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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

All Research Projects

Publication details

Miccoli, L., Gerrard, C. M., Perrone, C., Gardei, A. & Ziegert, C. (2017). A collaborative engineering and archaeology project to investigate decay in historic rammed earth structures: the case of the medieval preceptory in Ambel. International Journal of Architectural Heritage 11(5): 636-655.

Author(s) from Durham


This study assesses the structural vulnerability of part of a later medieval earthen building at Ambel (near Zaragoza, Spain), once a preceptory or monastic house belonging to the Military Orders. An inspection of its morphology and materials coupled with the results of an extensive campaign of static monitoring reveals marked structural inhomogeneities, the product of more than a thousand years of construction, failure and repair from the 10th century to the present day. Building materials are inappropriately juxtaposed, there are discontinuities between construction phases and fundamental concerns remain over the long-term stability of the structure. The current condition of the structure is mainly influenced by structural discontinuities introduced at the time of construction, the unintended consequences of repair and modification and the material decay that has affected the base of the rammed earth walls. The overall findings of the static monitoring show that there is no related damage, variations in crack widths are related to the building seasonal cycle. While static analysis is an essential prerequisite before a suitable maintenance program can be fully defined, this study argues that no evaluation of the structural behaviour of any historic building can afford to ignore its archaeological ‘biography’ of modification and repair.

Department of Archaeology

Scottish Soldiers Project

Cooperating with the Palace Museum in China