Patterns of land-use and human mobility in a time of climate changes



By design the In&Around project lies at the intersections between environmental history, historical climatology, and mobility studies set into the context of the European Middle Ages. It integrates different kind of dataset, i.e., historical/documentary texts, archaeological materials, and physical/natural proxy data, and combines climate reconstructions and the study of human history.
The project investigates central Italy between the 6th and 10th centuries, an area which represents one of the most important political and social laboratories in Western Europe for the target period, and researches:

  • how climate and environmental changes impact human behaviour and vice versa in the two micro-regions of Lucca and Rieti,
  • the interaction between climate and human agency, in the form of political decision making on the environment, people, and workforce’s relocation.

The outcomes are significant in that new proxy data from lake sediments will make available for the scientific community. More importantly, through an effort towards a conceptual sophistication in the study of the human-climate interactions, and especially of the migration-climate change nexus, new interpretative categories of the non-linear links between climate variability and patterns of human mobilities will be developed.

In & Around


The In&Around project aims to fill a major gap in current scholarship on past climate variability and change, where an uneven temporal focus is observable and Italy in the early Middle Ages has so far received little coverage.

Moreover, it aims to bring a contribution to the many challenges of interdisciplinary research, by testing best practices and putting into dialogue historians and hard scientists and their diverse research portfolios.

The method is tested in the two micro-regions of Lucca and Rieti, in central Italy, where the consistency of coherent series of written records and proxy data from newly extracted lake sediments, now under examination, is promising. 

Events and activities

May 2022 - Field work: Lucca plain

The In&Around project is configured as an integral part of the Combining Historic and Ecologic Archives to Understand Past Environmental Change project, financed by the USA National Science Foundation (NSF) and based at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). Thanks to the NSF initiative in May 2022 a core drilling campaign has been conducted in the area of the Lucca Palin. Lake sediment cores have been collected in two localities. The first core was taken from the Natural Reserve Lago di Sibolla, in the province of Lucca within the Commune of Altopascio. The second core was taken in the protected natural area of the Bottaccio Oasis, in the Province of Lucca within the Commune of Capannori. The cores are now under examination by the research team based at UNR.  

17-19/05/2022 - Workshop "Between land use and environmental change: history, climate, and paleoecology of medieval Italy and beyond", Pisa (Italy)

This workshop comes towards the mid of the project. It is open to all, staff, graduate students, and the public at large. It brings together scholars across disciples, historians, archeologists, geographers, paleoecologists, geologists, climatologists, and forestry specialist. It aims at face a number of challenges which the interdisciplinary research still faces. These range from miscommunication among scholars owing to the use of different vocabulary, scales, methods, and perspectives, to the overall lack of proper epistemological devices. Overcoming miscommunication is fundamental to go beyond oversimplistic explanations of complex sociocultural phenomena, where anthropogenetic and climatic factors interact in non-linear ways.

25/04/2023 - Open event "Observation and experience in late antique and early medieval Mediterranean environments", Reno (USA)

This open lecture comes towards the end of the out-going phase of the project. It is open to all, staff, teachers and graduate students of the University of Nevada, Reno, and the citizenships. It brings to Reno prof. Helen Foxhall Forbes of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. Prof. Helen Foxhall Forbes is the principal investigator of the ERC project SSE1K: Science, Society and Environmental Change in the First Millennium CE. The SSE1K project explores the environmental and climatic changes that have been identified as causes for societal and political processes and events in the Mediterranean in the first millennium CE. It holds, therefore, intersectional aspects with the In&Around project. The event is the perfect venue for discussion on the growing interest in climate variability and change in past and present societies which recent decades have witnessed in scholarly research and the public opinion alike.


Annamaria Pazienza

Principal investigator

Davide Zanchettin

Supervisor at Ca’ Foscari

Edward Schoolman

Outgoing phase supervisor

The In&Around project has been developed in collaboration with the University of Nevada - Reno and the research team associated to the Combining Historic and Ecologic Archives to Understand Past Environmental Change project, sponsored by the USA National Science Foundation (NSF) and run by Scott Mensing (Principal Investigator), Adam Csank (Co-Principal Investigator) and Edward Schoolman (Co-Principal Investigator).