Modeling Roman Trade with GIS: A Study of 1st Century Terra Sigillata Transportation Routes in Southern Gaul

Authors: Johnathan Glaze*, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Transportation Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: least cost analysis, terra sigillata, rome, trade, roman trade, pottery, history
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Roosevelt 0, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Ceramic remains are the most abundant evidence of Roman economic activity in the archaeological record. The manufacture, consumption, and transportation of pottery across the Roman world can therefore serve as a useful foundation for understanding the Roman economy as a whole. Terra sigillata, a high-quality tableware manufactured across the western provinces of the Roman Empire, was a popular and widely exported commodity in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. However, the exact routes and methods used to transport terra sigillata from production centers to markets and consumers are not always clearly understood and have remained largely unexplored in geospatial analyses. Although the method of least cost analysis has been employed to examine the relationship between mobility and geography in numerous archaeological contexts, its use in the context of Roman trade is relatively unexplored. The objective of this study is to investigate the potential transportation routes between a terra sigillata production and distribution center, using the major kiln complex at La Graufesenque, and the nearby port of Narbonne, in southwestern Gaul, as a case study. This will be accomplished through a least cost analysis based on the topographic and hydrological conditions of southwestern France and the Roman road network. The resulting least cost paths will represent the likely routes available to 1st and 2nd century terra sigillata manufacturers and can contextualize the decisions made when negotiating their landscapes to interact with the wider economy and bring their goods to consumers.

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