Conference – Catastrophes in Context: The Archaeology of Catastrophes from the 1st–8th centuries CE in the Mediterranean Region

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An OxREP-UrbNet conference

Organised by Professor Rubina Raja (Aarhus University) and Professor Andrew Wilson (University of Oxford)

Date: 17-18 April 2023

Time: 9:15-18:00

Venue: Old Library, All Souls College, University of Oxford, UK


Past catastrophes and their impacts – also economically speaking – on the societies of their time have been studied for decades. From the wide spectrum of catastrophic events in the ancient world, the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE and the study of Pompeii and Herculaneum very famously stands out as ‘frozen moments in time’. These are sites that keep on revealing new evidence. Other much studied catastrophes include numerous epidemics, such as the Justinianic Plague as well as the invasion of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 CE. However, there are countless other examples of local, regional, and much broader impact on the Mediterranean world. Catastrophes in their broadest sense, including invasions, wars, epidemics, and natural catastrophes, have fascinated scholars for centuries.

The study of the immediate impacts these events left behind have often distracted attention from broader issues which also need to be studied, among these the ability of societies to bounce back, depending on the nature of the catastrophe that hit them. This, in turn, is related to their resources and vulnerabilities in the time before they were hit. More often than not, we struggle with compiling, analysing, and disentangling the datasets that would allow us to understand how societies reacted to such events, both in short- and long-term perspectives, through a firmer integration of archaeological and historical approaches to the material evidence. Relatively little scholarship exists on the perspective of ‘what happened before’, namely the time leading up to the events; we need to gain a more firmly contextualized archaeological and historical perspective by considering catastrophes and the response to them in a longue durée perspective including the period before and the effects afterwards.

This OxREP-UrbNet conference, organized jointly by Rubina Raja, Centre for Urban Network Evolutions, Aarhus University, and Andrew Wilson, All Souls College, University of Oxford, aims at tackling such problems and questions through an assessment of datasets from a range of time periods and sites in the Mediterranean from the 1st until the 8th century CE. We are inviting a set of scholars to address particular events, sites, and datasets connected to them in a local and broader perspective to bring to the forefront how we can work with archaeological and historical datasets in a more contextualized manner by not only focusing only on the immediate impacts of catastrophes and crises but also looking at the time before and after.

Confirmed speakers

  • Anderson, Michael A. (San Francisco State University)
  • De Simone, Girolamo Fernando (Independent researcher)
  • Franconi, Tyler (Brown University)
  • Jacobs, Ine (University of Oxford)
  • McDonald, Brandon (University of Basel)
  • Pickett, Jordan (University of Georgia)
  • Raja, Rubina (Aarhus University)
  • Robinson, Damian (University of Oxford)
  • Tuck, Steven (Miami University)
  • Wallace, Lacey (University of Lincoln)
  • Wilson, Andrew (University of Oxford)

Author: Dr. Bernard Mulholland

Dr. Bernard Mulholland is a Byzantinist, archaeologist, historian and Patristics scholar with a Ph.D. in history (QUB, 2012). Bernard's publications include: Fiction: Bernard Mulholland, Nazareth Quest (2022). Non-fiction: Bernard Mulholland, The man from MENSA - 1 of 600: Mensa research (2016). ---, The man from MENSA - 1 of the 600: Politics 1990-1995 (2016). ---, Ratio analysis of financial KPI in the Higher Education sector: a case study (2018). ---, Early Byzantine Ireland: a survey of the archaeological evidence (2021). ---, Navan Fort, Ireland: archaeological and palaeoecological analysis (2021). ---, The Early Byzantine Christian Church (Oxford, 2014). ---, 'Identification of Early Byzantine Constantinopolitan, Syrian, and Roman church plans in the Levant and some possible consequences', Patristic Studies in the twenty-first century: proceedings of an international conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the International Association of Patristic Studies, ed. Brouria Bitton-Ashkelony, Theodore de Bruyn and Carol Harrison (Turnhout, 2015), 597-633. Mulholland, B. (2021). 'Can archaeology inform the climate change debate?' Academia Letters, Article4385.

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