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ERC

nEU-Med Report Summary

Project ID: 670792
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - nEU-Med (Origins of a new Economic Union (7th to 12th centuries): resources, landscapes and political strategies in a Mediterranean region)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2017-03-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The most recent historical-archaeological overviews relating to the project subject matter, i.e. the analysis of economic and political trends that characterize the Europe of the Early Middle Ages, have focused mainly on northern Europe which, unlike that of the South, underwent an important and homogeneous economic growth between the 7th and 9th centuries. In southern Europe, on the contrary, some areas, such as Italy, were involved in similar processes of transformation and development commencing only from the late 9th century, until the formation, during the 12th century, of a more balanced economic scenario, the prelude to a more comprehensive and uniform system of trade and cultural exchanges which linked North and South Europe.
The reasons for the economic growth of Mediterranean Europe recorded in the Early Middle Ages are however still a subject of debate. Scholars have made reference to a series of factors linked to agrarian growth or to new maritime and terrestrial trade, but have not been able to completely get past the dichotomy between the different perspectives of analysis.
On the basis of these disciplinary and methodological premises, backed by a solid multidisciplinary approach, the nEU-Med project aims at providing new answers to the question that concerns the timing and means of this economic growth, recorded from the 7th and fully accomplished in the 12th century, while at the same time indicating the conditions that made it possible.
The project envisages a focus on a specific territory, coinciding with a vast area of Tuscan Maremma (central-Tyrrhenian Italy) between the Gulf of Piombino-Follonica and the hills of the hinterland (Fig. 1).
In the Middle Ages this area was distinguished by a variety of natural environments (coastal marshland; plains; mountainous areas) and numerous economic resources (forestry, exploitation of salt; animal husbandry; cereal growing; mineral resources). The coexistence of many different characteristics and the presence of a solid substratum of past research make this area a valid territory-type of the Western Mediterranean and a good observatory for evaluation of the increase in commerce and possible growth in relation to the changes in the natural and forestry environments.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The nEU-Med project began in October 2015; in the first year and a half of work investigations on two coastal contexts (Val di Cornia and Val di Pecora) were vigorously launched, pivoting on two of the key research sites: Carlappiano (Piombino, Livorno) and Vetricella (Scarlino, Grosseto) (Fig. 1). Furthermore, all 9 work packages foreseen by the project and their internal tasks were activated, in particular:
Wp1
• Archaeological survey and diagnostics conducted at the sites of Carlappiano and Vetricella.
• Geomorphological and archaeobotanical analysis of significant parts of the course of the Pecora river together with its palaeochannel.
WP2
• stratigraphic investigations conducted on the sites of Carlappiano and Vetricella; chemical analyses of soils, analysis of paleosols and archaeobotanical analysis.
WP3
• study of finds brought to light during surveys and in digs: ceramics, metal objects (iron, copper), coins, animal bones.
• Cataloguing and study of the medieval pottery finds discovered at Portus Scabris during previous excavations, aimed at defining the kinds of maritime trading in the area.
• Archaeometric study of the indicators of metallurgical production discovered at Vetricella site.
• Anthropological analysis conducted on human remains found during excavation of the Rocca di Scarlino, still not studied and unpublished to date; analysis of the graves found in the excavation carried out in the locality of La Pieve, a short distance from Vetricella; analysis of the graves found at Vetricella in the course of the excavation.
• Collection and study of numismatic finds coined between the 10th and 12th centuries in various mints in central North Italy, coming from Tuscan excavations and museum collections, with the purpose of performing XRF analysis, and of the lead isotopes to determine the origin of the raw material. At the moment an initial nucleus of 47 coins has been selected, 20 of which have already been analysed.
• Laboratory analysis (C14) of samples of soil, anthracological remains, pollen samples coming from the excavations.
WP4
• Sudy of unpublished documentary sources focused on the coastal areas and the immediate hinterland.
WP 5
• Enrichment of the pre-existing GIS base and creation of a suitable relational archive for the collection and dynamic management of the data acquired by the various specialists in the team.
WP 6
• Creation of a web site (www.neu-med.unisi.it) and profiles on various social media.
WP 7
• Organization of the first workshop of the nEU-Med project to be held in Siena (12-13 April 2017). The worshop will be attended by members of the scientific board and scholars of international repute; during the discussion and the round table the data collected in the first year and a half of research will be presented and discussed.
WP 8
• Open access publication of the archaeological excavation of the monastery of San Quirico di Populonia, an investigation concluded in early 2000, the data from which have been reworked and revised also in relation to the objectives of the nEU-Med project and its early results.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Thanks to the intense work conducted so far by the team and by young researchers who supplemented it, research has highlighted the existence of a historical reality of particular complexity, which goes to bolster the themes identified in advance by the project. A new key element, i.e. the management of the fiscal assets by the public power and its controlling measures on the exploitation of natural and agricultural resources, has been identified as crucial for understanding the economic growth of these centuries. The data acquired by the project allowed the narrowing down of a time chronologically circumscribed between the 9th and 10th centuries, during which the greater interest and the incisiveness of public power in the management of their possessions and relative resources produced important changes, both in the settlement dynamics and the natural and forestry landscape. These changes could be at the basis of crucial processes of economic growth, to which are linked coinage strategies that the analysis on the numismatic finds are identifying more precisely. This is a major acquisition that brings new and previously unpublished data to the general knowledge about the dynamics of political-economic policy changes in Italy and in the western Mediterranean in this historical period. On the basis of new evidence, it is now possible to refine the research agenda and investigation strategies in anticipation of the next step of the project.
In addition to the significant scientific results, the nEU-Med project has also had a considerable impact on another two fronts:
(a) Research. Thanks to the funds obtained by the project, a number of young researchers have been involved in the research, guaranteeing educational pathways of a high level.
b) Social role of archaeology. Continuous contacts with local authorities present in the territory where the research is conducted have allowed us to commence a joint venture that has as its main objective both the dissemination of the data collected in this way (through meetings, conferences etc.) and the subsequent exploitation of results achieved through a common project of public fruition, directed to a wide audience of non-specialists.

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