Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Re-assessing the environmental impact of early Roman expansion

This project aims to explore the environmental impact of early Roman expansion (4th/3rd century BC) through a program of dating and ecological sampling of traces of field systems (centuriations).

LUF | Byvanck Fund LUF | Byvanck Fund
  • Dr M. Schepers (Groningen University)
  • Prof J. Sevink (University of Amsterdam)
  • Dr G. Tol (Melbourne University)

Land division systems or centuriations are arguably the most impressive and enduring manifestations of early Roman Imperialism, and play an important role in traditional models of Imperialism. But although many centuriations have been reconstructed, their chronological connection to early Roman expansion and their presumed impact on landscape and environment have hardly been studied archaeologically. Consequently, their role in early Roman expansion is still debated.

Generously funded by the LUF-Byvanck Fund, this project aims to explore the environmental impact of early Roman expansion by developing an integrated geo-archaeological approach to study centuriations. In collaboration with colleagues of the Universities of Melbourne, Amsterdam and Groningen I conduct an initial programme of manual coring aimed at the dating and paleo-ecological sampling of the fills of the well-preserved traces (ditches and canals) of a centuration in the Pontine Marsh (central Italy).

The research, to be followed up with more extensive field research over the next years, will result in a reconstruction of settlement, land use and vegetation patterns in this former marsh. In a subsequent phase, the project will also be expanded to other centuriations in Italy and the wider Mediterranean. This will contribute to a better understanding of the environmental changes brought about by Roman expansion in Mediterranean landscapes.

Reconstruction of the Pontine centuriation with reserved traces in aerial photographs and geophysical prospection data.
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