Multispecies dynamics and the ecology of urban spaces in Roman antiquity

Authored by: Michael MacKinnon

Multispecies Archaeology

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138898981
eBook ISBN: 9781315707709
Adobe ISBN:


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Urban environments host multiple organisms, which interact in myriad ways. Although this may seem obvious, dissecting the complexities surrounding this phenomenon proves challenging. Traditional accounts of the rise of urbanism typically focus upon the ancient Near East. Thereafter, various civilizations emerge in places such as Egypt, the Indus Valley, the Aegean and Mediterranean, China, Mesoamerica, and South America. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to detail developments across each setting; rather, attention here focuses upon urban contexts during Roman antiquity, broadly between c. 500 bc to c. 500 ad. This period certainly cultivates a range of urbanized places (here defined broadly as any nucleated settlement, from large cities, to smaller towns, and including military settlements; for brevity, ‘city’ is used loosely to collect all ‘urbanized’ spaces under one term) which variously may experience processes of evolution, development, transformation, disintegration, and decline. Within such settings, however, regardless of size or character, reside both humans and non-humans. But, who is influencing whom, and in what ways? How might incorporation of a multi- and inter-species perspective yield insight into the wider realm of ecological and cultural operations, attitudes, and behaviors among occupants—human and non-human? These questions shape the agenda, explored largely using zooarchaeological evidence from ancient urban sites (including Pompeii, Ostia, Athens, Carthage).

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