The study of spolia has been largely undertaken by art historians, and scholars interested in issues of ideology and appropriation. However, the reuse of all types of architectural materials, from carved marble to bricks, tufa and mortar, can play an important role in field archaeology. This study proposes a different approach to reused materials, whereby they are recorded systematically across an archaeological site in conjunction with traditional excavation, in order to help attain more accurate building chronologies. Applying this approach to the site of Ostia provides a test case for this idea, a methodology which delivers new insights into the construction and modification of the late antique city.
Ostia is one of the most extensively excavated cities in the Roman world and we are still analysing the ruins today. The ruins were excavated on a large-scale up to 1941, but were not documented in a scientific way. This has meant, in particuar, that the processes involved in the transition of Ostia to a late antique city (from the 3rd to the 5th c.) are still largely unknown. The idea put forward by Ostia’s most famous excavator, Guido Calza, that Ostia’s ‘end’ and irreversible decay began in the late 3rd c., had still influenced scholars until recently. The author’s research projects from 2001–2006 show that this is only true for certain areas of Ostia. Thanks to city-wide surveys and key-hole cleaning-excavations, the abandonment of predominantly commercial quarters can be verified from the 3rd c. onwards by the existence of blocked streets, ruins and rubbish dumps in these parts of the city. Yet, at the same time, we see the concentrated rebuilding of Ostia’s secular infrastructure in the 4th and early 5th c., including all major public buildings along the Decumanus and the creation of new ‘pedestrian-zones’, with the maintenance of both continuing into the later 5th c. at least.
This paper outlines the introduction and development of the use of ceramic building materials in Britain. CBM was introduced as part of the A.D. 43 Roman invasion, and was used initially by the military, retiring veterans and elite members of allied indigenous groups. There was a clear expansion of demand by urban centres in the mid to later 2nd c., a demand that was satisfied by itinerant groups of building specialists. In the later Roman period urban development all but ceased, but there was still abundant civilian demand for high status rural buildings. This coincided with the development of static tile production centres feeding wide regional networks, mainly overland. However, even though tile makers became sedentary, there was still a need for itinerant building specialists.
The Pisidia Survey Project has employed architectural survey methods to study the remains of several ancient cities in the region’s landscape. In doing so it has revealed the urban infrastructure of Pisidia. Most recently, the Pisidian city of Pednelissos was studied, where additional use of geophysical and ceramic survey broadened the range of results and helped resolve problems that had remained unanswered for a long time. For the late antique period, widespread Christian building was one of the most significant changes to affect Pisidian cities and as such will be a focus of discussion. Churches and other buildings encroached upon public areas, transforming the urban fabric. In order to understand the interaction between city and territory through time, the rural surroundings of Pednelissos were investigated using a range of survey methods, including architectural survey, ceramic collection (grab sample), ceramic survey, geophysical survey and satellite-based research. The results showed that the area thrived, especially during Late Antiquity, and that long-term settlement patterns altered little before the dramatic changes of the 7th/8th c.
This article deals with the evolution of the economy of southern Greater Syria’s inland cities between the beginning of the 7th c. and the end of the Umayyads. Its purpose is to demonstrate that the economy of this region leaned towards a form of ‘localism’ in the 6th to 7th c., and later experienced growth at the beginning of the Islamic period. It will show that this growth occurred within the context of the new geo-political reality. That is, the political unification of the Near East under the reign of the Umayyads from the 7th to early 8th c., and the strategic position of this region: on the pilgrim route towards Mecca and on the route to Iraq passing through the Jordan Steppe. It will be argued that in the Early Islamic period, the reinforcement and opening up of local and long-distance exchange, aided by the amelioration of road networks, encouraged the growth of nucleated workshops in the cities of southern inland Greater Syria, as well as an evolution in the material culture, as shown by archaeological discoveries and Arabic sources.
Many current models of the Roman economy are predicated on a bleak Late Antiquity, including Hopkins’ “taxes and trade” model. These models have yet to reckon with an uptick in economic matrices in the early 4th. This article addresses one piece of this puzzle, namely, expansion of villa construction in Hispania. The articles argues that this expansion was tied to increased imperial presence and intensified taxation, and produced a band of social opportunism of which villas are the detritus.