Giacomo Fontana (UCL) - 2019-20 Students

The complexity of mountain dwellers: the Samnites and the under-theorisation of landscapes and societies in the 1st Millennium BCE Mediterranean

Since the Enlightenment, scholars have linked urbanisation to state formation in the evolution of complex societies. This urbanocentric perspective continues to dominate the study of the development of modern society, leading to an under-theorisation of alternative responses to social complexity. This project draws on recent research on non-urban organisation and low-density urbanism to question this classic paradigm. It focuses on the core of the Classical Mediterranean world, using Samnite hillforts as a case study for wider European sites that present alternative solutions to urbanism, especially in environments often perceived a marginal and peripherical, such as mountainous regions. Different socio-political models structure the landscape in a variety of ways, and give rise to different settlement patterns related to territorial organisation. This project develops a new systematic and comprehensive study of the Samnite hillforts to trace how the landscape was structured. The hillforts are an optimal proxy to pursue this investigation because they are directly related to the Samnite performance in military and territorial organisation, which were key elements of contemporary urban societies. The topography, spatial distribution and connectivity of the hillforts will be investigated using an original approach based on a primary dataset collected through the integration of new remote sensing data, spatial and network analysis, and fieldwork. This study addresses the lengthy and ongoing debate concerning the perceived resilience of Samnite society. It contributes to the research on alternative responses to social complexity and to redefining our understanding of the relationship between the structure and the performance of societies.

Primary supervisor: Corinna Riva and Andrew Bevan (joint primary)
Secondary supervisor: Tesse Stek, Leiden University

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