The production and distribution of food in the Roman Empire: modelling political, economic and social dynamics

Organisers: José Remesal Rodríguez (CEIPAC-UB), Víctor Revilla Calvo (CEIPAC-UB), Antoni Martín i Oliveras (CEIPAC-UB), and Daniel J. Martín-Arroyo Sánchez (CEIPAC-UB)

How was the ancient Roman economy organized and how can our understanding be enhanced by new theoretical and methodological approaches? Recent work on model building, complex network analysis and computer simulation technologies has integrated and analysed diverse data sets – literary sources, settlement evidence, ceramics, amphorae, epigraphy, ethnographical data – in order to reassess production, marketing and consumption across the Roman world. Examples include the Monte Testaccio Project (Baetican oil), the Cella Vinaria Project (Laetanian wine) and the Riparia Project (Baetican wine), as well as many other collaborative research initiatives around the Mediterranean and wider Roman world.

The principal objective of this session is to explore how quantitative methods and semantic-based data management techniques can improve our ability to define, validate or refute economic theories about the organisation of large-scale production and long-distance exchange of foodstuffs. We wish, in particular, to facilitate interdisciplinary discussion about how we can evaluate the role of the state versus the free market in food supply and to assess how the multiple production strategies of a mixed agricultural economy (fruits, vegetables, wheat, olive oil, wine, salted fish, garum, etc.) were integrated within specific territories and largely peasant-based economies. We are also interested in the interactions between economy and environmental variables, the theoretical limits imposed on production and productivity by arable and pastoral regimes, labour and production costs, etc. and on the relationship between production and consumption in the context of growing population.

The session will use the presentation of case studies to demonstrate various multidisciplinary methods and techniques for the analysis of complex economic systems, integrating conventional archaeological methods and landscape archaeology with econometrics and computational modelling.

We would like to invite papers that develop case studies addressing some of following:

  • Datasets: the representation of archaeological data; database management; ontology and semantic markers
  • Quantitative methods: GIS and spatial analysis of settlement patterns, production strategies, microeconomic studies, demand and supply, trade routes, markets, and  consumption trends
  • Model building and computer simulation: the use of Agent Based Models, Complex Networks Analysis, Predictive Modelling, Spatial Econometrics and Regression Analysis
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