Material Connections: Mobility, Materiality and Mediterranean Identities

The movement of people as well as objects has always stood at the heart of attempts to understand the course and processes of human history. In the Mediterranean, evidence of such movements is particularly abundant and issues like migration, colonialism and exchange have played prominent roles in archaeological, historical and anthropological discussions alike. Because migration and colonisation processes have linked the Mediterranean to temperate Europe in both the distant and recent past, the region occupies a critical place in the formulation of modern European identities.  

This research programme embraces a dynamic new subject of enquiry — the social identity of prehistoric and historic Mediterranean peoples — and considers how materiality, migration, colonial encounters, and connectivity or insularity influence social identities. Our main resource is the material culture that people used throughout their lives, because it allows us to look well beyond the rather narrow lens that focuses on archival, epigraphic and literary written evidence. An approach based in materiality also provides far greater time-depth that enables us to penetrate deep into prehistory and to adopt a truly long-term perspective in examining how mobility (migrations, colonial encounters, trade/exchange) impacted on both the prehistoric and historic inhabitants of the Mediterranean.

This research project is jointly directed by Peter van Dommelen, Bernard Knapp and Michael Rowlands and built around a series of innovative, closely related case studies that focus on the prehistoric and historical Mediterranean. This program of research is designed to alter and amplify significantly the ways Mediterranean scholars have looked at the objects and subjects of their studies. Adopting a material and diachronic, socio-historical approach, we will examine contacts amongst various Mediterranean islands (in particular, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, Crete, Cyprus, the Balearics) and their nearby shores to explore the social and cultural impact of migratory, colonial and exchange encounters.

Satellite view of the entire Mediterranean