Old Wine in New Bottles. Towards a more layered history of Italy's wine business in Late Republican and Early/High Imperial times (200 BC-AD 200) 

01 October 2016 → 30 September 2019
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Archaeology
    • Theory and methodology of archaeology
    • Other history and archaeology
Italian wine
Project description

The history of Italy’s wine industry between the end of the Second Punic War (218-201 BC) and the High Imperial period (late 1st-2nd century AD) has long been outlined in terms of a boom-and bust cycle, driven by provincial stimuli and constraints. The marker artefacts par excellence for tracing these developments in the archaeological record were amphorae, i.e. large ceramic jars with two opposite handles that were used for transporting Italian wine to several parts of the Western and the Eastern Mediterranean. But over the years, the tendency to interpret the diachronic behaviour of Italian amphora circulation as an isolated phenomenon dictated by exterior forces – rather than one deeply embedded in a much wider domestic agrarian system – has met with growing scepticism. Important criticisms include the confined nature of amphora evidence and the unwarranted application of a too rigid and ultimately oversimplified ‘success and failure’ scenario. In agreeance with these claims, this research project argues that the parallel evolution of Italian urban markets and correlated rural population trends – together with the relation between such regional developments and the natural environment – are arguably more important, yet largely understudied contributing factors. The issue is explored by comparing amphora and wine press patterns with demographic developments against the background of land characteristics in six coastal regions of Italy; this by applying predictive models.