Post Processual Economics: The Role of African Red Slip Ware Vessel Volume in Mediterranean Demography 


The aim of this paper is to present a new approach to the study of Roman ceramics. Specifically, to address the way in which ceramics are used in demographic reconstruction, and to suggest that the current emphasis on formal economic explanations is leading to reconstructions of both the economy as a whole and individual settlement patterns which are erroneous. The fundamental premise of this paper is that economic and demographic analysis cannot go ahead without first coming to terms with the fact that ceramics were first and foremost containers from which to eat. To overlook this is not simply to miss trivial details, but may lead to a misinterpretation of changes in settlement patterns. These points are made through an analysis of a particular pattern which occurs on sites receiving African Red Slip Ware from the second to fourth centuries AD. It is argued that the apparent economic decline in the third century is actually the result of changes in the size of the vessels, such that the very substantial increase in size in the third century meant that fewer vessels were needed to consume the same amount of food as in the second century. It is further suggested that this change may be, at least partly, the result of the rise of early Christianity in Africa .

How to Cite

Hawthorne J., (1997) “Post Processual Economics: The Role of African Red Slip Ware Vessel Volume in Mediterranean Demography ”, Theoretical Roman Archaeology Journal 0(1996). p.29-37. doi:







J. W. J. Hawthorne ( )





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