Frontiers are dynamic zones of resistance and negotiation, places where local actors live and respond to the political and economic fluctuations of expanding states. Research on Europe’s frontier zones in the historic past has immediate relevance to the modern economic and political landscape, where the expansion of transnational markets is creating new and dynamic frontier zones. However, most academic research takes a top-down approach to studying the world’s great empires, overlooking the local experience of living in the empires’ frontiers. Because of this, archaeologists and historians alike have a difficult time talking about the impact of state expansion on local populations and the ways it affects the patterning of material culture. We are left with questions like: How was community organization shaped by state expansion? How did inter-community networks respond when incorporated into larger economic systems? How did resistance unite or divide communities living in these frontiers? How did living in a frontier affect the formation and maintenance of identity?

EUROFRONT uses a four-field methodology (archaeology, history, geomatics, and ethnography) to study the local experience of living in frontier zones. Combining data from a variety of sources, the project looks for patterning in settlement structures and interconnections that reflect the social and economic organization of each region. By mapping the location of different features, taking into consideration variables like population and agricultural production, and using spatial and statistical analyses to measure the network’s properties, interpretations can be made about the inhabitants’ relationships with each other and with state powers. The study provides insights into how frontier communities are shaped by the process of state expansion from an economical, social, political, and environmental perspective.

The project has three main objectives:

Objective 1: To collect the core archaeological data for the study regions in Crete and Dalmatia through remote-sensing analysis and archaeological/ethnographic fieldwork. The starting point for EUROFRONT is the archaeological record, the physical traces of human activity that are imprinted on the landscape through repeated activity, construction, destruction, and use. At the regional scale, this activity can be detected in the coalescence of habitation (settlements), the long-term and repeated use of certain paths of movement (pathways), and the reification of perceived spatial boundaries reflecting property ownership and use (field boundaries)—all of which will be recorded through remote-sensing analysis and fieldwork.

Objective 2: To identify and gather historical data on climate, agricultural productivity, and taxation from imperial archives (Ottoman, Venetian, Habsburg) and historical climate databases: namely, tax registers, land surveys, censuses, and climate records. These sources include detailed first-hand accounts of the demography and agricultural economy of the regions from the 16th through 19th centuries. The data will be essential for understanding the links between climate, crop choice, settlement mobility, and population change over time.

Objective 3: To use these data as a window into the social, economic, and environmental experience of rural landscapes at the edge of expanding state systems. EUROFRONT frames the changes that took place in the case studies (in terms of demography, settlement location, acts of resistance, responses to taxation, etc.) within the changing political, economic, and environmental contexts of expanding states. The datasets compiled for the project will be analysed with GIS and SNA to identify meaningful statistical patterns in population distribution and connection, which reflect aspects of political, economic, and social organisation. The interpretive phase will be based on a rich theoretical model the researcher began developing during her dissertation research. The resulting interpretations will provide a critical contribution to our understanding of the silenced frontier.