Dissertation Defense: Economy and Environment in Complex Societies: A Case Study from Bronze Age Sardinia
During the Sardinian Middle Bronze Age, a Nuragic community (ca. 1700-1450) built sixteen monumental structures on the Siddi Plateau in the south-central part of the island. Evidence provided by excavation and survey suggests that the leaders or incipient elites of this community probably had difficulty controlling non-elite labor due to low population densities and the availability of mobility as a form of resistance to elite demands. These powerful leaders or incipient elites were forced into strategies of motivation and reward to secure the cooperation of non-elites. During the course of the Middle Bronze Age, the leaders of the Siddi Plateau settlement system increasingly focused their production on elite foods - wheat and pigs - which may have led to agricultural extensification and possibly some experiments with intensification. The Mediterranean climate may also have been experiencing a drying event during the Middle Bronze Age, which would have made agriculture even more difficult given the poorly-developed hydrology of the Siddi region. The settlement system of the Siddi Plateau was abandoned by the end of the Middle Bronze Age, possibly led by the incipient elites for whom access to water and more productive agricultural land to support their political economy had become a more important source of power than the symbolism of monumental dwellings on a high plateau.