The Archive

December 20, 2010 Comments off

This website represents an archive of the posts prepared for the Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Blog from 2007-2010. I am no long curating this archive meaning that links and media may no longer function properly. I have made no effort to reproduce or capture the network that these blog posts relied upon for significance or meaning. The links preserved in the posts, however, may provide a kind of breadcrumbs from a future researcher. The Internet Archive captured three images of my blog in 2007:

October 16, 2007: (

November 12, 2007: (

December 24, 2007: (

The blog began in the spring of 2007 and continued until the end of 2010.  It consists of 857 posts and 455 comments.  During its time live at, it received well over 110,000 views and had an average of over 80 page views a day.  These are miniscule numbers in the broader world of the internet, but they do show that the blog had a consistent audience and grew steadily over its life.

As of this writing, a print version of this archive exists and is available online. A permanent archival copy (in print and in digital form) will be archived in the University Archives at the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections at the Chester Fritz Library on the campus of the University of North Dakota.

I continue to blog at the New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World.

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Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Archive: Volume 1 by William R. Caraher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Archive in Paper

December 20, 2010 Comments off

If you want a paper version of the archive, you can download it here:

Categories: Uncategorized

Varia and Quick Hits

December 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Here are some varia and quick hits on a cold Friday morning (with just a threat of flurries)!

One more thing!  If you are going to be any where in South Florida in January, you owe it yourself to head up to Ft. Myers and check out the 3rd Annual Surf & Sound Festival.  It’s going to be huge and it’s produced by Fritz Caraher!


Categories: Varia and Quick Hits

Teaching Thursday: More on Student Resistance

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

I continue to think a bit about new models for understanding student engagement with the learning environment.  Over the last few weeks, I have been reading more on everyday forms of resistance, and this has added a different perspective to my notes on resistance and teaching as articulated here and here. These forms of resistance typically lack articulated political or social goals, often rely upon anonymity, deception or ambiguity, and tend to be deeply embedded in everyday life.  At the same time, they are the products of power differences and mark out clear efforts on the part of less powerful to establish a identity and agency in relation to the dominant group. Classic examples of this kind of behavior are slow work, gossip, poor communication, and other actions that tread the fine line between outright defiance and actions easily confused with laziness.

Anyone who has taught recognizes some resistance in students.  My previous musings on using historical and anthropological definitions of resistance to understand student behavior tended to see student behavior in a far more systematic way. Models of resistance that suggest behavior rooted in practice may have a better applicability for describing, predicting, and (gasp!) maybe even validating student behavior.

These models may also point to some root causes of resistance.  Many of the scholars who study resistance in everyday life tend to see resistance as a key component to class struggle. While it is difficult to understand the student-teacher relationship in terms of traditional definitions of class, it would be profoundly naive to deny the role that class plays in the structure of the American university.  With the post-war boom in enrollments the student body has become more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and, indeed, class. The traditional humanities had strong ties to traditions of elite education and values that have not entirely translated to a more diverse student body with more diverse goals and expectations.

Resistance in the classroom, particularly the subtle forms, may well represent the long conflict between democratized higher education and the core elite values that continues to guide many aspects of the humanities.

My post today is intentionally short to encourage you to head over to Teaching Thursday and celebrate with us our 100th post at that blog!

Categories: Teaching

More in Inequality in Justinian’s Corinth

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I've begun work on revising my Corinth in Contrast paper which I delivered in Austin in the fall at a conference of the same name (for a nice overview of the conference check out David Pettegrew's Corinthian Matters blog posts here and here and here).  The conference focused on inequality among the Corinthians, and my paper emphasized the role that political and ecclesiastical tensions may have played in creating regimes of power in the region.  To do so, I focused on various methods of asserting political and ecclesiastical power in the landscape and then sought to establish spaces of resistances within these methods.  In particular, I focused on the differences between subtle, non-monumental, and "marginal" activities, and dominant forms of political and religious power.  I tried to emphasize that various less structured forms of expression many not have conformed to a narrow view of "resistance" typified by violence and concerted political actions, but rather to a kind of resistance rooted in the concept of practice. In other words, I am looking for archaeological evidence that represents far more subtle forms of agency than traditional definitions of resistance.  Good examples of forms of resistance rooted in practice are graffiti, systematic tax evasion, feigned ignorance, gossip, and other techniques that are difficult to punish, protected by a degree of anonymity, and accessible to almost any group within society.

While most of these practices are unlikely to leave an archaeological trace (although an archaeology of gossip is interesting!), it is notable that the 6th century Corinthia witnessed a systematic and monumental campaign to impose imperial authority across the region.  The goals of this effort are difficult to imagine outside of a pattern of resistance.  The ecclesiastical tensions between the Emperor and various bishops of the province of Achaia who may have resisted imperial authority by remaining loyal to the papacy in Rome, provides a potential geopolitical justification of resistance.  Moreover, we know that such political and theological conflicts could manifest themselves in popular resistance.  Most famously:

"If you ask for your change, someone philosophizes to you in the Begotten and the Unbegotten. If you ask for the price of bread, you are told, "The Father is greater and the Son inferior." If you ask, "Is the bath ready?" someone answers, "The Sone was created from nothing."

Gregory of Nyssa, De Deitate Filii et Spiritus Sancti (trans. T.E. Gregory, Vox Populi (Columbus 1979), 3.

While the popular violence associated with theological disputes is well known, it suggests that seeming technicalities in theological language could evoke deep passions among everyday denizens of the Late Roman world. Such passion could, of course, manifest itself in more subtle ways as well as the better documented episodes of riotous violence.  Some of the everyday practices of resistance during the era of iconoclasm are suggestive.

This is a long introduction to some rather more mundane observations!

One of the least satisfactory sections of my paper had to deal with the role of imperial power on the bodies of Corinthians.   In the first draft of this paper, I imagined the impact of the imperial building policies on the Corinthian labor force. Workers from the local area would have undoubtedly contributed to the construction of the Lechaion Basilica (as well as the other 6th century churches in the area), the repairs to the Hexamilion wall and city wall of Corinth, and various other construction projects datable to the 6th century.  I suggested that some sense of identity for these workers derives from the presence of informally inscribed fish in the exterior wall plaster of many of these buildings.  It may be that this sign marked out the work of a local guild or as smaller work team and allowed the laborers to locate themselves amidst the monumental space of the 6th century Corinthia.

Over the past few weeks, I have the distinct pleasure of re-reading parts of Michael Given's 2004, The Archaeology of the Colonized (Routledge). Chapter six of this book is entitled "The Dominated Body" and Given makes several interesting observations about the place of the body is broadly construed "colonial regimes".  In particular, Given draws a case study from Roman Egypt where a "highly elaborate tax system" contributed to practices designed to dominate the body of Egyptian famers.  The center piece of his argument is a vivid fictional narrative of a visit by a family to local granary where their tax in kind was measured and certified.

This narrative reminded me of the famous(ish) passage in Procopius's Buildings 4.2.14 which describes the building of granaries throughout Greece. These granaries served to provision the soldiers that the emperor stationed there. This passages finds a complement in the Secret Histories 26.31-33 where Procopius tells us that the Emperor Justinian required the cities of Greece to fund the newly stationed soldiers in Greece, and this contingency deprived even Athens of public buildings and entertainments.  There is no reason to take these passages at face value, but, on the other hand, it is clear that Justinian had an active interest in reorganizing the logistical infrastructure of the empire with an eye toward providing supplies for his soldiers.  The presence of granaries in Greece would have visibly linked imperial policy with the collection of agricultural taxes from the local residents.  Some residents, then, would have to experience the act of delivering their crops into the imperial hands; in short, individual labor became imperial policy.

Another observation that Given offered regarding the impact of imperial policy on the body was the effect of walls on movement throughout the Egyptian countryside. He argued that many of the walls were not formal fortifications necessary, but sand fences (at best) or, in other cases, just informal markers. Both Procopius' text and archaeological evidence from the Corinthia have noted Justinian's interest in wall construction and repair.  Specifically, Justinian appears to have repaired the massive Hexamilion wall and probably the wall of the city of Corinth itself.  These two walls would have dominated passage across the Isthmus.  The individual would have had to pass through spaced marked out and defined by the non-local presence of the Emperor.

Making this all the more conspicuous is Justinian's used inscriptions tinged with ritually-charged utterances at gates to make political or theological statements.  So as Corinthian (and other) bodies passed through spaces marked out by imperial power, the walls themselves literally shouted out politically charged religious sentiments.  We know from other sites in the Mediterranean that roads, walls, and gates were common places for inscribed acclamations; in other words, places where bodies regularly passed were excellent places to commemorate other kinds of ritualized activities.  Ritual acclamations whether spontaneous or staged, then, further imbued these spaces with embodied knowledge.

As I work to revise my initially clumsy study of power differences across the Corinthian landscape, I am focusing more attention on the way in which imperial power sought to project authority into the landscape.  By critiquing the methods of projecting power, I think I am getting closer to understanding the conditions with create the kind of power differences that produce various kinds of inequality.

Academic Organizations and the Web: 10 Suggestions

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

This past week, I offered to prepare a short advisory document to an academic organization that was planning to increase its web presence.  I think that academic organizations do well to model their sites and the people who are asked to maintain them along the lines of established academic institutions and develop “officers”, missions statements, and policies.  I think that we should also follow the basic academic method of being collaborative and deliberate, results will be better as well.  Even a single author blog is in some way collaborative as it relies on colleagues and collaborators to link to or to twitter posts.  Being deliberate is deeply ingrained in the most conservative traditions of academic life.

With some slight modifications to protect the innocent, here it is:

1. Audience. The most important thing about any website it to have a clear idea of an audience.  For example, my Archaeological of the Mediterranean World site appeals generally to academics interested in Mediterranean archaeology, ancient and Byzantine history, and technology. So while most of the content (see below) on my site counts as a kind of “mindcasting”, I do try to mindcast on things of interest to a notional audience.

2.Content is King”. For a website to “work” people have to work it into their everyday life. To do this, the site needs to be updated regularly (at least weekly)  with new content so people want to come back and check it out. The best way to keep a site updated regularly is to develop a group of dedicated contributors.  The era of the static website full of “resources” is over.

3. Contributors. If the website is going to thrive it has to have some regularly updated content. This does not have to be daily, but it needs in some way to be regular. To maintain a regular flow of content, you need to have multiple contributors.  A good editor can drum up contributors and provide content when needed, but it is essential to have a core group of people willing to work to produce significant web content.  (I think that there is a small, but rather a committed community already producing good quality content for the web, and we should be able to leverage this community).  My general feeling is that no section of the website will remain up-to-date and interesting without at least a few contributors.  Moreover, having a few contributors will prevent a section of the site from becoming a single editors soapbox.

4. An Editor.  The best websites have an editor or a group of designated editors who are responsible for content in particular areas of the site. The editors responsibilities might include soliciting new content, maintaining basic information on their section of the site, and establishing policies.  Also naming some an “editor” confers a certain amount of academic and intellectual prestige to these positions (and makes it easier for a mid-career faculty member to claim this work as  part of “national service” or whatever.).   We might also consider bringing in, say, one or two other editors (a “Blog Editor,” perhaps, or even a “Features Editor”).  The advantage of giving these individuals real editorial control over their sections is that they can be gatekeepers for the content coming onto the web, ensure its quality, maintain the content, publicize the content, et c.  Moreover, multiple contributors are also more likely to invoke some positive discussion.

5. Mission statement.  Since this will be something of an official site, we should probably come up with some kind of simple, broad mission statement that will help us create policies for the kind of material that we include on our site. For example, do we intend the site to be a scholarly resource or do we want to try to cater to a academic interests?  Or do we want to do both. In any event, a mission statement will help us think about our audience and the types of things that we value.

6. Policies. I know that this will seem overwrought, but as someone with a public web presence, I have been overwhelmed by a range of strange propositions that I get to feature material on my little blog.  Having a policy of what kinds of material you will or won’t allow will make the editors’ jobs much easier.  For example, will you let people post advertisements for their book on the site?  Will we let people submit job ads?  Will we advertise summer programs?  You can imagine.

7. Design. The nicest website sites have some common design elements.  If the plan is to use an institutional server (rather than a commercial service) to host the site as the central hub for a web site that would then would push traffic to various externally hosted pages, then it would be great to have some kind of common design for these external pages (and include cues on the Princeton page).

8. Software. Blogs are great.  This is not just because I am a blogger, but the ease of updating a blog makes them great for regularly updated content.  Moreover, many of the good blog services (e.g. hosts WordPress software on their servers) or software (e.g. WordPress is free to download and relatively easy to set up on an institution’s servers) allow you to create static pages as well as blog pages.  They are also equipped with an RSS feed et c. making them really easy to update and edit by people with almost no technical knowledge.

9. Social Media. If we are serious about developing a web presence for our organization we need to consider having an integrated social media component.  Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook work well to connect potential readers to the web site and serve as a key method for pushing content to a wider audience. In general, social media services are fairly easy to maintain and manage.  That being said, like the website itself, content drives traffic.  If we don’t maintain social media, then we won’t reap its benefits.

10. Take our time. One thing I’ve seen other places do is to rush out a web presence before they have developed content, policies, or even a kind of editorial or institutional support. The results have been pretty dodgy and have not held up well.  Taking time to develop how a website will work and who will be responsible for what parts of the site will produce the best quality results.

Categories: Byzantium, Web/Tech

Some New Thoughts on the Roman Economy

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Over the weekend, I finally found a few hours to sit down with the relatively recent edited volume Quantifying the Roman Economy: Methods and Problems edited by A. Bowman and A. Wilson (Oxford 2009).  The book brings together a number of different perspectives on the Roman economy in a broad response to later chapters of the Scheidel, Morris, and Saller edited Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World (Cambridge 2007).  In my reading, the books stands in contrast to a recent work edited by M. Mundell Mango on Byzantine Trade (which I discuss here).  Whereas Mundell Mango theorizes that it is possible to understand trade in the Byzantine world without necessarily appealing to wider considerations of the ancient economy, the authors in Quantifying the Roman Economy take the opposite approach and embed trade of all kinds within a theoretical and material critique of the Roman economy.

While I won’t review the entire book, I did want to point out some of its highlight to my loyal readers.

1. Bowman and Wilson’s introduction is among the best short summaries of the state of research in the Roman economy.  Their considerations range from discussions of economic integration to survey of the potential of ancient economic growth and decline. They conclude their survey by focusing attention on four vital areas for analysis: demography and settlement, the agrarian economy, production and trade, and mining and metals. They argue that at present there exists sufficient evidence to support sustained analysis of these issues and that these issues can form the basis for an integrated view of the Roman economy.

2. Field Survey and Demography. Intensive pedestrian survey represents an important approach for establishing Roman settlement patterns, and these settlement patterns play a vital role in the organization of the Roman economy. In particular, the relationship between rural producers and urban dwellers structures the relationship between the primary production of food and centralized administrative, political, and population centers across the Roman Empire.  As Jongman, Fentress, Mattingly, and Lo Cascio point out, the percentage of people living in both cities and in the countryside remains hotly contested.  As a result, it is difficult to evaluate even the minimum and maximum productivity of the countryside required to sustain an urban population who is not engaged in primary agricultural production.

3. Peopling the Countryside. Elizabeth Fentress and David Mattingly provide valuable defenses of survey archaeology and its ability to shed light not only the structure of ancient settlement but ancient demography. Fentress argues on the basis of her intensive survey work on the island of Jerba and in the Albenga Valley that careful sampling of the landscape can provide a rough estimate of both the kinds and the distribution of sites in the countryside during the Roman period. The types of sites, ranging from urban areas to small villages and isolated farms, could then form the basis for basic demography. To summarize complex and nuanced study, Fentress argues that far fewer people lived in the countryside on Jerba than we might expect considering the potential density of urban settlement: 11% in single farms, 20% in villages, 20% in villas, and an impressive 49% in towns.  She was then able to argue that the urban centers on Jerba (which is not a particularly fertile place) relied on imported grain.

In his response to the Fentress article, David Mattingly rightly offers a bit of caution by cleverly invoking Donald Rumsfeld’s category of “unknown unknowns” in intensive survey.  For Mattingly, the unknown unknowns are those sites that do not manifest themselves in survey but may have a significant impact on how we understand ancient demography and settlement structure.  Of course, Jerba with its light soils and relative geomorphological stability was less likely to produce the kinds of unknown unknowns than the more dynamic landscape of, say, the Rhone valley, but nevertheless, Mattingly is correct in reminding us that survey is better at demonstrating presence than absence.

4. Trade. Andrew Wilson’s summary of pressing issues with regard to Roman trade is another very useful contribution to any discussion of trade in the Mediterranean. He offers valuable critiques of evidence for trade ranging from shipwrecks to amphora and marble.  In his study of shipwrecks, he uses aoristic analysis to create a more nuanced reading of Parker’s classic summary of shipwrecks by century.  He shows that by plotting the possible date of “long-dated” Roman period (150 BC – AD 400) shipwreck by decade rather than by midpoint, it becomes possible to argue for a later peak in maritime commerce than Parker had estimated.  In short, distributing the possible dates for long-dated shipwrecks helps to mitigate against a chronological pattern of trade biased by certain standard dating conventions.

Later in the same article, Wilson provides another useful model for understanding Roman period trade when he compares the production of certain classes of pottery (e.g. African Red Slip) to its frequency elsewhere in the Mediterranean. While such analysis is not particularly novel or innovative, he establishes quite clearly how the relationship between production and distribution is not fixed.  Pottery supply represents only one aspect of the distribution of ceramics in the Mediterranean, and the quantitative gap between patterns of supply and distribution provide a useful basis for considerations of trading patterns as well as the vagaries of taste across the Mediterranean basin.

William Harris and Michael Fulford offer responses to Wilson’s contribution that expand the variables under consideration in his article to include the relationship between settlements in the Roman world and how the differences between overland and maritime trade and urban and ex-urban settlement types can significantly influence the distribution of material.


As my brief summary of this books probably makes clear, I liked this book and think it is the best single volume summary of the pressing issues and potential for using quantitative data to understand the Roman economy.  As the availability of quantitative data from survey projects, excavations, and summary publications increases, scholars will need more robust models and approaches for producing synthetic analyses of trade, settlement structure, demography, and economic growth or decline.  Despite the typical caveats surrounding the use of any quantitative data from antiquity, this volume has continued the optimistic trend begun with the Cambridge Economic History.

Categories: Archaeology, Books

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