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Assessing early social complexity in the Late Prehistory of Southern Iberia: Spatial technologies applied to the study of chalcolithic walled and ditched enclosures


Some of the most impressive prehistoric archaeological sites in the European continent, some exceeding 100ha in size, have been discovered in recent decades in southern Iberia. Referred to as 'ditched enclosures', these date to the Chalcolithic/Copper Age (4th-3rd millennia BC) and generally consist of a sub-circular or oval flat area, usually surrounded by a series of ditches. Partially contemporary with Iberian ditched sites are 'walled enclosures', smaller areas surrounded by one or more lines of stone based walls with adjacent 'bastions' and 'towers'. Most Iberian archaeologists have considered walled and ditched enclosures as the earliest evidence for fortified, permanently occupied settlements, inhabited by sedentary farming communities. Additionally, Iberian chalcolithic enclosures are the empirical basis of hypotheses which defend that southern Iberia saw the emergence of the earliest 'state societies' in prehistoric Europe during the III millennium BC. In the last ten years, however, by questioning whether walled and ditched enclosures were indeed 'fortified settlements', several authors have challenged these claims, making this one of the most controversial topics in the archaeology of Iberia and of profound relevance to the whole continent. The proposed project, with a duration of 24 months, will make use of spatial approaches and GIS to analyse Iberian walled and ditched enclosures and compare them with contemporary European sites. This will give us a clearer idea of the nature of Iberian enclosures, as well as the social processes responsible for the construction of such monumental structures, shedding some light on the beginnings of social complexity in Western Europe. In order to achieve the project's objectives, the fellow will first complete postgraduate taught modules in Archaeological GIS and Social Archaeology at the University of Southampton.

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SO17 1BJ Southampton
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 221 606,40
Administrative Contact
Yan Qiao (Ms.)