Carla Sinopoli

Southern India

Late Prehistoric and Early Historic Landscapes
of the Tungabhadra Corridor (LP/EHLTC)

The primary focus of Curator Carla Sinopoli’s research is in southern India, where she is currently co-directing the “Late Prehistoric and Early Historic Landscapes of the Tungabhadra Corridor” project (LP/EHLTC) project in collaboration with Kathleen Morrison (University of Chicago) and R. Gopal (Karnataka Directorate of Archaeology and Museums). The project explores social and political transformations during a 1500-year time span that witnessed the emergence and consolidation of social and economic inequalities and the creation of territorial polities. Work focuses on a c. 40-square-kilometer area along the Tungabhadra River in the semi-arid uplands of northern Karnataka. Within this area, Sinopoli and her colleagues have identified more than two dozen archaeological sites—including settlements, rock art sites, megalithic mortuary complexes and diverse agricultural features—that span from the second millennium BCE Neolithic period through the succeeding Iron Age and Early Historic phases of the first millennium BCE and first millennium CE, respectively. Field and laboratory seasons in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2010 have been supported by the National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation, and Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. 

Fieldwork has focused mainly on the largest settlement in the region, Kadebakele, which encompasses the entire sequence and extends over more than 60 hectares (Carla Sinopoli and U-M alumna Kelly Wilcox excavating at Kadebakele, 2010, right). Detailed stratigraphic excavations have documented domestic and ritual architecture and deposits (Iron Age structures, right), and vast assemblages of artifacts (ceramics, iron objects, ornaments, etc.), botanical data, and faunal remains, which are informing on changing technologies, consumption and production practices, social status, and regional and long-distance interactions.  

Vijayanagara Metropolitan Survey

Sinopoli began working in South India in the early 1980s at the 14th- through 16th-century imperial city of Vijayanagara, capital of South India’s largest historic empire. From 1988 through 1997, she co-directed the Vijayanagara Metropolitan Survey project, a systematic regional survey of the c. 450-square-kilometer fortified hinterland of Vijayanagara. The project documented more than 700 archaeological sites (site distribution, left), including several of the prehistoric and early historic sites that are the focus of her current LP/EHLTC project. The vast majority date to the Vijayanagara period and include: settlements, fortifications, temples, shrines and sacred images, agricultural features, and craft production sites among others (aqueduct, right). Although the Vijayanagara fieldwork has long since ended, Sinopoli continues to research and publish on Vijayanagara, and is currently working with her collaborator Kathleen Morrison to complete the second survey monograph.

Himalayan Material Culture from the Koelz Collection

Sinopoli has conducted research and overseen a publication on the Museum’s collection of Kashmiri shawls (UMMA 17319, right), and is currently researching the Koelz Collection of Buddhist Art in preparation for a 2013 exhibition and associated publications.

Southeast Asia

Although she has not yet done fieldwork in Southeast Asia, as curator of the Museum’s extensive Asian collections, Sinopoli has conducted and overseen research on aspects of the Philippine Expedition collection and on the Worcester Collection of historic photographs from the Philippines. Numerous U-M doctoral students, undergraduates and visiting scholars have also worked on the collection, and Sinopoli and several of these researchers have prepared papers for a special journal issue or independent monograph featuring analyses of porcelains, stoneware vessels, earthenwares, and human remains from the Philippines Collection.