Hello, my name is Alex Claman, current SAP member, recent Texas Tech University graduate, and PhD student at UNC Chapel Hill. I participated in the 2019 field season and plan to return in the future (when possible!). My MA thesis was based in part on SAP data, so I’ve been invited to summarize the thesis as a whole, as well as how I used the project’s data specifically.
The thesis lays out an approach to landscapes predicated on their underlying forms, drawing particularly on the French theoretical school of archaeogeography. Both surface objects (like sherd scatters) and forms (like crop marks) can be indicators of buried objects, including roads, walls, and surfaces. These subterranean things resonate and emanate upward; their forms alter their surroundings and are themselves altered in the process of transmission.
Form is generally understood to be synonymous with shape. Plato presented a three-part schema where “pure” forms are wholly separate from both the world and each other. In turn, Aristotle stated that things are compounds of form and matter, a hylomorphic approach. Form works particularly through imagery, whereas material engagements take place on the ground and studies of those engagements – in other words, archaeology – overwhelmingly emphasize material over form. In turn, others have argued that matter as something separate from form does not actually exist, and that everything is instead composed of substantial forms. I build on these approaches to suggest that forms are tied to both things themselves and memories (for an intentionally broad definition of memory) here in the present.
This approach to landscapes, then, is predicated on their underlying forms, drawing particularly on the French theoretical school of archaeogeography. Surface objects and forms can be indicators of buried objects, including roads, walls, and surfaces. These subterranean things resonate and emanate upward; their forms alter their surroundings and are themselves altered in the process of persisting. The method developed here pays attention to these forms and their intersections through time to build the case for a “morphic history.”
Theory like morphic history exists as its own particular form of knowledge, capable of changing and being changed through dialogue, conversation, reading, and interaction, both with other theories and with other real world objects like landscapes. To that end, this thesis explores both landscapes through the theory and the theory through both landscapes. The Mazi exists and is constructed as a Greek landscape bearing imprints of water, wind, and weather, conflict and fortification, sheep and goat, religion and monastery, commerce and road. The Sinis exists and is constructed as a Sardinian landscape bearing the imprints of procession and church, farm and tractor, stream and mill, ocean and salt (to name only a few).
In the Sinis-focused portion of the thesis, I drew on my own experiences from the 2019 field season, the project’s publications, and geospatial in order to articulate a morpho-historical understanding of the peninsula. Given the time and data constraints, I opted for a higher-level visualization and analysis of the overall material densities, survey unit distributions and sizes, and ground cover across the peninsula. I also singled out the road and waters-related features identified to date. Many of the former were visible at the surface, either underlying currently-used routes or directly adjacent to them (as with the Roman-era bridge over the Riu Mannu). These features are instances of the underlying form continuing to be expressed as a result of consistent use. The two major water-related features in the study area are two ruined mill sites – neither borders the modern riverbed – which hold memories of subsided tributaries and flows.
I am very grateful to SAP’s directors for their support and guidance, especially their willingness to share the data that I used in the thesis.