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Landscapes of Complex Society: Research and Impact Group

The Team

Prof Graham Philip

Dr Kristen Hopper

The Upper Sangro Valley

About Us

Landscapes of Complex Society (LCS) is a RIG of global significance generating essential research on aspects of landscape archaeology associated with ancient complex societies. Current activity includes research on the different expressions of early urbanism (link to Early complex societies in the Levant), the impact of ancient empires the wider landscape (Link to Tiber Valley), the idea of powerscapes (link to Bagendon), and work on religious landscapes (link to Natal Landscape of the Buddha Phases I, II and III). The RIG is actively involved in field projects (link to Nile Delta Survey Project)  and makes extensive use of remote sensing to identify and interpret extensive trends in settlement and landscape change, such as the emergence of imperial landscape signatures in Asia (link to Persia Project), with the Informatics Laboratory (link to Informatics Lab page) providing a key resource.  New projects on slavery and inequality in Europe and the global south are opening-up research possibilities on colonialised landscapes in the Africa and Americas (Link to Cacheu Archaeological Project).

We are generating important new evidence on palaeoclimates and past landscape productivity (link to The CLaSS Project), investigating responses to risks and hazards in the past (link to Medieval and post-medieval earthquakes in Europe) and the present (link to Seismic Safety and Kathmandu’s Historic Urban Infrastructure).  Our fieldwork and major datasets drive the work of the Heritage Partnerships RIG (link to Heritage Partnerships RIG) in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) and South Asia, and have been fundamental to the delivery of in-country collaborations for heritage-protection through documentation and training these regions.  

Cross-RIG synergies are creating important new research opportunities. The combination of landscape research with materials analysis is illuminating the organisation of commercial networks and the sharing of technical knowledge (link to Ceramics), while isotopic analysis is clarifying the movement of tin across Europe and the Middle east during the Bronze Age, and (link to Project Tin and the relationships between early polities, territoriality and the movement of people and livestock and in the Levant (link to A multi-isotope base map for Jordan). Investigations of places and communities in Europe also provide links between the LCS RIG and both Northern Communities (link Yeavering: A Palace in its Landscape) and Prehistoric Worlds (links New approaches to visual imagery and monumentality in late prehistoric Europe).

Building on this foundation, the LCS RIG seeks to undertake research that will rethink narratives around major episodes of change in human communities, and to collect and analyse exciting new primary data through innovative programmes of problem-oriented field and laboratory-based research.


Our plans for 2021-22 include research seminars by members of the RIG  on topics such as past responses to risk and hazard, and on insights to be gained by reassessing legacy datasets using new techniques), as well as contributions from external speakers.  We also plan to hold workshops that will bring together research from multiple RIGs.  These will address past human and animal mobility (LCS and Bioarchaeology), and the role of landscape research in shaping policy.  We aim to cascade technical knowledge through training sessions on using Google Earth Engine, and R for data analysis.  We also host a monthly student-led reading group which is open to everyone with an interest in themes related to archaeological landscapes.