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Cecilia Sandström, Encountering Environment. Ecology, production and trading network on Monte Polizzo and Western Sicily 600-500 BC

My research explores how environmental and topographical features impacted upon trade and trade networks in Archaic Western Sicily (c.600-500 BC). To understand past peoples we need to analyse not only their architectural, monumental and artefactual remains, but also how they understood their landscape and how they engaged with the elements that comprised their environment.

I am applying interdisciplinary methodologies, combining topography, geomorphology and traditional archaeological research, to establish and assess trade patterns in explicit regard to local and regional environmental conditions. My specific focus is the mountainous Elymian settlement of Monte Polizzo.

Monte Polizzo is situated 25 kilometers inland from both the western and southwestern coasts at an elevation of 700m above sea level. The mountain ridge provides an excellent view over the neighbouring hilltops, as well as the entire coastline from Castellamare del Golfo in the north to Selinus in the south. The rivers that originate near the settlement lead directly to the Greek and Phoenician settlements of Selinus and Mozia, and thus the Mediterranean Sea and the regional and global trade markets. First built c. 630 BC, the archaeological record from Monte Polizzo demonstrates that the community quickly established trade connections with other people and settlements. A notable quantity of transport amphorae from Etruria, Corinth, and the north Aegean, along with Ionian cups and various imported fine ware, some probably produced in Selinus, have been recovered from the site. What remains uncertain thus far is what the Elymians offered in return to these markets.

My specific research questions include: What do palynology studies tell us about the environment in the region at this time? What kind of natural resources in the Monte Polizzo area could the Elymians have benefited from economically? What does the archaeological record tell us about production evidence from the site itself? Or trade patterns, both regional and global? Could the rivers near Monte Polizzo have been navigable and used as transportation routes between different settlements in the area (e.g. between Monte Polizzo and Selinus, and Monte Polizzo and Mozia)? Answers to these questions will enable us to reconstruct a more substantial understanding of how small, mountainous communities engaged in the regional and wider networks of the Mediterranean at this time that moves us beyond core/periphery models of colonial domination.

Cecilia Sandström

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