Geophysical Centre in Dourbes


Archaeomagnetic Network for the Rescue of Cultural Heritage in Northern Africa (RAPSCA)

The RAPSCA (Réseau en Archéomagnétisme pour la Sauvegarde du Patrimoine Culturel en Afrique du Nord) project was initiated following a call for proposals by BELSPO in 2013 for international networking of Federal Scientific Establishments (FSEs). Starting in June 2014, the project's primary aim is to establish a network for the exchange of information and expertise between Belgium, through the RMI's Geophysical Centre, and North Africa. This network focuses on archaeomagnetism, its application in safeguarding cultural heritage, and the creation of an archaeomagnetic database for North Africa.

North Africa's Mediterranean climate has supported the development of human culture for hundreds of thousands of years. Recent archaeological research at various protohistoric, ancient, and medieval sites has significantly enriched our understanding of these countries' ancient histories. This research has uncovered a rich archaeological heritage, which constitutes a vital cultural legacy. However, economic developments in countries like Morocco, particularly mega-projects in public works and construction, pose a threat to these archaeological sites, leading to the potential loss of invaluable cultural heritage. These sites hold significant scientific value, especially in understanding the Earth's magnetic field.

In fact, archaeological sites often contain fired and burnt structures and materials, such as ovens, hearths, burnt layers, and ceramics. These materials, as they cooled, recorded the direction and intensity of the ambient earth's magnetic field. This makes them crucial for studying past geomagnetic conditions. Morocco was the first country to benefit from the RAPSCA project. A cooperation agreement was signed between the RMI, the Institut National pour la Sauvegarde du Patrimoine Archéologique (INSAP), and the physics department of the Faculty of Science at Mohammed V University in Rabat.

The activities proposed in the project submission form have been implemented, involving missions between Belgium and Morocco. During these missions, meetings were held, and representatives of the partner institutions agreed on the following activities:

  • Establishing an archaeomagnetism network for the preservation of cultural heritage in North Africa;
  • Carrying out joint research into the magnetism of rocks and baked clays at archaeological sites in Morocco;
  • Exchanges between researchers in the fields of archaeology and geophysics (environmental magnetism and archaeomagnetism);
  • Training students in archaeomagnetism and environmental magnetism.

Funding: national funding by the Belgian science policy BELSPO (2014 - 2018)

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