The pressing political and social need to supply the high population densities of Imperial Rome shaped not only the capital’s immediate hinterland (which was turned over to high-value, perishable goods) but also the Mediterranean more broadly. A vital link in the supply system connecting Rome to the Mediterranean were the ports on the Tyrrhenian coast within a few hundred km of Rome. One of the most important of these, especially early in this period, was Puteoli on the Bay of Naples, around which grew a network of commercial and military ports. Imperial Rome attempted to shape the Bay of Naples in manifold ways to supply (and protect) itself, including the creation or improvement of deep-water ports and the transfer of water hundreds of kms between river basins: a very modern example of environmental imperialism. These attempts took place in the context of seismic and climatic dynamism, however. During the early and high empire, resources were sufficient to meet these challenges. Changing capabilities and priorities in late antiquity led to the collapse of this system.  

This presentation will investigate this 500-year history of human-environment interaction. It will consider how useful it is to view the supply networks of Rome, and the water supply of the ports of the Bay of Naples as a form of niche construction.  


About the presenter

Duncan is Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Queensland. His research focuses on the relationship between environment, technology and society in the past, especially in the ancient Mediterranean and in Australia, as well as how these can help us manage this relationship today. He has current projects on the climate, flooding and water management in ancient Italy and floodplain management in Australia's channel country, as well as how Roman mortar developed and why it is so durable. He is an affiliate of UQ's Centre for Policy Futures, having been a fellow there in 2020. Before taking up the position at UQ, he held postdoctoral positions at the Collegium de Lyon (2017-2018), University of Glasgow (2014 - 2017) and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (2011-2014). Duncan's doctoral thesis (Macquarie University, 2011) investigated the creation and social and environmental impacts of a unique, regional water supply network. Before his Masters of Arts in Ancient History (Macquarie, 2006), Duncan completed an honours degree in chemical engineering. 


Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. QR codes will be available for you to check in upon arrival. Hand sanitiser will also be available. As of the latest government advice, masks are no longer required at UQ locations—however, UQ encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. As of February 14, 2022, all persons visiting UQ locations must be fully vaccinated. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar. 

About Archaeology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Archaeology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of archaeological research and ideas amongst UQ archaeology students and staff. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment. It is hoped that anyone interested in current archaeological directions, both within and outside the School and University, will be able to attend and contribute to the series.