About the project

The project originates from the consideration that the space which surrounds us and with which we continuously interact, is not a static entity. It is the result of the complex relations and influences of humans (and their cultures), animals and landscapes. Material and tangible results of such interactions (which often involve many more variables than the above outlined) are normally reshaped, repurposed, obliterated, damaged or endangered in view of the “development” of certain areas. However, sometimes, past standing structures become iconic elements of the landscape of which they are part, in a certain spontaneous monumentalisation process, as almost fossil or fossilized built landscapes. Their embodiment the surrounding landscape is such that their presence is often underestimated, misinterpreted or simply ignored.

The tendency to neglect past built environments, even when their construction on hardly accessible mountainous spots enhances their value as cultural heritage, is provoked (and paradoxically it provokes as well) and is favoured by the ignorance of their aetiology: what is this structure; has it always been like this; who built it; why was it built and why here; is anybody still using it; how often and for what reason/s? Following on Knapp and Ashmore assertion, landscape is “an entity by virtue of its being perceived, experienced, and contextualized by people”. If the interdependent relationships that people maintain with the physical, social, and cultural dimensions of their environments across space and over time are broken, the landscape itself loses its cultural identity and, more important, a page of history and culture of mountain people is lost. The ambition of the proposed research is to bridge the gap of the modern knowledge about abandoned mountainous villages, moving between traditional geomorphic views of landscape to more phenomenological or cultural perspective with solid ethnographical bases. The relationship between people and land is always active and dynamic. It involves something “done with” the environment, not something “done to” it. This is a sort of taphonomic perspectives, applied to the study of landscapes, where the evolution of landscape “participates in necessarily interlinked cultural and natural processes”. At the same time, landscape structure must be identified and quantified in meaningful ways before the interactions between landscape patterns and ecological processes can be understood. Most landscapes have been influenced by human land use, and the resulting landscape mosaic is a mixture of natural and human-managed patches that vary in size, shape, and arrangement.
Project sections


Project development and
next steps


Photographic exhibition
(August 2017)


Rethymno, October 3-4, 2017
Institute for Mediterranean Studies


Fieldwork's activity diary... and more


Collection of images from fieldwork


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Nikiforou Foka, 130
74100 - Rethymno (Crete, Greece)


Gianluca Cantoro
Institute for Mediterranean Studies
+30 28310 56627