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Interdisciplinary research regarding settlement development, palaeoecology and palaeoeconomy in the Roman West and East

Research project P4/12 (Research action P4)


Persons :

  • Dr.  VAN NEER Willem - Royal Museum for Central Africa ()
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/1/1997-31/12/2001
  • Prof. dr.  WAELKENS Marc - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/1/1997-31/12/2001
  • Prof. dr.  BRULET Raymond - Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/1/1997-31/12/2001

Description :

Focusing on the Roman period, the network studies the mechanisms by which native settlements developed into urbanised societies in the eastern and western regions of the Empire and eventually declined (settlement archaeology). The purpose of this interdisciplinary research is to determine the role of the environment (paleoecology) and of its exploitation by Man (paleoeconomy). In this perspective, the research focuses mainly on evidence of the exploitation of raw materials (stone, clay) and animals.

Chronologically speaking, the network covers a time frame extending from the Hellenistic to the early Byzantine in the East, and from the late Republican to the early Medieval in the West. Geographically, two regions were selected: Northern Pisidia (Turkey) in the east, studied through the excavations and surveys of the KUL at Sagalassos, and in the west, Northern Gaul and the Rhinelands, studied by the UCL. Since both regions joined the Roman Empire almost simultaneously, the study of two districts with totally different backgrounds (Hellenistic in the East, Celtic in the West) will allow a comparative study of the mechanisms of Romanisation and social mobility within the Roman Empire, the role of the economy and trade, and the impact produced by and on the environment. Both districts experienced a serious political and economic crisis in the 3rd century AD, as the result of invasions and internal strife. In the West this eventually resulted in the settlement of Germanic tribes influenced by Latin culture. In the East, christianisation produced a new society with a Greek character. The network studies how these changes affected the urbanisation, the economy, and the environment in these two geographic regions.

The environment is a major research focus of the KUL and UCL teams. This includes examining the influence of the physical landscape, of geomorphological processes, of changes in water supply, of climatic changes, on the development of human settlements. The research also focuses on macro- and micro-faunal remains as indicators of the natural environment; this is the research field of the KMMA/MRAC. The paleoecological interpretation of animal remains is used in an interdisciplinary perspective, taking into account the geomorphological, pedological, and botanical data. These remains are also studied with a view to reconstructing the faunal environment and its economic exploitation in the east and west. This involves determining the role of animals in subsistence, transport, and labour. This is why the KMMA/MRAC is actively involved in the field work and excavations of both universities.

Alongside the faunistic study, the role of raw materials in the development of local economies is another research topic of the network. Both the KUL and UCL have extensive knowledge of clay, ceramic production, and pottery trade, applied for eastern and western sigillata, red slip, and locally produced coarse wares. The network aims to develop comparative studies and a common methodology in order to study the origin, technology, function and production patterns of local and regional pottery types. It will also improve the integration of archaeometric techniques applied by both universities, making inter-regional comparisons easier.

The study of all these topics will require the development of a strong interdisciplinary integration of new methodologies, research strategies and analytical techniques; such an approach eventually should be applicable to archaelogical research in a much broader chronological and geographical context.


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