Making Landscape.

An archaeological landscape project and field school in Sant’Antioco, Sardinia


Contact: Jun. Prof. Dr. Constance von Rüden



View from Villaggio south-east
View from Villaggio south-east


For the first time in the summer of 2017, the landscape archaeological field project on Sant’Antioco, an island in the South-East of Sardinia, took place in cooperation with the cultural foundation “Il Calderone”. Specifically, in the southern portion of the island, in the area of the Plain of Canai, prehistoric and Nuragic structures are preserved in an astonishing density and therefore offer an almost ideal starting point for an investigation of a Nuragic micro-region and its settlement systems from the perspective of landscape archaeology. Here it was, and will be, possible for students to document vestiges of the so-called Nuragic culture and their structures in and around the Plain of Canai while also developing practical skills for the conduction of their own future independent research projects.


Aim and Method

A major focus of this project is to locate and identify prehistoric living- and ritual-quarters, as well as burial places. Another aim is the establishment of a chronological framework of these structures. Through large-scale surveys, prospections, remote sensing and excavations in and around the Plain of Canai, further insights will be gained about how the structural remains can be embedded into the environment and settlement-, use- and mobility-dynamics will be documented. In the coming years, the reconstruction of resource choices and the route network analysis will produce the basis for a practice theory approach to the experiences and the life way of the prehistoric groups living here.

Documentation of architecural structures of the Villagio
Documentation of architecural structures of the Villagio



In the course of the documentation of individual structures and landscapes, apart from classical field documentation, computer assisted methods will be the focus. Apart from the classical means of documentation in the field, computer-based methods are another focus for the analysis of single structures and whole landscapes. Thus, the features will not only be traditionally drawn, photographed and measured, but also documented in a digital surface model and 3D-documentations.


Drone flying for the 3D-Model

Campaign 2017: Gruttiacqua

Following a first examination of the area in 2016, a pilot study, supported by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, was initiated in summer of 2017. By then the research area had been limited to the immediate surroundings of Gruttiacqua, located at the south-western outskirts of the Plain of Canai. This area stood out because of its high number of architectural structures, which points to the possible interpretation of the area as a major agglomeration of the micro-region in prehistoric times. During a detailed survey in 2017, the extreme density of finds and good preservation of the so-called “villaggio” at its eastern fringe led to the concentration of work in that specific region and it was cleared from a dense cover of scrubs with the financial help of the commune of Sant’Antioco. An enclosing wall and multiple buildings in the inner parts of the plateau show parallels to Early / Middle Bronze Age, as well as Early Iron Age, sites on Sardinia. These structures with their technical similarities indicate a Nuragic building tradition. Moreover, surface finds have been dated up to the Middle Bronze Age (first half of the 2nd Mill. BCE), which permits us to allocate the site into a chronological context. Furthermore, in the direct vicinity a so-called giant’s tomb “Su Niu de Su Crobu”, a megalithic grave type during the Bronze Age, has been documented in detail.

Sardinien 6

Campaign 2018: Remote Sensing, Survey and Interviews

Thanks to the support of the project “Iglesiente” under the direction of Bärbel Morstadt, in the spring of 2018 it was possible to document some Nuragic sites on the Plain of Canai through aerial photography taken by Baoquan Song. This was advantageous, particularly in regard to the somewhat difficult accessibility of the buildings. In the course of the campaign in September the work on the so-called “villagio” was continued. With the support of the commune again the northern fringe of the plateau was also freed from the dense shrubs, documented, and integrated into the 3D-moddel generated in 2017. This context, as well as the surface findings from 2017 and 2018 were systematically recorded in the depots of the local Soprintendenz. In this way, two main utilisation phases could be identified, a Nuragic and a recent one. In addition, it was possible to carry out the first macroscopic differentiation of the used clay compositions during the Nuragic phases, which can be used as a basis for petrographic and a chemical analysis of samples taken this year. The latter are part of the master’s thesis by Marie Usadel in collaboration with the German Mining-Museum. The thesis aims to discuss potential local resources and the processing methods utilized in ceramic production.
In addition, thanks to the commitment by Barbora Weissova, a systematic survey was initiated in the modern agriculturally utilized Plain of Canai. Here, find spots from the (Sub)Ozieri-phase (Neolithic/Chalcolithic) up to Roman Times could be identified. Based on the concentration of finds, this approach aimed to gain a better understanding of the spacial arrangement of the find spots and the diachronic variations of the settlements. The significant contact with the owners of the fields and their families was enabled thanks to our partner, the cultural association “Il Calderone”. In this way, the society supported our work to a great extent and the project could not have be carried out without their help.

Systematic Survey 2018
Systematic Survey 2018


In the course of the work on-site additional selected Nuragic find spots were visited for prospection. These were, for instance: the Nuraghes Sa Pruna, Su Fraizzu, Gruttiacqua, Montarveddu, Porta Triga and Serra Nuarxis. When possible, with regard to the extent of preservation and vegetation, the architecture of their individual buildings was documented in sketches, photographs and descriptions. In addition, a first designation of the building material was generated, samples were taken, and material of reference collected. The comparison of the building material with local geology and the variability of the building material within one Nurage was of core interest. Based on this data, an audio-visual analysis of the Nuragic complexes on the Plain of Canai is the aim of the master thesis of Tim Klingenberg. The prospection and remote sensing of the plane of Canai was, in October 2018, supplemented by a LiDAR-scan of the southern section of the island, carried out by Airborne Technologies, which could be financed by the generous support of the Fondazione di Sardegna as well as further means of the Faculty of Historic Sciences. The scan will be interpreted in the next couple of months. Thanks to the RUB Research School Plus, it was possible to attend this work on-site.
Apart from the general aquisition of archaeological knowledge, the project on Sant’Antioco offers an opportunity to study and integrate the relationship between research and the interests of different fractions of the local population in the sense of a “community archaeology”. This specific approach is particularly suited to this project as it was originally initiated by the cultural foundation Il Calderone and thus the local actors were always the cornerstone of the undertaking. For this reason, a pilot study by Antonia Davidovic-Walter and Maja Gori was carried out who, in the sense of a qualitative approach, conducted interviews with function owners of the local commune, with employees of the local museum as well as with members of the cultural foundation Il Calderone. In this way, a better understanding for the interests, the motives and the ideas of the local partners shall be gained.


Constance von Rüden in collaboration with Tim Klingenberg, Kevin Spathmann and Marie Usadel