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Thursday, March 29 • 11:15am - 6:15pm
15 - Mapping Spanish Republican Airfields: Using GIS for interpreting Air Warfare

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Archaeology of Spanish Civil War (SCW) is an emerging subfield within the discipline which present a challenging set of problems about our knowledge of recent past and specifically modern warfare. In this way, the starting point of this paper arises from the question of applying what British school of later historical archaeology call the "defamiliarization" process of the superficially famiiar recent past to interpret recent sites. The aim of this paper is to present the methodological and theoretical framework developed to study the airfields of the Spanish Republican Air Forces in Penedes Region (Spain) which were surveyed from 2008 to 2010 by metal detector and combined (GPR and gradiometer) geophysical prospection. Different buildings part of each airfield complex were recorded for a better understanding as well as using textual sources and historical air photographies. All this information was integrated in Geographic Information System (GIS) for synthesis and interpretation. What we argue here is that an archaeological approach to aviation materiality could provide us new insights into the study of Air Warfare. In order to understand it, we have to take into account our use of defamiliarizing. Furthermore, historical background needs to be considered. In this sense, between 1936 and 1939, the Republican Air Force created a large and heterogeneous network of almost 400 airfields scattered throughout the peninsula: some of them were built with this purpose; others reused civilians airfields and airports made in the 1920s. It was in the SCW when the role of air power completely switched in terms of technology, strategies and tactics in a short period of time: emblematic examples are the extensive use of bombings against civilian population and the assessment in aerial photography. In this sense, it was evident, from this moment, that aerial war and aerial attacks would be a key point in the development of conflicts, so we can argue SCW represents a culminating phase in the emergence of modern warfare. However, traditional historical research has often underestimated the role of republican aviation. What we want to show here is the study of the materiality of sites linked to aviation could show the impact of air warfare in the territory. In fact, there are many remains from this network which are remarkably preserved. Characteristics of the sites surveyed have a significant role for selecting methodology. Thus, because of the extension of the surface area of this sites and the fact stratigraphical record is not found, these were surveyed by metal detector and all the objects were georeferenced using a GPS what allow us to apply statistical analysis in order to better understand the organization of these places. Relevant results from the excavations of this airfields are discussed with the purpose of finding common patterns of use of space.


Maria Carmen Rojo-Ariza

University of Barcelona

Xavier Rubio-Campillo

Barcelona Supercomputing Centre - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación Twitter: @xrubiocampillo

Thursday March 29, 2012 11:15am - 6:15pm BST
Building 65, 1173 Streamed into room 1093

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