Late Antique Archaeology 2010


Macmahon gave a declaratively explorative talk about retailstructures, workshops, markets, seeing all these elements as stronglyassociated with urban landscapes. their nature is such that if we’renot able to find clear evidence for them, they’re invisible.

Social shaping of antiquity includes economic factors: for this reasonhe’s trying to use theoretical models to explore ancient society:

  1. <missed>
  2. business, it’s not necessarily a modernistic model

Consumption is a social act, in which people do distinguish betweengoods that are appropriate and not.

A market is defined by a number of factors:

  1. location
  2. income
  3. demographics (age, sex, racial/ethnic mix)
  4. lifestyles (marked for example by clusters of specialised stores inurban areas)

Boundaries between markets, and between societies in general, can bedefined in terms of:

  1. institutional boundaries

  2. spatial density / distribution of households

  3. spatial decay linked to transport costs

  4. With regard to competition, i.e. Central place Theory doesn’t takeinto account intra-site distributions and it’s too demand-focused(places are primarily consumption sites) rather than retail-focused

The key contrast when studying local exchange is between individualsmall resellers and large resellers. however, reseller units are partof the urban landscape in the Roman empire, even if they change over time.

Warehousing didn’t only mean storage structures, they could have beenused also as auction houses. Unfortunately specialisation is poorlyvisible through archaeology. Literary sources are more important butthe two are difficult to integrate.

A single journey to buy or sell a single product can be used as anextreme definition of specialisation. While there’s a segmentation ofthe empire in the later period, autosufficiency in provinces is muchmore widespread in the early empire.

An important point is that there’s apparently no development intransportation networks, that are important in shapingmarkets. looking to a contemporary example, the car industry in the USis spatially concentrated in a small area, but distribution iswide. on the contrary, the production of pottery in the Roman worldwas very scattered. this difference can be explained in terms of differenttransportation networks.

Competition between retailers, producers, even the State developingproductions on its own, is a social element and a major factor ofeconomic development. Luxury goods can survive until there’s a marketfor them.

Late Antique Archaeology 2010

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