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 Full Ph.D student Matteo Cantisani

My Thesis is in:

 Re-evaluating cultural change in Bronze Age Italy: materiality, interactions and identity in Sicily, c. 2000-1500 BC

Thesis Description:

This project will generate an endogenous perspective on cultural changes in Early and Middle Bronze Age Sicily, which ‘colonialist’ scholarship has linked to long-distance networks of artefact exchanges. My research will examine the role of local contexts, hitherto poorly analysed, having been studied only as typologically defined clusters of ceramics loosely entangled by their social dimension. By questioning the significance of acculturation in transferring technical knowledge, this project will explore the extent to which the emergence of social complexity in Middle Bronze Age Sicily depended on local cultural changes that occurred during the Early Bronze Age. Such key processes, easily undetectable if addressed only by analysing exotica or stylistic patterns of vessels, will be illuminated by examining pots as products of technological choices and social practices that underlay indigenous cultural dynamics within local traditions. Were these traditions able to produce, transmit and reproduce technical knowledge independently of external influences? To what extent did local interactions trigger innovative behaviors potentially affecting cultural changes?

Studies of Aegean influences in Bronze Age Sicilian groups are copious but understanding cultural change both as a consequence of, and independently of them is crucial for a thorough assessment of the social complexity in such boundary contexts. Recent studies have only superficially explored their identities as clusters of typologically homogeneous artefacts. Analysis of the technological choices embedded in the chaine operatoire of ceramic productions will offer scope to explore the formation of such materiality in terms of cognitive aspects and technical practices. My work to-date has involved the study of 800 potsherds from the Bronze Age site of Pantelleria alongside its settlement development, plus petrographic analysis of 30 samples. I identified two fabric groups which differ in composition, technical properties, and use: one was used in shaping cooking pots, in fine tableware the other (Cantisani 2016). These preliminary results show the investigation of contexts of large, well-interconnected communities can provide optimal resolution for detecting technological choices as embedded in transferable knowledge packages

Extending this procedure to pots from comparable Sicilian sites, alongside analysis of their spatial organization and sampling of nearby clay sources, will enable me to question patterns of local networks of technological transfer between groups during the Early and Middle Bronze Ages

My scientific research will impact strongly on current understanding of the socio-cultural changes and significance of acculturation in boundary contexts by proposing a timely re-evaluation of culture change in Sicily. Besides, I will offer a methodological framework applicable by other scholars to comparable contexts across the Mediterranean, where issues of endogenous development and acculturation are being debated.


Supervisors and Institution(s): 

University of Leicester: Dr. Ian Whitbread and Dr. Oliver H

University of Nottingham: Prof. Mark Pearce


  • CANTISANI, M. (2016) - An indigenous pottery production strategy in the Bronze Age site of Mursia, Pantelleria, Italy. Perspectives on social complexity and indigenous interaction patterns. In DELFINO, D. [et al.] (eds.) Archaeometry approaches regard the study of networs of trade in raw materials and technological innovations in prehistory and proto-history. Proceedings of the 17 UISPP World Congress (1-7 September 2014, Burgos, Spain), pp.51-68.

  • CANTISANI, M. (2015) – Le capanne B3 e B9 dell’abitato dell’età del Bronzo di Mursia (Pantelleria). IpoTesi di preistoria 7: pp. 49-70.

  • BELTRAME, M.; CANTISANI, M. (2014) - Onde o olho não chega para ver: microscopia da cerâmica pré-histórica. In DELFINO, D.; PORTOCARRERO, G, (eds.) 8.000 anos a transformar o barro, cerâmicas do M.I.A.A., catalogo da Antevisão VI do Museu Ibérico de Arqueologia e Arte. Câmara Municipal de Abrantes: Abrantes.

  • GARBASI , F. , CANTISANI , M. (2013) - Archaeology of the Present . Comparing experiences and proposal for a model of development.  Antrope, 0 , pp. 376-384 , Pre - history center of IPT: Tomar.

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Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


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Other Research Interests:

  • Mediterranean prehistory
  • Bronze-Early Iron Age Italy
  • Aegean prehistory
  • Pottery
  • Communities of practices, social learning and interaction


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