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Quantifying the Roman EconomyMethods and Problems$
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Alan Bowman and Andrew Wilson

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199562596

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199562596.001.0001

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Archaeology, Demography, and Roman Economic Growth

Archaeology, Demography, and Roman Economic Growth

(p.115) 4 Archaeology, Demography, and Roman Economic Growth
Quantifying the Roman Economy

Willem Jongman

Oxford University Press

This chapter probes the potential of archaeological data for a reconstruction of the demography of ancient Rome. Unfortunately demographic structure is hard to document archaeologically: to calculate ages of death from adult skeletons is a highly imprecise art. On the other hand, skeletons often tell us much about health and disease. Roman census data exist, but their interpretation is extremely controversial. Archaeological surveys suggest a pattern of dense habitation during the late Republic and early Empire. To translate such artefact densities into human densities remains a heroic endeavour, however. Not nearly so heroic, and at least as revealing, is to graph relative changes over time. In Italy, it seems, from the middle and late Republic, the population increased, to reach a peak in the 1st century BC and/or the 1st century AD, and to decline thereafter. Historically, this means that the population grew precisely in a period of rising prosperity.

Keywords:   demography, archaeological survey, census data, skeletons, population density

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