This paper discusses the most relevant results of a project in the extraordinarily well-preserved North African landscape of the middle Medjerda Valley in the High Tell of Tunisia, and draws some comparisons with recent survey work in north-eastern Algeria. The survey was an all-over investigation, providing a complete geographic coverage, not proceeding by sample areas; and consequently the results are not based on extrapolated estimates but on real values. The excellent preservation of the ancient North African landscape encouraged this approach.The survey revealed a landscape that had been intensively exploited in the Roman and still more in the late Roman periods and in Late Antiquity, with numerous farms with presses for oil or wine, and mills for grain. This evidence can be linked with inscriptions that shed light on land tenure arrangements and property extents to suggest that the region produced a surplus which was exported further afield, either commercially or as sharecropping rents on imperial estates, via the region’s road network and the river Medjerda. One of the key aims of the survey was to investigate the work and living conditions of the coloni who in the Severan period had asked the Emperor to ensure they received the benefits of the lex Hadriana de rudibus agris. In 1891 Carton had found a copy of this request in situ in the ancient farm of Aïn Wassel, 12 km to the West of Thugga. A small part of the farm (252 m3) excavated in 1994–6 turned out to have been totally rebuilt in the Byzantine period on older (probably middle-imperial) wall foundations, reflecting well the overall situation of the region. The discovery during the survey at Lella Drebblia of another copy of the lex Hadriana de rudibus agris, 7 km to the East of Aïn Wassel and in the pagus Suttuensis of the boundary marker of T. Statilius Taurus, Octavian’s general, 1 km to the North of Ain Wassel enabled us to establish the dimensions of the imperial estate, and to locate the saltus Neronianus, the name of the estate after its transfer from the Statilii to Agrippina or Nero.The intention of the emperors was to promote an intensification of agriculture by attractive sharecropping regulations described in the ‘great inscriptions’ of the Bagradas valley, the grain store for the annona of Rome. The historical and legal questions implied in these inscriptions have been studied and discussed since the first one of a series of six was discovered 130 years ago, beginning with Theodor Mommsen; but so far there has been no investigation on the ground of the production systems in the many senatorial and imperial saltus of the Bagradas region since the early reconnaissance by the pioneering army doctor Louis Carton who published his discoveries in an exemplary way in 1895. Our survey is the first one that concerns this territory with systematic mapping and collecting; it revealed an unexpected density and variety of settlement, with such important and well exploited potentialities that were exploited on an even greater scale from the moment they were no longer subject to the restrictions imposed by the Roman annona: in the Vandal and Byzantine periods the export possibilities increased enormously and their benefits could be reinvested in the development of the region itself. The dynamic North African export trade around the Mediterranean sea and its coasts, partially sustained by the church, described in Paul Reynolds’ recent important in-depth study of these periods, corresponds very well with the reality of the inland area object of this paper.
|Titolo:||The rural landscape of Thugga: farms, presses, mills and transport|
|Titolo del volume contenente il saggio:||The Agricultural Economy: Production and Consumption|
|Luogo di edizione:||Oxford|
|Casa editrice:||Oxford University Press|
|Anno di pubblicazione:||2013|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||02.1 Saggio su volume miscellaneo o Capitolo di libro (Essay or Book Chapter)|