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nEU-Med Project

Origins of a new economic union (7th-12th centuries): resources, landscapes and political strategies in a Mediterranean region (nEU-MED)


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Medieval archaeology over the past thirty years has challenged the canonic history of the rise of Western Europe. First, the collapse of the Roman world in Italy by the 7th century was more profound than had been previously envisaged by historians, leaving rural society, in particular, maintaining comparatively primitive conditions. Secondly, in complete contrast, north-west Europe by stages between the 7th and 9th centuries developed an integrated economic union. Central to this was agricultural intensification coupled with strategic deployment of a silver currency. Thirdly, between the 9th and 12th centuries certain regions of Italy, drawing simultaneously upon connections to the north as well as the Mediterranean, became the economic and political motor of the new Medieval Europe, paving the way for the Renaissance.
Dr Richard Hodges, as Principal Investigator, and a squad of archaeologists, geomorphologists, botanists, and chemists, coordinated by the University of Siena, won a five-year grant from the European Research Council to lead a project in the Maremma (western Tuscany) in order to make a new Mediterranean story.

This project aims to make a paradigmatic shift in understanding the archaeology of resource management and commerce in the revival of the Medieval Mediterranean. The investigation will define how an inter-connected micro-territorial system occupying a classic riverine corridor in an area of Tuscany, first entered the west European post-Roman economic arena, and then, by steps over time, how these contributed to the emergence of major urban communes such as Pisa in 12th-century Tuscany. The Principal Investigator will examine these questions by undertaking a coordinated programme of research based upon survey archaeology, science-based archaeology, new archival research and environmental science. These data will provide a model for the integration of this region into the wider European economic union and the micro-and macro-political strategies involved.

The role of our Laboratory of Vegetation History and Wood Anatomy is first, to detect the major driving forces that have caused the evolution of both the agriculture and forestry techniques during the considered time, and second, to reconstruct the effective role of man vs climate in the environmental changes that characterized the study area.


Research news

The catastrophic Medieval floods in the northern Maremma

The catastrophic Medieval floods in the northern Maremma

Discovering the 10th century AD paleostratigraphy of the river Pecora The first research activities of the nEU-Med staff are mainly focused to the study of the paleostratigraphy of the river Pecora, not far from the site of Vetricella, a fortified manor dated to the late 9th and 10th centuries AD. Interestingly, preliminary 14C data shows that the age of the paleostratigraphy is ca 1000 AD;...

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