Surface surveying in high mountain areas, is it possible? Some methodological considerations

Ermengol Gassiot Ballbè, Ignacio Clemente Conte, Niccolò Mazzucco, David Garcia Casas, Laura Obea Gómez, David Rodríguez Antón

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. Until the last twenty years, high mountain areas have been excluded from the attention of archaeological research. This is primarily because it was taken for granted that in Europe over 2000 m a.s.l., climatic and environmental settings precluded a stable human settlement. Secondly, the steep and sharp slopes of the mountain areas are really hard to systematically survey. Nevertheless, this last point is only partially true. Although it is difficult to implement successfully in high mountain zones the same sampling strategies adopted for plain or hilly regions, recent research projects in Alpine and Pyrenean areas demonstrated that alternative sampling strategies can be applied with promising outcomes. This paper discusses the methodological organization of the surveying of mountainous areas located between 1700 and 2900 m a.s.l. in the Central Pyrenees and, more precisely, in the National Park of Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici. Not only the fieldwork organization and the sampling strategies adopted, but other issues, referred to survey-data recovering and recording, are discussed as well, e.g., how to record dispersed but continuous evidence over space. As a result of this methodological reflection, surveys in high mountain environments are revealing humanized past landscapes, hard to imagine even a few years ago; new scenarios that challenges the traditional (pre)conceptions deduced from archaeology and ethnography.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-45
JournalQuaternary International
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2016


  • Archaeological survey
  • Mountain Archaeology
  • Pastoralism
  • Pyrenees


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