Sunday 13 January 2013

Against the idealised views of Pompeii and the trade patterns from the coast to the Apennines

For those who live in the Northern European countries and are interested in either the relationship between mankind and volcanoes or the trade patterns in ancient Campania, the next few days provide some occasions to discuss these subjects with other archaeologists (and to meet some members of the Apolline Project too).

The next two days (14-15 January) the Aarhus University in Denmark will host the conference titled:
Past Vulnerability: Volcanic Eruptions and human vulnerability in traditional societies past and present.
This conference is part of the LaPaDiS project - Laboratory for past disaster science. The full program is available here and it includes the following paper on Vesuvius:

Girolamo F. De Simone, The fragile landscape of Vesuvius: against the idealized views of Pompeii

Pompeii is generally reckoned as the ideal example of a mid-rank Roman city in the first century AD. In fact, the volcanic ashes that buried the town provide a sharp terminus ante quem, which is used to create pinpoint history. Nevertheless, the clear snapshot provided by Vesuvius generated the assumption according to which, eruptions apart, the landscape was static and acted as a sort of canvas for human activities.
This paper provides some insights into the innate fragility of Vesuvius and discusses how people reacted to the “minor catastrophes” which frequently occurred in the environs of the volcano. In particular, the paper discusses the effects of earthquakes, bradyseism, landslides, flash-floods to settlements and the human response to them, like the reconstruction and reinforcement of buildings.
In the last part, the paper will describe and discuss the issue of resettlement around Vesuvius after the AD 79 eruption, in particular the role of the cities in resettling the countryside and the social change that occurred.

Just a couple of weeks later (1-3 February), another conference will take place in Amsterdam, with the title: Island, Mainland, Coastland & Hinterland: ceramic perspectives on connectivity in the ancient Mediterranean. This meeting is part of the NPAP Project, New Perspectives on Ancient Pottery. The full program is available here and it includes the following paper:

Girolamo F. De Simone & Caterina Serena Martucci, From Neapolis’ harbour to the Apennines: coast-hinterland dynamics in AD 472 Campania

Beyond Pompeii and Herculaneum, life continued on the slopes of Vesuvius, until another eruption stroke in AD 472.  Similarly to the Pompeian eruption, the later one offers a sharp chronological marker and a vivid snapshot of the trade patterns around the volcano.
At that time, important transformations were taking place in the economy of the Mediterranean basin. Despite the Vandal conquest, the commercial network from northern Africa was still in place, but regional productions became more relevant. In Campania, most of the micro-regional products seem to be related to several workshops scattered in the Vesuvian countryside, while others might be compared with vessels attested in the Apennines. For each class, this paper provides fabrics’ visual and archaeometric characteristics, typology, and distribution.
Archaeometric analyses, matched with quantification studies, suggest new patterns of trade, which move beyond the traditional coast-hinterland economic model. In particular, overseas goods were traded following a hierarchical pattern that marginalised small centres, while local products hint to tight connectivity and preference for particular shapes, which were not attested in the cities. A third route linked the Apennines with the Vesuvian plain and shows interdependency between the two areas.
These distributional routes are mirrored by different cultural areas: among these the most relevant one is that on the slopes of Vesuvius, because it shows overall similarities with the city, but also the presence of both peculiar shapes not attested in Neapolis, and shapes peculiar of the Apennines.

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