Resilience and adaptation to volcanoes in Late Middle Ages in Lipari island (Aeolian, Italy)

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Maria Clara Martinelli
Marco Manni
Mauro Coltelli



 Volcanic activity resumed during early Middle Ages times at Lipari following at least 6000 years of quiescence. This phenomenon occurred in a social context that had continuously developed from prehistoric times to the Roman age and was burdened by a demographic crisis that involved the archipelago between the 6th and 11th century AD. The rare archaeological records relating to the 6th - 11th centuries suggest abrupt changes in the population of the islands. The medieval sources are rich in religious and fantastic references to volcanic events linked to Lipari and Vulcano, testifying the uneasy condition for the human communities. This work concerns the resilience and adaptation of the communities to volcanic activity during the Late Middle Ages in Lipari. Starting from 1083 the Aeolian archipelago was involved in a repopulation program, implemented in 1095 by the Constitutum and organized by the Benedictine Monastery with the annexed S. Bartolomeo Cathedral on the castle. From the 13th century the volcanic phenomena, strictly limited to the northern sector of the island, did not interfere as previously with the anthropic activities. The Monastery will be enlarged in the Norman phase during the first half of the 12th century with the construction of the cloister. New historical documents relating to the 1264, report news of fires and land movements on Lipari. Recent age determinations obtained for the obsidian flow of Rocche Rosse at 1220 ± 30 AD (archaeomagnetic dating) and for an obsidian block of the Lami pyroclastic cone at 1243 ± 190 (fission-track dating) allow to define the age of the last phase of activity of the Monte Pilato-Lami-Rocche Rosse complex, and to associate it the events reported on 1264’s historical documents. This work makes in comparison volcanological, archaeological and historical dates and described an updated summary of one of the lesser known phases of the history of the archipelago. The main consequence of the medieval volcanic activity at Lipari caused a clear division of the territory with the population confined in the southeast quadrant, protected to the north by Serra and Monte Rosa which represented a natural orographic barrier. 

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Martinelli MC, Manni M, Coltelli M. Resilience and adaptation to volcanoes in Late Middle Ages in Lipari island (Aeolian, Italy). Ann. Geophys. [Internet]. 2021Dec.13 [cited 2023Dec.5];64(5):VO549. Available from:

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