The Sonoma Valley Palimpsest Project:

Layers in the Landscape
Sample Projects

What is a “palimpsest”?

In medieval times it was common practice to wash or scrape the writing off of vellum or parchment (paper) and reuse it. Modern historians, using infrared and digital technology, can now view these different layers of writing, revealing stories and information about this period that were never known before.

How does that relate to geography?
Geography can be viewed as a palimpsest. If we look below the surface of a location like Sonoma there are layers of information and stories just waiting to be uncovered.

The Task:
As a class we are going to begin to unlock some of the mysteries behind Sonoma Valley’s palimpsest. There are more layers than you might imagine. In this project students will be the historians. A good historian is both a good detective and a good storyteller. Both skills will be required to complete this task successfully! In pairs, students will be assigned a topic or location in the valley. Using field study, interview and traditional research techniques students will unlock a mystery and explain what their finding tell us about both the history of the valley and the history of the United States. One by one, we will reveal the layers of Sonoma's palimpsest.