Visual Connectivity and Control in Ancient Lucania at the EAA

The AAIA’s Brett Myers recently presented his research into ancient South Italian hillforts at the 2021 European Association of Archaeologists conference.

EAA Conference logo

The twenty seventh annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists was scheduled to be held in Keil Germany 6 – 11 September 2021. The meeting is normally accompanied by a conference which is one of the largest in Europe. It is is a massive event and the sheer scale of it can be overwhelming. During the five days there were over 2500 papers scheduled to be presented through 236 sessions, with truly something of interest for anyone engaged in Archaeology!

Originally planned to be held as ‘hybrid event’ it transitioned to being fully online as the third and fourth wave of Covid hit Europe. The technical logistics of hosting something like this is frightening, but to the credit of the organisers it went – for the most part – surprisingly smoothly. The ability to hop from one session to another without moving from your seat was definitely an advantage over ‘in-person’ conferences, especially when at any time up to twenty concurrent sessions were in progress!

My topic was related to my recent MPhil ‘Visual Connectivity and Control in Ancient Lucania’, which involved looking at the relationships between the numerous pre-Roman hillforts in the area. Ancient Lucania corresponds roughly to the modern region of Basilicata in Southern Italy. Topographically it is dominated by large mountains and fluvial valleys.

Map of Italy showing Basilicata Region
Map of Italy, highlighting the study area of Basilicata. Map: Brett Myers

The difficulty of traversing this area in antiquity is referred to by several ancient authors. During the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C. a large number of fortified centres emerged in ancient Lucania. Typically, they were located on elevated positions with commanding views overlooking the surrounding landscape. Scholars have often speculated about their position in the landscape.

The questions I specifically wanted to answer were:

  1. Were the topographic positions of the fortified centres influenced by an ability to remain in visual contact with each other, at least within a number of discreet groups?
  2. Were their locations influenced by the amount of visual control their elevated positions afforded over a number of important communication and trade routes throughout Lucania?

Throughout 2014 and 2015 I had visited almost all of the seventy or sites that made up the study area, many being in particularly remote or inaccessible locations so. it was quite a physically arduous undertaking. Once all site locations were mapped and their locations ‘ground truthed’ the data was analysed using Graphical Information Systems programs such as ArcGIS and then further analysed in Network Analysis programs such as ‘Gephi’. The latter produced some very illustrative data which showed possible network connections between the Hill forts and indicated they seemed to be clustered in a number of discrete groups. 

Network analysis map showing hillfort clusters.
Network map, revealing site clusters. Map: Brett Myers.

Analysis of the data showed that the vast majority of sites in the study area (over 95%) were intervisibile with other Hill Forts and most (over 80%) were situated within groups of intervisible sites which shared control over important communication routes that spanned the area, with the highest concentration of these is found in central northern Lucania. So it looks like the answer to both my initial questions was ‘yes’.

Map showing site intervisibility of Lucanian hillforts
GIS Map showing the intervisibility between Lucanian hillforts. Map: Brett Myers.

Presenting these findings to some of the authors of much of the material I had referenced in my thesis was a little daunting, but the atmosphere was friendly and collegial, and the entire session was seemed to go very well with good feedback from the ‘audience’, odd time zone difference not withstanding!

Hopefully we will soon transition back to ‘in person’ conferences, although I suspect that a hybrid model will soon become the norm for many of the events as covid accelerates the inevitable changes that technology affords.

Brett Myers received his BA (hons), a Graduate Diploma in Museum and Heritage Studies and an MPhil, all from The University of Sydney. Brett is the ‘Administration Officer’ at the Australian Archaeological institute at Athens. His primary area of research interest is pre-Roman South Italy and he has been involved in numerous surveys and excavations there under the auspices of the University of Sydney, largely under the Direction of Dr Ted Robinson. His post-graduate research is focused on South Italian (Lucanian) fortified centres, circa 400 to100 BC, primarily using Graphical Information Systems and Network analysis to analyse their distribution. al institute at Athens in 2000.


Dr Stavros Paspalas – Director
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