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Waste lands? New perspectives on the archaeology of disaster recovery in medieval Europe

Project description

How natural disasters affected people in the Middle Ages

Medieval Europe was devastated by earthquakes, which in some cases even caused deadly tsunamis and landslides. The EU-funded WasteLands project will explore how people reacted to natural disasters in the Middle Ages. From an archaeological perspective, the project will study resilience, memory, power and identity. The focus will be on three disasters: the rockfall of the Granier mountain in 1248 (France), the Carinthia and Friuli earthquake in 1348 (Austria, Italy and Slovenia) and the notorious St. Elizabeth’s flood in 1421 (the Netherlands). The findings are expected to expand the theoretical debate about the concept of resilience by developing a systematic study of natural disasters ‘in the landscape’. The project will also contribute to today’s disaster risk communication.


The WasteLands project explores the aftermath of medieval disasters in Europe from an archaeological perspective. Using a novel theoretical and research framework to tackle topics such as resilience, memory, power, and identity in the aftermath of destructive catastrophes, WasteLands employs a non-invasive landscape approach to address three iconic disasters across Europe: the Mont Granier megalandslide, 1248 (France); the Carinthia and Friuli earthquake, 1348 (Austria, Italy and Slovenia); the St Elizabeth’s megaflood, 1421 (Netherlands).
WasteLands aims to expand the theoretical debate about the concept of resilience by developing a systematic study of natural disasters ‘in the landscape’, posing novel questions addressing under-represented topics through original dialogues between archaeology, cultural anthropology, and disaster studies scholars, and contributing effectively to disaster risk communication in contemporary societies.
The project will be developed under the supervision of Prof Andrea Augenti (supervisor at the University of Bologna, Italy) and Prof Matthew Johnson (supervisor at Northwestern University, USA). During the outgoing phase at Northwestern University, the candidate will analyse in depth the archaeology of the selected ‘landscapes of disaster’, apply up-to-date archaeological and anthropological theory and engage with a diverse and multidisciplinary team of scholars from the same university. During the return phase, he will be integrated within the research environment of the University of Bologna where the candidate will complete his research activities, disseminate the scientific results of the project, and develop a cultural heritage and community engagement programme focused on disaster risk communication. The latter activity will be strengthened through two project secondments at the Biesbosch Museum, Netherlands and at the INGV (Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia) in Bologna, Italy.


Net EU contribution
€ 251 002,56
40126 Bologna

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Nord-Est Emilia-Romagna Bologna
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 251 002,56

Partners (1)