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The Twentieth Century Invention of Ancient Mountains: The Archaeology of Highland Aspromonte

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Robb, John 
Chesson, Meredith S. 
Forbes, Hamish 
Foxhall, Lin 
Foxhall-Forbes, Helen 


Abstract: The high mountains of the Mediterranean are often considered as refuges of ancient traditions, particularly of pastoralism and brigandage. Is this image true? This paper reports the first systematic archaeological research on Aspromonte, Southern Calabria. Archaeological, cartographic and air photo evidence suggests that people used the high mountains in all periods from the Neolithic onwards. However, early usage was low-intensity and probably for special purposes such as iron-smelting, charcoal-burning and logging; only in the Classical Greek period was there sustained effort at inhabiting higher areas. The real development of the mountains came in the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From the 1920s onwards, there were large-scale, state-fostered projects for economic exploitation of forests, political control of territory, and creation of a recreational landscape. These endeavors tied into modernist ideas of the state, as well as period concepts such as Alpinism and healthy outdoor recreation for city dwellers. Ironically, as soon as these modern efforts made the high mountains accessible, they were assigned a chronotope, and were reimagined as the exemplification of an ancient way of life.


Funder: National Endowment for the Humanities; doi:


Article, Twentieth century, Mountains, Forests, Pastoralism, Development, Field survey

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International Journal of Historical Archaeology

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Springer US