This groundbreaking book provides the first comprehensive look at how the latest advances in the sciences are transforming our understanding of ancient Roman history. Walter Scheidel brings together leading historians, anthropologists, and geneticists at the cutting edge of their fields, who explore novel types of evidence that enable us to reconstruct the realities of life in the Roman world.
Contributors discuss climate change and its impact on Roman history, and then cover botanical and animal remains, which cast new light on agricultural and dietary practices. They exploit the rich record of human skeletal material – both bones and teeth – which forms a bio-archive that has preserved vital information about health, nutritional status, diet, disease, working conditions, and migration. Complementing this discussion is an in-depth analysis of trends in human body height, a marker of general well-being. The Science of Roman History also assesses the contribution of genetics to our understanding of the past, demonstrating how ancient DNA is used to track infectious diseases, migration, and the spread of livestock and crops, while the DNA of modern populations helps us reconstruct ancient migrations, especially colonization.
Opening a path toward a genuine biohistory of Rome and the wider ancient world, The Science of Roman History offers an accessible introduction to the scientific methods being used in this exciting new area of research, as well as an up-to-date survey of recent findings and a tantalizing glimpse of what the future holds.
List of Illustrations and Tables vii
Notes on Contributors ix
1 Reconstructing the Roman Climate 11
Kyle Harper & Michael McCormick
2 Archaeobotany: The Archaeology of Human-Plant Interactions 53
Marijke van der Veen
3 Zooarchaeology: Reconstructing the Natural and Cultural Worlds from Archaeological Faunal Remains 95
4 Bones, Teeth, and History 123
Alessandra Sperduti, Luca Bondioli, Oliver E Craig, Tracy Prowse, & Peter Garnsey
5 Human Growth and Stature 174
Rebecca Gowland & Lauren Walther
6 Ancient DNA 205
Noreen Tuross & Michael G Campana
7 Modern DNA and the Ancient Mediterranean 224
Roy J King & Peter A Underhill
Walter Scheidel is the Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History, and a Kennedy-Grossman Fellow in Human Biology at Stanford University. He is the author or editor of seventeen previous books, including The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century.
"This is a fabulous introduction to a wide range of techniques, and provides numerous fascinating insights into life in the Roman period."
– Hella Eckardt, Current World Archaeology
"This book shows that the study of the ancient Roman world is no exception to the enormous contribution that science has long been making to our understanding of the ancient past."
– New Testament Abstracts
"This interdisciplinary book brings together the latest scientific methodologies to better understand the history of Rome and the ancient world. There really isn't another book like this."
– Kristina Killgrove, University of West Florida
"The Science of Roman History is a very timely book. With state-of-the-art contributions by scholars who are leaders in their respective fields, it describes how the integration of natural and human archives is changing the entire historical enterprise. I highly recommend that all historians read this important contribution."
– J. G. Manning, author of The Last Pharaohs