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Regional field survey and the demography of Roman Italy.

Witcher, R. E. (2008) 'Regional field survey and the demography of Roman Italy.', in People, land and politics : demographic developments and the transformation of Roman Italy, 300 BC - AD 14. Leiden: Brill, pp. 273-303.


This article considers some of the key debates concerning the demography of Roman Italy from the perspective of archaeological field survey. First, it addresses the question of whether or not the results of survey archaeology reveal the supposed decline of the peasantry during the second century BC; specifically, it examines the republican settlement evidence of the South Etruria survey. Second, it considers a demographic model of the early imperial suburbium (Witcher 2005) and evaluates its working assumptions; in particular, it considers the significance of this suburban population for the wider debate about the size of the early imperial population of Italy as a whole — the ‘high’ vs. ‘low count’ debate. Finally, two models are developed to explore the implications of these high and low population figures for assessment of the significance of the archaeological evidence; they imply two very different reconstructions of the socio-economic organization of Roman Italy. In particular, the ‘high count’ population model assumes very low archaeological site recovery rates; in turn this suggests relatively unintegrated rural economies and limited consumption. In contrast, the ‘low count’ population model assumes high archaeological site recovery rates, indicative of a more integrated rural economy with extensive access to manufactured and imported goods. However, both models suggest that regionality is a critical consideration for the study of early imperial Italy.

Item Type:Book chapter
Additional Information:This article stems from an invited conference paper delivered at the "Peasants, citizens and soldiers: the effects of demographic growth in Roman Republican Italy (202-88 BC)" (2007).
Keywords:Field survey, Roman Italy, Demography, South Etruria survey.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Record Created:08 Dec 2008
Last Modified:28 Oct 2011 15:57

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