Imperial wine-making in Roman Italy

In the latest issue of Current World Archaeology , due out on 24 March, Professor Maureen Carroll discusses the latest evidence for wine production on the Roman imperial estate that she, along with the help of Sheffield and international students, has been excavating at Vagnari, southern Italy.

The article, ‘Vagnari: Where wine-making became an imperial business', documents the discovery of the large complex, the South Building, in the summer of 2015 season. The excavation of large circular plastered basins, inserted into a thick mortar paving adjacent to the South Building, suggest the area was a cella vinaria, a wine fermentation and storage room, in which wine vessels (dolia defossa) were fixed into the ground.

Read more about the excavation of the dolia in a recent Past Horizons article here

Few Roman imperial estates in Italy have been investigated archeologically, so I am very gratified that the current investigations at Vagnari are making a significant contribution to an understanding of Roman elite involvement in the exploitation of the environment and the control over slave and free labour. The discovery of the estate winery in 2015 was totally unexpected and very exciting, and we will explore more of it in 2016.

Maureen Carroll

Vagnari is situated in a valley of the Basentello river, just east of the Apennine mountains in Puglia (ancient Apulia) in south-east Italy. After the Roman conquest of the region in the 2nd c. B.C., Vagnari was linked to Rome by one of Italy’s main Roman roads, the Via Appia. Maureen Carroll’s archaeological project at the site has the in-depth exploration of the agricultural and industrial vicus –the estate village- as its focus. The main objectives have been to investigate the buildings, the economy, and the role of slave and free labour in the vicus, with a particular focus on public and private facilities and industrial production (including lead smelting).

Vagnari image 2

Vagnari news image

Maureen works in collaboration with an international team of scholars investigating other aspects of the archaeology of Vagnari and the surrounding region. Each year her team includes students from our department, providing them with an invaluable experience of excavating abroad and in the heart of the Roman empire. Two of those students, Kathryn Goulding and Marcus Losty, tell us about their experiences at Vagnari in 2015 here.

For more information on Maureen’s Vagnari project: