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The Alberese Archaeological Project (AAP): new research techniques for understanding the Roman period in southern Tuscany (2nd century BC – 6th century AD)

Final Report Summary - ALBTUSMED II (The Alberese Archaeological Project (AAP): new research techniques for understanding the Roman period in southern Tuscany (2nd century BC – 6th century AD))

The ALBTUSMED II project, funded by the European Union under the Marie Curie Fellowship scheme, was carried out at the Department of Archaeology of the University of Sheffield (UK) from September the 17th 2012 to September the 16th 2014.
The aim of the project was to understand Roman settlement and economic patterns in southern Tuscany from the 3rd c. BC to the 6th c. AD.
To achieve the result it was fundamental to continue to carry out a series of large excavations in the territory of Alberese (Grosseto, Italy) and to compare the results within the larger Tyrrhenian and Mediterranean basin.
Four research questions were at the heart of the project:
a. What, in terms of landscape exploitation and settlement change, was the impact of the Roman conquest of South Etruria?
b. What kind of economic infrastructure came into being – in particular, the relationship between cities and the rural settlements in their territories, and the distributive systems including cabotage ports and harbours?
c. How did economic patterns change after the 2nd century AD crisis of the Italic economy, particularly in terms of local production versus long-distance trade?
d. How did the economic and social system change at the fall of the Roman Empire (5th/6th century AD), and what was the impact of these changes on the urban, rural and maritime settlements?
The project was also dedicated to providing intensive training in GIS and database management techniques, as well as in petrographic analyses to determine the provenance of certain kinds of material culture and to widely understand trade routes in relationship to Roman economy in the area here analysed.

Two years of research have provided important results on the wider understanding of economic and settlement patterns for the region. In the period 2012-2014 two major Roman sites have been excavated: a manufacturing district (1st c. – 6th c. AD) and a maritime rural settlement (3rd c. BC – 5th c. AD). Both provided substantial information to better reconstruct the complex interactions between Imperial power and local activity. The multi scalar approach outlined in the proposal has been vital to throw new light on this territory.
When the proposal was submitted in 2011, the area to be investigated constituted a large gap in out knowledge of the Roman period. Little was known about economic, social, and settlement patterns. The picture has changed significantly after the ALBTUSMED II project. Around 10 settlements have been identified and two of them are under analysis. The contextual approach led to the publication of the first monograph, focused on the temple area of Diana Umbronensis (forthcoming 2015) and the results of the archaeological research have been widely disseminated through workshops, conferences, public talks, press conferences, web and social media as well as academic publications.
The fieldwork has been organized not only to provide new information about the sites, but also to train young European archaeologists.
The ALBTUSMED II project has fully succeeded in creating an International network of specialists working on the project by actively cooperating with the British School at Rome, John Cabot University at Rome, Michigan State University and the University of Queensland in Australia.

The intense training at the Department of Archaeology of the University of Sheffield has provided the necessary tools to implement and better develop the project. The entire documentation of the excavations carried out at Alberese is now digitised. A specific GIS platform has been created to manage the spatial data, while a database has been created and constantly updated to host new information. This results in a better understanding of settlement patterns for the multi-phased sites under investigation and allows the research to compare this territory to other similar regions around the Tyrrhenian coast, which was one of the main issues within this project.
Moreover, the training in petrography has allowed a reassessment of the material culture studies. The sample case used during the training was focused on the contrast between local to urban production of the stamped bricks recovered during the excavations. The results of this study will be soon published.

At the end, the experience gained during the two years of fellowship has guaranteed not only the continuation of the archaeological project as fieldwork, but has also increased the International perspective by linking a series of well-known scientists and researchers to it, widening the horizons of the research as a whole. The Alberese Archaeological Project is now Internationally known in the academic world and its results are challenging the most up-to-date debates in Roman and Late Antique debates.

As in the proposal, the aim of the project was also to leave an impact to next generations of archaeologists. Since 2012, a series of field schools has been organized in partnership with John Cabot University in order to provide intensive training during the excavations and the post-excavation processing of the documentation. 2 different kinds of school were established: the first one was aimed at training young archaeologists on fieldwork and it is run during the summertime directly on site. The second schools, instead, is focused on the material culture studies. Carried out during the winter (mid January to mid February) it gives the students a substantial knowledge on pottery, glass, metal, marble and coins, all recovered during the excavations.
In July 2014, thanks also to the work carried out during the Winter School, it was possible to open an exhibition at the Museo Archeologico e di Arte Sacra in Grosseto which will be displayed until April 2015 before moving to the Natural Park of Maremma in Alberese.