Defining boundaries: a GIS-based approach to the Sardinian Bronze Age

Francesca Cadeddu


This paper introduces a spatial statistical analysis in a GIS environment on the settlement patterns of the Nuragic civilisation, a long-lasting culture that existed in Sardinia (Italy) from the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1600 BC) to the First Iron Age (ca. 800 BC). The aim is to perform a test of the major theory proposed by scholars concerning the Nuragic civilisation, the cantonal system theory, a hierarchical settlement organisation according to which, during the Bronze Age, Sardinia was divided in regional polities, partitioned in districts called cantoni.
In this paper the focus will be especially on settlement patterns with the purpose to assess the existence of these polities finding their territorial boundaries, as a necessary first step for the reconstruction of the socio-economic context of the Nuragic civilisation. GIS and spatial statistical analyses (i.e. Thiessen Polygons and Viewshed Analysis) are used to examine a sample area, represented by the historical region of Gallura, located in the northeastern part of Sardinia.
The method created allows for the first time to validate the existence, during the Sardinian Bronze Age, of territorial systems formed by interconnected communities, and to identify defined boundaries for these systems. The results provide new data on the Nuragic civilisation through the identification of overall common attributes in the settlement and economic strategies of these territorial systems, with some specific variances according to different environmental conditions. This research builds the foundation to analyse and reconstruct the exploitation strategies of the natural resources carried out by these Nuragic communities, creating also a provisional model of their demographic capacity.