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Lázaro Lagóstena: How to detect ancient buried cities without any digging | USA

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The ground-penetrating radar used in 2017 to uncover the ancient Punic port of Doña Blanca.
The ground-penetrating radar used in 2017 to uncover the ancient Punic port of Doña Blanca.Juan Carlos Toro

In just a few days, the Spanish archeologist Lázaro Lagóstena can figure out the complete layout of streets, buildings and ports in ancient cities that were swallowed up by the earth centuries ago. And he can do it without any digging.

It’s been years since Lagóstena, a professor of ancient history at Cádiz University (UCA), last used trowels, spades and brushes. Instead, he applies what he terms “the archeology of the future” to locate, say, a necropolis under a field of cereal. He can even determine how many cubic meters of sand would have to be extracted in order to reach it.

This kind of archeology is already a reality at UCA’s Geodetection Unit, which Lagóstena has been coordinating since 2016. His team routinely uses technologies such as ground-penetrating radar, drones and magnetometers – devices that measure magnetic fields – and over the years it has become a leader in this non-destructive way to interpret a country’s archeological heritage.

“I don’t think there is another research team in Europe that has been able to study six Roman cities in such a short period of time, and that’s if we limit ourselves to that particular historical period, because we have done even more,” says Lagóstena proudly.

A 3D model of the Roman site of Arva, in today's Alcolea del Río (Seville), made by the UCA's Geodetection Unit.
A 3D model of the Roman site of Arva, in today’s Alcolea del Río (Seville), made by the UCA’s Geodetection Unit. UCA

In the space of five years this group of between eight and 10 researchers, depending on the number of students in training, has managed to reconstruct the hidden urban layouts of the Roman cities of Hasta Regia (today’s Jerez de la Frontera, in Cádiz province), Ilici (Alcudia, Elche), Libisosa (Lezuza, Albacete), Balsa (Luz de Tavira, in Portugal’s southern Algarve region), Arva (Alcolea del Río, Seville) and Calduba (La Perdiz, Arcos, Cádiz). And there is another project underway in Flavia Sabora (Cañete la Real, Málaga).

But the team’s findings go well beyond ancient Roman cities: they have over 60 projects to their name, some of them commissioned by public and private institutions. Some of them include helping locate mass graves containing victims of the Franco regime that followed the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

The use of non-invasive technology in archeology is not new, nor is it exclusive to Lagóstena’s team. But the UCA’s Geodetection Unit has shown a unique capability for detection and interpretation. “There are private companies out there, but not with as much technology,” notes the professor. “This used to be a field for geophysics, where experts would call in historians and archeologists. We, on the other hand, are experienced across disciplines and able to provide interpretation. Our leadership stems from the fact that no other university in Spain has this many resources.”

Lagóstena had not imagined any of this when, back in 2003, he began working on archeological research tied to Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a set of tools that can link a vast amount of data that’s been georeferenced and positioned on maps. It was then that he first applied for a national program of infrastructure and scientific equipment in order to build up the Seminario Agustín de Orozco department at UCA.

Lagóstena explains how a ground-penetrating radar works (Spanish audio).

But the real turning point for the unit came in 2016, when it secured funding for its first large ground-penetrating radar. Despite initial misgivings about how useful it would be, in just two test runs the device was able to locate and map out the largest known Punic-era port in the Mediterranean, lying under a cultivated field adjacent to the Doña Blanca archeological site, in El Puerto de Santa María (Cádiz).

Since then, the unit has secured four more investment projects and acquired technology worth €1.8 million. It now functions as a peripheral service of UCA, and has the independence to enter into contracts with third parties that have already generated revenues of €250,000. “We’re being hired by other universities, provincial authorities, museums, local governments and companies. We are competitive because we don’t speculate with the quotes, we just charge enough to cover costs and generate some income for the researchers,” says Lagóstena.

The first step in any survey work is usually carried out by drones, which help identify areas of interest and geoposition their working space. The radars – they have five different ones – trace the urban itineraries under the ground to a depth of up to four meters. Their two magnetometers (soon to be four) identify spots where there was combustion in the past, such as a necropolis or a ceramics factory. The team is now planning to buy seismographs and tocographs that will allow them to reach deeper cavities, reconstruct geological layers and even differentiate between human and natural elements lying under the ground.

For Lagóstena, discovering the port of Doña Blanca remains one of his biggest sources of satisfaction. The public interest around this discovery was such that the regional parliament of Andalusia last month unanimously approved a proposal to start negotiations with the current owner of the land with a view to purchasing it and exploring the area further.

The work of the UCA researchers not only yields information about ancient urban structures, it also helps delineate physical areas that should get legal protection and draft appropriate management methods.

“In history we need information. Dig-based archeology is expensive and certain sources of information are now depleted. This is the future,” says Lagóstena, underscoring that technology-based archeology delivers more data in a shorter time and at a lower cost, making it possible to tackle larger territorial investigations that also address issues such as past interaction with the landscape through agriculture and water management.

“We are creating information databases with the experiences of the past. All pre-industrial societies were necessarily sustainable, and if you recover the way they worked, you are moving in a direction that is necessary in the present.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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