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ARCH 2245 Rural Landscapes and Peasant Communities in the Mediterranean

The broad aim of this course is to explore rural settlement and agrarian production in the Mediterranean, both in the ancient and the recent past. The archaeological starting-point is provided by the numerous scatters of surface remains that archaeological surveys across the Mediterranean have collected and that are usually interpreted as 'farmsteads' broadly datable to Classical Antiquity. We will look well beyond these scatters to examine the social and economic significance of rural settlement through comparison with ethnographic and historical rural studies from across the Mediterranean and to explore household and community organization as well as agrarian production in Classical Antiquity.

Thursdays 4:00-6:20 am in seminar room 008 of the Joukowsky Institute

Instructor: Peter van Dommelen (email) (Joukowsky Institute, 009: office hours: Wed. 10:00-12.00)


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Rationale

Rural settlement, peasant communities and agrarian organization are generally seen as peripheral aspects of the classical world, because classical archaeologists have preferred to concentrate on urban life and its splendour of public architecture, wall-paintings and mosaics. A possible exception might be the widely studied Roman villas, but much of this work tends to focus on the lavish urban d├ęcor of wall-paintings and mosaics; it may therefore be argued that villa studies tend to support the point that rural life in Classical Antiquity has received (too) little attention.

As numerous surveys have demonstrated in the last decades, the ancient landscape was anything but empty; nor was it dominated by cities and villas. The large variations in settlement patterns and agrarian organization across different regions with supposedly similar settlement types such as villas, have instead brought to light a rich variety of rural landscapes. The ancient countryside clearly constituted the rural basis of the classical world, on which the urban splendour was built.

The broad aim of this course is to explore rural settlement and agrarian production in the Mediterranean, both in the more distant and the recent past. In archaeological terms, this module starts from the numerous scatters of surface remains that archaeological surveys across the Mediterranean have collected and that are usually interpreted as 'farmsteads' broadly datable to Classical Antiquity. The aim is to examine the social and economic significance of these archaeological remains through comparison with ethnographic and historical rural studies from across the Mediterranean and to explore household and community organization as well as agrarian production in Classical Antiquity.

This course is thus based on the results of recent field surveys and will draw on anthropological approaches to peasant societies in order to investigate and compare in detail the emergence and organization of rural social landscapes in several regions. There are various ways of approaching this topic and the regional focus within the Mediterranean remains open, too.




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