The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy


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Archaeometry, 59 3 : Freund, K. Comptes Rendus Palevol, 14 3 : Lithic Technology, Healey, E. Journal of Lithic Studies, 1 2 : Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 12 Publications from the National Museum. National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, p. Khalidi, L. Kononen, N. Archaeology in Oceania, 47 1 : Longo, L. Con un'appendice sull' analisi funzionale delle materie dure animali. Rivista di Scienze Preistoriche, Martinelli, M. In: Tra Etna e Simeto. La ricerca archeologica ad Adrano e nel suo territorio.

In: Essays on Anatolian Archaeology, Vol.

Times of Neolithic Transition along the Western Mediterranean

Pappalardo, L. Journal of Geophysics and Engineering Robb, J. Samadelli, M. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 16 5 : Terradas, X. Journal of Archaeological Science, Journal of Archaeological Science, 11 2 : In: Exotica in the prehistoric Mediterranean Vianello, A.


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Tykot, R. Antiquity, 71 : Vianello, A. The Italy of seven thousand years ago would have been a more varied and richer landscape. Visually, the modern checkerboard of khaki and olive fields and hedges would be gone; there would have been more small areas, more nuances of shade and color.


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  • How one sees, of course, is intimately related to how one travels. We inescapably think of Italy either as a synoptic map representation, with all the innate assumptions of abstract Cartesian space, or as a sweeping, open vista, a living landscape painting, taken in from the detached, privileged observation point of an airplane, train, highway, or window — two modes of seeing which have remarkably coalesced in the last decade with the advent of satellite images, a genie imagery which seems magically to confirm what we always knew.

    In a wooded world negotiated by paths, we move through smaller, more intimate places, and senses of location and orientation may have been completely different.

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    Scale too needs recalibration. Italy is larger than Britain, roughly the size of New England or of Pennsylvania, though long and narrow, over 1, km from north to south. We can make it a whole by seeing it as a whole. Neolithic habitations were small places one came upon walking through hills. For example, Penitenzeria, excavated by the Bova Marina Archaeological Project between and , turned out to be a settlement too small really to be called a village.

    de.zyvynufefy.tk It is a little terrace, a scrap of level land 50 m across between steep slopes above and below, where the vista is framed by the high rugged mountains of Calabria, the sparkling Ionian Sea and the looming bulk of Mount Etna in the distance. People lived here for between and years, between and BC Robb Penitenzeria can stand as a benchmark of the Italian Neolithic to mark some important points for the twentieth century tourist. People lived in small clusters of one-room wattle-and-daub houses.

    They gardened and ate cereals and legumes. They herded the standard Old World domesticates — sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs. They traded or collected raw materials, some from quite distant places, and made and used pottery, polished stone axes, and flaked stone tools. We find the odd ornament — a shell bead, a pierced fox tooth. One has to look carefully to see the human practices, colors, and faces behind it.

    Such sites were related in a social geography difficult to imagine, a sparseness of population which would mean that most people lived their lives in residential groups of less than a hundred people. In most areas, people lived in hamlets of small wattle-and-daub huts; in a few areas such as Puglia, Basilicata and eastern Sicily, they dug circular ditches to enclose villages. It would not be uncommon to walk all day without seeing anybody; some areas were probably without permanent inhabitants.

    It is impossible to estimate the population of a place like Penitenzeria with any precision but there is room on the little hillside terrace that it occupies for no more two or three houses at a time; twenty-five people would be a generous estimate. As de Certeau says, any journey is a story, and this is equally true for travels in time.

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    It is impossible to tell the story of Penitenzeria without marking obligatory frames of reference centered upon our own present — the date and the location on a map. A visit to Neolithic Penitenzeria would be disorienting, without our names, landmarks, distances, centralities, and remotenesses. It would not be seven thousand years ago, but a fresh present in a different history. Even the act of visiting would be different: the modern traveler remains disengaged, physically present but apart, his or her needs catered for impersonally and without reciprocal obligation, in a way difficult for even eighteenth century visitors and unthinkable in most traditional societies.

    Other places and times, told as a journey, are never free from the image of the traveler with his or her needs and expectations. In this volume, I hope to work back and forth between the archaeological world of Neolithic Italy and the human world of a place defined by human interactions in the present rather than by classifications of the past.

    Hence, an alternative way of telling this story, less familiar in archaeology, would be to scrap this volume, take a fresh sheet of paper, and write: One morning a family woke up and went out to the fields to pull weeds and gossip. While they were there, a stranger arrived. Indeed, we cannot understand social action simply by taking claims to identity and status at face value; what makes news on Page 1 may be merely a shadow of, or distraction from, subtler, but more important, patterns.

    But claims and narratives of identity are not irrelevant. As representations of goals and ideals, ideal lives provide targets for self-formation and for the evaluation of others throughout a human lifespan. Aside from the comprehensibility of beginning with familiar archaeological categories such as gender, age, and status, such identities provide to be frameworks around which other cultural patterns were organised and understood. For the Italian Neolithic, starting with this problem is somewhat like tackling a mountain ascent on the sheerest rock face.

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    However, as we will see, when conventional analyses yield little insight, it is likely that we are asking the wrong questions. Refractions of the Neolithic Body Bodies Themselves: Skeletal Evidence of Social Biology Skeletal evidence is not entirely mute for Neolithic Italy, although it is best used in conjunction with archaeological evidence.

    The fifty to one hundred skeletons which have been studied by anthropologists provide the most direct witness of Neolithic Italians. The people were small to medium in stature, although well within the modern range of variation; average adult stature was about cm for females and about cm for males. This is a slight reduction from Palaeolithic stature, in keeping with general European trends, and is smaller than any subsequent period Formicola ; Frayer ; Robb This reduction in stature is not necessarily due to malnutrition or illness, but it may indicate a useful adaptation to an activity regime with less mobility than their forager ancestors engaged in and perhaps with periodic food scarcity: a Ford Fiesta model human rather than a Land Rover.

    Nevertheless, Neolithic humans endured both hardship and wear and tear. Cribra orbitalia, which indicates an iron-deficient anemia due to diet, illness, or parasites in childhood or early adulthood, is relatively common, affecting 31 percent of juveniles. From the ages at which hypoplasias occurred, children were stressed throughout their childhoods.

    Some individuals display several episodes of growth disturbance, and one, Catignano I Robb and Mallegni , experienced seven distinct episodes between the ages of two and nine years, raising the possibility of annual seasonal stresses. Among the complaints of adult life, the commonest skeletally is dental disease and tooth loss; this is probably a consequence of a cariogenic grain-based diet. Although the process was highly variable, at the least, some individuals started to lose molars in their twenties and older individuals universally lack several teeth.

    There is little other pathology known in Neolithic skeletons, although this undoubtedly reflects fragmented skeletons and relatively early age at death, rather than a truly healthy population Wood et al. Estimating demography in skeletal populations is dicey at the best of times and very few Italian Neolithic samples have been reliably aged. However, as a general yardstick, when scattered remains as well as complete burials are counted, juvenile skeletons are almost as common as adults; and death among adults less than 30 years old was also common Robb The few stable isotope samples analyzed show a diet heavily weighted towards plants, presumably domestic crops, and with little use of marine resources see Chapter 4 in this book.

    Few skeletal signs of activity are known, but some individuals display squatting or kneeling facets in their ankles and feet. In one sample from Liguria, males had bilateral stress markers in the upper chest suggesting heavy axe use, perhaps for clearing land and working wood Canci and Marini Italian Neolithic femurs and tibiae display relatively high sexual dimorphism, with a dimorphism of 5.

    This lies at the upper end of ranges reported for agricultural villagers Brock and Ruff ; Robb Interestingly, sexual dimorphism in mobility is usually ascribed to subsistence activities such as hunting or transhumant herding. Several types of intentional bodily modification are known.

    The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy
    The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy
    The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy
    The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy
    The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy
    The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy
    The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy
    The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy
    The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy The early Mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic Italy

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