Online Review: Book

Ceramica, abitati, territorio nella bassa valle del Tevere e Latium Vetus

P. Gregory Warden

115.2

Edited by Marco Rendeli (Collection de l’École Française de Rome 425). Pp. 330, b&w figs. 150, color figs. 3, tables 25, plans 13, maps 2. École Française de Rome, Rome 2009. €81. ISBN 978-2-7283-0838-5 (paper).

This collection of essays results from a 2003 conference organized by the French School and the Norwegian and Swedish Institutes in Rome. The volume includes 14 contributions from scholars of varied methodological backgrounds, all of whom are engaged with the explication of Early Iron Age habitation contexts from northern Latium and southern Etruria. The contributions address the study of ceramic assemblages in the context of settlement archaeology; they are arranged geographically, covering Rome and the suburbs, Latium Vetus, and the Sabine and south Etruscan areas.

The first three articles relate to excavations on the Palatine. Pensabene’s account of the southwest Palatine from the eighth to the sixth centuries B.C.E. offers only a cursory summary of contexts and ceramics from that area and tantalizingly little information about either; anyone wanting more specific evidence will have to follow the bibliographical references or try to glean something from the next two contributions. This may not be easy, for the next article by Colazingari on domestic ceramic production from the southwest Palatine is descriptive and focused on questions of taxonomy. Ample illustrations are provided, but the drawings (computerized?) unfortunately are of deplorable quality and seemingly without scale; the plan (fig. 1) has an unreadable scale, no labels, and suffers from the same production problem: lines that are squiggles rather than real lines. The two graphs (figs. 2, 3) are colorful but provide only the most generalized qualitative information; they are a case study on how not to present quantitative information. Falzone and Rossi’s contribution on ceramics from this same area and period provides a more nuanced reading of the ceramic production in the context of the complex stratigraphy of the area. The drawings are now useful (with scales) and the graphs informative. A photograph of an interesting bronze figurine (fig. 13) is, however, well out of focus. Giontella and Villedieu follow with a well-documented summary of the early material culture and construction contexts of the Vigna Barberini. Magagnini and van Kampen present a comprehensive and fascinating analysis of material from wells on the Velia, excavated in the 1930s during construction of the Via dei Fori Imperiali, convincingly connecting the ceramics and architectural terracottas to the urban development (from huts to houses) of the area in the seventh century and later.

The next five contributions address ceramic assemblages from sites around Rome. Rasmus Brandt begins with general observations on ceramics and settlements at Ficana, Satricum, and Lavinium, building on his earlier work on the Ficana assemblages. In many ways, this is the most informative and interesting contribution in the volume, approaching both the theoretical and the practical with aplomb. The author points out that he has raised more questions than provided answers (108), but this is all to the good, for it is the intersection of ceramic evidence with settlement and social context that is at the heart of this kind of research. An extremely interesting article by Jarva on the function of ceramica comune at Ficana follows, with discussion of vessel capacity and the way it might relate to economic and nutritional value; this article needs to be read alongside Togninelli’s contribution later in the volume, which suggests that ceramics from Crustumerium also may reveal evidence for standardized volumes. Volpe and three collaborators follow with a brief overview of two structures excavated at the site of Centocelle, east of Rome, and their ceramic assemblages (both pottery and tiles). The comprehensive and detailed account of Iron Age through Archaic-period material, and contexts from Fidene offered by Di Gennaro and six other authors, is more substantial. As Rendeli points out in his introduction, this well-documented study provides a bridge between Rome and southern Etruria, especially Veii, which is represented here by Bartoloni’s account of the recent (1996–2002) excavations at Piazza d’Armi that produced evidence of three buildings aligned with the main road, the so-called cardo. The author includes specific contributions on ceramics from no fewer than 14 other scholars. There are excellent plans, reconstructions, and line drawings; this is a model presentation of archaeological evidence that will be of interest to anyone working on preclassical Etruria, and it is worth the price of the volume alone. It is interesting to compare this material from carefully excavated habitation contexts with Rendeli’s analysis of ceramics from the surveys conducted at Veii by Ward Perkins’ South Etruria Survey—material that also yields important insights. Rendeli uses this material to hypothesize about the urban development of Veii, including a suggestion (281) that in the middle Orientalizing period, there existed in the region of the Piano della Comunità an artisan area for the production of ceramics. The two final contributions, by Guidi and Santoro, concern themselves with ceramics from sites in Sabine territory (Cures Sabini and Magliano Sabina).

As is to be expected in a volume of this type, the contributions are uneven in quality. The best ones attempt to situate the ceramic evidence in a broader analysis of settlements. Others document evidence that might have been better presented with more expedient technologies, such as online databases or multimedia. Also helpful would have been a longer synthetic essay that provided an overview of methodological issues, the nature of the evidence, or even questions of taxonomy. However, there is much here that will be of interest to scholars working on central Italian archaeology, specialists in ceramic assemblages, or scholars interested in the changing demographics and urban topographies of the Italian peninsula from the Early Iron Age through the Archaic period. This volume presents a wealth of new material, and the interest in connecting the study of ceramic assemblages with habitation contexts moves the discipline in a salutary direction by emphasizing the importance of the integrated analysis of settlements.

P. Gregory Warden
Art History
Southern Methodist University
Dallas, Texas 75275-0356
gwarden@smu.edu

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1152.Warden

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