Saturday, March 10, 2018- 2:00 PM: Dr. Caroline Goodson, Birkbeck College, University of London

2018 AIA Forsyth Lecture

Power in the Medieval Italian Countryside: The Village and Monastery of Villamagna (Lazio)

 

Abstract

The passage from antiquity to the middle ages meant major changes to the social structures, economies, and qualities of life for people living in central Italy. Power structures became local and new social orders, including the church and monasteries, emerged in the centuries after the collapse of the Roman empire. The site of Villamagna, Italy, about 70 km south of Rome, provides a unique vantage point into this process of transformation. Over five seasons of open-area stratigraphic excavation, and five further years of analysis of materials and finds, our international team has revealed the transition of an imperial Roman villa into a proprietary monastery and then a feudal estate which is abandoned at the time of the Black Death. From the vantage point of an imperial villa, one of the highest-status, best-connected settlements of the Roman world, we can chart in fine detail the changes in social structures, economies, and representation of power in this period, and examine the effects of the legacies of the ancient estate on its medieval realities.

Medieval Villamagna gives us entirely new insight into the transformation to a medieval landscape of power. We have excavated a high-status residence built into the ancient Roman buildings, dated to c. 900. In the late tenth century, the property was endowed to a monastery, and we have excavated its buidldings next to the Byzantine church at the center of the estate. The abbots of the monastery became the most significant landholders in the region, they created a castle on the hill above the site for their vassals, and acquired agricultural properties throughout the valley, which were farmed by peasants. The village of peasant huts which we excavated tells us about the lives of the people who worked the lands up to c. 1400, while the structures of the monastery reveal for us the wealth of the community, and their strategies for projecting power and prestige. In front of the monastery and church is an extensive burial ground, containing over 400 medieval graves. It provides a new lens for examining life and death in a medieval monastery and village—ongoing bio-archaeology research is examining life course and changes in health, in the population. This paper will present the findings in the context of the current research in medieval settlement and monastic archaeology, showing how the imperial legacy Villamagna remained a significant tool for advancement through the middle ages.

Bio

Caroline Goodson is Reader in Archaeology and History, Department of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. She holds her degrees from Columbia University (Ph.D.), Istituto Internavionale di Studi Liguri, Bordighera, and the Rhode Island School of Design; Dr. Goodson is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, was the recipient of a 2003 Rome Prize, and 2016 she was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship for her project, “Urban gardening in Early Medieval Italy: cultivating the city”. She is Field Director at the site of Villa Magna in Italy.

“For the past 15 years, I have been exploring the formation of early medieval societies in the post-Roman world, especially Italy and North Africa. My research concentrates on the nature of power in these places, looking at how different groups positioned themselves as successors of the Romans’ past glories or innovators in a new world order. I am particularly interested in two issues: how religious beliefs related to day-to-day experiences (and how these have been transmitted to us through the material and textual records) and how cities facilitated new forms of social interaction and political authority. My work deliberately moves between the disciplines of archaeology and history. I work as a field archaeologist and, in addition to excavation, I use standing buildings archaeology, archaeological archives, and material culture studies in my research. I have also published extensively on medieval documentary and historical texts, such as chronicles, hagiography, and more recently charters and diplomata.”

Selected Publications

On Villamagna:

Fentress, E. and Goodson, C. (forthcoming 2016) “Structures of power: from Imperial villa to monastic estate at Villamagna (Italy),” In A. Reynolds (ed.), Power and Place in Later Roman and Early Medieval Europe: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Governance and Civil Organisation (London).

Fentress, E., Goodson, C., and Maiuro, M. (forthcoming 2016) Villa Magna: an Imperial Estate and its Legacies. Excavations 2006–10, Archaeological Monographs of the British School at Rome (London).

Fentress, E. and Maiuro, M. (2011) “Villa Magna near Anagni: the emperor, his winery and the wine of Signia.” Journal of Roman Archaeology 24: 333–69.

On medieval settlement archaeology in Italy:

Francovich, R. and Hodges, R. (2003) Villa to Village. The Transformation of the Roman Countryside in Italy c. 400–1000 (Duckworth Debates in Archaeology). (London).

Christie, N. (ed.), Landscapes of Change: Rural Evolutions in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. (Aldershot).

Christie, N. (2006) From Constantine to Charlemagne; An Archaeology of Italy, AD 300–800. (Aldershot).

Saturday, March 10, 2018- 2:00 PM: Dr. Caroline Goodson, Birkbeck College, University of London

2018 AIA Forsyth Lecture

Power in the Medieval Italian Countryside: The Village and Monastery of Villamagna (Lazio)

 

Abstract

The passage from antiquity to the middle ages meant major changes to the social structures, economies, and qualities of life for people living in central Italy. Power structures became local and new social orders, including the church and monasteries, emerged in the centuries after the collapse of the Roman empire. The site of Villamagna, Italy, about 70 km south of Rome, provides a unique vantage point into this process of transformation. Over five seasons of open-area stratigraphic excavation, and five further years of analysis of materials and finds, our international team has revealed the transition of an imperial Roman villa into a proprietary monastery and then a feudal estate which is abandoned at the time of the Black Death. From the vantage point of an imperial villa, one of the highest-status, best-connected settlements of the Roman world, we can chart in fine detail the changes in social structures, economies, and representation of power in this period, and examine the effects of the legacies of the ancient estate on its medieval realities.

Medieval Villamagna gives us entirely new insight into the transformation to a medieval landscape of power. We have excavated a high-status residence built into the ancient Roman buildings, dated to c. 900. In the late tenth century, the property was endowed to a monastery, and we have excavated its buidldings next to the Byzantine church at the center of the estate. The abbots of the monastery became the most significant landholders in the region, they created a castle on the hill above the site for their vassals, and acquired agricultural properties throughout the valley, which were farmed by peasants. The village of peasant huts which we excavated tells us about the lives of the people who worked the lands up to c. 1400, while the structures of the monastery reveal for us the wealth of the community, and their strategies for projecting power and prestige. In front of the monastery and church is an extensive burial ground, containing over 400 medieval graves. It provides a new lens for examining life and death in a medieval monastery and village—ongoing bio-archaeology research is examining life course and changes in health, in the population. This paper will present the findings in the context of the current research in medieval settlement and monastic archaeology, showing how the imperial legacy Villamagna remained a significant tool for advancement through the middle ages.

Bio

Caroline Goodson is Reader in Archaeology and History, Department of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. She holds her degrees from Columbia University (Ph.D.), Istituto Internavionale di Studi Liguri, Bordighera, and the Rhode Island School of Design; Dr. Goodson is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, was the recipient of a 2003 Rome Prize, and 2016 she was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship for her project, “Urban gardening in Early Medieval Italy: cultivating the city”. She is Field Director at the site of Villa Magna in Italy.

“For the past 15 years, I have been exploring the formation of early medieval societies in the post-Roman world, especially Italy and North Africa. My research concentrates on the nature of power in these places, looking at how different groups positioned themselves as successors of the Romans’ past glories or innovators in a new world order. I am particularly interested in two issues: how religious beliefs related to day-to-day experiences (and how these have been transmitted to us through the material and textual records) and how cities facilitated new forms of social interaction and political authority. My work deliberately moves between the disciplines of archaeology and history. I work as a field archaeologist and, in addition to excavation, I use standing buildings archaeology, archaeological archives, and material culture studies in my research. I have also published extensively on medieval documentary and historical texts, such as chronicles, hagiography, and more recently charters and diplomata.”

Selected Publications

On Villamagna:

Fentress, E. and Goodson, C. (forthcoming 2016) “Structures of power: from Imperial villa to monastic estate at Villamagna (Italy),” In A. Reynolds (ed.), Power and Place in Later Roman and Early Medieval Europe: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Governance and Civil Organisation (London).

Fentress, E., Goodson, C., and Maiuro, M. (forthcoming 2016) Villa Magna: an Imperial Estate and its Legacies. Excavations 2006–10, Archaeological Monographs of the British School at Rome (London).

Fentress, E. and Maiuro, M. (2011) “Villa Magna near Anagni: the emperor, his winery and the wine of Signia.” Journal of Roman Archaeology 24: 333–69.

On medieval settlement archaeology in Italy:

Francovich, R. and Hodges, R. (2003) Villa to Village. The Transformation of the Roman Countryside in Italy c. 400–1000 (Duckworth Debates in Archaeology). (London).

Christie, N. (ed.), Landscapes of Change: Rural Evolutions in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. (Aldershot).

Christie, N. (2006) From Constantine to Charlemagne; An Archaeology of Italy, AD 300–800. (Aldershot).

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