Principal investigators: Dr Keith Wilkinson, Dr Marcos Llobera (University of Washington, Seattle) and Prof. Michel Claude Weiss (UniversitÃ di Corsica). Co-investigators: Dr Nick Branch (Royal Holloway, University of London), Jay Flaming (University of Washington, Seattle), Dr Nathalie Marini and Dr Sylvain Mazet.
La Balagne is the name given to that part of the north-west corner of Corsica demarcated by the towns of l'Ile Rousse, Calvi, GalÃ©ria and Ponte Lecchia. It is an area of contrasting topography, comprising an 8km wide coastal plain with mountains rising to a maximum height of 2706m (at Monte Cinto) to the south and west. La Balagne Landscape Project is investigating this study area using archaeological survey techniques developed elsewhere in the Mediterranean region and North America. These include extensive survey (walking long-distance transects), intensive survey (fieldwalking and detailed investigation of randomly generated sample points), as well geomorphological survey.
In common with most Mediterranean islands, Corsica was only settled by humans within the last 10,000 years. The earliest archaeological sites in Corsica are of Mesolithic date but the Neolithic period (photo - a Neoliothic dolmen in northern Corsica) saw a florescence of human activity. Presently available data suggest a gradual movement of people into the interior of the island.
By the end of the Bronze Age, the entire coastal strip had been settled and the nature of settlement itself had changed from the open 'lowland' sites of the Neolithic to the defended hilltop enclosures which are known from the early Iron Age. This narrative is however based almost entirely on the excavation of relatively few well known archaeological sites, while the reasons for changes in the settlement pattern have not been explored. La Balagne Landscape Project was initiated in 2005 to systematically address these issues for one part of Corsica. Three pilot seasons of fieldwork have took place between 2005 and 2007, while the main phase of survey took place in 2008 and 2009.
Studies were undertaken under a Conservatoire d'ArchÃ©ologie permit. Fieldwork was carried out by field teams of undergraduate and graduate students from the three universities, together with students from other universities taking part in the University of Washington Field School. Post-fieldwork analytical work takes place in Corte (Corsica), Seattle, Winchester and at Royal Holloway. Chronological control is provided by radiocarbon dating and tephrachronological studies (the latter at RHUL).
An accompanying palaeoenvironmental programme investigates the vegetation and landscape history by studying sediment sequences in three coastal lagoons: Piana di l'Olmu, Etang de Crovani and Baie d'Ostriconi (photo - students drilling boreholes in Crovani, using a petrol-powered percussive auger). Sedimentological analysis of cores recovered from these lagoons will enable the impact of people on the environment to be determined, natural vegetation and sea level changes to be reconstructed and the spread of malarial swamp to be tracked through time.
Fieldwork and analytical study on La Balagne Landscape Project has been financially supported by the Department of Archaeology, University of Winchester; the British Academy; the Ville de Calvi; the UniversitÃ di Corsica and the University of Washington Royalties Research Fund.