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Fellow Seminar

25 October 2018

Dr. Anastasia Cholakova will present her research proposal on the topic: "Technology in Context. Integrated Perspectives on Centralized Metal Production in Late Antiquity" on 25 October 2018 (Thursday) at 16:30h.


It is well known that the large-scale metal production in the late Roman Empire had an important place in the overall structure of economy, also being to a great extent administrated and managed by centralized state institutions. Nevertheless, despite the developed archaeological and interdisciplinary research, there is hardly any substantial direct reflection of such a historical narrative attested in the archaeological record so far.

The main focus of the presentation will be on an important, but still not fully understood, archaeological assemblage from late Roman Serdica (present-day Sofia), the capital of Dacia Mediterranea province. The so-called ‘Lenin Square SW82' site was excavated 36 years ago when the digs were necessitated by modern construction works (Stancheva 1997). Surprisingly for an urban context, great amounts of metallurgical debris - slags, clay tuyère fragments (nozzles of metallurgical bellows), etc., related to copper processing were found. Understanding such a complex technological assemblage requires a detailed study of the archaeological record and finds, but also includes their reading in relation to the socio-economic context and historical narratives of the late Roman period.

A range of indications, recognizable in this assemblage, such as central location, standardization, significant volume of debris, and an apparent high degree of artisanal specialization, implies that corresponding extensive consumption needs must have triggered the organization of this manufacture. Particularly interesting are the tuyère fragments which are unparalleled by their size and standardized manufacture, pointing to an almost industrial scale of metallurgical production (cf. Dark 2001).

The working hypothesis of enquiry is that these remains should be interpreted in the context of centralized late Roman state/military production, thus pointing to a possible diversity and mobility of the fabricae organization which has remained unrecorded in the main written source, Notitia Dignitatum, or which may have ceased to exist by the time of creation of this document.


This work is made possible thanks to the support of Sofia History Museum.


Dark 2001: K. Dark. Proto-industrialization and the economy of the Roman Empire. In: M. Polfer (ed.) Instrumentum Monograph 20, Montagnac, 19-29.

Stancheva 1997: M. Stancheva. A contribution to the study of the ancient building under the Sveta Nedelya Square. In: Serdica - Sredez - Sofia 3, Sofia, 7-50.


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