Human Occupation of Mountain Environments

Federica FONTANA
President
Xavier MANGADO LLACH
Secretary

Mountain archaeology is a branch of archaeological research which investigates the interaction between human communities and mountain landscapes in different periods. The rapid development of mountain archaeology is related to the recent acknowledgment that high-elevation landscapes have played an important, sometimes pivotal, role in shaping major processes in human (pre)history.

Mountains are special habitats, and for millennia they are the home of human societies with a multitude of adaptations taking advantage of the high biodiversity of these unique environments. Mountains cover about 25 per cent of the global land surface. High reliefs and high gradients make the mountain ecosystems vulnerable to even slight changes in temperature and precipitation, and range them among the most sensitive ecosystems on a global scale. Mountain archaeology is a branch of archaeological research which investigates the interaction between human communities and mountain landscapes and environments in different periods and places of the world.

Although archaeological investigations of European and non-European mountains have taken place for the whole 20th century, the first interdisciplinary and diachronic projects specifically focused on the study of mountain areas started just a few decades ago. Today, numerous projects are being carried out in different mountain regions around the globe, and archaeological methodologies are continuing to be calibrated and adapted to the characteristics of mountain landscapes and environments.

A group of people gather together for a photograph.

The HOME Commission aims to develop and promote the knowledge about past human groups who inhabited mountain environments in any region of the Earth. The rapid development of mountain archaeology is related to the recent acknowledgement that high-elevation landscapes have played an important, sometimes pivotal, role in shaping major processes in human (pre)history such as large-scale migrations, domestication of animals and plants, exploitation of mountain resources, and novel adaptations to mountain environments.

Among the many topics which are playing a major role in the discussion focused on the role of mountain areas for the development of past societies are the following:

  • The timing of the first human exploitation and occupation of mountain environments in different parts of the world and the reasons behind them
  • The reconstruction of the topographically driven pathways within mountains and their use throughout time
  • The gradual spread of agricultural activities such as transhumance and summer farming into mountain environments
  • The exploitation of the wide variety of natural resources offered by mountain environments, i.e. pastures, grasslands, wild game, fish, lithic and mineral materials, chalk and copper, etc.
  • The transformations of human occupation and exploitation of mountain areas due to climatic changes
  • The role of mountain areas as sacred places i.e. physical attractors of symbolic values throughout time

The HOME Commission aims to promote the development of mountain archaeology with all its related topics by a global perspective.

Research and publications

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IMC Conference

Innsbruck, 11-15th September 2022. Two sessions have been organised by members of the HOME Commission: the first one by Federica Fontana, Xavier Mangado Llach and Martin Callanan focused on “Social strategies and rituality in ancient mountain landscapes (FS 63-I; the second one by Francesco Carrer focused on “GIS issues technologies in mountain environments”.

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Oxford Handbook of Mountain Archaeology

2021-2023 – The Handbook, coordinated by the HOME members F. Carrer, F. Fontana, H. Saul, P. della Casa S. Reinholds and M. Callanan, is a timely opportunity to engage in syntheses on the results of prominent research projects in mountain archaeology and progress the long-standing theoretical misconception of marginality by presenting the richness of datasets from global mountain ranges.

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UISPP Meknes

Organization of two sessions at the XXI UISPP Congress|September 2021|Two sessions: S21-A: “Climatic changes and human occupation of mountain environments in prehistoric and protohistoric times” which received 7 contributions; “S21-B: Mountain Africa: prehistoric peoples and palaeoenvironments” which received 6 contributions.

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Members

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Martin CALLANAN
Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet (Norway)
Federica FONTANA
Università degli Studi di Ferrara (Italy)
Xavier MANGADO LLACH
Universitat de Barcelona (Spain)
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Giuseppina MUTRI
Università degli Studi di Firenze (Italy)
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Francesco RUBAT BOREL
Istituto Italiano di Preistoria e Protostoria (Italy)
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Brian A. STEWART
University of Michigan (United States)