PPI: The Phoenicians and the Punic in Ibiza (7th- 2nd century B.C). Archaeological heritage and spatial modelling

The Ibizan Archaeological Heritage and spatial modeling

This project is conducted within the call for projects Thematic Strategic Action Heritage of the Toulouse IDEX. This multidisciplinary project is a reflection on the reception of the Phoenician-Punic heritage of Ibiza and Formentera (also known as Pityusic Islands). It also seeks to explore the archaeological heritage in order to understand the way in which the Phoenicians and Punic made the territory their own throughout the ages. For this purpose, we are conducting a spatial modelling experiment based on archaeological documentation. This project is conducted by Corinne Bonnet, Professor of History at the University of Toulouse, Carlos Gómez Bellard, Professor of Punic Archaeology at the University of Valencia and myself, postdoc at the University of Toulouse.

Territory, organisation, networks: objectives and scientific problems

The territories of Ibiza and Formentera have been the subject of numerous archaeological investigations. This project fits into a dynamic of research to complete and enrich preceding studies, using dialogue between archaeologists in order to obtain an ever more refined and complete picture of Phoenician-Punic settlement. On the scale of Phoenician studies, the project fits into the movement of renewal nuancing the common image of Phoenician sailors and merchants, and focusing on the Phoenician and Punic territories, to their habits regarding land use, organisation and cultivation. But we are equally interested in the place archaeological heritage holds in the Ibizan context, in the way it is conserved, studied and valued.

More specifically, our aim is to take stock of the archaeological sites as a whole, including the material and structures associated with them. We study their dispersal on the island, identify the types of sites and evaluate their relative importance in order to reveal the networks of interaction between them. These networks are an open window into the territorial workings and the structure of territories, from the first settlement (Sa Caleta) to the arrival of the Romans. Using networks for spatial analysis is a promising approach, as it allows us to raise several questions:

  • in regards to the movement of men and goods: how are the sites and goods distributed on the island? What is the logic behind distributions? What are the circulation axes that connect the sites between themselves?
  • In regards to cultivation, production and territory control: what strategies do the networks of interaction highlight?
  • in regards to trading: what types of goods are discovered (food products, local creations, imported materials)? Which trade connections exist between Ibiza and the exterior? What do these trade materials say about Ibizan culture and identity?

Furthermore, the restitution of the networks will be compared to paleoenvironmental findings to register and interpret the networks in their environment. Finally, the nature of relations that the communities that settled weave with their environment is also interesting to us.

The insular territory provides the advantage of having clear physical limitations, but it is far from being an isolate and our study covers the Mediterranean dimension of Ibiza and Formentera. They have been tightly linked to the Iberian Peninsula, to Carthage and Sardinia in particular, as a strategic point for western Mediterranean networks. Each of the questions that we ask during the spatial analysis is thus developed regarding the whole island, the Punic sphere and the Mediterrane. By working with these networks and scales, our study seeks to grasp the dynamism of the Ibiza of the past. We also seek to reproduce the complexity of the intra and inter insular relations of Ibiza. The tools employed are indeed capable of taking into account a wide number of criteria for analysis at the same time and not simply the allocation of a certain type of material or cultural aspect.

The tools used for spatial analysis at the service of historical study

For some months, we have been working with the University’s MSHS on the design of a management system of archaeological data (ArchéoDATA): we mean to build a database serving as a stock-take of archaeological heritage: enumeration, localisation, interpretation, state of preservation of Phoenician and Punic remains. It will also serve to classify, harmonise and facilitate comparison of data. So far, 125 sites compose the inventors: concentration of ceramic, surface remains, excavated sites, mainly necropolises, farms and sanctuaries. We also have paleoenvironmental information for some parts of the island (in the northeast region for example, explored by a Valencian team in the 2000’s that was working on the question of settlement).

We will equally use multivariate statistical analysis. Put in place to define profiles of the sites, to evaluate the degree of similarities or differences between them, they can include many criteria, such as the presence of a certain type of material or structure, its quantity and quality, the evaluated surface of the site, etc. They can also be used to establish a typology and the relative hierarchyzation of the sites without any recourse to traditional archaeological categories (city, village, etc.) to obtain a different perspective on the corpus.

Another major tool in our study is spatial modelling, something which is not frequently used and is underestimated in Phoenician studies. Using a spatial model in order to simulate territorial functioning allows us to formulate hypothesis regarding the organisation of the sites with eachothers, and to test Gómez Bellard’s and Van Dommelen’s theory about the existence of a control process and centralisation of the island’s agricultural products by the town of Eivissa and to study the articulation of inland areas with the coastline and ports. At the moment we envisage the use of a gravity model but, if findings prove to be rich enough, we can consider using more complex models. What’s more, we reflect upon the calibration of networks, meaning the evaluation, wherever possible, of the nature and volume of the interactions.

All in all, our project uses a different approach with the objective of use and test different tools, explore new research perspectives in order to enrich our knowledge of the island’s past, of the Phoenicians and Punic, and how they occupied space. The combination of these different tools is equally unprecedented in the study of Ibizan archaeological heritage. The results will be crossed with those obtained from preceding studies with the use of Thiessen polygon in particular.

Heritage, history and validation: the challenges of our project

The challenges of the project were numerous as it stretches across different research areas. The first has to do with heritage. Our project consists in the promotion of the traces of the past taken as means to learn about the island’s past history in opposition of this heritage as a petrified one, as it is commonly apprehended. We look at them from a scientific perspective, in the dynamic of research carried out mainly from the 1980’s onwards, which contributed towards revealing ancient occupation on the Pityusic Islands. With this aim, we work with the University of Valencia (Spain), where specialists on Ibiza C. Gómez Bellard and Enrique Dies Cusi as well as paleoenvironmental specialists such as Pilar Carmona are based.

Our project falls within the dynamic of the museum and the municipalities wishing to promote their heritage. Their policy thus led the sites of Sa Caleta and Puig des Molins necropolis to be both designated a UNESCO World Heritage in 1999. We are currently working on establishing partnerships with them, by suggesting to diffuse the results of our study to the islanders and tourists. This would be a way of bringing the project into the present and the development of dynamic cultural tourism, without neglecting the way in which archaeological heritage is received. The context is such that 90% of the islands livelihood comes from mass tourism, which has created an industrialisation of pleasure under the label Ibiza brand.. However, within this process, a certain interest in the past of the island has come to light, tinted by the quest for the origins and search for an Ibizan identity which is not simply related to the party lifestyle. From the Phoenician-Punic strategies regarding the occupation of space, our questions focus on the contemporary strategies of preservation, usage, or the reconstruction of Phoenician-Punic relics in Ibiza.

The project is ambitious, linking both the past of the insular and its reception in a modern context where both a tendency towards heritage and touristic industrialisation exist simultaneously. If it hopes to enrich our knowledge of Phoenician and Punic cultures, it oversteps the strict border of Phoenician studies because of certain problems which cover the question of insularity and that of the Mediterranean dimension of the Pityusic Islands. The original approach chosen for the study, however, refers to the global reflection of digital humanities, in other words, on the use of new information tools in relation to human sciences.

Elodie Guillon

Université de Toulouse, UTJJ, PLH-ERASME,

5 Allées Antonio Machado. 31000 Toulouse, France


Citer ce billet
Élodie Guillon (2016, 8 mai). PPI: The Phoenicians and the Punic in Ibiza (7th- 2nd century B.C). Archaeological heritage and spatial modelling. Phéniciens et Puniques à Ibiza. Consulté le 28 mai 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/szy3

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