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Five questions to Doc. Ferran Borrell Tena, PhD.

An interview with our visiting lecturer from Spain


1. You are studying the Neolithisation in the Levant. Was this always the area of your professional interest?

I gained my initial field experience in Spain, and it had nothing to do with the Near East; the very first excavation I have ever attended was of a Medieval settlement in Spain. It happened while I was studying in Barcelona, at a Prehistory Department of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, that I met Professor Miquel Molist who was teaching there along with other members of his team. In my third year, he invited me to Tell Halula in Syria. It was a great opportunity for me, but it happened by chance. Professor Molist is a very inspiring teacher and he was the one who led me towards Near Eastern archaeology.

2. Why did you choose lithics as your expertise?

By studying lithics you can study almost every period in human history since Lower Palaeolithic. For some periods it is actually the only preserved material that the archaeologists have at hand. It is well preserved and abundant, and that makes it a very good object of study, with great informational potential.

3. What are the weakpoints of archaeological approaches to technology of chipped stones?

Most importantly, one should never focus solely on technological approach. You have to understand the whole process, chaine operatoire, behind creation of the final product. It starts by acquisition of raw materials, continues with knapping, producing a tool, its use… even the context after the product is abandoned gives us valuable information. If you focus on technology, okay- you will be an expert on technology, but you are missing a whole lot of information.


Photographs by: Dominika Miarková


4. In order to become a lithic analyst, one should surely have some practical experience- do you have the „knapping skills“?

Initially, when I was a student, I was eager to experiment with the lithic technology. But at some point I had to decide – if you invest your time into knapping, you can´t devote yourself to other things. It is a profession itself, becoming a good knapper. But I was interested in the whole process, not only lithic technology, and so I pursued another path. The main point is not to be restricted only to your material, to your discipline, to your cathegory of analysis. I was curious to go beyond the information one can get from material culture, to find links for example with palaeoclimatic data, faunal assemblages, C14 dates, and so on. The crucial thing, however, was working in the Near East. At every site that you excavate or visit, you perceive information, sometimes even subconciously. You should try to know the region you are interested in.

5. This naturally leads us to another question: Near East is currently undergoing a very difficult time; a civil war is raging in Syria, and archaeologists are no longer able to work there… What is your opinion on the current events?

Above all, it is a human tragedy, I would like to emphasize that. Apart from that- archaeologists, botanists, journalists, whoever was working there, they were all affected by the political situation. We had no other choice but to leave. But when you are a Near Eastern archaeologist, you have to be prepared to adapt to changing conditions. The Near East has always been a complicated region, and we know that. There was the war between Iran and Iraq, conflict of Afghanistan with Russia, neverending conflict between Israel and Palestine, etc. Maybe at the beginning, when you are a student, you don´t realize this, but afterwards you do and you have to consider that you are investing your career in something that can change a lot. You have to be ready to adapt yourself to the situation, there is no other way.


Mr. Tena was interviewed by Lenka Tkáčová.


Ferran Borrell recently finished a post-doctoral scholarship at the French Research Center in Jerusalem (CRFJ) and he is actually working at the International Institute of Prehistoric Research  at the Universidad de Cantabria (Spain).

He took part in several excavation projects in the Near East, namely Akarçay Tepe (Turkey) and Tell Halula (Syria). Doc. Borrell is one of the leading experts on lithic industries of Prehistoric Near East.

At Masaryk university, he held two lectures, titled: “Introduction to the analysis of chipped stone artifacts” and “Bidirectional blade technology during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B: Relevance and contribution to a better understanding of the first farming communities in the Levant“.


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