Research and education for an archeology of the landscape in Lunigiana
Research and education for an archeology of the
landscape in Lunigiana
Monica Baldassarri e Enrica Salvatori
Rural History Conference - Girona, 7 settembre 2015
2013 – Research group
• Course of Storia degli Insediamenti Tardo Antichi e Medievali at the
University of Pisa (Late Antiquity and Medieval Sites - Master degree in
• Two professor of history, one archaeologist, amateur historians,
historian experts in GIS, and master students in Archaeology and
• Need: no founds for a more structured and bigger research;
• Choice: for a different education, more concerned about Practice and
– reading and understanding medieval sources
– using a software to manage bibliographic items (Zotero)
– using a software for GIS (QGIS) building a geographical database
– participating to an archaeological survey
– writing a well made ﬁnal paper about the research, almost ready to be published
The place – Castiglioncello, Lunigiana
• a small, but representative, space
of inner Lunigiana, related to the
town of Casola (Massa Carrara,
Two scientiﬁc backgrounds, historical and archaeological, which are
meant to be harmoniously combined in order to produce a uniﬁed
proposal of historical changes of the rural landscape.
Plus a new inquiry
• HISTORY: Land Registry (Catasto) of Castiglioncello -1551. It
allows us to reconstruct part of the ownership structure, the types of crops,
their distribution in the territory, its morphology, especially thanks to
• ARCHEOLOGY: surveys made in the late '70s by ISCUM (Institute
for the History of the Material Culture – Genoa), over the same area: a
valuable repository of photos and maps with classification and
• ORAL SOURCES: interviews to some elders (4 people).
In the Land Registry there are:
• individual asset of each owner in term of land’s features, boundaries and
• use of the land
• morphology of the territory (several microtoponyms)
There are not:
• measures (extension) and location mapping
• composition of the family
• chattels (animals)
Not easy to understand /solve for:
• Different writings
• Position of the article and prepositions (dialectal forms).
Microtoponyms and Memory
Transmission of knowledge / memory:
- From 1551 to Catasto Leopoldino (1835): 53%
- From 1551 to elderly population : 58%.
Then the Leopoldino land
registry, a cartographic source
of great historical value for
Tuscany, recorded only a part
of local microtoponyms that
could and should be recovered
only by confronting textual
sources with oral interviews in
ﬁeld surveys (within 5-10 years
Microtoponyms and Settlements
• Few toponyms from roman time or high middle ages
• Most of them are from latin or italic origin and they have been ﬁxed in
the territory between the middle ages and the early modern age
• Not substantial additions after the sixteenth century.
• Very poor and dubious presence of anthroponyms and a relatively
equal distribution of phytotoponyms, hydronyms and geotoponyms.
• Rather high overall percentage of names indicating the use of the land
and the manufacturing activities (20,72%) and the presence of the
population (house, buildings roads 13,47% ): this is a clear evidence of
an intensive human settlement, emerging, on the other hand, also from
the land registry declarations of 1551.
• From toponyms & ﬁscal statements
• An intense polycultural agriculture from1551 to 1950
• Mixed use of the land.
• Difﬁcult to distinguish among cultivations, harvesting and breeding: a
large number of lands were actually used precisely for all these
activities simultaneously or in different times of the year
Some preliminary conclusions
• All the settlements documented in 1551 are still there, and they all
are - even in a state of serious neglect - still inhabited.
• The process of settlement is probably former to the sixteenth century,
i.e. during the Middle Ages.
• A part of the property in 1551 (common goods, ecclesiastical assets)
could be an “heritage” of a medieval organization of the land.
• The “use” of the land (polycultural agriculture) seems, likewise, a very
stable feature of this territory
The archaeological survey:
a census of rural architecture
The archaeological ﬁeld work in this ﬁrst phase - very short in time - has
been focused on the survey of rural architecture in order to study:
- chronology and type of the development of rural settlements in this
- chronology and type of solutions of vernacular architecture
- relationship of settlements and their architecture with historical
landscapes and environmental resources
- productive cycles and solutions adopted in buildings in Casola and in
this part of Lunigiana
The archaeological survey
From the Middle Ages…
Ofﬁano and Regnano with their ecclesiastical buildings have shown to be
among the oldest medieval settlements in the area, together with the castle of
Interesting medieval traces in buildings and architectural elements reused in
more recent construction are also in Regnano Villa, Castiglioncello,
Monteﬁore villages and in the centre of Casola itself.
Interesting data about
demography between Late
Middle A. e Modern A.
Problem of presence/visibility
of non-nucleated settlements or
The archaeological survey
… through the Modern Age
Almost all these nucleated settlement seem to have been founded on the
highest hills of the area between the XII and the XIII century. Some
villages (like Monteﬁore) shown a growth between XIV and XV century.
They all have had a certain an
extension in Modern Age, mostly in
the XVII century and later, with signs
of reconstructions stressed by new
dated portals and reuse if erratic
elements in the XVIII and XIX
It is possible to date at the same
period also the most part of the
water mills documented in this area.
The archaeological survey
Some other (few) rural settlements seem to be founded and developed from
the XVI century onward on the lower slopes of the mountains.
This is the case of Oliva, a small village already quoted in the Catasto of
1551 and probably built using some construction materials coming from the
upper castle of Castiglioncello
Interesting problem of what kind of
resources have sustained this
development from XII/XIII to XIX c. >
utility of GIS to locate possibilities in
the use of rural landscape and its
Some preliminary conclusions
• Most part of civil buildings appear to be reconstructed from the
seventeenth century on, with a signiﬁcant reconstructive activity during
the eighteenth and nineteenth century.
Among the different and competing reasons for this intense building
activity we suggest the earthquakes, that have repeatedly hit the area
in the past, followed by a remarkable reconstruction fervor, a sign of
economic and social vitality and demographic resilience throughout
the modern era and the beginning of the contemporary era
• All the settlements - nucleated - documented by the Land Registry of
1551 have been identiﬁed and all are - even in a state of serious
neglect - still inhabited.
The material data conﬁrm that the process of settlement that founded
the most part of them is former to the sixteenth century, probably in the
central part and in the late centuries of the Middle Age, with few
The difference with the reaction to the recent
Education and money
The marginalization of the area compared to the national context is
reflected by the low rate of scientific studies dedicated to it,
reduced by the difficulties in obtaining a minimum of economic
and logistical support from a panorama of very small villages, not
connected and damaged by natural disasters (earthquakes, floods).
• Involving students could be a first interesting solution: better
education, workforce for harvesting and analysing data
• But: big work of revision (time consuming), not stable team
Famous and neglected
In comparison with many studies that often insist on well known
historical or archaeological settlements (in our region Pisa for
example or Luni or Lucca) that are unlikely to change what we
know about the past, we believe an interdisciplinary study of a
marginal area, such as the inner Lunigiana, could offer very interesting
Moreover, this may overturn the frameworks and allow the application
of scientific research to truly affect the life of contemporary society
by working together with local administration, population
and associations in a really “public” research.