Excursion to the High Plateau of the Tre Cime

Following the international conference held in Sesto/Sexten on September 2 and 3, participants and interested parties had the opportunity to walk and experience firsthand some of the important sites of the World War I front lines on the Three Peaks Plateau. On Sunday, September 4, with beautiful weather, the group of about 30 participants met with archaeologists Rupert Gietl (Arc-Team) and Gianluca Fondriest (Free University of Bolzano) at the Drei-Zinnenhütte/Rifugio Locatelli-Innerkofler. The archaeologists led the participants in two groups on an itinerary that went from Forcella Col di Mezzo/Col di Mezzi Scharte to the Kuppe Ost (Calotta Est) with the Hauptmann Demian Galerie (galleria capitano Demian), Toblinger Knoten (Torre di Toblin), Sexten Stein (Sasso di Sesto) e Forcella Lavaredo (Paternsattel).. Touching on some of the most significant strategic positions of the high altitude war in each area, the archaeologists shared insights and results of the research conducted as part of the project Written in the Landscape. Places, traces and memories of World War I in the Sexten Dolomites. Participants traversed war and trekking trails, were able to observe and better understand this landscape thanks to the exceptional guides, and were even taken inside a tunnel carved into the rock. They thus had a valuable chance to learn how to read the many traces of the war, still partly legible in the landscape after more than a century.

Written in the Landscape: Shots from the exhibition

Seminar series

“Cultures of Mountain Peoples in Comparative Perspective”


Excursion to the Three Peaks Plateau

The walk took place as part of the research project “Written in the landscape. Places, traces and memories of the World War I in the Sesto Dolomites ” (WiL), on the occasion of the beginning of the work of surveying and documenting the traces of the Great War in the project area. The conflict archaeologist Rupert Gietl (Arc-Team) and the researcher Gianluca Fondriest, accompanied by the project manager Waltraud Kofler Engl and the team of the Platform Cultural Heritage and Cultural Production, carried out a survey of the project area in order to identify and quantify the presence in the landscape of material traces of military settlements and infrastructural works – trenches, tunnels dug into the rock, remains of barracks, bases of cableways, a cemetery, etc. – and the evidence of the fighting and the soldiers’ barrack life, with the aim of planning future survey work that will take place during the summer months.

The 3D documentation of the remains of the structures will make use of a photographic methodology based on SfM (Structure from Motion) and MVS (Multiple View Stereovision) techniques. The data will be acquired over the course of several surveys through differential GPS (Global Positioning System) and total stations aimed to record geolocation information. Data management will be performed through free GIS applications, while different cartographic Open Data will help to develop base maps for the project.

Together, these surveys will offer immersion in a complex and “temporalized” landscape, where the layering of nature, culture, and tragic events tell of an endless process of erasure and overwriting. If in some cases the imprints of the wartime operations in the Alpine landscape seem to have been partially reabsorbed by the natural elements, in others they emerge as real figures structuring the landscape, charged with painful and traumatic memories and at the same time an integral part of our perception of the place.

The challenge of the project is to make these traces readable and meaningful, linking to the work of historical analysis and archaeological documentation with the socio-cultural research on memories and participatory heritage-making, in order to build a new narration able to communicate to a contemporary observer the layered and entrenched memories dimension of this “archaeological plane” of high altitude, immersed in the iconic landscape of some of the most famous peaks of the Dolomites.


“Conveying awareness and respect for the place, its people, its history and its memories.” By Dr. Thomas Benedikter

Report on the presentation of the research project “Written in the Landscape” at Haus Sexten.

Photo credit: Christian Tschurtschthaler

Mayor Thomas Summerer offered welcoming remarks to the public in attendance for the presentation of the project “Written in the Landscape. Places, traces and memories of the First World War in the Sexten Dolomites.” The event was held last Saturday, June 26, in the Haus Sexten. Rudolf Holzer, a well-known journalist from Sexten, shared stories and pictures of the war events from 1915 to 1918 and the evacuation of the village.

The war in the Dolomites and its effects have already been studied extensively from a historical perspective, emphasized Dr. Waltraud Kofler Engl, principal investigator. Yet the traces of the war at high altitudes in the Sexten Dolomites, as on other mountain fronts, will gradually disappear from the landscape and therefore need to be identified and documented. The events of the war, the destruction, the evacuation and the reconstruction of Sesto are inscribed as traumatic events not only in the landscape, but also in the individual and collective memory of the inhabitants of Sesto. The objective of the project is to explore, connect, and transmit these traces.

By combining historical research in local and national archives with the documentation of material traces in the landscape and with the testimonies collected among the inhabitants, and with the participatory involvement of the population, the project aims to investigate not only unpublished aspects of the events of those years but also the cultures of memory and the understanding of history by the residents. It will also seek to initiate a dialogue with the nearby communities of Comelico.

As Prof. Stefan Schmidt-Wulffen (unibz) observed in his remarks, the participatory workshops with artists are intended to provide both locals and visitors with a new approach to the topic.

An exhibition, a website, a conference, and a publication are planned. The project is led by the Cultural Heritage and Cultural Production Platform of the Faculty of Design and Art at the University of Bozen-Bolzano in collaboration with the association Bellum Aquilarum, the Sexten Tourism Association, the Austrian Society for Research on Fortifications, the Ethnological Association of South Tyrol (EVAA), and the War Museum Rovereto. The funding comes from the Research Südtirol/Alto Adige 2019 program.

Professor Susanne Elsen from the Faculty of Education (unibz) emphasized the need to highlight, in addition to the events of war, the vicissitudes of the civilian population, particularly women and children. Together with social scientist Dr. Thomas Benedikter, Elsen invited the participants to actively contribute to the “narrated history” of their ancestors and to participate in the project with their own perceptions. Historian Dr. Sigrid Wisthaler, director of the Bellum Aquilarum Association, moderated the event and presented the work of the association, which has been extremely active since 2005 in preserving and communicating the events of the war.

“Cultural tourism should convey awareness of and respect for the place, its people and its history,” remarked tourism association vice president Judith Rainer; “it is important for visitors to be aware of what happened here in the 20th century in order to understand the reasons why we Southeasterners are the way we are.”

Conflict archaeologist Dr. Rupert Gietl, from the Arc-Team company, presented a video that showed the latest methods for field research in difficult mountain terrain.  During the summer of 2021, material traces and military settlements in the Three Peaks area will be documented without invasive interventions on the ground.

“We can’t even imagine the desperate situation our ancestors were in back then,” deputy culture officer Judith Villgrater concluded; “where soldiers fought a hundred years ago, we spend our free time today. It is not only important, but also exciting and moving to learn more about the living conditions of our grandparents and great-grandparents, to learn about the history of our neighbors, and to pass these memories on to younger generations.”

May-December 2021

Seminars series

Cultures of Mountain Peoples in Comparative Perspective

Online*: May-July 2021

In presence**: September-December 2021

The series of seminars is organised by the Faculty of Education of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano (unibz) and the MFEA-The Malinowski Forum for Ethnography and Anthropology (unibz), in collaboration with the Anthropological Association South Tyrol (EVAA) and the Museo degli Usi e Costumi della Gente Trentina, with the contribution of the Stiftung Südtiroler Sparkasse.

The seminar meetings explore the possibility of connecting the sociocultural experiences of inhabitants in different mountain areas, both from the Alpine region and from non-European regions. The invited speakers will present and discuss their research on anthropological, historical, and geographical aspects of the different cultures of mountain peoples, reflecting on the value of the comparative perspective and discussing these issues with the audience.

* The online seminars take place on zoom, the access link will be indicated in the information (INFO) about each individual seminar on the Program page.

** In-presence seminars are held at the Faculty of Education, Brixen/Bressanone, or in other sites indicated in the information (INFO) for each seminar on the Program page.


Online conference SBE21 Heritage

Renovating historic buildings for a low-carbon built heritage

Registration closes on the 31st of March!

The Institute for Renewable Energy of Eurac Research invites you to the SBE21 Heritage Conference, which will take place online from the 14th to the 16th of April 2021.

Universally recognised as emblems of many cities, historic buildings account for a quarter of Europe’s existing construction. Retrofitting such buildings presents many opportunities for reducing carbon emissions but can also present many challenges for preserving historic and aesthetic traits. Given the unique character of each building, standard energy saving measures are often not viable. SBE21 Heritage aims at fostering multidisciplinary dialogues and finding new affordable and efficient retrofit approaches to save our common heritage and guarantee a sustainable future.

SBE21 Heritage in numbers: 

Ø  over 60 presentations divided into three thematic tracks

Ø  13 countries represented

Ø  3 inspiring keynote speeches

Ø  6 best practice renovations

Ø  1 Round Table discussion

Ø  2 interactive workshops

Get inspired by SBE21 Heritage Keynote Speakers Dr. Ege Yildrim, former ICOMOS Focal Point for the Sustainable Development Goals and currently involved in the Sustainability Thematic Debate of the Our World Heritage Initiative, Prof. Harald Garrecht, Director of the Materials Testing Institute of the University of Stuttgart, and architect Stijn Cools, founding partner of aNNo architecten Ghent and visiting professor for Design Driven Heritage Research at KU Leuven.

On the 15th of April, the special sessions “Research meets practice“ will bring together and foster dialogue among academics and practitioners. Learn about the innovative renovation of historic architecture directly from the architects who designed them and discover new supporting tools developed by EU-funded research projects. 

On the same day you can follow the Roundtable discussion looking at the “Role of historic buildings in new European policies”, together with Erminia Sciacchitano, Italian Ministry of Culture, Johanna Leissner, Fraunhofer & German Research Alliance Cultural Heritage, Lisanne Havinga, Eindhoven Institute of Renewable Energy Systems (EIRES) and Jacqui Donnelly, Irish Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.


Café Saqafat – Sufi music heritage in the times of the Coronavirus pandemic

Rafique Wassan, who presented his research to the Platform in December 2020, recently published an essay entitled Café Saqafat – Sufi music heritage in the times of the Coronavirus pandemic for the blog Religious Matters in an Entangled World, hosted by Utrecht University.


Roundtable on the Future of Cloisters

Platform Director Dr. Kofler Engl participated in a virtual roundtable on the topic of transforming cloisters that took place under the auspices of the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, for Building and the Homeland (BMI). The roundtable was held within the frame of the program Region gestalten and organized by the Verein Zukunft Kulturraum Kloster. The invited participants included representatives of the Ministry, the Order of the Papal Rights, the German Conference of the Superiors of Religious Orders, the BBSR, along with experts drawn from the fields of fire protection, monument preservation, and charitable foundations. The roundtable exchanged views on challenges and solutions on transforming monasteries.

A report on the meeting can be found here.


Seminar with Dr. Michael Falser

Dr. Michael Falser of the University of Heidelberg and Technische Universität München held a public online seminar with the Platform to share findings from his recent work on the modern concept of cultural heritage. Looking at the Cambodian temple of Angkor Wat, Dr. Falser excavated the ways in which cultural heritage needs to be understood as embedded in colonial, postcolonial-nationalist and global trajectories. In discussing the multiple lives of Angkor Wat over a 150-year-long period from the 1860s to the 2010s, Dr. Falser explained the transcultural history of the temple, which stands at the intersection of European and Asian projects. He showed images from his recently published monograph (De Gruyter 2020), which included historic photographs, architectural plans and samples of public media. Unibz users have access to an electronic version of the book.

Below you will find some of Dr. Falser’s analytical frameworks that will be useful for thinking about transcultural understandings of cultural heritage.

You can download a recent chapter by Dr. Falser entitled Transkulturelle Übersetzung von Architektur: Gipsabgüsse von Angkor Wat für Paris und Berlin” that appeared in the edited volume Kulturerbe und Denkmalpflege transkulturell: Grenzgänge zwischen Theorie und Praxis (Bielefeld: transcript Verlag 2013).


Places, Traces and Memories of the First World War in the Dolomites of Sesto

On Sunday September 27th, on the occasion of the European Heritage Days 2020 sponsored by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (MiBACT), the Platform Cultural Heritage Cultural Production organized the walk “Places, Traces and Memories of the First World War in the Dolomites of Sesto”, an initiative that is part of the research project “Written in the Landscape: Places, Traces, and Memories of World War I in the Sesto Dolomites” (WIL). As Bellum Aquilarum describes, “For the Austro-Hungarian and German troops, the Croda Rossa was extremely important as an observation point towards the enemy positions of the Comelico, as well as an exceedingly strong defence bastion for the Sesto Valley.”

The European Heritage Days 2020 walk was led by archaeologist Rupert Gietl, expert in conflict archaeology, historian Sigrid Wisthaler, director of the Bellum Aquilarum ONLUS Association of Sesto, Pietro Michieli, vice president of Bellum Aquilarum, and Waltraud Kofler Engl, director of the Platform Cultural Heritage Cultural Production of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. The event was attended by members of the community, including several professors from the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano.

The path started from Sesto, where, after welcome greetings and an introduction by Waltraud Kofler Engl, visitors were divided into three groups. The group ascended the Prati di Croda Rossa by cable car. From here, the group followed as the path wound its way along the mountainside through various stages of the Open-Air Museum of the Great War. The group was led on an emotional journey among the material remains–artifacts and traces of settlements, shacks, posts, cable cars, trenches and caves–today barely recognizable among the rocks and paths of one of the most fascinating natural landscapes in Europe. Yet, the history and community memories were brought to life by the expertise of the guides, who skillfully intertwined the most famous events of the Great War that took place in the Anderter Alpe, the Croda Rossa, the Tre Cime and the Cima Undici with the myriad personal and daily life stories of the soldiers and populations downstream, suggesting the constantly evolving geographies of the dolomitic landscape.

The controversial and dissonant legacy of the First War thus has become a shared educational experience through a critical process of co-producing heritage with local groups, following the guidelines expressed by the Faro Convention adopted by the Council of Europe in 2005 and embraced by the Platform for Cultural Production Cultural Heritage. At the end of the walk, the group was welcomed by the mayor of Sesto Thomas Summerer, who thanked the organizers for the awareness-raising initiative on behalf of the war landscape of the Sesto Dolomites.

We thank the Bellum Aquilarum Association and Rupert Gietl for sharing their expertise with the public and for the passionate research, promotion and dissemination of the heritage of the Sesto di Pusteria Dolomite areas. This Association is carefully tracing and cataloguing through open-air exhibits the historical evidence “inscribed in the landscape” of the tragedy of the Great War

We also sincerely thank all those who enthusiastically joined the initiative and we look forward to seeing you again at the future events!

This event was organized within the framework of the new Platform’s research project Written in the landscape. Places, traces, and memories of the World War I in the Sesto Dolomites