EVEHD Slovakia

Our group arrived in Slovakia in time for a heat wave that was to last the week of the EVEHD action. We arrived at the Kingfisher Centre just before the rest of the group did, but by the end of the day we had met the Germans, Turks, Romanians and Icelander. After we had all settled into our rooms, we were treated to a lovely welcome dinner and drink, prepared for us by Ida and her father, Joseph. During her welcome speech, Ida gave us a very quick introduction to the week ahead, before large dishes of goulash were delivered to the table. This set the standard for the meals for the rest of the week, giving us a taster of local cuisine each day. Our first morning was taken up by presentations about the week ahead. Mark and Trish gave presentations on the archaeology survey techniques being used for the week and environmental flotting, before they headed out to site to do start some of the surveying at the first site on the edge of Sahy. The rest of the EVEHD group stayed behind for the rest of the presentations, before heading out after lunch to do the first of the fruit tree surveys. We were shown how to fill in standard tree forms recording location by GPS, status of tree and collect selective samples (not to be eaten!).  Our walk continued to a watch tower in the oak forest, before a leisurely walk back to the Centre. Once everyone had returned to the centre, we were treated to another local dinner before being invited to watch a documentary film that Ida and the organisation had made about the Ipel’ River Valley.

The next day, after breakfast, the group headed out to the Ovlar River Valley, which is where both geophysical survey and the restoration of 2 holy wells was to take place. People were divided into small groups who then took part in the fruit tree survey and the well restoration. They were offered a go at the geophysics as well. Lunch was taken next to the well in the shade before work recommenced in the afternoon. After a long day, we then returned to the centre for dinner. The group continued working at this site the next day, though the geophysical team split, using the magnetometers in the Ovlar River Valley and taking the resistivity equipment to Santovka, as the weather had been affecting the instruments. The resistance equipment was taken to Santovka so they could see if it would work, as the previous sites had been too dry for it to work properly.

On our fourth day, the group had an archaeology and history day. After breakfast, it was a short drive to Sahy, where the group were given time to walk round Sahy’s museum, before being given the chance to look at artefacts from past excavations at the monastery in the centre of town and the site of Na Vrsku, just on the outskirts of Sahy, before visiting the Bronze Age excavations ongoing next to the cemetery in Sahy.  After this, the group were taken to the Bronze Age excavations on going at Santovka, where they were shown the trenches and the finds that have so far been recovered. The geophysical survey was happening in the field next to the excavations at this time. For the rest of the afternoon, the group were taken to Brholvce open air museum to see the cave houses, before returning to the centre for the evening. The days were proving very hot, so the evenings provided some welcome relief. For the fifth day, the group were working close to Sahy. The group was divided up, so some would be working on the Bronze Age excavations in Sahy, while the rest were doing the fruit tree survey around the Kingfisher Centre. The geophysical survey was still going on in Santovka, but on another site next to the Bronze Age excavations. When everyone returned to the centre, we had a BBQ in the warm night.

The last action day was a cultural discovery day. The group set off after breakfast to go and visit Banská Štiavnica, a UNESCO world heritage site, built largely on the back of some very profitable mining (including gold and silver) enterprises. After getting there later than expected due to traffic, the group enjoyed a guided tour of the city, including a lovely cool walk into one of the old mine tunnels, before having some free time.  The afternoon was spent at  Počúvadlo, which is one of the thirty water reservoirs that were built to service the mining operations of Banská Štiavnica, for some swimming time. The geophysical survey team had gone back to the original site in Santovka to try and redo some grids, as the weather had affected the equipment in previous days. The group then went to the small village of Lisov, where Martin had arranged for a fashion show to take place. The models, including some of the EVEHD participants, were wearing dresses made out of recycled material. After the fashion show, everyone was treated to another goulash dinner, before having final farewell drinks, as everyone was due to leave at various times during the next day.

This final action gave everyone a chance to do some environmental, cultural and archaeological activities, as well as exploring the area and meeting some familiar and new faces. Despite the heat, which we were repeatedly told was unusual, we were able to get a lot done, with completing the well, completing the geophysical survey and getting a large part of the fruit tree survey done.

(photos and report input from Ray Newton and Ian Thomson)