This paper will examine what the Late Roman pottery evidence from Britain can tell us about the economy of the period. There is clear evidence of west and east coast trade routes in the province, as well as the persistence of a pre-Roman economy in the ‘Highland zone’ beyond the frontier. The army was a driver for the economy, but healthy local market economies were also a stimulus to growth. The southern region became particularly prosperous in the 3rd and 4th c., although the region that is now Wales does not seem to have embraced this model.
Recent decades have been fruitful for the gathering of new evidence, and for the establishment of new methods and theoretical perspectives in Late Roman funerary archaeology. This paper reflects on three aspects of the new data, distribution, character and dissemination, using examples from Britain and beyond. Grave distribution is strongly biased towards urban contexts, with consequences for socio-cultural and demographic analysis. Opportunities to advance understanding of burial as a process rather than a single depositional moment are discussed, including funerary rituals, commemorative activity, grave marking and the disturbance of human remains. A fuller exploitation of digital dissemination is advocated, in particular to allow one of the richest pre-modern skeletal samples to achieve an impact commensurate with its scale and quality.
One of the most original discoveries of the Boeotia Regional Survey Project, begun in 1978, was that the countryside not only revealed a remarkable density of rural settlement in Classical-Early Hellenistic times, but also a second impressive flourishing of activity during the Late Roman period (ca. 400–600 A.D.).1 Equally interesting was that these eras were separated by a surprisingly severe demographic and agricultural decline in Late Hellenistic and Early Roman Imperial times. When the project turned its attention to the region’s urban sites, more surprising results emerged: conforming to the rural trajectories, cities generally shrank or were even abandoned in the Late Hellenistic-Early Roman period, but most failed to recover their Classical-Early Hellenistic extent in Late Roman times despite the apparent recovery of the countryside around them.2 However, as to the fate of town and country in the twilight, or so-called ‘Dark Age’ centuries of the 7th to 9th c. A.D., that intervened between Late Antiquity and the full emergence of medieval Byzantine civilisation in Greece, only hypotheses and a small amount of data have existed until the last few years. Now, new evidence has begun to cohere into a plausible historical scenario. In this paper I shall review the archaeological and historical data for Boeotia in order to build up a wider picture of Late Antiquity in the context of earlier and subsequent developments. The historical context and wider evidence from Greece for these eras have been presented in more detail in a recent monograph3
The archaeological research carried out within the fort and vicus of Favianis/Mautern, on the Austrian-Danube limes, has provided scholars with important new information for the development of settlement structures and for material culture in the Roman imperial and late antique periods, as well as for the Early Middle Ages. Archaeological structures in the fort were analysed alongside the structures in the vicus. A major focus of this analysis lay in the examination of diverse forms of waste management during the Roman imperial and late antique periods, and the interpretation of primary and secondary rubbish. The findings provide us with new evidence for the population migration from the vicus to the fort in Late Antiquity, for the dating of Horreum ware and late antique burnished pottery, as well as for the transition from the late antique fort to the Early Medieval town.
A small survey carried out in 1991 throws some light on Late Roman settlement in the region of Diana Veteranorum in the Belezma Mountains in Numidia. All the sites examined showed 5th c. pottery, which suggests that occupation peaked around that time. The reasons for the high occupation density seem to lie in intensive textile manufacture, as well as stock raising, the products of which would have been sold to the army or to the provincial capitals. The collapse of this settlement in the 6th c. can be attributed to the disappearance of the market provided by these sources, as well as to increasing insecurity and, perhaps, the arrival of nomadic groups from the south.
Our understanding of late antique archaeology has now reached a point where it is possible to suggest specific field methods better adapted to the material evidence and historical problems of the period, at least for urban archaeology. We need to be more sensitive to patterns of evidential survival that are particular to this era, and especially to engage with the evidential traces provided by patterns of reuse, and by the slight relaxation of civic rules seen in the period. If we focus on stone surface archaeology, study spolia contexts, behavioural epigraphy, small-scale repairs and decorative traces, then we can obtain a great deal of information from poorly excavated sites which were previously considered archaeologically barren. This may, perhaps, mitigate the worst effects of clearance archaeology, which is still being practised on some eastern sites.
This paper investigates the methodology employed in the recent survey and reconstruction of the major Early Byzantine domed churches of western Asia Minor. This involved both the documentation of construction details, as well as their interpretation by reference to coeval monuments elsewhere. Focusing on this methodology, the author explores techniques of graphical recording and the theoretical framework within which parallels with other buildings can inform the work of reconstruction. The detailed examination of two case studies illustrates the way in which seemingly random scraps of testimony can be interpreted to provide evidence for the missing superstructure of ruined churches. These case studies also serve to demonstrate how the methodology adapts to sites with different characteristics, and helps to assess the credibility of the resulting graphic reconstructions.
This paper examines the archaeological, palynological and textual evidence for economic prosperity in the Anatolian countryside in Late Antiquity. Thanks to the separate analysis of data for coastal and inland regions, it shows that we do not see any substantial differences in the functioning of the rural economy between these two geographical zones. Therefore, the new demand from Constantinople for agricultural produce or a local economy’s proximity to a long-distance exchange network, cannot explain fully the observed phenomena. The vitality and complexity of local economies must also have played an important role in the economic expansion of Anatolia’s late antique countryside.
The methodology used at Ras el Bassit is based on one developed in Britain and adapted for the large quantities of material found in the East. It is designed to allow the integration of pottery with other finds data in order to provide a complete catalogue of the artefacts recovered from an excavation in a format which can be analysed in a statistically meaningful way. Pottery is recorded by sherd families, defined by ware, with rims, handles and bases recorded by fabric type. Quantification is done by number of fragments, weight, minimum number of rims, rim equivalents and, for selected groups, base equivalent and estimated vessel equivalent. Surface deposits or residues such as sooting are also noted. Analysis is made of the overall assemblage and by selected group, usually defined by area and phase.