Human Occupations in Mountain Environnments

The HOME Commission aims to develop, share and promote the knowledge about past human groups who inhabited mountain environments in any region of the earth. Mountains cover in a narrow sense about 25% of the global land surface. Defining “Mountain archaeology” concisely within a worldwide perspective is not an easy task. In a narrow sense, a mountain is a large landform that stretches above the surrounding land usually in the form of a peak. High reliefs and high gradients make the mountain ecosystems vulnerable to even slight changes in temperature and precipitation, and range them among the most sensitive ecosystems on a global scale. In a wide sense, mountains include almost everything from barren, bare rock dominated, high-Alpine landscapes like the Carpathians,and the European Alps to mainly non-mountainous, moorland covered highlands.

Before the HOME commission was created, a number of formal and informal working groups (some of which are still active) had made considerable contributions on mountain archaeology. It is worth mentioning, among others, Alpine Arch€aologie, The Alpine Network for Archaeological Sciences, The Southern French Alps Landscape Project, The Frozen Pasts Network and The Total Archaeology Project. Normally, Mountain archaeology is also on the agenda of the annual meetings of several associations.

Acknowledging that mountains are a worldwide phenomenon, the field of activity now deserves to be expanded; among the many themes which may be relevant under a refurnished and larger umbrella, there may be:

  1. The timing of and reason behind the first human exploitation of mountain environments in different parts of the world. What is the time lag between the pioneer settlement on the coast or in main lowland valleys and the first use of near-lying or distant mountains?

  2. What were the topographically-driven pathways within the mountains, how long were they, how were they used, and by what kind groups?

  3. The gradual spread of agricultural activities such as transhumance and summer farming into mountain environments.

  4. The exploitation of natural resources other than pastures and grassland: wild game, fish, lithic and mineral materials, chalk and copper, just to name a few.

  5. Mountains transformations, resulting from the present climatic changes which lead to a massive melting of glaciers and ice patches and also to physical alteration of hillsides, riverbeds and lakesides. “Glacial archaeology” and “Erosion archaeology” are the terms to describe these new fields of research.

  6. Sacred places. The mountains, or particular local natural phenomena functioning as physical attractors of symbolic values, and underlining reflection, adventure and superstition as basic human properties which should always be taken into account as possible correctives to “solid evidence”.

The HOME Commission will promote these actions in order to further the development of mountain archaeology with a global perspective.

PRESIDENT: Maria Estela Mansur, Centro Austral de Investigaciones Cientificas, Ushuaia (Argentina) and Universidad Nacional de Tierra del Fuego, VICE-PRESIDENT: Federica Fontana, Università di Ferrara (Italy), SECRETARY: Javier Mangado, University of Barcelona (Spain),

A few days ago Maria Estela Mansur, President of the Commission "Human Occupation of Mountain Environments" (HOME) passed away. Everyone who met Estela even only for a few hours was impressed by her warm character and the wonderful person she was. Estela was also a phenomenal scholar, giving an essential contribution to the knowledge of hunter-gatherers of Patagonia and a recognised specialist in the field of functional analyses. We will be thinking of her family, and her contributions to our commission and our beloved discipline and will miss her a lot.

HOME commission members


Grimaldi S. 2013. The “Human occupation in Mountains Environments” (HOME) Commission of the International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences: an introduction. Preistoria Alpina 47: 9-11.

Grimaldi S., Bang-Andersen S., Carrer F., Crotti P., Della Casa Phil., Fontana F., Leitner W., Mansur E., Reinhold S. 2016. Human occupations of mountain environments (Editorial). Quaternary International (in press).

Grimaldi S. et al. (Eds) 2016. Human occupations of mountain environments. Quaternary International special issue. Proceedings of the A6a session, UISPP Conference in Burgos 2014.