in Central Europe, with Vela Spila being the single Mediterranean example. In addition, Vela Spila contains directly dated Mesolithic burials of known archaeological context, both juvenile and adult specimens, which provide important insight into the ontogeny and biology of Eastern Adriatic hunter-gatherer populations. Human remains, directly dated to the Mesolithic period, are scantily found across Europe, and Vela Spila Mesolithic specimens represent a rare discovery in Eastern Mediterranean context.

So, our philosophical concept of MIT disciplinary approach is manly linked to questions connected to the Eastern Adriatic. Overall, we made an ambitious goal that would be impossible to reach without strong support of the eminent partners which we have found in University of Cambridge and University of Pisa, both having previous collaborating experience with some researchers of the CrEAMA Initiative. The University of Cambridge, and particularly the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research (http://www.mcdonald.cam.ac.uk/), is a world-renowned Institution for Archaeological research and can therefore provide outstanding support in this matter. The second partner is University of Pisa, ranked among the best Italian Universities, with research tradition and shared interest for the Past of Adriatic Sea. More precisely, Department of Biology is recognised for a long history of expertise in Biological and Evolutionary Anthropology, including functional studies, human palaeontology and behaviour, anthropological archaeology and human adaptations to the environment, and geoarchaeology, contextualising them in a historical perspective while the Department of Earth Sciences is known for research focused on sea level change, coastal palaeogeography, and relationship between human populations and changes in littoral environments.

Figure 1. Map showing distribution of important archaeological sites on the Eastern Adriatic.


Figure 2. Zooarchaeological analysis, Siniša Radović (left) and Ankica Oros Sršen (right), of ancient bones found in Vela Spila. Photo by Stipe Surać.


Relevance to the EU Smart specialization strategy

The EU Smart specialisation strategy includes the national or regional innovation strategies which set priorities to build a competitive advantage by developing and matching the strengths of research and innovation to business needs in order to address emerging opportunities and market developments in a coherent manner while avoiding duplication and fragmentation of efforts. (The Regulation (EU) 1301/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013).

MendTheGap is a MIT disciplinary common effort of the CrEAMA Initiative and the two EU partners (University of Cambridge and University of Pisa) with a primary goal to develop cooperation across different scientific disciplines in the Eastern Adriatic (Croatia). The secondary goal is to bring the concept of the MIT disciplinary approach to a wider audience (scientific and public community, including tourists visiting the area) as well as to stimulate the local economy. The Eastern Adriatic is an area of rich cultural and natural heritage and consequently contains a great number of valuable archaeological sites which we see as a great scientific and economic opportunity.

These characteristics and assets of the Eastern Adriatic serve as a competitive advantage in the future development and integration of the area into the EU. The MendTheGap project offers an innovative approach, maximising knowledge flows between and across scientific disciplines and spreading the benefits of innovation throughout the regional economy.

In the context of the macro-regional strategy of the EU, Croatia follows the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR; http://www.adriatic-ionian.eu/) whose aim is to strengthen cooperation in terms of maritime economy, marine environment conservation, transport and energy infrastructure and sustainable tourism. The goal of Smart specialisation is to boost regional innovation in order to achieve economic growth and prosperity by enabling regions to focus on their strengths.

MendTheGap aims to fill the spatial, scientific and economic gap in the Eastern Adriatic by boosting capacities in the Sciences of the past utilising the unique location-specific characteristics and advantages and thus becoming a positive example of Smart specialisation across the EU.


Relevance to the Croatian Smart specialization strategy

In the new EU programming period, every Member State and region is invited to develop a national or regional Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3) (http://ec.europa.eu/research/regions/index_en.cfm?pg=smart_specialisation) for economic development through targeted support to research and innovation from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Croatian smart specialisation strategy proposal has still to be accepted, but the five priority areas were determined by the Ministry of Economy (http://www.mingo.hr/page/kategorija/programi-i-projektieu):

1) Health and wellbeing,

2) Sustainable environment and energy,

3) Transport and mobility,

4) Security,

5) Food and bio-economy;

as well as three horizontal themes:

1) Tourism,

2) Creative and cultural industry,

3) KET and ICT.

One of the Croatian Smart specialisation strategy key objectives is to stimulate economic growth and the development of the society as a whole by improving scientific excellence and international visibility and reputation of the Croatian scientific community (Croatian Research and Innovation Infrastructures Roadmap, Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, 2014). The priority areas for the development of research infrastructure in the Republic of Croatia are the following: Biomedicine, Biotechnology, Natural sciences, Engineering, Social Sciences and Humanities, Interdisciplinary Sciences.

As it is stated in the Croatian Research and Innovation Infrastructures Roadmap published by Ministry of Science, Education and Sports (2014): “Culture lies at the heart of every development.” and “The cultural sector can become a driver of economic activity and, in collaboration with the economy sector, especially tourism, assist in economic development and employment.” In the same document it is especially enhanced that the researchers in the field of social sciences and humanities increasingly require widely available and internationally networked research infrastructures, based on modern information technology, and that on the other hand it is very important to enhance the further development of scientific disciplines within the natural sciences, not only by additional funding of research projects, but also by engaging in various international associations.

This project (MendTheGap) will contribute to creating a strong and competitive research base in the field of humanities and natural sciences in accordance with the priorities of the Republic of Croatia.

Furthermore, strong partnerships between businesses, public entities and knowledge institutions are recognised in Smart specialization as essential for success, and in accordance with that, an added value gained is the sustainability of the MendTheGap: boosting the local and regional economy by (tourist) promotion in local and national museums with a help of a professional SME.

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