8. Monumental Engagements: Cultural Interaction and Island Traditions in the West Mediterranean
Peter van Dommelen [+]
Alexander Smith [+]
College at Brockport, Delta College and University of Rochester
Archaeological approaches to the megalithic traditions of the western Mediterranean are frequently predicated on a social evolutionist understanding of cultural progression that is as teleological as it is pessimistic, implying the corruption or wholesale loss of ‘pure’ indigenous island culture due to external forces. Yet megalithic monuments on the western Mediterranean islands did not simply cease to exist at the end of their notional cultural timeframes; many, if not most, remained occupied or at least in some form of use well after the periods historically associated with their construction and use. Taking our cue from Cherry’s (1981) insistence that, in order to understand the earliest colonization phases of islands, the archaeological evidence needs to be carefully and critically considered in relation to the specific circumstances of each island, we shift attention toward the afterlife of monuments on the western Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and Menorca. Using detailed case studies from the Nuragic site of S'Urachi on Sardinia and the Talayotic site of Torre d’en Galmés on Menorca, we consider the microhistories of these sites in order to understand better their changing use and perceived afterlife. Exploring the manner in which indigenous and colonial customs can shape their meaning is a step toward understanding the complexity and social construction of island traditions — not as points along an monolithic indigenous or colonial timeline, but from a microhistoric perspective concerning the forces of cultural change and modification in the wake of changing communal worldviews.