A recent review of the research carried out over the past twenty years and more by the Department of Archaeology and History of Arts at the University of Siena made clear the vast amount of material that has been placed on the record for southern and central Tuscany, upward of 10500 sites (Francovich & Valenti 2001). Work in the field of archaeological cartography has been based on surface collection in sample areas and the stereoscopic analysis of vertical air photographs. Despite the encouraging results in these areas we feel that, the information available to us is still in some respects insufficient for a better understanding of the ancient and medieval landscapes of the area.

While some general trends seem quite clear, we still find great difficulty in tackling chronological periods such as pre-and proto-history, the Middle Empire and the High Medieval period. There are also specific historical problems that are central to our researches. We might point, for instance, to the decline of the great rural estates of the Roman period, the re-occupation of villa settlements in late antiquity and to the development of upland settlements (Francovich & Hodges 2003). In addition to this kind of problem there are others which call into question the landscape characteristic and the basic methods upon which our work has been based. In the case of field survey and surface collection the tightening of state regulations on the conservation of underground deposits is creating ever greater difficulties, both in the collection and in the interpretation of the evidence. In this regard, while there is truth in Tim Potter's assertion that the most productive period of research through surface collection had already come to an end in the late 1970s (Potter 1985), this has to some extent been contradicted by the achievements of more recent generations of research workers. The positive results of more recent work are attributable mainly to developments in the theory and application of the discipline (Cherry 1983). In the case of air photo analysis it is certainly true that the historical coverage of vertical photography constitutes an indispensable resource. But it is undeniable that the vertical coverage was collected for essentially non-archaeological purposes, without any consideration of the factors that influence the visibility of archaeological evidence when viewed from the air. In making these observations we do not in any way imply that we should altogether reject surface collection or the study of vertical air photographs, both of which remain among our most productive techniques for recognising little-known or previously undiscovered sites. But we must at the same time acknowledge the problems and to bring forward affective solutions. In order to face most of these problems, to improve the quantity and above all the quality of the archaeological record, and to both sharpen and broaden the scope of our researches, we established the Laboratory of Landscape Archaeology and Remote Sensing (LAP&T). The aim of the unit is the progressive introduction of remote earth observation systems, along with the enhancement of surface collection techniques through the application of new instruments and methods of data collection and documentation, for both the archaeological and the environmental records. Though still at the stage of 'work in progress' we are already putting into effect a new strategy of research. This is flexible, open-ended and based on the conviction that only through the integrated application of a wide range of research methods and information technology will we be able to confront the complexities inherent in the study of the landscapes of the past (Campana and Francovich 2003). Our approach is conceived as multi-scale, from the macro-environment (the region) through the local environment (the catchments area) to the point-environment (the individual site). We aim to be able to respond with varying degrees of refinement both to matters of conservation and to individual archeological or historical problems of a specifically scientific nature.

University of Siena at Grosseto -Italian WEB portal of Medieval Archaeology
Department of Archaeology and History of Arts -University of Siena

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