Members of the PalaeoChron team attended the UISPP meeting in Burgos, Spain between September 1-7, 2014. The UISPP is the International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences (Union Internationale des Sciences Préhistoriques et Protohistoriques – UISPP). It was founded in 1931 and covers a wide range of prehistoric and protohistoric sciences. Periodically, a world congress is organised. In 2014, it was the turn of Burgos.
Burgos is located quite close to the famous sites of the Sierra de Atapuerca, and indeed the Atapuerca excavation teams are based there. The city also boasts a fabulous Museum of Human Evolution, which houses some of their incredible finds.
The town was perfect for a meeting of this sort. We felt very welcome. The streets were lined with banners advertising the conference, transport on all buses was free, and the town was small enough so that one could walk in the town centre and bump into loads of friends and colleagues. The conference consisted of multiple sessions, proposed by delegates to the meeting. One negative aspect of this is that there are many parallel sessions and it is often difficult to get to the talks you want to hear. Also, sometimes sessions that are broadly on the same subject tend to get put in parallel, which can be frustrating.
Overall however the meeting was very well run and there were some excellent sessions to see. One of the more interesting ones concerned the dating of Palaeolithic rock art. Alasdair Pike gave an excellent talk on the dating by U-series of rock art and there was a very passionate discussion session about it and the dating of the Chauvet site and rock art in the Palaeolithic more generally.
Katerina Douka organised a session along with Rachel Wood on the chronology of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition which was very well attended.
The Queen of Spain, as the Honorary President of the UISPP, made an appearance at the meeting and spent most of the day with us.
On the Saturday following the meeting there were field excursions to the Atapuerca sites. This was a real highlight. The sites are located along a deep gorge cut for the building of a railway. We donned hard hats and hairnets and visited each of the key sites, including the Gran Dolina. The archaeology is industrial-size, with huge scaffolding rigs towering above and very deep stratigraphy.
The next conference is in Melbourne. We’re looking forward to it already.