The Supply of Stone to the City of Rome: A Case Study of the Transport of Anician Building Stone and Millstone from the Santa Trinità Quarry (Orvieto)



For archaeologists the study of the exotic is a difficult task, as “exotic” is a cultural construct difficult to discern in the archaeological record. Exotic items are those that in some way possess characteristics deemed unusual, rare, or unique, and thereby are often highly desirable. Complicating this, goods that might appear quite mundane to the excavator can reveal themselves to be exotic within a particular cultural context. For studies of the ancient Romans, a more thorough understanding of the exotic is revealed through examination of artifact distribution in the archaeological record combined with a close reading of various Roman and Greek texts to reveal Roman tastes and preferences. These distribution patterns can also be analyzed within their cultural context according to the precepts of formalist economic theory in an attempt to understand the degree to which Roman trade and exchange networks correspond to either a formalist or a substantivist model of economic behavior.

What follows is an attempt to put this method into practice. The focus of this study is two types of stone: the first used for the milling of grain and the second for construction. Both stones were considered to be of high quality and consequently desirable to Roman millers and builders, respectively. One of these stones was considered so desirable by Romans in the imperial capital that its distribution and use spread to sites quite distant from where it was extracted; the other was considered remarkable for its unusual properties and quality but nonetheless not sufficiently desirable to use outside the immediate source area. Consequently, a careful examination of the distribution of these two materials in the archaeological record of west central Italy suggests a number of possibilities for understanding the regional trade and exchange network of the Late Republican (second to first century BCE) and Imperial Periods (late first century BCE to fifth century CE).


Archaeological Record Building Stone Roman Period Quarry Site Tyrrhenian Coast 


  1. Antonelli, F., Nappi, G., and Lazzarini, L. (2001). Roman millstones from Orvieto (Italy): petrographic and geochemical data for a new archaeometric contribution. Archaeometry, 43, 167-189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bakker, J.T. (Ed.) (1999a) The mills-bakeries of Ostia: description and interpretation. Amsterdam: Geiben.Google Scholar
  3. Bakker, J.T. (1999b). Conclusions. In J.T. Bakker (Ed.), The mills-bakeries of Ostia: description and interpretation (pp. 110-128). Amsterdam: Geiben.Google Scholar
  4. Bakker, J.T., and Meijlink, B. (1999). Introduction. In J.T. Bakker (Ed.), The mills-bakeries of Ostia: description and interpretation (pp 1-15). Amsterdam: Geiben.Google Scholar
  5. Barbieri, G. (2000). Ville romane sulle propaggini dei monti Cimini presso Viterbo. Campagna e paesaggio nell’Italia antica, Atlante tematico di topografia antica, 8, 115-125.Google Scholar
  6. Bell, M. III (1994). An imperial flour mill on the Janiculum. In C. Virlouvet (Ed.), Le ravitaillement en blé de Rome et des centres urbains des débuts de la République jusqu’au haut empire (pp. 73-89). Rome : École française de RomeGoogle Scholar
  7. Bianchetti, P., Lombardi, G., Marini, S., and Meucci, C. (1994). The volcanic rocks of the monuments of the forum and palatine (Rome): characterization, alterations, and results of chemical ­treatments. In A. Charola, R. Koestler, and G. Lombardi (Eds.), Lavas and volcanic tuffs, (pp. 83-106). Rome: ICCROM.Google Scholar
  8. Buffone, L., Lorenzoni, F., Pallara, M., and Zanettin, E. (2003). The millstones of ancient Pompeii: a petro-archaeometric study. European Journal of Mineralogy, 15, 207-215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Caretta, L. (1986). Note sui materiali ceramici rinvenuti a Seripola. Tevere: un’antica via per il Mediterraneo, 185-190.Google Scholar
  10. Champlin, E. (1983). Figlinae Marcianae. Athenaeum, 61, fasc. I-II, 257-264.Google Scholar
  11. Colini, A. (1986). Il porto fluviale del foro Boario a Roma. Memoirs of the American Academy at Rome, 36, 43-53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Curtis, R. (2001). Ancient food technology, Boston: Brill.Google Scholar
  13. DeLaine, J. (1997). The baths of Caracalla: a study in the design, construction and economics of large-scale building projects in imperial Rome, Journal of Roman Archaeology, supplementary series 25.Google Scholar
  14. DeLaine, J. (1995). The supply of building materials to the city of Rome. In N. Christie (Ed.), Settlement and economy in Italy: 1500 BCE to CE 1500 (pp. 555-562). Papers of the fifth conference in Italian archaeology. Oxford: Oxbow Monograph 41.Google Scholar
  15. De Lucia Brolli, M.A. (1991). L’Agro Falisco. Rome: Quasar.Google Scholar
  16. De Rita, D., and Giampaola, C. (2006). A case study—ancient Rome was built with volcanic stone from the Roman land. Geological Society of America Special Paper, 408, 127-131.Google Scholar
  17. Duncan-Jones, R. (1982). The economy of the Roman Empire: quantitative analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Fratini, F., Manganelli del Fa, C., Pecchioni, E., Scala, A. (1994). The sculptures in Bomarzo Park, Viterbo, Italy: deterioration and conservation problems of the Peperino. In A. Charola, R. Koestler, and G. Lombardi (Eds.) Lavas and volcanic tuffs, (pp. 129-142). Rome: ICCROM.Google Scholar
  19. Grissom, C. (1994). The deterioration and treatment of volcanic stone: a review of the literature. In A. Charola, R. Koestler and G. Lombardi (Eds.), Lavas and volcanic tuffs, (pp. 3-32). Rome: ICCROM.Google Scholar
  20. Heiken, G., Renato, F., Donatella, D. (2005). The seven hills of Rome: a geological tour of the eternal city. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Helen, T. (1975). Organization of Roman brick production in the first and second centuries CE: an interpretation of Roman brick stamps, Acta Instituti Romani Finlandiae, 9,1. Helsinki: Bardi Editore.Google Scholar
  22. Kehoe, D. (1997). Investment, profit, and tenancy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  23. Le Gall, J. (1953). Le Tibre Fleuve de Rome dans L’Antiquité. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.Google Scholar
  24. Mattingly, D., and Aldrete, D. (2000). The feeding of imperial Rome: the mechanics of the food supply system. In J. Coulston and H. Dodge (Eds.), Ancient Rome: the archaeology of the eternal city, Cotsen Monograph 54 (pp. 142-165). Los Angeles: Cotsen.Google Scholar
  25. Mayeske, B. (1988). A Pompeian bakery on the via dell’Abbondanza. In R. Curtis (Ed.), Studia Pompeiana and classica in honor of Wilhelmina Jashemski, vol l, (pp. 149-166). New Rochelle, N.Y. : A.D. Caratzas.Google Scholar
  26. McCallum, M. (2005). Tiberis navigabilis: commercial activity between Rome and the Middle Tiber basin during the Roman period. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, SUNY Buffalo.Google Scholar
  27. Monacchi, D. (1999). Storia e assetto in età antica del territorio in cui ricade la Villa di Poggio Gramignano. In D. Soren and N. Soren (Eds.), A Roman villa and a late Roman infant cemetery (pp. 23-42). Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider.Google Scholar
  28. Monacchi, D. (1990). Lugnano in Teverina (Terni): locazione poggio gramignano—saggi di scavo di una villa rustica romana. Notizie degli Scavi, serie ottava, 40-41, 5-35.Google Scholar
  29. Morelli, C. (1957). Gli avanzi romani di Pagliano presso Orvieto. Bolletino dell’istituto storico artistico orvietano, fascicolo unico, anno XIII. Orvieto: Istituto Storico Artistico Orvietano.Google Scholar
  30. Munzi, M. (1995). La nuova statonia. Rivista di antichità, 4, no. 2, 285-299.Google Scholar
  31. Palmer, R.E.A. (1980). Customs on market goods imported into the city of Rome. In J. D’Arms and E. Kopff (Eds.), The seaborne commerce of ancient Rome: studies in archaeology and history, MAAR 36, (pp. 217-233). Rome: American Academy in Rome.Google Scholar
  32. Peacock, D.P.S. (1989). The mills of Pompeii. Antiquity, 62, 205-214.Google Scholar
  33. Peacock, D.P.S. (1986). The production of Roman millstones near Orvieto, Umbria, Italy. The Antiquaries Journal, 66, 45-51.Google Scholar
  34. Peacock, D.P.S. (1980). The Roman millstone trade: a petrological sketch. World Archaeology, 12(1), 43-53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Peccerillo, A. (2005). Plio-quaternary volcanism in Italy. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  36. Perina, G. (1986). Il porto sul Tevere in località Seripola. Tevere: un antica via per il Mediterraneo, 184-185.Google Scholar
  37. Pliny the Elder (1947). Naturalis Historiae, Loeb Classical Library, H. Rackham, translator. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Quilici, L. (1974). Forma Italiae I.x. Collatia. Florence: Olschki.Google Scholar
  39. Rickman, G. (1996). The corn supply of ancient Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Sirks, B. (1991). Food for Rome: the legal structure of the transportation and processing of supplies for the imperial distributions in Rome and Constantinople. Amsterdam: Geiben.Google Scholar
  41. Spurr, M. (1986) Arable cultivation in Roman Italy. Journal of Roman Studies Monographs No. 3. London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.Google Scholar
  42. Stanco, E. (1994). La localizzazione di Statonia: nuove considerazioni in base alle antiche fonti. MEFRA, 106(1) 247-258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Steinby, E.M. (1993). L’organizzazione produttiva del laterizi: un modello interpretativo. In W. Harris (Ed.), The Inscribed Economy, (pp. 139-143). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  44. Storey, G. (2004) Roman economies: a paradigm of their own. In G. Feinman and L. Nicholas (Eds.), The political economies of ancient chiefdoms and states (pp. 105-128). Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.Google Scholar
  45. Vaglieri, D. (1910). Targhetta di rame trovata nel Tevere. Bollettino della Commissione Archaeologica in Roma, 37, 141.Google Scholar
  46. Vitruvius (1970). De Architectura, Loeb Classical Library, F. Granger, translator. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Wetter, Erik (1969). Ricerche topografiche nei territori circostanti Acqua Rossa. Opus. Rom., 7(9), 109-139.Google Scholar
  48. White, D. (1963). A survey of millstones from Morgantina. American Journal of Archaeology, 67(2), 199-206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Williams, D. (1999). A note on the petrology of some ceramic building materials, pottery and stone objects from the Roman villa at Poggio Gramignano. In D. Soren and N. Soren (Eds.), A Roman villa and a late Roman infant cemetery (pp. 407-411). Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider.Google Scholar
  50. Williams-Thorpe, O. (1988). Provenancing and archaeology of Roman millstones from the Mediterranean area. Journal of Archaeological Science, 15, 253-305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wilson, A. (2000). The water-mills on the Janiculum. Memoirs of the American Academy at Rome, 45, 219-246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.St. Mary’s UniversityHalifaxCanada

Personalised recommendations