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Title: Long-distance trade and the exploitation of arid landscapes in the Roman imperial period (1st - 3rd centuries AD)
Author: Schorle, Katia
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 7917
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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If as argued the Mediterranean consisted in Antiquity of a unity determined by similar environmental factors and crises which were mitigated through established networks of trade and exchange, the border regions of the Roman Mediterranean, particularly to the South and East, were characterised by a radically different environment. This thesis focuses on the development of three of the arid regions bordering the ancient Mediterranean, namely the Fazzan oases in the Libyan Sahara, the Eastern Desert of Egypt and the region of Palmyra in Syria. These arid regions have received considerable archaeological attention in recent years, and a review of them will highlight the factors which enabled these regions to interact with the Roman Empire through trading dynamics, but also through the development of local resources. Central questions within this thesis concern the extent to which the environment would have tailored the potential of these regions, and if the existence of trade routes and social networks both affected and were affected by settlement and exploitation patterns in the region. Trade was created by geographically much broader social requirements for foreign or exotic goods, yet was restricted by the possibility to pass through these regions. Developments were conditioned by the constant need for balance between the state as a power enforcing and representing peace and security and local entities, and what the local social organisation had to offer in term of rent and stability to the state as an institution. After an introduction (Chapter 1) delineating the aims of the thesis, Chapter 2 defines influential theories and models that will be considered for this thesis, namely environmental factors, social networks and institutional economics. The archaeological evidence is then discussed in each relevant chapter: Chapter 3: The Libyan Sahara; Chapter 4: The Eastern Desert of Egypt; Chapter 5: Palmyra. Chapter 6 discusses major factors that may work as explanations for the development of agriculture, the exploitation mineral resources, and trade in these regions. The choice of regions both inside and outside the Roman Empire also allows a discussion on the rise of economic activities linked to the imperial economy. As such, the thesis moves away from a romano-centric perspective and proposes to look instead for internal factors, such as the development of complex societies with organisational frameworks and social networks which enable them to overcome the challenges of their geo-climatic settings. This study concludes that the developments identified in each chapter were not a factor of environmental changes but human agency. The state, or private individuals or communities successfully organised the resources necessary to integrate the regions into wider networks of intense trade in the imperial period. These concerned both physical infrastructure, and the development of far-reaching social networks.
Supervisor: Robinson, Damian Sponsor: Scatcherd European Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Archeology ; Landscape ; Roman archeology ; Economic and Social History ; History of Africa ; History of the ancient world ; Arid environmental systems ; Roman Archaeology ; Egypt ; Syria ; Libya