Reconstructing history through pottery: the contribution of Roman African cookwares

Thursday 23 June 2011 18.00


Victoria Leitch (BSR Rome Scholar / University of Oxford)

This paper uses new evidence for the scale and significance of Roman African cookware (ACW) trade to emphasise the importance of considering ‘common’ pottery when reconstructing political and economic history. It also aims to demonstrate that the study of production technology and organisation is an essential preliminary stage in understanding patterns of distribution which tap into wider historical questions. The work begins by analysing the known data on production sites and how this links in with increased volume of trade – in particular the location of export production sites along the North African coast. A general presentation of ACW distribution in the Mediterranean provides the evidence for this increased volume and its widespread penetration, from which point it is possible to suggest the factors that propelled and controlled this trade, such as improved technology, urban growth and the distribution of the annona, as well as political and economic evolutions. The concluding discussion examines the extent to which ACW can be used as a proxy for economic trends, and more generally considers the impact that similar pottery studies could have on our methods of reconstructing history.

Archaeology lecture