The ecology of Roman trade. Reconstructing provincial connectivity with similarity measures

Publication date: April 2018Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 92
Author(s): Xavier Rubio-Campillo, Jean-Marc Montanier, Guillem Rull, Juan Manuel Bermúdez Lorenzo, Juan Moros Díaz, Jordi Pérez González, José Remesal Rodríguez
The creation of the Roman Empire promoted the connectivity of a vast area around the Mediterranean sea. Mobility and trade flourished over the Roman provinces as massive amounts of goods were shipped over thousands of kilometres through sea, rivers and road networks. Several works have explored these dynamics of interaction in specific case studies but there is still no consensus on the intensity of this connectivity beyond local trade.We argue here that the debate on the degree of large-scale connectivity across the empire is caused by a lack of appropriate methods and proxies of economic activity. The last years have seen an improvement on the availability of evidence as a growing amount of datasets is collected and published. However, data does not equal knowledge and the methods used to analyse this evidence have not advanced at the same pace.A new framework of connectivity analysis has been applied here to reveal the existence of distinctive trade routes through the provinces of the Western region of Rome. The amphora stamps collected over more than a thousand sites have been analysed using quantitative measures of similarity. The patterns that emerge from the analysis highlight the intense connectivity derived from factors such as the spatial closeness, presence of military units and the relevance of the Atlantic sea as a main shipping route.

Graphical abstract