At the Intersection of Work, Economy, and Society

Cross-Industry Relations in the Roman World

Elizabeth Murphy

ISAW Visiting Assistant Professor

Roman crafts production -- and its associated technological and labor organization -- has been conceived of as segmented, in part, although not exclusively, because of the structure of archaeological practice. Yet, in approaching potmaking, metalwork, glass manufacture, and other industries as discrete types of process, the intrinsically messy nature of the lived experience of making in the ancient Mediterranean is unhelpfully glossed. In response, this paper considers the bridge between intra- and inter-craft production; how and in what terms ways of making intersected and informed each other, from recycling to pooled infrastructure. Cases studies are presented from Roman and Late Antique Sagalassos, which illustrate the extent to which embedded social attitudes to making, and culturally constructed notions of the optimal, drove the structure of Roman crafts production.

Elizabeth Murphy is Visiting Assistant Professor at ISAW. She holds a PhD in Archaeology and the Ancient World from Brown University (2014), a MA in Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium (2007), and a BA in Anthropology from Arizona State University (2004). Her research interests concern the study of ancient crafts production, embedded economic practice, technology, and labor, while her technical specializations are centered on excavation, material culture studies, and ethnoarchaeology. Her fieldwork at the site of Sagalassos (SW Turkey) has investigated crafts production during the Roman and late Antique periods of the city through the excavation of workshop buildings, furnaces, and production infrastructure, as well as through the analysis of associated material culture (tools, finished products, raw materials, and production waste). This research is serving to reconstruct daily work practices and the organization of artisanal labor in the city. In addition to work on civilian industries, Elizabeth is developing a comparative study of legionary crafts production investigating the extent to which production at different locations may have been centrally organized by military institutions, influenced by craft traditions maintained within local networks of soldiers, or impacted by traditions associated with local civilian groups.

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