Power, society, and (dis)connectivity in medieval Sardinia

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: History

Abstract

This is a four-year project to explain the history of Sardinia in its medieval Mediterranean context. We are an international team of historians and archaeologists with transdisciplinary skills who will test key hypotheses about Sardinia's unique political development as well as its society and the ways that the island has been understood in the past. With our eleven international collaborating partner institutions, we will establish a major new exhibition of medieval Sardinian history at the Museo Nazionale in Cagliari. With short tours to smaller museums too, we expect more than 300,000 visitors during the project itself, at the end of which the exhibition will be hosted on a permanent basis.

The team will study four interwoven research strands. The first deals with the island's 'connectivity', which is often used to characterise the medieval Mediterranean. However, the second largest island in the Mediterranean--Sardinia--is also understood as a model of isolation. Clearly, these ideas cannot both be correct. We will thus re-evaluate Sardinia vis-à-vis its surrounding regions through a new study of its geopolitical context. We believe that a new and integrated historiography will resolve the paradox of Sardinia as 'the periphery at the centre', redefining the ways we understand the island and its Mediterranean setting.

Sardinian history has been overlooked - but not because it is unimportant. Indeed, its unique development as an unconquered liminal polity among the major powers of the Mediterranean offers important new perspectives on formative phases of Euro-Mediterranean history. For example, the migration of Byzantine monks, soldiers, officials and nobles from North Africa to Sardinia provides paradigm-shifting evidence for the Arab Conquests and the creation of Muslim-Christian frontiers, showing how the dynamics of the Muslim conquest of North Africa were very different to those elsewhere. We will re-assess evidence from the Arab historiographers along wih new archaeological evidence from seals, coins and inscriptions for the earliest phase of the 'Islamisation of Europe'.

We will also examine the autonomous forms of insular governance that emerged between 700 and 1100 through early charters and church records. We will elicit the social and political relations between the rulers, the rural elites, small landholders, and the wider population to offer a new multidisciplinary explanation of networked and negotiated modalities of power and social interaction. Particular emphasis will be laid on the identification of prestige kin-groups and actors in the countryside mentioned in the island's rich documentary record. We will test grave goods from rural parts using a scientific archaeometrical approach to establish the provenance, composition and political, socio-economic and sociological functions of coins, ceramics, weapons, and jewellery. Comparison, integration and elaboration of the data will give new insights into the formation of Sardinian society, both horizontally and vertically, across a complex social network from its rulers to powerful families, and to those holding lands and benefices or giving labour in services.

Finally, we will assemble a major exhibition of documents and artefacts at the Museo Nazionale in Cagliari. There has never been an exhibition of this size and type on the island, nor outside it. An exceptional feature of the display is its emphasis on explaining contexts from a historical perspective, rather than plainly asserting what the assemblages are. Some objects will be reproduced using cutting-edge modelling techniques: full-size, high-quality replicas of inscriptions, coins, seals as well as facsimiles of key documents including charters written in Sardinian vernacular. By measuring 'impact', we will see if a museum exhibition of this type can fundamentally transform understandings of the history for both academics and the wider public for many years to come.

Planned Impact

Today Sardinia is well-known to the wider public because the island is a major tourist destination. It attracts around 2.9 million visitors per year - almost twice its own population. It is not only famous for its beaches, but also for its cultural landscapes and world-class historical sites. Of the latter, the most important remains are displayed at the Museo Nazionale in Cagliari, the island's administrative centre and home to half the island's inhabitants. The museum is the largest of five museums that form part of a cultural complex (the Cittadella dei Musei) within the city's historic ramparts. Attracting up to 85,000 visitors per year, the Museo Nazionale is an enduring hub of international tourism, playing a key role in the island's economy and cultural heritage.

The primary mode of delivering impact in this project is by way of a major new exhibition at the Museo Nazionale, which is one of our international collaborating partners. In year 1, the exhibition will be designed and installed. Initially, it will be held at the Museo Nazionale in years 2 and 4 of the project. In year 3, it will tour provincial museums (il Museo multimediale del Regno di Arborea, Las Plassas; il Civico museo archeologico 'Villa Abbas', Sárdara; il Civico Museo Archeologico, Sinnai, and Il castello giudicale, Sanluri) before returning to the Museo Nazionale. Both the Museo Nazionale and the town council of Sanluri have expressed their desire to host the exhibition on a permanent basis after the lifetime of the project. The museums will capture and measure impact through questionnaires, sales and entry data, and statistics from their online media. As such, the centrepiece of this project will deliver impact in cultural, social and economic terms. It will do so on a wide scale, in a measurable way, and over a long duration.

The exhibition will be housed in a large exhibition space on the third floor of the Museo Nazionale. The museum's permanent exhibitions span from prehistory to he end of the Roman era, so an exhibition on medieval Sardinia will not only be the first of its kind, but it will also open up new experiences of history, archaeology and culture to a varied mix of overseas visitors (mainly European) and the local population (mainly Sardinians and Italians).

In addition to the public, there will be impact benefits for museum staff, heritage professionals, regional businesses as well as teachers and children from local schools. School trips (both local and overseas) to the Museo Nazionale are regular events offering early exposure to key historical themes as encountered through material culture, documents and archaeology. We will ensure that the exhibition engages with school-children by providing a teacher's guide to the display to facilitate a graded and successful learning experience. The teachers' pack will be freely available in Italian, English and Spanish.

In Sardinia, museum staff are from diverse backgrounds, but few have detailed knowledge of the medieval period. Since museum staff and heritage professionals are transmitters of the island's past to a wider audience, they will benefit from combined resources and assistance being invested in this major new display. Via the project's web portal with its podcasts, events page and blog, we will also reach an interested wider public, and an international network of heritage and museum professionals, historians and archaeologists.

In collaboration with the island's main museums, we will boost the importance of cultural heritage a resource for tourist experience on the island. We will convene outreach events at the Italian National Research Centre (ISEM-CNR) in Cagliari to engage local businesses, heritage professionals, student and university staff as well as tour guides (including self-employed guides) in order to highlight the importance of Sardinia's cultural tourism as a vibrant, but underexploited, economic resource.

Publications

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Zabinski G (2020) Multi-classifier majority voting analyses in provenance studies on iron artefacts in Journal of Archaeological Science

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Metcalfe A (2020) Sicily: Heritage of the World

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Metcalfe A (2020) Sicily: Heritage of the World

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Metcalfe A (2019) Messaging and memory: notes from medieval Ifriqiya and Sicily in Sicily, al-Andalus and the Maghreb: Writing in Times of Turmoil, a special issue of The Medieval Globe

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Fernández-Aceves H (2019) Rome Awards: Power and society in medieval Sardinia in Papers of the British School at Rome

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Fernández Aceves, H (2019) La Cerdeña Medieval vista desde la modernidad. Un epítome historiográfico de la supuesta conectividad mediterránea in QVADRATA. Estudios Sobre educación, Artes Y Humanidades

 
Description Birch T, 'Provenance study of Viking Age silver rings' (with M Mrnjic, R Andreasen, G Barfod, SM Sindbæk, B Hårdh and C Leshe), Archaeometallurgy in Europe (AIE) V, Miskolc, 19th-21st June 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Birch T, co-author, with M Mrnjic, R Andreasen, G Barfod, SM Sindbæk, B Hårdh and C Lesher, 'Provenance study of Viking Age silver rings'
Archaeometallurgy in Europe (AIE) V,
19th-21st June 2019, Miskolc
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Birch T, Identification of silver surface enrichment in historical silver coins - a method improvement and a study of trace element behaviour (with M Mrnjic, G Barfod, GA Hagen-Peter, SM Sindbæk and C Lesher), Archaeometallurgy in Europe (AIE) V, 19th-21st June 2019, Miskolc 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Conference Poster, Birch T, 'Identification of silver surface enrichment in historical silver coins - a method improvement and a study of trace element behaviour'
Co-author with M Mrnjic, G Barfod, GA Hagen-Peter, SM Sindbæk and C Lesher
Archaeometallurgy in Europe (AIE) V, 19th-21st June 2019, Miskolc
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Fernandez Aceves H, 'A Byzantine register or a Latin chartulary? The textual sources of Medieval Sardinia' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Research Seminar, 'A Byzantine register or a Latin chartulary? The textual sources of Medieval Sardinia', Department of History, Lancaster University (November 2019)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Fernandez Aceves H, 'Reading, Connecting, and Visualising the Condaghes: The Networks of Medieval Sardinia' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact International Medieval Congress, Leeds, UK, 5 July 2019. Title: Reading, Connecting, and Visualising the Condaghes: The Networks of Medieval Sardinia, in the session 'Network Analysis for Medieval Studies, I: Network Analysis of Medieval Charters'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Fernandez Aceves H, 'Toxic Historiography and a Made-Up Medieval Past: The Forgeries of Arborea' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Research Seminar, 'Toxic Historiography and a Made-Up Medieval Past: The Forgeries of Arborea', Department of History, Lancaster University (February 2020)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Fernandez Aceves H, 'What were the Middle Ages'; workshop, title: 'Eboracum - Jórvík - York: A city seen through the layers of time' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Leeds-Osaka Global School, 6-8 August 2019. Public lecture for young pupils, title: 'What were the Middle Ages'; workshop, title: 'Eboracum - Jórvík - York: A city seen through the layers of time'; interactive field trip to York.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Fernandez Aceves H, Conference presentation 'Moving from Byzantine to Latin: a Comparative Proposal for the Study of the Sardinian 'Condaghe' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Society for the Medieval Mediterranean 6th Biennial Conference, Barcelona, Spain, 9 July 2019. Title: Moving from Byzantine to Latin: a Comparative Proposal for the Study of the Sardinian 'Condaghes', in the panel 'Language, Writing and Discourse in Medieval Literature'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Metcalfe A, Conference presentation, Oriental Studies in Cracow 1919-2019, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, 15 October 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Conference presentation, 'Arabic sources for medieval magic tricks'
Oriental Studies in Cracow 1919-2019, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, 15 October 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Metcalfe A, Invited research seminar paper 'Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies', Edinburgh University, title: 'Byzantine Sardinia and the Arab conquests', 25 November 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited research seminar paper 'Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies', Edinburgh University, title: 'Byzantine Sardinia and the Arab conquests', 25 November 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Metcalfe A, The Muslims of Medieval Italy, University of Colorado, Boulder, 16 april 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited research seminar paper: 'The Muslims of Medieval Italy', University of Colorado, Boulder, 16 april 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Muresu M, Barbarikinoi, Barbaricini? Riflessioni storiche e archeologiche su un dubbio ancora irrisolto (secoli V-VI) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Muresu M, "Barbarikinoi, Barbaricini? Riflessioni storiche e archeologiche su un dubbio ancora irrisolto (secoli V-VI)".
Conference "Storia della Barbagia. Primo appunto"
Gavoi (Sardinia), 9th November 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.gavoi.com/storia-della-barbagia/
 
Description Muresu M, Conference paper 'The Coin as an archaeological 'settlement marker' to reconstruct the organization of Byzantine Sardinia (VI-XI cent. AD)' (VI International Numismatic and Economic Conference "Pecunia Omnes Vincit" (Krakow, Institute of Archaeology, Jagiellonian University, May 31 - June 1 2019). 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Muresu M, Conference participation 'The Coin as an archaeological 'settlement marker' to reconstruct the organization of Byzantine Sardinia (VI-XI cent. AD)'
VI International Numismatic and Economic Conference 'Pecunia Omnes Vincit'
Krakow, Institute of Archaeology, Jagiellonian University, May 31 - June 1 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://en.uj.edu.pl/en_US/events-calendar/-/journal_content/56_INSTANCE_W9PnfTJce6oq/81541894/13842...
 
Description Muresu M, Conference poster 'Continuità insediative e possibili sincretismi devozionali nel paesaggio protostorico della Sardegna: i casi dei nuraghi Cuccurada (Mogoro) e Santu Miali (Pompu) nell'alta Marmilla' (with D'Orlando D), Cagliari, 21-22 June 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Muresu M, Conference poster 'Continuità insediative e possibili sincretismi devozionali nel paesaggio protostorico della Sardegna: i casi dei nuraghi Cuccurada (Mogoro) e Santu Miali (Pompu) nell'alta Marmilla', (with D'Orlando D)
'Indagare il passato. Giornate di studi di Preistoria e Protostoria in onore di Enrico Atzeni'
Cagliari, 21-22 June 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.unica.it/unica/it/news_notizie_s1.page?contentId=NTZ177473
 
Description Muresu M, Conference poster 'Monete frazionate dai contesti funerari della Sardegna bizantina' (Milan, 16-17 September 2019) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Muresu M, Poster 'Monete frazionate dai contesti funerari della Sardegna bizantina'
International Congress 'Monete frazionate. Quadri regionali, questioni cronologiche, aspetti economici'
Milan, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, 16-17 Settembre 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Muresu M, Economia e monete della Sardegna medioevale (Dialoghi della memoria, 136, Nov 18 2019) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact DIALOGHI DELLA MEMORIA - 136 - Economia e monete della Sardegna medioevale
TV Scientific program, conducted by Simona Scioni
Partecipants: Marco Muresu, Giuseppe Seche
Sardegna 1 TV, November 18th 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUgy9-NY_-E&t=30s
 
Description Project Twitter account (https://twitter.com/medsardinia) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Projects' Official Twitter account
https://twitter.com/medsardinia
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Project website (https://wp.lancs.ac.uk/medsardinia) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Official website of the Project 'Power, society and (dis)connectivity in medieval Sardinia'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
URL https://wp.lancs.ac.uk/medsardinia/
 
Description Serreli G, Eleonora, giudicessa di Arborea, e il suo tempo, tra immaginario e realtà (Oristano, 7 Feb 2020) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Serreli G, Eleonora, giudicessa di Arborea, e il suo tempo, tra immaginario e realtà,
Associazione Amici del Romanico, Conferenze "Donne protagoniste del Medioevo sardo" a cura di Rossana Martorelli (Oristano, 7 febbraio 2020)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Serreli G, Siamo stati giudicati. La Sardegna giudicale tra originalità e tradizione 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Siamo stati giudicati
La Sardegna giudicale tra originalità e tradizione
Cagliari, Ex Vetreria, 5 maggio 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019