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Urban and rural transformation in de western and eastern Roman Empire. Interdisciplinary archaeology of late antique and early medieval times

Research project P5/09 (Research action P5)


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The proposal investigates the transformation which Roman society underwent during the transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages. It covers the 3rd to 9th century AD.

It will take the changing political, social and religious framework as a starting point, and mainly consider how ancient cities and their rural territories were affected, to what extent this transformation is comparable in the western and eastern parts of the empire, and to what degree such changes transformed the economy and environment.

The relevant evidence will be provided by four ongoing regional projects, applying a common, interdisciplinary methodology in a systematic way, integrating urban excavations with urban and rural survey. To some extent, researchers may be exchanged as well. For the East the study areas include Asia Minor with Sagalassos and its territory and Greece with the Boeotia region. For the West the study areas are located in Central Italy, in the Potenza valley, and in Belgium at Tournai and in the valleys of the Scheldt and Meuse. The regions were selected for their differing and evolving role in the development of the empire.

As for the urban landscape, the four regional projects aim to map the changes in the occupation density and size, the urban infrastructure, defensive, public and religious architecture, domestic units and cemeteries, by combining excavation, intensive archaeological surveys and electro-magnetic and geomorphological surveys.

In the rural landscape, the changing role of suburbs and the countryside will be studied, through excavations - albeit to a more limited extent -, through the evaluation of historical information, and mainly state of the art intensive and interdisciplinary survey strategies.

Continued attention will be paid to the reconstruction of the economic framework, including craft production, farming, pastoralism, subsistence and trade of foodstuffs. State of the art archaeometrical techniques will be applied to study the artisanal products, with special attention to glass production and metallurgy. Innovative archaeozoological procedures will be applied to the faunal remains, especially focussing on changing catchment areas, hypoplasia of pigs and contextual analysis of the faunal remains.

The study of the environment during the transitional period will include landscape development, changes in vegetation and fauna, natural catastrophes, and the impact of man or climatic changes, applying state of the art geomorphological, macrobotanical, archaeozoological and palynological fieldwork and analyses.


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