Department of Archaeology and Ancient History

Domesticated Landscapes

Landscapes are multifaceted archives combining natural forming processes with cultural practices and land use strategies of past generations. The aim of the project is to explore the rich archives of the Peloponnesian peninsula, Greece, in order to evaluate the role of human-environment interaction for societal development over the long-term.

The project integrates archaeological, historical, environmental and climatological perspectives in a comparative study of the variegated Peloponnesian landscapes in which processes of urbanization started more than 5000 years ago. The cultural history of the peninsula comprises a wide and well-documented spectrum of early farming communities, palatial economies and city-states, which makes the study area well suited to answering the main question: How do different sociocultural structures and economies manage and transform their environments into liveable landscapes?

The answer is sought by combining environmental reconstructions with analyses of the discursive relationship between humans and the environments on the Peloponnesian peninsula, based on archaeological and historical material from the Neolithic to the Roman period (6800 BCE–300 CE). The project adopts a long term, interregional and transdisciplinary perspective and takes an active part in the development of novel investigation approaches in order to bridge current gaps in data and methodologies between the humanities and natural sciences. 

Geographical transect with archaeological survey
areas and palaeoenvironmental data archives.

In depth analyses will be carried out on a geographical transect spanning Corinthia, the Argolid, Arcadia and Messenia (Fig. 1). The geographical transect offers the best scope for providing the temporal and spatial scales needed for analyses of regional and interregional patterning. The transect comprises a large spectrum of natural settings, from the today dry northeast to the greener and well-watered western regions; from the historically always important Argive Plain over the marginal highlands in central Peloponnese, to the olive fields of lowland Kalamata.

The period 6800–700 BCE witnessed the first extensive dispersal of settlement, the impacts of the secondary products revolution, the development of early proto-urban centres and the establishment of palatial administrations around Mycenae and Pylos in the Late Bronze Age. In historical times (700 BCE–300 CE), this landscape came to be shaped and controlled by city-state administrations within complex political and economic networks. Local resource management, economical niche construction and the connectivity of Peloponnesian regions in the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods (700–100 BCE) resulted in economic and demographic growth, sometimes beyond the carrying capacity of the local environment. During the period of Roman rule (100 BCE–300 CE) this system was, however, partly deconstructed and transformed to suit the new Mediterranean wide imperial system. In all, the regional transect chosen encompasses a diverse spectrum of natural settings, economies and cultural-historical circumstances, as well as in the intensity of human-environment interactions. It is archaeologically and historically well documented and comprises many of the most recent and up to date palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatological data sets from southern Greece.

The project takes active part in the development of methodological and theoretical tools to bridge current divides and in the creation of a positive international arena for cross-disciplinary studies of past landscape. Important prerequisites include a multidisciplinary group with a common research agenda including shared research questions, geographical and chronological control and joint initiatives for the dissemination of the results. Domesticated landscapes of the Peloponnese is structured to meet those initial requirements.

Project partcipants:

Erika Weiberg, PI, archaeologist, responsible for prehistoric periods, 

Anton Bonnier, classical archaeologist and ancient historian, responsible for historic periods, 

Martin Finné, physical geografer and palaeo-cilmatologist, responsible for environmental and climate data, 

Karin Holmgren, Professor in Physical Geography, Stockholms University, consulting palaeo-climatologist

Jed Kaplan, Professor, Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, University of Lausanne, responsible for the modelling component