Wieke de Neef (Ghent University / Otto-Friedrich University Bamberg)

Magnetometer survey at a pastoral camp in the Pollino mountains, Calabria / Basilicata, at ca. 1900 m.

The connected highlands: from rugged mountains to cultural landscapes

Abstract: This contribution discusses the methodological challenges of upland archaeology and their effect on how archaeologists, and other stakeholders such as nature conservationists, perceive mountain landscapes. Although highland zones remain generally underrepresented in archaeological landscape research, their economic importance to past societies has long been acknowledged on account of the availability of a wide range of resources. These include primary materials such as metals, stone, salt, timber, game etc., but also pastures. Transit routes through upland areas are crucial to their availability and thus a major factor in the economic entanglement between lowlands and highlands.

Information on the long-term human impact related to the exploitation of these resources is, apart from archaeological studies, increasingly becoming available through environmental research. Such data indicate that human communities left an increasing footprint on Mediterranean uplands since the Neolithic. This stands in contrast with the persistent perception of mountains as pristine, wild landscapes. In this presentation, I will discuss how interdisciplinary research adapted to the logistical problems of upland zones can contribute to a better understanding of their long-term role as cultural landscapes. I will illustrate this with case studies in the southern and central Apennines.