Catherine Parker (University of Birmingham)
Rosetta: Papers of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, Issue 1 (2007)
People far removed from all things Greek might just about be forgiven for thinking that Arkadia is perhaps not a real place at all. In many people’s minds it looms large as an imaginary, idealized landscape, a paradise treated as such by Virgil in the 1st Century BCE, employed as the backdrop of landscape paintings by Poussin in the 18th Century and still the subject of modern novels about journeys to paradise. This view would not be wrong but, unlike the comparable Elysian, Arkadian ‘fields’ are tangible and can be visited in person. It is a region of both modern and ancient Greece, the landscapes of which deserve a reappraisal. This paper attempts to do just that, during a period that raises questions regarding continuity and change; the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (c.1600-800 BCE). This involves using a post-processual, interpretive approach, which employs an empathic view of landscape – an approach perhaps more at home in British prehistoric archaeology.
Located in the central Peloponnese, Arkadia has received relatively little attention archaeologically compared to other areas of Greece. This has been the case particularly for the LBA and EIA, although the 1990s saw a plethora of surveys take place which, due to their diachronic nature have provided evidence for the period in question. Nonetheless, much of the archaeological work in Arkadia (as in the rest of Greece) has been motivated by a desire to illustrate well known ancient literary sources, concerned with individual sites and well-known periods, for example the temple of Bassae, Mantinea, Megalopolis, Tegea and Stymphalos. That these sites were located in Arkadia was hardly relevant.