In June 2018, we held our inaugural field season. Our work focused on the exploration of the plains of the Upper Campidano surrounding the large, inland Nuragic site of S’Urachi (Comune di San Vero Milis, Oristano, Sardinia). This is a region of flat plains cut by natural rivers and man-made canals and irrigation channels. Today, agricultural and pastoralism are the dominant activities in this rural landscape. We refer to this territory as Zone A, while future zones in our wider survey region will be named Zones B, C, and D. Our goals for the season were to explore the long-term use of this inland territory and its resources, to provide new data to contextualize the important site of S’Urachi in its regional setting, and to refine our project methodology.
Our work focused heavily on pedestrian survey in Zone A using a methodology and collection strategy based on traditional Mediterranean survey. We systematically traversed agricultural fields with our team, counting and collecting artifacts on the surface. Through mapping of our survey units and analysis of the materials, we produced maps that help us understand the chronologies of landscape use. In all, we surveyed 226 units, totaling approximately 1.3 square kilometers. Our maps show the intensity of landscape use around S’Urachi in the ancient past, as well as concentrations of ceramic farther from the site that represent the occupation of smaller sites in the wider territory in areas above the alluvial plain, which was likely subject to periodic flooding in antiquity. The frequency of modern trash and modern ceramic across the region demonstrates how much the landscape has changed, as more land has been converted for use in year-round agriculture and farmsteads that can now be located in zones which may not have been suitable for habitation in antiquity.
In addition to our pedestrian survey, we undertook regional reconnaissance in and around Zone A to better understand the distribution of sites in the wider landscape and to document known sites and features. We produced a map of Zone A with hundreds of known and potential archaeological sites based on existing publications and government data. We visited many of these places, documenting 37 features through traditional photography, photogrammetry, drawing, and aerial photography using our drone. These included features ranging in date from the Bronze Age to the 19th century: nuraghi, quarries, ancient roads, animal pens, rural Christian churches, historic farm houses, and historic water-powered grain mills, among others.
Our work this season allowed us to experiment with the implementation of our methodology and to draw several important observations. The site of S’Urachi, while the largest and most prominent of Zone A, was situated in a landscape full of a number of smaller sites. Most archaeological sites, further, show signs of reuse and reoccupation over time. For instance, many sites that have been previously classified as “Nuragic” were modified in later periods for diverse purposes. Finally, the management of water for agriculture and other uses has been–and continues to be–of significant importance to agricultural exploitation and habitation in this region. We look forward to sharing more results of our survey this year.