Economic Archaeology - 1 - Data analysis and pre-modern trade networks

13-02-2019 van 14:30 tot 17:00
Ghent University, Campus Ufo, Ufo building (1st floor), Lecture Room Henri Pirenne (Department of Archaeology, Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 35, 9000, Ghent)
Door wie
Dr. Dimitri Van Limbergen, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy – Department of Archaeology
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Specialist Course - Economic Archaeology. Comparative approaches for determining economic performance in archaeological and historical research from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

The Economic Archaeology & History seminar series for Spring 2019, organized by the departments of Archaeology and Ancient History at Ghent University, within the Inter-university partnership SDEP, will begin on Wednesday February 13. This seminar series is a front line activity within the Doctoral Schools Program of Arts, Humanities and Law, and is this semester’s theme for the traditional Research Afternoons by the Department of Archaeology. Each session of the course will consist of a lecture by a distinguished specialist (ca. 1 hour), and a presentation by a UGent doctoral researcher (ca. 30 min), followed by a discussion.

For more information on this activity, including the full line-up of invited speakers, please visit:


This year’s seminar series will kick off with a lecture by Prof. dr. Soeren Michael Sindbaek on:

Maps of imaginary places: data analysis and pre-modern trade networks

In our patchy picture of the world of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, archaeological finds of displaced objects and bits of evidence in documents and text raise hope of finding data on otherwise shadowy patterns of trade and communication. From Pirenne to present, researchers have looked for formal methods to distil trends in this evidence, beyond mere example and anecdote. Recently the development of big data and complex systems analysis, and scientific sourcing of archaeological materials, along with theoretical and interpretative models focused on social networks and globalization have put the spotlight on these predicaments. This seminar will offer a critical reflection on the use of quantitative methods to analyse archaeological and written sources on trade and communication. With examples drawn mainly from Viking-age Scandinavia, I discuss routes and routinization, skewed data and black box logics, and explore how quantitative analysis may offer a way forward.


Prof. Sindbaek’s lecture will be followed by a short coffee break, after which UGent PhD candidate Toon Bongers will present his research on:

Reconstructing economic connectivity and riverine transport networks in Roman Gaul: the case of the Scheldt Basin 

Archaeological sources make it impossible to deny that rivers served as pathways in the past. However, the role of inland waterways in the Roman transport economy of northern Gaul, with exception of the river Rhine, has received little scholarly attention. This paper fills a current gap in academic research by studying the structure and behavior of the transport network in the Roman-era Scheldt basin, with an emphasis on the role of waterways. It then subsequently links the reconstructed network to long distance transport routes in Roman Gaul and larger economic patterns. I start from the hypothesis of an integrated transport network, in which rivers, roads and seaways link up to form a single system. 


The seminar will conclude with a discussion, co-moderated by Dr. Devi Taelman, FWO postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Archaeology at Ghent University.

The seminar series is open to all who want to deepen/share their knowledge on the principles, methods and theories of economic archaeology. Both UGent and non-Ghent researchers at all levels (PhD, postdoctoral, faculty) in a relevant discipline are welcome and encouraged to attend.

For practical reasons, we ask non-UGent attendees to RSVP to prior to the start of the seminar.