Regional Approaches to Society and Complexity - Alex R. Knodell

Regional Approaches to Society and Complexity - Alex R. Knodell

8. Monumental Engagements: Cultural Interaction and Island Traditions in the West Mediterranean

Regional Approaches to Society and Complexity - Alex R. Knodell

Peter van Dommelen [+-]
Brown University
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Peter van Dommelen is Joukowsky Family Professor in Archaeology and Professor of Anthropology at Brown University. His research focuses on the western Mediterranean and the Phoenician-Punic world, with a particular interest in colonialism and culture contact as well as rural life and landscape, both past and present. He is actively involved in fieldwork and ceramic studies in Sardinia and Mediterranean Spain and his most recent books are, with Carlos Gómez Bellard, Rural Landscapes of the Punic World, Monographs in Mediterranean Archaeology 11 (London: Equinox, 2008) and, co-edited with A. Bernard Knapp, Material Connections in the Ancient Mediterranean (London: Routledge, 2010).
Alexander Smith [+-]
College at Brockport, Delta College and University of Rochester
Alexander Smith is an Instructor at the College at Brockport’s Anthropology Department and Delta College, as well as in the Art & Art History Department at the University of Rochester, New York. He has worked on Menorca since 2007, studying the indigenous Talayotic culture of the island, and since 2013 he has also worked on Sardinia as a survey and GIS specialist at the prehistoric, Nuragic site of S’Urachi. He works closely with the Memorial Art Gallery of Rochester, NY, promoting classroom integration of museum resources and public archaeology.


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.

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van Dommelen, Peter; Smith, Alexander. 8. Monumental Engagements: Cultural Interaction and Island Traditions in the West Mediterranean. Regional Approaches to Society and Complexity. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 158-181 Jan 2018. ISBN 9781781795279. Date accessed: 21 Jul 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.30811. Jan 2018

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