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COmparing Regionality and Sustainability in Pisidia, Boeotia, Picenum and NW Gaul between Iron and Middle Ages (1,000 BC-AD 1,000) (CORES)

Research project P7/09 (Research action P7)

Persons :

  • Dr.  POBLOME Jeroen - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/4/2012-30/9/2017
  • Dhr.  VAN HEESCH Johan - Royal Library of Belgium ()
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/4/2012-30/9/2017
  • Prof. dr.  VERSTRAETEN Gert - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/4/2012-30/9/2017
  • Dr.  VAN NEER Willem - Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences ()
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/4/2012-30/9/2017
  • Dr.  VERSLYPE Laurent - Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/4/2012-30/9/2017
  • Prof. dr.  VERMEULEN Frank - Universiteit Gent (RUG)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/4/2012-30/9/2017
  • Prof. dr.  BINTLIFF John - Universiteit Leiden (UN-LU)
    Financed foreign partner
    Duration: 1/4/2012-30/9/2017

Description :

1. Objectives of the proposal

The proposed project first wishes to establish and compare the regional trajectories of change and development in four specific ancient regions (Pisidia in SW Turkey, Boeotia in Central Greece, Picenum in Central Adriatic Italy and NW Gaul in Belgium and N France), in which the research partners have been active during the past decades. Regions do not conform to static entities, but rather change through time, in a dialectic relationship with both wider and local political, cultural, socio-economical, demographic and environmental contexts. Therefore, the project also wishes to address how human resilience, societal vulnerability and sustainability have changed through time in these regional frameworks, resulting in waves of complexity and decline. The applicants wish to enhance their regional data sets, through the processing and modelling of available data and when required through the generation of new field data. The purpose is to understand the specific, yet variable patterns and mechanisms of regional change, as well as engage in the inter-regional comparison of archaeological, historical, geoarchaeological, bioarchaeological and conceptual aspects of waves of regional change.
The explanatory power of large windows in time is widely accepted for identifying regional patterns, as well as for assessing change. The applicants propose to focus on the period from the first millennium BC into the first millennium AD, representing the Iron Age, Hellenistic/Republican, Roman imperial, late Roman/early Byzantine, Byzantine/early medieval times in the respective study regions. The Roman and late antique worlds have been at the centre of the previous IAP programmes of this network, and remain an important focus in the proposed project, but the applicants also wish to 'look over the Roman walls' in order to understand different types of wave patterns of complexity and decline throughout the ages. This will involve analysing landscape evolution and agricultural carrying capacities, long-term developments in craft production and exchange, regional historical evidence and demographical patterning, (de-)urbanisation processes and regional building traditions, changing patterns in human subsistence, the role of coinage and, in general, the nature of the relationship between increasing/deflating social complexity and regional development.

The proposed project wishes to make a specific contribution to the study of the ancient economy, which recently considers the notion of moderate growth on a regional scale as a central research question. Groundbreaking as this work may be, its innovative potential has not been fully explored yet in archaeology. Therefore, the proposed project is innovative in its holistic interdisciplinary approach of well selected research topics in four extensively studied archaeological cases, on which will be based fundamental theoretical and empirical research concerning past regional development. In a first stage, the applicants wish to create a win-win situation by enriching the regional case-studies of the participating archaeological partners, by deepening the interdisciplinary collaboration within and between all partners involved. Secondly, they wish to contribute to the debates in the various represented disciplines by comparing deep-time trajectories of regional sustainability and waves of complexity and decline.

In sum, the proposed project wishes to enhance comparative analysis and higher level synthesis of long-term waves of change and development in the study regions, which will act as interdisciplinary laboratories for comparing and contrasting relevant factors causing societies to be more or less sustainable, with clear relevance for contemporary regional studies.

2. Description of the proposal

The following Work Package structure is being proposed:

WP1 Regional landscape evolution and agricultural carrying capacities
Contrary to traditional geo-archaeological and palaeo-environmental research that focuses on single sites with limited spatial resolution and representativity, WP1 aims to analyze the complexity in past human-environment interactions at regional scales. The application of regional numerical pollen and geomorphic models will allow not only a better understanding of changes in the physical environment resulting from anthropogenic disturbances, but also to assess to what extent these changes impacted the availability and quality of natural resources, and thus also the carrying capacity. Such an approach is necessary in order to elucidate whether human activities have changed landscape and societal sustainability. As such, it will contribute to the ongoing debate on societal collapse.

WP2 Long-term developments in regional craft production and exchange
WP2 wishes to study how, when and where mineral resources were processed in the IAP-study regions, and how craft production was structured and changed through time. In this way, the study of pottery, glass and metal from the IAP-study regions can provide evidence for the location and technology of production centres, as well as contribute to the identification of imported artefacts and patterns of exchange and consumption.

WP3 Regional historical developments and demographical patterning
The main aim of WP3 is the study of medium- and long-term developments in population, land use and complex socio-economic structures, integrating aspects of comparative regional development, sustainability studies, core-periphery effects and changing forms of central-place networks, and based on an integrated archaeological and ancient historical approach.

WP4 Urbanisation and regional building traditions
The main aim of WP4 is to study the dynamics of foundation, growth, change, continuity and disintegration of the urban phenomenon in the IAP-study regions from a long-term perspective. Indeed, the period under study in this project saw the introduction of the process of urbanisation, followed by waves of urban change, including de-urbanisation and re-urbanisation. Therefore, the diachronic study of towns and the evaluation of long-term evolution of regional building traditions is an excellent way of approaching continuity and change in micro-regional communities.

WP5 Humans and their subsistence
Within WP5, archaeozoological, macrobotanical and archaeo-anthropological analyses will be carried out in the IAP-study regions, in order to reconstruct a broad regional and diachronic picture of the long-term evolution of human subsistence and the relative importance of the various food items, the organisation of provisioning through local production and exchange, differential access to luxury food and the evolution of the status of both consumers and food items.

WP6 Regional monetary economies
The introduction of coinage modified the way commodities were exchanged as it did with inter-human relations. WP6 will approach how the IAP-study regions reacted to the arrival of coinage, establish the fluctuating degree of monetization over the long-term in these regions, and explain the use of specific denominations as well as the actual value of coins, thereby balancing regional versus central authoritarian policies. Monetarisation is currently considered as a central indicator of the economic complexity of a society.

WP7-9 Regional socio-economic and settlement developments
WP7-9 intend to approach waves of social complexity and decline in the IAP-study regions, in (WP7) the Iron Age to the Hellenistic/Republic period, (WP8) Roman and late Roman times, and (WP9) Byzantine/early medieval times. Applying a similar analytical platform, the main objective of WP7-9 is to map and compare the opportunities, challenges and drawbacks that historical processes presented for the trajectories of the studied regions and local communities, in the long-term. Focus will be on the socio-economic dynamics of micro-regions and its intertwined relationship with settlement patterns.

WP10 Regionality and sustainability: conclusions and potential contemporary relevance
The final WP aims to, on the one hand, function as a platform of synthesis for the project and, on the other hand, through a cross-over with contemporary geographical concepts and theories on actual processes of regional development, explore the direct contemporary relevance of the conclusions of the project. Within WP10 the inter-partner dialogue and research into general methodological and conceptual issues related to the debate on regional sustainability will be developed.

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