Lost In Transportation: Trade Networks And The Materiality Of Cargoes In The Ancient Mediterranean

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The demise of a ship creates an assemblage of artifacts that were only intended to travel as a temporary group of cargo, ship equipment, and personal items. While this assemblage provides glimpses of the agents behind the trade as well as the materials being traded, these shipwrecked items generally have been decontextualized by being removed from their traditional cultural associations of viewing and use. My dissertation develops a theoretical model for re-incorporating shipwreck remains into a holistic understanding of the past by considering the materiality and agency of objects through chaîne opératoire (work sequence). This framework connects behavioral and technical actions crucial to the interpretation of an object's social meaning throughout the entire enchained sequence in which raw materials are transformed into an object. When adapted for analysis of ancient shipwrecks, this model represents a woven network of interactions between multiple agents, with each step in a chaîne opératoire allowing for a multiscalar investigation of artifacts across different geographic and temporal scales. After developing this theoretical model, my dissertation focuses on the subaltern roles within this sequence of distribution that are not otherwise heard. Turning to ancient textual accounts and iconographical sources, I identify key agents who are responsible for assembling a cargo, shifting our focus from an elite-driven narrative. One case study uses archaeological and literary sources to examine the importation of luxury items to Roman villas in the late Republic and Imperial Period. Another case study uses shipwrecked remains to explore the transportation and preservation of organic remains. These chapters explore objects that are at different stages in a chaîne opératoire, with both the material and materiality of an object subject to change through the process of transportation. This methodology analyzes refocuses models of cultural change and gives a voice to the subalterns who often occupy hidden roles within these trade networks. By integrating systems of distribution, consumption, and production, it especially positions the objects from shipwrecks as agents of cultural exchange rather than simple proxies of trade.
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Roman trade networks; ancient shipwrecks; cultural exchange
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Platt,Verity Jane
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Ph. D., Classics
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Government Document
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dissertation or thesis
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