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Imperial Surplus and Local Tastes: A Comparative Study of Mediterranean Connectivity and Trade

This is a working draft of an article submitted to an edited volume on connectivity in the ancient world. It is co-authored by Bill Caraher and David Pettegrew.
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  WORKING DRAFT. DO NOT CITE WITHOUT AUTHORS’ PERMISSION. © 2014 1 “Imperial Surplus and Local Tastes: A Comparative Study of Mediterranean Connectivity and Trade” William Caraher and David K. Pettegrew Introduction Regional programs of archaeological survey have long offered a unique and important contribution to the scholarship of connectivity in the Mediterranean. In documenting the distribution of sites and artifacts across disparate landscapes, archaeological surveys record a snapshot of the orientation of particular regions toward broader networks of production, trade, and culture. The most basic and ubiquitous kinds of object recorded through survey—fragmented ceramic jars, amphoras, basins, pots, bowls, and plates—speak to questions about a region’s links to territories and provinces elsewhere. The sophisticated tools for quantifying, analyzing, and mapping survey data through databases and geospatial platforms, moreover, have established a basis for measuring changes in connectivity over time and space. Finally, the juxtaposition of different sets of survey data side-by-side highlights the differential access of regions, communities, and sites to the networks of distribution that passed the basic stuff of daily life across the corrupting seas. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that Mediterranean landscape archaeologists in the last generation have made important contributions to discussions of regional interaction. An emphasis in survey on the diachronic perspective, a reliance on coarse periodization schemes, and a focus on regions as the basic unit of study has encouraged a focus on the broadest forces affecting the trajectories of societies such as state formation, political exploitation, and environmental change. 1  The proliferation of survey projects has encouraged a comparison of regional data sets and historical studies devoted to understanding the common cyclical patterns of population, settlement, and artifacts across the Mediterranean. 2  Alcock famously posited that Roman expansion, annexation, and imperialism could explain the drastic changes in settlement in Greece between the Hellenistic and early Roman eras. 3  Even closer to the theme of this volume, Jameson, van Andel, and Runnels’ survey of the southern Argolid and Bintliff and Snodgrass’s 1  C. Renfrew and J.M. Wagstaff,  An Island Polity . 2   3  Alcock, Graecia Capta .  WORKING DRAFT. DO NOT CITE WITHOUT AUTHORS’ PERMISSION. © 2014 2 ground breaking work in Boeotia have connected Braudel’s vision of regional structures and the longue durée  with the boom and bust patterns of rural environment, agricultural production, and trade networks. 4  Such studies mark only a few of the many contributions of landscape archaeologists to previous discussions of Mediterranean connections. Given the long-standing connections between survey archaeology and the study of long-term and regional economic and cultural interaction, it is somewhat surprising that survey data has factored so little in the recent conferences devoted to discussions of The Corrupting Sea . None of the edited volumes on connectivity in the last decade, 5   for example, consider questions surrounding connectivity from the perspective of regional survey. Even Horden and Purcell, who explicitly recognize the potential for landscape archaeology for understanding ancient environments, 6  give attention to regional survey data only in respect to the question of agricultural production. 7  Their emphasis on production reflects the focus of most regional surveys on the settlements in the hinterland of urban areas. These areas were understood to be zones engaged in intensive agricultural production and, to a lesser extent, consumption, and closely tied to nearby urban areas and their economic, social, and political networks. Our experience as participants and supervisors in distributional surveys in the Corinthia, Greece, and Koutsopetria, Cyprus, and our study of modern landscapes in Greece (see below), has made us critical of simple assumptions about the correlation of sites, functional categories, and demographic patterns, and attentive to how artifacts point to the contingencies of connectivity over time and space. 8  In contrast to traditional pedestrian survey methods, which seek to put settlement dots on a map, “distributional” or “siteless” survey focuses on regional  patterns of artifacts. Mapping the types and quantities of pottery, tile, glass, and stone draws attention to the individual artifacts, the most basic unit of archaeological survey, as well as the formation processes that created, shaped, and changed the surface scatters documented by survey archaeologists. Most importantly, a focus on the artifacts draws attention to the nature of our 4  Jameson, Runnels, and van Andel, The Greek Countryside ; for Braudelian approaches, see Bintliff, The Annales School and Archaeology . 5  Harris,  Rethinking the Mediterranean ; Malkin,  Mediterranean Paradigms and Classical Antiquity ; LaBianca and Scham, Connectivity in Antiquity: Globalization as a Long-Term Historical Process ; Malkin, Constantalopoulou, and Panagopoulou, Greek and Roman Networks in the Mediterranean . 6  Horden and Purcell, The Corrupting Sea , 59, 176-177, 547, and 572-574. 7  See this initial critique by van Dommelen, “Writing Ancient Mediterranean Landscapes,” 232-233. 8  Alcock, Graecia Capta ,1993; Heinrichs, “Graecia Capta: Roman Views of Greek Culture,”; Sanders, “Problems in Interpreting Rural and Urban Settlement in Southern Greece”; Witcher,  WORKING DRAFT. DO NOT CITE WITHOUT AUTHORS’ PERMISSION. © 2014 3 archaeological sources (especially the pottery) and the “differential visibility” of successive  periods (how some periods are more visible than others), and highlights the unique historical contingencies that have formed the surface record and shaped regional connectivity. Distributional survey, in other words, encourages a fine-grained perspective on a region’s engagement in Mediterranean exchange through a more sensitive analysis of the basic units of the archaeological surface record. Our aim in this essay is to show how closer attention to the artifact assemblages from two landscapes contributes to a more nuanced and contingent view of Late Roman settlement and connectivity in the Greek east. The Late Roman boom in settlement and artifacts is one of the most consistent patterns documented by surveyors in regions of Greece, the Aegean, Syria, and the East. The spike in late Roman material in comparison to artifacts from the late Hellenistic and Early Roman periods has usually been interpreted as a general indicator of demographic economic expansion in the fourth to seventh century tied to the reconfiguration of the eastern empire, the growth of the eastern capital of Constantinople, the Roman state actively encouraging land investments, or simply a general heightened state of prosperity and connectivity. 9  The ubiquity of Late Roman sites in the eastern Mediterranean, ranging from urban centers and suburbs to towns, villages, churches, forts, villas, and small farms, has demonstrated how deeply both urban and rural areas were engaged in local patterns of both  production and consumption. 10  We believe that distributional approaches can make two important contributions to understanding how connectivity played a key role in economic prosperity. First, an emphasis on artifacts forces us to engage critically the sources used by archaeologist to define periods of economic prosperity and connectivity in Antiquity. Our own studies of the exceptional ceramic visibility of the Late Roman period have shown how durable red slips and distinctive shapes of exported fine wares context, or combed and wheel ridged transport amphorae, have made the  period much more visible on the ground, influencing in turn conclusions about late Roman trade. 11  More critically, though, the refinement of late Roman ceramic chronologies in the 9  Kosso, The Archaeology of Public Policy in Late Roman Greece . 10  Decker, Tilling the Hateful Earth ; Pettegrew, “The Busy Countryside of Late Roman Corinth”; Rautman,  A Cypriot Village of Late Antiquity ; Dossey,  Peasant and Empire in Christian North Africa ; Lavan, ed.,  Local  Economies?: Production and Exchange of Inland Regions in Late Antiquity . 11  Pettegrew, “The Busy Countryside of Late Roman Corinth”; Dossey,  Peasant and Empire in Christian North  Africa , 2012  WORKING DRAFT. DO NOT CITE WITHOUT AUTHORS’ PERMISSION. © 2014 4 regions of our fieldwork has increasingly pushed later Roman amphorae and table wares toward later (more recent) centuries, 12  and shown that artifacts were deposited in narrower time frames than frequently assumed through the broad ceramic period designations “Late Roman.” Second, distributional data also complicates debates about whether state-driven administrative trade (the Finleyan primitivist model) or decentralized small-scale exchanges drove the Roman and Late Roman economy by showing that different forms of exchanges  produced different archaeological signatures. 13  On the one hand, the sources for large-scale administrative trade, such as the provisioning of the army during Late Antiquity, tend to be  particularly visible in the archaeological record through, for example, substantial deposits of imported amphora types that supplied wine and olive oil to military forces in the northern Balkans and the Danubian frontier. 14  On the other hand, the links between small-scale producers and the administrative supply chain has tended to produce less visible traces in the archaeological record at the primary places of production. 15  When production sites and villages do appear, through survey or excavation, the most diagnostic material tends to be imported fine table wares, particular from North Africa, Asia Minor, and Cilicia and Cyprus. This material  becomes the evidence for the links and practices that connect Late Roman consumers to  production both locally and in the wider Mediterranean world. Amphorae and table wares reveal contrasting ends of the spectrum of trade in Late Antiquity and show how both imperial-scale administrative trade and local consumption habits were both important to exchange. Our paper considers two survey data sets for the late Roman period, the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey (EKAS) near Corinth, Greece, and the Pyla-  Koutsopetria  Archaeological Project (PKAP) near Larnaka (ancient Kition), Cyprus. Both regions produced substantial assemblages of later Roman ceramics and appear to support a view of Late Antiquity as enjoying 12  Much of this begins with Hayes,  Late Roman Pottery ; but the conversation is ongoing: Sanders and Slane, “Corinth: Late Roman Horizons”; Armstrong, “Trade in the East Mediterranean in the 8th century”. 13  Whittow, ““How Much Trade was Local, Regional, and Interregional?” unpack this dichotomy. For our period the major recent advocates of an economic model grounded in administrative trade, particularly the annona, are McCormick, Origins of the European Economy and Wickham,  Framing the Early Middle Ages . Much of this is grounded in Finley, The Ancient Economy . 14  Karagiorgou, “LR2: a Container for the Military annona.” 15  The use of perishable material to transport olives and grapes or oil and wine (Gallimore, “An Interpretation of the Chersonesos Ostraca”, Peña, “The Mobilization of State Olive Oil in Roman Africa”) and the fluidity of settlement within the countryside (Pettegrew, “Chasing the Classical Farmstead”; Ghisleni, “Excavating the Roman Peasant I”) has left only the faintest traces to be detected by intensive surveys and understood on the regional level. Villages, like those on the limestone massif in Syria or those leaving traces in arid North Africa, represent notable exceptions to the generally low archaeological visibility characteristic of everyday life in the Late Roman countryside Dossey,  Peasant and Empire in Christian North Africa .)

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Jul 23, 2017
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