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Enough to feed an army. Carthaginian rural exploitation during the late third century BC

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ETFA (Enough to feed an army. Carthaginian rural exploitation during the late third century BC)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-08-31

The Carthaginian defeat in the First Punic War (264-241 BC) marked the beginning of a new phase in the history of Carthage. Ruined by crippling economic investment resulting from the war and taxes imposed by Rome; discredited internationally for the loss of Sicily; and terrified by the advance of Libyan rebels and mercenaries towards Carthage; the future of the Phoenician city appeared grim. However, the undefeated general Hamilcar Barca took advantage of this critical juncture to gain the political support needed to carry out his socio-economic policies. The Carthaginian commander managed to put an end to the military conflict that was devastating the Carthaginian territories of North Africa and started an unprecedented campaign of territorial expansion. Thus, in less than twenty years, Carthage had not only compensated for the loss of Sicily and Sardinia but had extended its territorial power and its economic capacity to the point of being able to hold the Second Punic War on several fronts and to seriously jeopardize the final Roman victory. It is, in this sense, a key period in Ancient History as both its development and its outcome had consequences in the short, medium and long-term for most of the populations which inhabited the western half of the Mediterranean. During the last two years, we have been working on understanding the relationship between war and agriculture in the Carthaginian Empire during the late third century BC. We have been analyzing the way in which agricultural production was affected by the mobilization of tens of thousands of soldiers over a period of more than 30 years and, in turn, the way in which social, economic and military policies of the Carthaginian Empire were conditioned by these agricultural resources. We have developed a new method to estimate the agricultural production through a capacity calculation of the Carthaginian amphorae. This kind of pottery transport containers was used in the late third century BC for the export of agricultural surpluses and, as we have demonstrated, for supplying the Carthaginian army. Indeed, a study on their distribution has shown a direct relationship between the export of these amphorae and the main war fronts and the location of the Carthaginian outposts during Second Punic War. We have also analyzed one of the main measures undertaken by the Barcid commander to encourage an increase in agricultural production but also a land trade growth. We have been able to determine that these measures were two: first, they created dense surveillance system with huge interconnected watchtowers devoted to secure trade routes and to protect farmlands. Second, they gave some land grants for veterans for their settlement in the new territories under the Carthaginian rule as a reward for the long services but to protect the new settlers as well. We have also thoroughly studied the cost involved in maintaining the Carthaginian armies during the different phases of the conflict and the benefits obtained by Carthage from the exploitation of agricultural and, especially, mining resources. The results have shown that the balance during the first years of the war was very beneficial to Carthage and its Empire, but the loss of the Iberian New Carthage and its close mining district in 209 BC changed everything and, possibly, even explained the final Carthaginian defeat. Precisely in Carthago Nova’s hinterland, where the mining resources get along with other resources, like fishing, agricultural and salt-mines, we have conducted a field survey that has allowed us to define the Carthaginian economic pattern of exploitation of all these resources and its relation to the Barcid administration and the coexistence between state mining factories and private salt-fish factories and farms.
The 24 months of the project have been very scientifically productive. Perhaps the best proof of this productivity is the appearance of 15 publications during this period, a figure that we hope it will increase in the coming months with those currently in the press or in the process of evaluation or submission. Along with it, we have participated in three international scientific meetings, one of which was co-organized by us in the framework of the project and co-financed by it.
At the same time, at the academic field, we have actively collaborated in training activities of our host institution. Thus, although we have only given a master class, we have organized a seminar with some other researchers of the host institution to expand the scientific horizons of the students. In addition, we have directly collaborated in the training of students in the different subjects required in our specialty, a process that has culminated in their active collaboration in an intensive archaeological survey that was foreseen in the project.
Moreover, as planned in the work plan, we have devoted a significant part of our resources and time to the non-scientific dissemination of the results with our participation in open-door events and the creation and updating of a blog devoted to present the results of the project.
Since it was a project whose objectives were based on methodological innovation and the use of new computer applications, we have made a significant advance in the knowledge of the Barcid period. For instance, we have gathered the necessary information to establish with certainty the chronological and cultural origin of the fortified enclosures so-called Hannibal’s Towers. To do this, we have developed a fast and accurate documentation protocol. In addition, we have developed an accurate system for the calculation of amphora capacities which has allowed us to present methodological proposals that imply the possibility of dating these containers and defining their contents. We have also contributed significantly to the knowledge on amphora stamping process in the Punic world. Likewise, we have advanced in our understanding of logistics during the Barcid period. Finally, our archaeological survey in the hinterland of Carthago Nova have allowed us to systematically document the pattern of rural settlements in the Barcid period and, therefore, to understand the way in which the different resources were exploited. Of course, as might be expected, some of our initial hypotheses have had to be revised and the resolution of some issues has led to the discovery of new questions that will allow us to continue the research in the years to come. In this sense, currently, three are the main paths of scientific development that we believe have generated and that we hope will have a high impact on future research. First, we would like to highlight the huge possibilities offered by the volumetric calculations generated from photogrammetric representations in relation to the chronology, place of production, and content. Second, working with the Hanibal’s Towers has enabled us not only to solve issues that had been intensely debated in the past but to develop new projects to solve new socio-economic questions and create new methodological applications such as predicting the location of archaeological sites. Finally, the results obtained in the field work will allow us, in the near future, to change our vision of the Barcid period with new interpretations of their use of the Rural Landscape that can be complemented with previous works focused on military aspects.
Figure 1. Photogrammetric applications
Figure 2. Volumetric diagram