Wood in the Roman Age

Cultural landscapes, forest exploitation and timber circulation

PhD project Daniela Moser MA

The project aims to analyse the relationship between Roman civilization, forests and wood resources. We intend to re-examine and deepen the man-environment relationship during Roman times through the analysis of a specific archaeoenvironmental proxy: the wood. For this purpose, wood and wood charcoal remains from archaeological contexts (archaeo-anthracology) and from soils (pedo-anthracology) will be analysed, focusing on the ancient Campania and Calabria regions (southern Italy), an area very rich in archaeological materials, but still relatively poorly studied from this point of view. In particular the aim is: 1) to define and characterize the Italian “cultural landscape” composed not only by cereal fields, vineyard and olive groves, but also by fruit and wood arboretums and managed forests. 2) to verify if and when Romans could have had a role in the diffusion of some typical Mediterranean cultivations (e.g. chestnut, walnut, olive, cypress) and, as a consequence, contributed to create specific landscapes of the present Mediterranean region based on the presence of these specific woody species. 3) to verify if a climatic optimum had really existed during the Roman Age and if it is useful to speak about climatic changes in the Italian peninsula in this particular period, characterized by a very strong human impact on landscape and environment. 4) to deepen the aspects regarding the timber circulation on a large scale in the Empire territories and the use of wood resources carried out by Romans. 5) to verify if the fall of the Roman economy could be read by archaeoenvironmental proxies. All these points are open questions in the debate on the Roman economy and they are still poorly investigated under the archaeobotanical and archaeoenvironmental points of view. At the same time it is intended to read the agronomic and naturalistic Latin written sources to have a comparison between botanical data and literary sources.