Friday, 1 March 2013

Conference at the BSR - Fuel and Fire in the Ancient Roman World

Next weekend, March 8th-9th, the British School at Rome will host the international conference "Fuel and Fire in the Ancient Roman World", organised by Robyn Veal and Victoria Leitch.

Please find below the complete program and the abstracts of the three talks on fuel in Pompeii.

Fuel and Fire in the Ancient Roman World

DAY 1 (Friday, 8th March, BSR) Sainsbury lecture theatre

9.00-9.10 Welcome and opening remarks: Joanna Kostylo, Asst Director, BSR, introduces RV

Chair: Robyn Veal

9.15-9.55 Robyn Veal (University of Cambridge) The history and science of fire and fuel in the Roman Empire.
9.55-10.35 Hilary Cool, (Barbican Research Associates, UK) Glass and Fuel.
10.35-11.00  Coffee break
11.00-11.40 Laura Banducci (University of Michigan, USA) Burning and flaking? Using fire damage on Roman cooking pots to assess cooking methods.
11.40-12.20 Tony Rook (Independent researcher) The problems in estimating the fuel consumption of buildings, especially ones heated by hypocausts.
12.30-14.00 LUNCH 

Chairs: Archer Martin, American Academy in Rome and Victoria Leitch

14.00-14.40 Victoria Leitch (University of Leicester, Research Associate) Fuelling Roman pottery kilns in Britain and Norht Africa: climatic, economic and traditional strategies. 
14.40- 15.40 Archer Martin and Heike Möeller: Fueling Kilns in a Wood-Poor Environment. A combined paper on traditional workshops in the Egyptian Delta (Martin) and the Marmarica Survey in NW Egypt  (Möeller).  
15.40 – 16.10 Coffee break
16.10-16.50 Mohamed Kenawi (University of Alexandria).  Continuity of production: Fine ware kilns in Fayoum and the rebirth of ancient forms/techniques (an ethnographic approach)
16.50-17.30 Girolamo Fiorentini (jointly with Primavera M., Stellati A): (Professor of Archaeobotany, University of Salento, Lecce) Fuel for work: metal and lime kilns in ancient southern Italy 
17.30-18.30  Open discussion chaired by Jim Ball.  Major discussants: William Harris (Columbia), Andrew Wilson (Oxford) and Archer Martin (American Academy in Rome)
19.00 Rinfresco all participants and visitors Cortile, BSR
20.00 Dinner BSR (including non-resident participants) Partners welcome (included in BSR tariff if resident)

DAY 2 (Saturday 9th March) VILLA LANTE, Finnish Institute of Rome, Gianicolo

9.20 Opening remarks Day 2: Direttrice Villa Lante, Katariina Mustakallio 

Chair: William Harris  (Introduced by KM)

9.30-10.10 Ferdinando de Simone (University of Oxford). The fuel supply as a key component of complex economic systems. 
10.10-10.50 David Griffiths (Leicester) Commercialisation of the night in ancient Pompeii.
10.50-11.20 Coffee break
11.20-12.00  Sylvie Coubray (INRAP/ MNHN, UMR 7209 AASPE), Véronique Zech-Matterne (CNRS/MNHN UMR 7209 AASPE), Nicolas Monteix (Université de Rouen)
Of olives and wood. Baking bread in Pompeii.  
12.00-13.00 Discussion, synthesis, and concluding remarks: Jim Ball (Commonwealth Forestry Association) and Prof Andrew Wilson (Oxford) 


Fuel supply as a key component of complex economic systems

This paper aims to provide some insights on the role played by fuel (both wood and agricultural waste) in the economy of Roman cities and their countryside. In particular, it investigates whether villas and cities of ancient southern Campania were self-sufficient in the provision of fuel required for their daily needs.
Buried by two eruptions in AD 79 and 472, the environs of Vesuvius provide high-resolution data – extant remains of ploughing furrows, trees in quincunx formation, and piles of olive pomace – which are here used to create a comprehensive picture of land exploitation. The idea of a self-sufficient villa as promoted by ancient authors is tested against the archaeological record, i.e. the actual size of the estates and the percentage devoted to vineyards, orchards, and wood in them. Furthermore, in order to understand whether the tree species commonly used as fuel were a local or an imported resource, charcoal assemblages are compared with the carbonised leaves found in the volcanic ashes.
In the last part, the paper focuses on the problem of interdependency between city and countryside, Vesuvian plains and the Apennines.

Commercialisation of the Night in Ancient Pompeii
The uniquely human activity of consuming artificial light has received little attention in studies of pre-industrial societies. The Roman period witnessed significant levels of urbanisation and economic growth, consuming light on a scale never seen before. This paper forms part of a broader study assessing the social and economic significance of the consumption of artificial light, testing the hypothesis that a reliable and affordable supply of fuel and lighting equipment was a major constituent in Roman urban living. In the ancient world, the cost of food (for the majority) as a relative proportion of personal expenditure was substantial; the consumption of foodstuffs for non-dietary requirements had significant social and economic implications.
This paper focuses on the commercialisation of the night at Pompeii, addressing four aspects of the economy directly related to nocturnal activities:
  1. The agrarian economy (lamp fuel - olive cultivation, pressing and transportation);
  2. the urban economy (specifically nocturnal commercial activities);
  3. household consumption (lamp fuel and lighting equipment), and
  4. the production of lighting equipment (craft specialisation and high-status objects).

Nocturnal activities are structured by access to artificial light; it changes the lives of people, effecting behaviour and perceptions of objects, space and time. The cultural choice to use food (e.g. olive oil and animal fats) as lamp fuel suggests a desire or necessity to extend the day, influencing architectural proportions, decoration, and the organisation and use of space. The ability to continue human activity, especially in a commercial setting, once the sun has set, depends on access to artificial light. It extends the working day, increasing income potential without the need for structural expansion. The dynamic nature of the ancient city had a significant number of opportunities for financial transactions, providing a focus for local and regional populations to trade and exchange goods and services. Economic activity continued once the sun had set, facilitated by the provision of artificial light through oil lamps, torches, lanterns, and fire baskets. Extension of the day for commercial activity, especially to maximise the financial benefits of market days or religious festivals, must have generated enough income to outweigh the cost of lamp fuel and lighting equipment.
The commercialisation of the night was only possible through an affordable and reliable supply of lamp fuel and lighting equipment, facilitating the desire of the inhabitants of Roman towns to extend the day, whether for domestic, commercial, leisure, or religious activities.

Of olives and wood. Baking bread in Pompeii
Sylvie CoubrayVéronique ZECH-Matterne, Nicolas Monteix

For the last five years, an archaeological research program has been interested in excavating and studying the thirty-seven known bakeries in Pompeii, would they be for a domestic or a commercial production. In three of them (I 12, 1‑2; VII 1, 25.46‑47; IX 3, 19‑20), stratigraphical excavations were performed, allowing to understand the evolution of these productive units. Systematic sampling was carried out in three bakeries, especially in the milling rooms, on soil levels in use while bread was produced, and nearby the ovens, for a total amount of 1.3 tons of sediment. During sieving and sorting, lots of carbonised olive stones (99% of the plant remains) and charcoal fragments were recovered. Heaps of olive stones and stone fragments were also found in rubbish pits, just beneath the ovens, in bakeries I 12, 1‑2 and VII 1, 25-46‑47. Among the wide wood spectrum reconstructed from charcoal analysis, beech (Fagus sylvatica) appears predominant.
The analysis of those fuel remnants allows us to understand and to specify the way that bread ovens were running in the 1st century CE Pompeii but raises also many questions whose answers should help in revisiting links between an urban centre such as Pompeii and its hinterland. Was the use of olive oil extraction refuses a common way to get cheap and easy-to-obtain fuel for bakeries, or an adaptation to peculiar circumstances (e.g. wood shortage), or even a technical prerequisite? How was the fuel supply organized? Is it possible to trace an evolution in fuel collecting practises or to highlight differences between domestic and public settings in the city of Pompeii?

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