The limits of the Roman limes

poster-conference-finding-the-limits-2017Roman studies are all over network science! In particular the team behind the ‘Finding the limits of the Limes’ project at the VU Amsterdam. They’ve been doing some really cool network analyses of Roman socio-economic and transport networks. Next month they will be hosting a major conference. The program is available on the project website, and it includes a whole session on networks. A few seats are still available so don’t hesitate to sign up and attend.

Where? VU Amsterdam

When? 26-27 January 2017

Register here.

Preliminary programme

Thursday 26 Jan 2017, 09:30 – 17:30

Welcome and opening lectures
Nico Roymans (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam): Setting the scene: characterising Batavian society at the edge of empire in the Dutch river area
Philip Verhagen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam): Modelling the cultural landscape of the Dutch Roman Limes: approach, results and prospects

Session 1: Modelling subsistence economy
Session keynote: Wim Jongman (University of Groningen): What did the Romans ever do for us?
Jamie Joyce (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam): Simulating the Roman farm
Tilman Baum (University of Basel): Models of Land-use in the Neolithic Pile-Dwellings of the Northwestern Pre-Alpine Forelands (4400-2400 BC)
Antoni Martín i OIiveras (University of Barcelona): The economy of Roman wine. Productive landscapes, archaeological data, quantification and modelling. Case Study Research: “Regio Laeetana-Hispania Citerior Tarraconensis” (1st century BC-3th century AD)
Tyler Franconi (University of Oxford): Cultivating change: Roman agricultural production and soil erosion in the Thames River basin
Maurice de Kleijn (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam):Simulating land-use for the Lower Rhine-Meuse delta in the Roman period
Eli Weaverdyck (University of California, Berkeley): Farmers and Forts in Moesia Inferior: Modelling agricultural strategies on the Lower Danubian Frontier

Session 2: Modelling demography
Session keynote: Isabelle Séguy (Institut National des Études Démographiques, Paris)
Philip Verhagen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam): From population dynamics to settlement patterns. Linking archaeological data to demographic models of the Dutch limes.
Wim De Clercq (University of Ghent): The Disastrous Effects of the Roman Occupation!? Population dynamics and rural development on the fringes of the Roman Empire: theories and models.
Chris Green (University of Oxford): Modelling evidence densities: past population variation or modern structuring affordances? The case of England from the Iron Age to the early medieval period.
Antonin Nüsslein (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris): A different vision of ancient settlement dynamics: creation and application of a model of evolution of theAntique habitat of the Plateau Lorrain

Friday 27 Jan 2017 09:30 – 17:30

Session 3: Modelling transport
Session keynote: Dimitrij Mlekuž (University of Ljubljana): The archaeology of movement
Mark Groenhuijzen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam): Diverse movement in a dynamic environment: modelling local transport in the Dutch part of the Roman limes
Rowin van Lanen (University of Utrecht/Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands):Shopping for wood during the first millennium AD: modelling Roman and early-medieval long-distance transport routes in the Netherlands using a multi-proxy approach
César Parcero-Oubiña (INCIPIT, Santiago de Compostela): Postdicting Roman Roads in the NW Iberian Peninsula
Katherine Crawford (University of Southampton): Walking Between Gods and Mortals: reconsidering the movement of Roman religious processions

Session 4: Modelling socio-economic networks
Session keynote: Tom Brughmans (University of Konstanz): Network science in Roman studies: the potential and challenges
Mark Groenhuijzen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam): Possibilities and challenges in the use of networks to study socio-economic relations in the Dutch part of the Roman limes
Pau de Soto (Universidade Nova de Lisboa): Network analysis to model and analyse Roman transport and mobility
Angelo Castrorao Barba (University of Palermo), Stefano Bertoldi (University of Pisa), Gabriele Castiglia (Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology): Multi-scalar approach to long-term dynamics, spatial relations and economic networks of the Roman secondary settlements in Italy: towards a model?

Final discussion

Finding the limits of the Limes: call for papers

limesRomans and networks: it’s my thing! So it should not come as a surprise that I recommend presenting at the conference ‘Finding the limits of the Limes‘. It’s the final conference of a project at VU Amsterdam led by Philip Verhagen. The conference has an entire session on network approaches in which I will present an overview. Aside from networks, the conference welcomes other modelling approaches applied to Roman archaeology. So do consider submitting an abstract!

When? 26-27 January 2017

Where? VU Amsterdam

Deadline call for papers: 1 October 2016

Details on the website and below.

On 26 and 27 January 2017, we will organize a conference at VU University Amsterdam to present and discuss the results of our project.

During the conference, we want to focus on four major topics: subsistence economy, demography, transport and mobility, and socio-economic networks in the Roman period. We invite scholars working on these issues to submit a paper in one of the sessions mentioned below.

Please send a title and abstract of max. 300 words to dr. Philip Verhagen ( before 1 October 2016. Paper presenters will be given the opportunity to publish in the project’s final publication.

Hoping to see you in Amsterdam!

Philip Verhagen
Jamie Joyce
Mark Groenhuijzen

SESSSION 1: Modelling the agricultural economy in the Roman world

The necessity of the agricultural economy in the Roman world is undoubted. Most of the population in the Roman world engaged in agriculture- peasants balancing on the edge between famine and sufficiency, obliged not only to support their households but also to supply the state with supplies and manpower. Yet, the adage that our understanding of the classical world is formed largely from the ancient elites is still pertinent. The peasant in the classical world remains largely invisible and so too the economy and subsistence of the vast majority of the inhabitants in the Roman world. Furthermore, whilst we have a broad knowledge of the rural economy in the Roman world such as diet, farming practices and technology, and quantification of agricultural output, we are still missing more detailed understanding in variations across the empire on different scales.

The Finding the Limits of the Limes project has focused on the rural native economy of the Dutch Roman limes zone which was characterised by a mixed agricultural economy in a highly militarised frontier zone. In addition, the project has researched non-food producing activities namely fuel and wood management. We have utilized an agent-based modelling approach to simulate different strategies within the mixed agricultural economy of the region, with a particular interest in interactions between the different activities and the limits on surplus production presented by land and labour costs for these different approaches to agriculture. Furthermore, we have simulated the rural economy over different geographic and temporal scales: from the pre-Roman Iron Age to the Middle Roman Period, from the household to the micro-region.

To complement and contrast with our research in the Dutch Roman limes zone, we invite contributions concerning the rural economy in the Roman world. In particular, we seek papers concerning:

  • Defining the limits of agricultural production within the rural economy (such as animal husbandry, arable farming, and fuel-management) in the northern Roman provinces.
  • Multidisciplinary approaches for the understanding of agriculture in the Roman world incorporating, where applicable, traditional archaeological methods, environmental archaeology and computational modelling.
  • The interactions between consumers and native producers in the Roman world, particularly the supply to and demand from the Roman military

SESSION 2: Modelling demography in the Roman Empire

Demographic studies of the Roman Empire have a long history, but are severely hampered by a lack of reliable written sources. In the absence of such sources, archaeologists routinely rely on survey and excavation data to estimate population densities, but these only provide limited understanding of the underlying principles of human population dynamics that would allow us to confidently predict the size and composition of (parts of) the Roman population. Nevertheless, knowledge of historic population dynamics is extremely important for a better understanding of all kinds of socio-economic issues. In our project, we have used demographic estimates to better understand the potential of the study region for agricultural surplus production: was there sufficient labour force available, and did the forced recruitment of soldiers pose significant problems to the local population? For this, we relied on dynamical models of human reproduction, and confronted the model results with archaeological data and historical evidence.

In this session, we invite papers that apply modelling approaches to demographic questions in order to investigate socio-economic issues, such as the production capacity of the countryside, population growth and settlement pattern development, the impact of mortality crises on economic production and military power, or the influence of birth and marriage control strategies on available workforce. We also invite papers dealing with the problems of building reliable and usable demographic models, including their sensitivity to changes in input parameters, the choice of an appropriate temporal and spatial scale, and the problems of testing the outcomes.

SESSION 3: Modelling transport and mobility in the Roman period

Research on transport and mobility in the Roman period has largely focussed on interactions on regional to empire-wide scales. In contrast, we know very little about local-scale movements, which is at least partly the result of a relative lack of archaeological and historical material to work with. The use of spatial modelling techniques has become common to bridge the gap between theoretical notions of short- to medium-distance mobility and the lack of evidence for it. In this session we want to focus on the practical and theoretical implications of using modelling approaches to better understand transport and mobility on the local to regional scales. We specifically invite papers that deal with new approaches to modelling transport or mobility, papers that link transport models to economic models, and papers that discuss the archaeological, anthropological, physiological and/or (socio-)economic theoretical foundations of modelling transport and mobility.

SESSION 4: Networks and the socio-economic structure of the Roman period

Interactions between people are at the core of archaeological research on the cultural landscape and socio-economic structure within the Dutch limes zone. To identify patterns in relationships between archaeological data, network analysis has become an increasingly used tool. In this session we aim to explore how we can better understand the functioning of the economy, transport, and specifically the spatial and economic relations between people, by applying concepts of network science and formal network analysis techniques. We are especially interested in papers that apply network analysis to address these topics in an innovative way, papers that link network models to (socio-)economic concepts, and papers that discuss the theoretical implications and limitations of both the techniques and the data.

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