In the summer of 02, thanks to the Center for the Visual Culture, I participated to the 7th season of the Amuq Valley Regional Project, directed by A. Yener and T.J. Wilkinson of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.
Located at the Northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea, the Amuq Valley has been the object of extensive archaeological campaigns since the 30s, by virtue of the extraordinary number of sites that surround the city of Antioch, a center of paramount importance in the history of the Roman empire and
The Amuq Valley Regional Project has operated in the area since 1995. It is a multi-dimensional investigation encompassing field activity and archaeological surveys aimed at addressing problems on the settlement rational in the valley. A vast array of sites thus has offered the ideal conditions for implementing this problem-oriented research, yet if on the one hand the settlement patterning for the III and II millennium B.C. is rather well understood, on the other hand the heavy "Romanization" of Antiochs rural landscape poses a set of challenging questions regarding town-country relationship, connectivity and administrative framework tout court. The formidable density of Roman settlements rigorously monitored and recorded between1995 and 2001, along with those that I surveyed under the direction of T. Wilkinson in the season 2002, have proven the feasibility of an approach that addresses the above mentioned problems. Hence, by means of the analysis of continuity in site occupation, the dispersion of individual farmsteads, villae and villages, along with the study of surface collections, we can now provide insights into the relationship between the metropolis and the countryside, assessing the impact of Roman agricultural systems in the region of Antioch. In addition, we have tackled another set of problems intimately linked to the previous ones:
- the understanding of land tenure in the High Roman empire
- site hierarchy
- distribution of wealth
By having implemented an approach of this sort, we are now able to gauge the economy of the region, its response to changes in the local environment and the appearance of new socio-economic dynamics during the Early Roman period, among which the most apparent are the consolidation of late Hellenistic settlements and the trend towards the formation of large estates (starting around the mid-I century AD).
Overall, the season 02 was then highly productive in terms of areas of survey covered and in the number of sites and stretches of Roman roads GPS mapped and immediately inserted in the regions GIS. Also, at a personal level, participating to this project was rewarding insofar it gave me the opportunity to lay down my dissertation plan, which will be based on the problems that I mentioned above, economy and urbanism in the territory of Antioch in the early empire. Without your generosity and support none of this would have been possible. Again, let me thank you and the Center for the Visual Culture for the extraordinary kindness of your grant.