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A new science project on the historical and natural heritage of the Pyrenees

Six Spanish and French institutions are working jointly to put into action "The Origins Route", a scientific dissemination project to develop a quality sustainable model for tourism in the Pyrenees. Participating is also the Centre for the Studies of Archaeological and Prehistoric Heritage (CEPAP) of Universitat Autnoma de Barcelona (UAB). The initiative comprises a set of activities to inform society about the origins of the Pyrenees in fields related to astronomy, geology, palaeontology and human evolution.

In the next three years, the project will be promoting an innovative and experimental model of tourism, respectful with the environment and at the same time valuing the natural and historical heritage and related scientific knowledge.

To do so participating institutions will create permanent science-tourism cooperation structures. In addition to UAB, taking part in the project are two institutions from La Noguera County, the Montsec Consortium and La Noguera Historical Heritage Research and Dissemination Association, and three from the French Midi-Pyrnes region: the astronomy and space centres Cit de l'Espace (Toulouse) and Ciel Ouvert (Fleurance), and the Museum of Natural History of Toulouse.

"The Origins Route" proposes to create the basic elements needed for routes through the Pyrenees Mountains, offering visitors different itineraries to help them discover and understand many of the questions formulated today by scientists concerning both the universe and the first inhabitants of the region. Each stage of the itinerary will focus on a specific period. Thus the full route will offer a global vision of its origins, from the Big Bang to the birth of humanity. Proposed activities will allow participants to experience different situations such as palaentological or archaeological digs, skywatching or studying the mountain's biodiversity.

The project will also include an itinerant exhibition coordinated by la Cit de l'Space which will last approximately ten years and will be on display at each of the participating institution headquarters and in different cities and towns of the region. A website will also be created to disseminate and promote information and activities carried out under the project. Users will also be able to view an online exhibition of the full itinerary.

Universitat Autnoma de Barcelona not only is taking part in these joint initiatives. It will also be in charge of the museumification of the prehistoric archaeological site Roca dels Bous, located near the town of Sant Lloren de Montgai (La Noguera), where CEPAP researchers have been studying the origins and evolution of Neanderthals in the eastern Pyrenees. Known as ArkeoTic, this project will be the first to use innovative museographies based on information and communication technologies (ICT) to display the archaeological findings uncovered. The site and its surroundings will be prepared for visiting school groups and the public in general and will include wireless connections to complement on-site visits and interactive itineraries. The facilities will be completed by the end of this summer.

CEPAP-UAB researchers participating in the project are Rafael Mora, director of the Centre, Paloma Gonzlez, Jorge Martnez, Antoni Bardavio and Mnica Lpez. According to Rafael Mora, "we intend to show the construction of science and at the same time bring it closer to the public. By being able to see how researchers work and establishing direct contact with them we aim to foster young people's interest in science".

The total cost of the project is 2,606,897. Almost two-thirds of the funding (65%) came from the Operational Programme Spain-France-Andorra 2007-2013 (POCTEFA) belonging to the European Regional Development Fund. All other funding came from participating institutions.

The POCTEFA programme, coordinated by the Pyrenees Work Community (CTP), with headquarters in Jaca, Huesca, aims to strengthen the economic and social integration of the cross-border area between Spain, Andorra and France.


Contact: Maria Jesus Delgado
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

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