Conference of the launch of the “Dobrogea – Witness to the Millennial Civilizations of the Levant” Multi-Annual Project

„Dobrogea, martor al civilizațiilor milenare ale Levantului”  


Conference of the launch of the “Dobrogea – Witness to the Millennial Civilizations of the Levant” Multi-Annual Project

Inauguration of the “Stone Quarries, Citadels and Archaeological Monuments of Dobrogea” exhibition

National Museum of Geology, Bucharest, November 29th 2018

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization, in partnership with the “Ovidius” University in Constanța and the Romanian Geological Institute, organized a conference for the official launch of the „Dobrogea – Witness to the Millennial Civilizations of the Levant” multi-annual project at the National Museum of Geology in Bucharest. The same occasion celebrated the inauguration of an exhibition titled “Stone Quarries, Citadels and Archaeological Monuments of Dobrogea.”

Held five months after the initial presentation of the project in Constanța, in June of 2018, the conference presented the preliminary results of the summer campaign and the projections for the continuation of the project over the following years. The event also featured a short film presenting the field research undertaken by a team comprised of university professors, researchers and students that worked on the project during three weeks in August across the breadth of Dobrogea, from the south to the north.

Over the two sections of the conference – “Ethnography, History, Archaeology” and “The Conservation of the Natural Environment” a number of studies were presented that will be expanded upon as part of the multi-annual project, across a variety of research fields focusing on the historical province of Dobrogea: the history of the landscape, of its inhabiting ethnic and religious communities and the associated natural and cultural heritage of the region. The project co-ordinator, Professor Dan Grigorescu, Scientific Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization, presented the stated objectives and the preliminary results of the project while Dr Marius Skolka, the Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the “Ovidius” University in Constanța presented a “Travel Diary through Dobrogea in 2018”, summarizing the activities carried out in the field.

The research presented during the first section of the conference – focusing on Dobrogean ethnography, history and archaeology – broached a variety of themes such as: “140 years from the union of Dobrogea and Romania” (Professor Valentin Ciorbea), “The Tatar Community in Romania in in Danger” (Professor Tasin Gemil), “Sociological Research of Royal Student Research Teams in Dobrogean Villages” (Dr Enache Tușa), “An Image of Dobrogean Communities seen through Illustrated Postcards” (geographer Ștefan Manolescu), “Capidava – the Citadel at the Turn of the Danube. A Millennium of History.” (Professor Ioan Carol Opriș). “Geo-Archaeology in the Tumular Landscape of Ancient Kallatis: The Funerary Monument at Movila Documaci (Southern Dobrogea)” (Dr Valentina Cetean and collaborators), “Dobrogean Citadels and Regional Development” (Dr Mirela Paraschiv), “Some Aspects of the Geopolitical Role of Major Transport Infrastructure in Dobrogea” (Dr Andrei Schvab and collaborators).

A number of studies were also presented for the second section of the conference, dedicated to the “Conservation of the Natural Environment,” on topics as diverse as “Biodiversity in Quarries – A Case Study of Iglicioara Quarry” (PhD candidates Alexandra Telea, Theodor-Sebastian Topliceanu and collaborators), “Impact Factors of Protected Areas in Romania” (Masters’ students Geanina Fănaru and Alexandra Elena Șoimu), or “Common Natural and Cultural Heritage Conservation Strategies of Archaeological Sites” (Sabina Ochiana and collaborators). In addition to these, the event featured the presentation of a number of posters on “Marine Habitats in ‘Natura 2000’ Conservation Sites off the Romanian Coastline” (Dr Daciana Sava), “Habitats and Plant Species of Conservational Interest on the Romanian Coast” (Professor Marius Făgăraș), “Dobrogea’s Climatic Individuality” (Dr Marius Lungu) and “The Touristic Potential of Northern Dobrogea” (Dr George Cracu).

„O abordare holistică a patrimoniului natural şi cultural ȋn beneficiul școlii şi al comunităţilor”

Professor Dan Grigorescu

Scientific Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization:

“A holistic approach to natural and cultural heritage to the benefit of education and local communities”

Dobrogea is, without a shadow of a doubt, the region of Romania most representative of the geographical and spiritual space of the Levant, both through its natural landscape, and especially through the diverse histories of the many different ethnicities that have and continue to coexist peacefully in this space. This is where the idea for the Dobrogea project sprung from, shortly after the establishment of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization in November of 2017. The main objectives of the project are as follows: to take a holistic approach to research into the natural and cultural heritage of Dobrogea, with a view to its conservation, administration and sustainable capitalization upon through education and tourism; to conduct research into the history, culture and traditions of the various ethnicities present in this space, in order to foster a better understanding of them; and to facilitate the creation of geoparks in accordance with UNESCO criteria, as this form of conservation area has over the past few years proven a very effective approach to the development of those regions featuring important natural and cultural heritage sites.

The project is carried out on the basis of partnership agreements entered into by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization with the “Ovidius” University in Constanța and the Romanian Geological Institute. The overarching methodological strategy of the project envisions a collaboration between the academic environment – professors, researchers, students – and the communities living in areas of interest, based on the ratification of partnership agreements between representatives of the academic community and local authorities. It is a project that takes a hands-on approach to the acquisition of research data, following on-site field observations with in-depth research and focusing on the interaction between the biological and geological spheres, promoting interdisciplinary research of the natural environment taken as the sum of the animate (biodiversity) and the inanimate (geodiversity) components of any given ecosystem. Moreover, the region’s heritage will similarly be considered holistically over the course of the project, with equal emphasis placed on its natural and cultural landmarks, as this approach – in keeping with the UNESCO model of geoparks – can indeed support the sustainable development of Dobrogea.

“This occasion comes at a fortunate conjuncture, nestled between November 14th, the date of the union between Dobrogea and Romania, and the impending celebration of Romania’s Centennial.

Last summer, over the course of three weeks, a small team of professors and students made their way across Dobrogea from the south to the north of the region. In keeping with the spirit of the project, each day’s sojourns included places of geological, biological and cultural interest: natural reservations, ancient citadels and archaeological monuments.

The end result of the project will be the publication of a monograph, titled “Dobrogea – Nature, History, Culture”; the impact of the project will also be made felt through the organization of scientific manifestations, exhibitions, and publication in IASLCC periodicals, as well as the dissemination of accumulated knowledge in specialty courses and university curricula.

Dobrogea is a wonderful land, of particular natural beauty, that features an abundance of sites of scientific and cultural interest. It is full of open and welcoming people, a space where the diversity of ethnic communities adds to the historical and social interest of the region. Only those that travel across Dobrogea from one end to the other, as we did, can acquire a thorough impression of these undeniable realities, and thus be able to integrate them into a complex and in-depth study designed to improve on a number of the negative aspects we also came across – in no way few in number – and to contribute to an increase in local visibility, with a beneficial impact on the local population.

I will now give the floor to the leadership of the organizations that partnered for this special project: to Mr. Emil Constantinescu, the President of the Scientific Council of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization, Ms. Delia Dumitraș, the Director of the National Museum of Geology – the gracious hosts of our present event – and to Professor Marius Skolka, representing the “Ovidius” University of Constanța, our principal partner in this lengthy endeavour.”

Emil Constantinescu: „Institutul nostru poate fi o gazdă pentru cei care își dedică viața cercetării și găsesc în cercetare o rațiune de a fi și nu de a avea”

Emil Constantinescu

President of the Scientific Council of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization:

“Our Institute can play host to those that dedicate their lives to research, and find in this a reason for being, not solely for having.”

Earlier, Professor Grigorescu evoked the Centennial celebrations. Indeed, these have been and continue to provide the backdrop for many – more or less – pompous speeches. When talking about the Levant, we speak of millennia – and thus I find a story more fitting than a declamation. After millennia, all of history eventually becomes a story; yet sometimes, these tales ring truer than history itself. For this reason, I thought it appropriate to share with you the story of our Institute.

This tale began when, in my capacity as President of the Academy of Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin, I had to give an opening address to the undergraduate and Masters’ students that attended that institution from across the world. As I lacked a suitable theme for such an opening address, I conferred with my good friend and close collaborator, Zoe Petre – the memory of whom I pay pious homage to. We thought that, for an introductory course, the story of the Levant would be very fitting.

Why talk about the Levant during a course on cultural diplomacy? Because, if you succeed in finding avenues of cooperation in a space perceived solely as a zone of conflict and wars, then you stand a better chance of beginning a true dialogue. Moreover, the Levant is the cradle of Western civilization. It is the birthplace of algebra and geometry, astronomy and physics, history and geography, poetry and theatre, and of the Olympic ideal. Here spanned the world’s great empires. In their (known) succession, the Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek (under Alexander the Great) or Roman Empires, the Arabian Caliphates and the Persian and Ottoman Empires were not solely forged by the steel. They also gave birth to emblematic cultures and civilizations, and to a certain type of collective mentality that even today, after thousands of years, continues to stand apart from that of its neighbours. After the fall of Constantinople, one part of the Graeco-Roman elites remained in place, and influenced the succeeding Ottoman Empire, who was able to incorporate these influences and create its own individual culture. Another part of the Byzantine elites fled to Italy, taking with them everything of value in terms of Greek culture, philosophy and art; a great influx of high culture that paved the way for the advent of the Renaissance. Western civilization – especially following the Industrial Revolution – acquired the economic and then the military strength to rule and lord over the rest of the world, thus diffusing their culture that traces its origins to the Levant. The British, French, Spanish, Portuguese or Dutch empires, like any empire, also cultivated a certain blend of arrogance. The Levant became the imaginary space to which all the evils of the Western world were banished to, as they were attempting to represent themselves as perfect models. And so, a certain image was created of a space filled with tension, set against a background of poverty to the ostentatious wealth of a conquering, arrogant West. Indeed, Winston Churchill took it one step further, arguing that the Balkans – an intrinsic part of the Levant – have more history than they could afford.

Nearly three decades from the fall of the world’s last great empire, the Soviet Empire, we can already see the growing decadence of the West. A decadence manifested through a marked decline of the average levels of culture and through the loss of moral values. In a way, this mirrors what transpired not in a day, not in a year, not in a decade, not in a century, but over several hundred years from the fall of the Roman Empire. With its glorious infrastructure, economic strength and exceptional military might, the Roman Empire that generated the first globalization in history, became decadent once it lost its moral values, and was left with bread and circuses to satisfy not only the masses but its elites as well. All those who have studied history in any depth agree that it was not the barbarian migrations that brought down the Roman Empire, but that it began to collapse from within the moment it lost its adherence to its set of moral values.

Our attempt to bring the history and culture of the Levant to the fore can represent a return to the crucible in which Western values were forged. It is an ambitious project, but, as we can see, it can also elicit appropriate reactions. When I launched the ‘Levant’ Initiative for Peace in the Middle East – quickly metamorphosed into the ‘Levant’ Initiative for Global Peace – I was shocked at the response I received. I was thrice invited to the United Nations’ General Assembly to present this Initiative, in front of the UN Secretary General, of important religious leaders, and of remarkable scientific and cultural personalities. Then, the ‘Levant’ Initiative for Global Peace was taken on by the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Global Ethics and was presented at the UNESCO Headquarters, to the Congress of the United States, the Senate of France, the Israeli Knesset… It is an Initiative based on a very simple idea: that we cannot create a sustainable peace, even going beyond the resolution of open or frozen conflicts, unless it is through a dialogue based on the understanding of the Other. This idea, as it is accepted today, represents much more than the principle of tolerance that it evokes. Tolerance means my acceptance of you. I accept that you exist, but, eventually, you will have to accept my ideas and values. True dialogue, on the other hand – one that can form the foundation of the type of cultural diplomacy we have and continue to promote – is based on a deep understanding of the Other, of the idea that we ourselves can gain something from this exchange. For this, we must go back to the very foundations of culture. That is what the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization is attempting to achieve.

Dobrogea is representative of the Levant, acting as a bridge between the cultures of the Far East and those of the West. We have dedicated two of the multi-annual projects of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization to this emblematic region, and Professor Grigorescu will today present the results of the preliminary and preparatory stages of the “Dobrogea – Witness to the Millennial Civilizations of the Levant” project.

I would like to thank all those who saw in the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization a ray of hope for Romanian scientific research not only in the Humanities, but also in that interstitial, convergent realm between the humanities and the natural sciences. It is the full merit of Professor Grigorescu, who has developed this idea throughout his entire life and expanded it to encompass the concept of geoparks, whose founder in Romania he is. In a world of consumerism, defined by a desperate struggle for money and privilege, we believe that our Institute can play host to those who dedicate their lives to scientific research, and find in this a reason for being, not solely for having.”

„Varietatea petrografică a Dobrogei a reprezentat pentru civilizațiile și imperiile despre care domnul profesor Grigorescu a vorbit atât de frumos materia primă în construcția așezărilor omenești”

Dr Delia Dumitraș

Director of the National Museum of Geology:

“The petrographic variety of Dobrogea comprised the prime construction materials for the civilizations and empires that Professor Grigorescu so eloquently evoked.”

When President Constantinescu, my PhD supervisor, first told me the title of this project: “Dobrogea – Witness to the Millennial Civilizations of the Levant”, I thought that this small region bounded by the Danube and the Black Sea had also played witness to a number of geological phenomena that manifested differently over the course of hundreds of millions of years, phenomena whose final result was a region of an incredibly wide petrographic variety. It is precisely this petrographic variety of Dobrogea that comprised the prime construction materials for human settlement and civil and military construction across all the civilizations and empires that Professor Grigorescu so eloquently evoked. Today, we are left with important traces of the material culture of these civilizations, which can be found all across the breadth of Dobrogea.

You can have a glimpse of some of these elements and their variety of different rock formations at the exhibition we are inaugurating today, titled “Stone Quarries, Citadels and Archaeological Monuments,” which I invite you to view in my dual capacity as both a scientist and the director of the Geological Institute.”

„Observațiile privind siturile cercetate au inclus și factorii de impact, dar și relația acestora cu speciile și habitatele din zonă”

Professor Marius Skolka

Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at “Ovidius” University, Constanța:

“The observations taken from research sites included an assessment of the impact factors, but also took into consideration their relationship with the various species and habitats in the area.”

“In the summer of 2018, a team of professors, researchers and students from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization, the Department of Natural Sciences at the “Ovidius” University in Constanța and the National Geological Institute took part in a short summer “campaign”, which involved extensive travels across Dobrogea. This campaign was part of the “Dobrogea – Witness to the Millennial Civilizations of the Levant” multi-annual project, coordinated by Professor Grigorescu.

The team from the “Ovidius” University in Constanța took note of the state of conservation of the natural habitats and endemic protected species found in “Natura 2000” reserves across Dobrogea, but also of aspects related to the region’s geography and touristic potential. We evaluated the state of conservation of the protected areas part of “Natura 2000” sites, analysing the impact factors and highlighting the protected species within each area. Special attention was given to documenting the invasive species that could be found both in protected areas, and in other types of habitats.

The team from the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences of the “Ovidius” University in Constanța was comprised of: Professor Dan Cogălniceanu, team coordinator, Dr Mirela Paraschiv, Dr Cristina Preda, team coordinator, Dr George Cracu, Dr Daniyar Memedemin, Geanina Fănaru and Alexandra Șoimu, Masters’ students reading a course on “Biodiversity Conservation”, Ionuț Bratoșin, student at the Faculty of Geography, biologists Ana-Maria Drăgan, Ovidiu Drăgan, Dr Florina Stănescu, PhD c. Alexandra Telea, engineer Dragoș Bălășoiu and PhD c. Sebastian Topliceanu, with the overall team coordination provided by Dr Marius Skolka.

During the initial phase of the summer campaign, between the 30th of July and the 7th of August, we evaluated the state of conservation of 22 distinct protected areas part of the „Natura 2000” project in South and Central Dobrogea: nine sites of community importance, and 13 sites of aviary and faunal importance. The second stage took place in Northern Dobrogea, between the 19th and 24th of August, documenting another range of “Natura 2000” protected areas together with notable landmarks situated around them.

Our research took concrete form through the compilation of our observation sheets in the field, which documented both the most notable endemic species of plants, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals we came across, as well as the main characteristics of the physical environment and important details regarding the state of its conservation. Our observations on the sites under review also included notable impact factors on the environment, as well as their relationship with the endemic species and habitats in the area. The diversity of impact factors informed our conclusions on the extent of their negative effects on “Natura 2000” protected areas. At the same time, our observations allowed for projections of the future extent of the influence of impact factors on the aforementioned sites. Our research yielded a long list of factors, yet the high-impact ones remain agriculture, communications networks, intrusions and imbalances, the use of biological resources, mining, forestry and urbanisation.”

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