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Taking stock of the Emptyscapes initiative: background, design, outcomes, impact

28 April 2023
3:00 pm
San Ponziano Complex - Conference Room

In recent years there has been a revolution in the archaeological methodologies used for the study of the landscape. A wide variety of remote sensing methods have been developed and are now increasingly widely deployed for archaeological mapping. In addition to the improvement in technical capabilities we have also seen the beginnings of a conceptual change. Archaeology has traditionally been focused upon individual locations - “sites” - which we have sought to identify and then explore through excavation and the analysis of the finds from them. Although pragmatically understandable, the division of the world into a series of isolated “sites” is conceptually problematic as human beings do not just exist at particular points in the landscape, but rather they utilise the whole of the landscape in a wide variety of different ways. Given that the same was true in the past, and that we increasingly have technologies to explore the whole tracts of landscape, archaeology is moving towards changes in approach that seek to explore and understand the reality of total past landscapes. ‘Emptyscapes’ ( is an interdisciplinary research programme designed to stimulate changes in the traditional ways in which scholars, in Italy in particular but also more generally in the Mediterranean world, study the archaeology of landscapes - that is, from an essentially site-based approach to a more comprehensive landscape-scale perspective. The programme aims to use the ‘traditional’ methods of landscape survey in partnership with large-scale geophysical prospection, airborne laser scanning, geo-archaeological, bioarchaeological and targeted minimalist test excavations. After 15 years of integrated surveys and three years of test excavations we have learned that in some circumstances it is possible to apply new and complementary strategies, and in doing so to seek answers to entirely new archaeological questions; this has important implications for academic research but also for applications in landscape planning, conservation and CRM.


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Stefano Campana, University of Siena