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Greenberg Center's Freund Named a Connecticut Quality Improvement Gold Award Winner

Posted 09/14/2011
Posted by David Isgur

Richard Freund, director of the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford, has been named a Connecticut Quality Improvement Award (CQIA) Gold Winner for his innovative use of technological advances in geophysics in the field of archaeology. Freund and other CQIA winners will be presented with their awards at the Connecticut Quality Improvement Award Partnership’s 24th annual Conference on Quality and Innovation, which is being held on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at the Gray Conference Center at the University of Hartford.

Freund is being recognized for bringing together a team of scientists who use geophysical sub-surface mapping of archaeological sites to allow for an inexpensive, non-invasive, non-destructive method to explore sensitive archaeological sites around the world. His team uses the technologies developed by the oil and gas industries — ground penetrating radar and electrical resistivity tomography to map the sub-surface of sites around the world to see if gas and oil can be indeed be found first before investing millions of dollars to retrieve it — and applied them to archaeology where the problems are similar.

“Archaeological permits are becoming more difficult to attain and excavations are becoming increasingly expensive, extremely labor intensive multi-year projects using techniques that are basically destructive,” Freund noted. “For years, archaeologists have been interested in utilizing non-invasive, non-destructive geophysical methods to gain information remotely about the subsurface before excavating,” he said, adding “There are also places where it is not convenient to excavate (due to political, social, economic or religious sensitivities, burial places, water table problems or living spaces that are occupied) which makes excavation extremely problematic but still important for data gathering purposes and historical research.”

In the past decade the University has done nearly a dozen projects in Spain, Poland and Israel. Freund has put together teams which included geophysicists, archaeologists, geographers, engineers and historians all working on separate sub-projects to solve an archaeological problem. “I decided to use this technique first to identify all of the buried materials and pin-point their locations making excavations less expensive and more efficient by preparing a detailed map of the subsurface before embarking upon the labor intensive excavations with students and volunteers, Freund said.

In the past five years, the University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies has coordinated projects with archaeologists around the world to implement this innovative approach. The Greenberg Center undertook projects at very sensitive religious (extermination camp in Poland and cemeteries in Israel) and cultural sites (caves and pilgrimage sites), that others were able to easily undertake because of all of the logistical problems associated with the sites. The technique has been featured in three television documentaries in the United States and continues to draw interest in publications world-wide. “In Europe, for example, we worked with Israeli and Polish archaeologists at the extermination camp of Sobibor in 2008. We were able to map the sub-surface of what remains of a site that contains the resting place of hundreds of thousands of victims from the Holocaust but allow archaeologists to focus on the infrastructure of the Nazi camp without disturbing the remains of the victims,” said Freund.  “It is the most dignified way of providing critical information without desecrating the burials,” he added.  In 2009 and 2010, Freund worked in southern Spain with Spanish archaeologists in one of the most sensitive biological parks in Europe, the Doña Ana Park in Andalusia, Spain. The discoveries there were chronicled in the recent National Geographic television documentary, Finding Atlantis.

Although the University of Hartford does not have a Geography and Geology department, Freund has partnered with the WorleyParsons, Inc. gas and oil company based in Calgary, Canada and American universities with departments which lend equipment for the duration of the research projects. The innovation that Freund pioneered combines a cartographer using digital mapping, along with geoscientists who use two techniques:  ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT). The results (two processes) are placed one on top of the other by computer software to show detail and depth (and sometimes in three dimensional cubes that can be manipulated to look at the entire site) and put them on a traditional GPS mapping program platform to provide immediate data in a readable fashion for archaeologists. The multi-layered processes allow the location of artifacts in “real time” in the field that can be immediately assessed and some cases immediately excavated. Archaeologists working together with historians compare and contrast the results from other sites to decide how to proceed in field excavations. Freund said. “We have pioneered a ‘Pin-Point Archaeology Approach’ that allows field archaeologists to only excavate what they have to and not excavate what they do not have to,” he said.

In announcing the Award for the Greenberg Center, Sheila Carmine, founder and executive director of the 24-year old Connecticut Quality Improvement Award Partnership, Inc., stated “Even in an uncertain economy, the University of Hartford has shown that forward-looking organizations continue to introduce and bring to market new products and services."

Connecticut Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman added, “The CQIA award program is a great way to showcase some of the incredible business talent that we have in Connecticut. These are exactly the kind of businesses – and the kind of people behind them – that our economy needs right now, and Governor Malloy and I are committed to helping them and CQIA succeed.”