Wood in the Roman Age: Cultural Landscapes, Forest Exploitation and Timber Circulation in Southern Italy.
Within the scope of this dissertation project, the relationship between Roman civilization, forests, and wood resources in Southern Italy, especially in the Campania and Calabria regions, will be analysed. The investigation focuses on the use of wood, the technology of woodworking and the exploitation of forest resources in the aforementioned area of the Roman Empire. By means of an in-depth analysis, an understanding of the cultural landscapes of the investigated area and of timber circulation in the territories of the Roman Empire will also be possible. In order to answer the relevant research questions, I will analyse a specific archaeoenvironmental proxy: wood, both charred and uncharred.
In particular, building material and furniture discovered in the archaeological sites of Herculaneum (Ercolano, Naples) and Poppaea’s Villa at Oplontis (Torre Annunziata, Naples) will be studied. The very hot pyroclastic flows originating from Mount Vesuvius during the AD 79 eruption which covered the whole city and the villa, as well as the subsequent humid and salty environmental conditions of the ancient stratigraphy supported the exceptional preservation of charred and uncharred wood elements. The analysis of these remains provides information about Roman woodworking: the use of different taxa for different building elements is attested, revealing the expertise of Roman builders regarding wood technological properties. The identification of the taxa used in the sites also enables us to advance hypotheses concerning the surrounding vegetation or the past existence of timber trade. The main taxon used in Herculaneum and Oplontis, for example, is silver fir (Abies alba), which nowadays does not grow in the vicinity of the sites. Was it more widespread in this area during the past, or was it imported from the Alps? The application of strontium isotope analysis to the silver fir wooden samples could provide a definitive answer to the provenance of silver fir timber used in the sites and could also possibly give new insight about the general topic of timber circulation in the territories of the Roman Empire.
Charcoal analysis carried out on soil profiles in the area of Lake Cecita (Sila Massif, Calabria) provide information about the exploitation of forest resources and about landscape changes before and during the Roman Age. This analysis could help us answer the question whether Romans actually did exploit the forests of the Italian peninsula to such a great extent that depletion emerged, as is commonly suggested. The soil profiles which have been investigated so far show a transition from a silver fir and deciduous forest dominated by oak (Quercus dec.) to a pine (Pinus sylvestris group) forest. When did the shift occur? Was it induced by climate change or human action? Pedoanthracological analysis and radiocarbon dating seem to show that vegetation shifts took place at different intervals between the Final Eneolithic and the end of the Greek Age before the conquest of this area by the Romans. In any case, more data and radiocarbon datings are required to better clarify vegetation dynamics. Pedoanthracological analysis will also be applied at Velia (Salerno, Campania) and at Ostuni (Brindisi, Apulia) to enlarge the investigated area and - by comparing data from different places - formulate well-grounded interpretations.
Since April 2010
Member of the Graduate School "Human Development in Landscapes" at Kiel University.
MA in Archaeology at the Università degli Studi di Siena. Subject of the master's thesis: Carpological analysis in Miranduolo (Chiusdino – SI): a comparison between historiographic models and archaeobotanical data.
Since January 2008
Archaeobotanical analyses of carpological and anthracological remains at the Lab of Vegetation History and Wood Anatomy, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II.
Practical course: Identification of Archaeological Plant Remains (macroremains: seeds, fruit, wood) at the IPAS - Institute for Prehistory and Archaeological Sciences, University of Basel.
Scholarship to develop the project “Producer and consumer sites: an open debate” at the IPAS - Institute for Prehistory and Archaeological Sciences, University of Basel, in range of the EARTH Programme of the European Science Foundation.
Training in identification and analysis of the carpological remains found in the site of Loppio – Isola S. Andrea (Rovereto, TN – Italy) at the Civici Musei of Como.
Training in archaeobotanical sieving and sorting in the Protohistoric site of Karabournaki (Thessaloniki) excavated by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
BA in Sciences of Cultural Heritage at the Università degli Studi di Trento. Subject of the bachelor’s thesis: Archaeobotanical researches in Loppio – Isola S. Andrea (TN): carpological remains from section A.
Archaeobotanical analyses of carpological and anthracological remains from the Byzantine site of Aïn-Wassel (Dougga, Tunisia). Università degli Studi di Trento, Dipartimento di Filosofia, Storia e Beni Culturali.
Archaeobotanical analyses of carpological remains from the Medieval site of Loppio – Isola
S. Andrea (Rovereto, TN - Italy). Museo Civico di Rovereto.
Participation to the archaeological excavations in the Medieval site of Castello di Miranduolo (Chiusdino, SI - Italy). Università degli Studi di Siena, Dipartimento di Archeologia e Storia delle Arti.
Participation to the archaeological excavations in the Medieval site of San Genesio (San Miniato, PI - Italy). Università degli Studi di Siena, Dipartimento di Archeologia e Storia delle Arti.
Participation to the archaeological excavations in the Medieval site of Castello di Donoratico (Castagneto Carducci, LI - Italy). Università degli Studi di Siena, Dipartimento di Archeologia e Storia delle Arti.
Participation to the archaeological excavations in the Medieval site of Monte San Martino (Tenno, TN - Italy). Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici, Provincia Autonoma di Trento.
Participation to the archaeological excavations in the Medieval site of Loppio – Isola S. Andrea (Rovereto, TN - Italy). Museo Civico di Rovereto.
Participation to the archaeological excavations in the Prehistoric site of Lugo di Grezzana (VR – Italy). Università degli Studi di Trento, Dipartimento di Filosofia, Storia e Beni Culturali in alliance with Soprintendenza Archeologica del Veneto.
Moser D., 2005
Ricerche di carpologia a Loppio – Isola S. Andrea (TN): i primi risultati, Annali del Museo Civico di Rovereto, 21, pp. 87-120.
Buonincontri M. P., Di Falco G., Moser D., Donnini D., Di Pasquale G., 2006
Il castello di Mirandolo (Siena): dati archeobotanici per il X-XI secolo, Atti Società Naturalisti e Matematici di Modena, 137, pp. 321–338.
Di Pasquale G., Buonincontri M. P., Di Falco G., Moser D., 2007
Feeding and Landscape in Medieval Tuscany Countryside: the Curtis of Miranduolo (Siena – Central Italy), Poster presented at 14th Symposium of the International Work Group for Palaeoethnobotany (Kraków, Poland 17-23 June 2007).
Di Pasquale G., Di Falco G., Moser D., 2008
Analisi archeobotaniche, M. Valenti (ed.), Miranduolo in Alta Val di Merse (Chiusdino – SI). Archeologia su un sito di potere del Medioevo toscano, Firenze, pp. 323-348.
Moser, D., Heussner, U., Kastenmeier, P., Nelle, O., Di Pasquale, G., 2012, Local or global? Methods to solve the problem of silver fir timber circulation during the Roman Age, in Vezzalini, G., Zannini P., Atti del VII Congresso Nazionale di Archeometria, Modena 22-24 febbraio 2012. Pàtron Editore, Bologna, pp. 302-311. ISBN: 978-88-555-3166-6.
Moser, D., Allevato, E., Clarke J.R., Di Pasquale G.,
Nelle, O., Archaeobotany at Oplontis: the last
available woody remains from the Roman Villa of
Poppaea (Naples, Italy), submitted to: Vegetation
History and Archaeobotany.