Roman archaeology provides us with an incredible source of data and information about economical productions and transactions around modern Europe and the Mediterranean basin. However, a formal study of the mechanisms that have characterised these economical and political relations is still missing. The main reason is the lack of formal approaches in historical and archaeological contexts. Specialists from these disciplines often do not even consider the possibility that their research can be expressed using a formal language (a codified semantic and grammar which can be computed), even ancient societies provide a great opportunity to evaluate diachronic real-world data with a virtual laboratory. However, the transdisciplinary nature of this project in which archaeologists will work together with physicists and computer scientists will enhance the power of both humanities and natural and computer sciences, by combining their competencies.
EPNet (Production and Distribution of Food during the Roman Empire: Economic and Political Dynamics) is an ERC Advanced Grant project and intends to set up an innovative framework to investigate the political and economical mechanisms that characterised the dynamics of the commercial trade system during the Roman Empire.
This system is one of the first recognized networks of interaction and interdependence in the current European territory and it is generally considered to be the first complex European trade network. Many theories and hypothesis about the organization of the Roman trade system based on the available vast data have been proposed but, due to the lack of a common semantic, their assessment come of very difficult if not impossible. As well, the speculative character of those approaches implies the impossibility of falsify them.
The project counts with one of the richest database for amphorae and epigraphy (http://ceipac.ub.edu/), one of the most precise archaeological and historical semantic markers available from the Roman Empire trading system. They provide information on geographical origin, on the products that were transported, on economic transactions, as well as on the social positions of and relationships between those involved in trade. Furthermore the possibility of dating them with great precision makes it possible to undertake fine-resolution studies of the dynamics of trading networks over time.