Central Places in un-central Landscapes. The Tuscany of “weak-Towns” between Lombards and Carolingians (AD 600- 900)
By Carlo Citter
Medieval Europe Paris 2007, 4th International Congress of Medieval and Modern Archaeology (2007)
Summary: Recent researches have pointed out two different paths of early medieval landscape shaping in Tuscany related to the role and the status of towns. Southern Tuscany is commonly called a land of weak-towns, just because most of former roman towns disappeared or reduced their power and wealth, although still maintaining central place functions.
This influenced much the shaping of landscape and the structure of rural communities. Many of the former foci (villas and villages) were replaced by new ones, the plain was partially replaced by the hilltop. But this is not all but the truth. Some old rural central places played a role in the centuries between the Lombard invasion of that area (ca. 570) and the Carolingians. Some other changed their position in the hierarchy. Some new were settled but in the planes (like Grosseto that got the full heritage of the roman town of Roselle only in the 12th century). Not all of them were successful.
Sites that would have apparently the same chances in – say – the 9th century, had different paths in the 12th. New aristocracies replaced the old ones. This produced new approaches both in landowning and showing social status. So this paper aims to focus all these themes, presenting brand new and partially unpublished data and a new reading of old ones focusing on the special feature of the weak role of towns.