Conference about pastoralism in Ancient Greece

By Paul Halstead, professor of Archeology at the University of Sheffield, on 9th February, at 12 pm in the ICAC


Paul Halstead, professor of Archeology at the University of Sheffield (England), will offer the lecture ” Transdisciplinary Studies of Pastoralism in Ancient Greece”, on 9th February, at 12 pm in the ICAC (Institut Català d’Arqueologia Clàssica), in Tarragona. This event is organized by ICAC, ICRPC (Institut Català de recerca en Patrimoni Cultural) and IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoeoclogia Humana I Evolució Social) (SUMA Project).

Paul Halstead

Paul Halstead studied archaeology at Cambridge University, where the teaching of Tony Legge and Andrew Sherratt inspired an interest in pastoralism. He has conducted archaeological and zooarchaeological research in Greece and ethnoarchaeological study of traditional animal and crop husbandry in Greece and other parts of Mediterranean Europe.


As elsewhere in Mediterranean Europe (and beyond), the (pre)history of pastoralism in Greece has been widely debated, and different scholars have claimed early pastoralism at dates which range from the Neolithic (or even the Upper Palaeolithic) to the Medieval period. In part, this lack of consensus has been due to the limitations of the evidence deployed: sparse and ambiguous written sources and remote archaeological ‘proxies’ such as site location, apparent impermanence of settlement, and long-distance similarities of material culture.

Today, macroscopic zooarchaeological data, stable isotopes, dental microwear, micromorphology and so on provide much more direct measures of human subsistence, the seasonality of settlement, animal diet, and the movement of people, animals and artefacts. Our dramatically improved archaeological methodology will produce few answers, however, until we can agree what our question is – what do we mean by ‘pastoralism’?

Prof. Halstead will address this last question by describing three overlapping, recent forms of animal husbandry in Greece: specialized pastoralism, large-scale mixed agro-pastoral farming, and small-scale mixed farming. He will then use these three models to interpret the available evidence for ‘pastoralism’ in Neolithic, Late Bronze Age and Classical Greece. Although Greece (modern and ancient) serves as a case study, both the models proposed and their tentative application should broadly be relevant to other parts of Mediterranean Europe.


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