The Farfa Survey - part 1
Dr John Moreland
The Farfa Survey covered the area of the Sabine Hills from the monastery of Farfa westwards to the Tiber. The survey was multi-period, but had a particular focus on late Antiquity and the early middle ages. We hoped to combine material evidence for human occupation of this landscape with information from the monastery´s archive of early medieval texts to provide new insights (at a regional level) into the demise of the Ancient World and the birth of the Middle Ages.
Archaeologists and historians tend to conjure up contrasting images of the `end of Rome´. The former emphasise discontinuity, and argue that hill-top settlements replaced classical patterns of (dispersed) settlement in late Antiquity. The latter, by contrast, see continuity of dispersed settlement up to, and date the incastellamento process from, the 10th-century. In utilising both texts and material culture we sought to overcome this disabling history/archaeology opposition.
Preliminary analysis of the survey evidence suggested that Roman settlement in this part of the Sabina peaked in the 1st- and 2nd-century AD (see 8, below).The end of the 2nd- century, however, saw the beginning of a decline in the number of datable sites. Few, if any, sites could be dated to the period between 500 and 800, apparently confirming the `discontinuity´ argument that the `classical´ pattern of settlement had collapsed in late Antiquity.
This evidence, however, is not entirely unequivocal. The peak in classical settlement patterns (4, 8) should be seen in the context of the region´s proximity to the Rome (and our ability to date terra sigillata). There may have been some dislocation in the 2nd-century (plague?) and the `failure´ of site numbers to recover may be a symptom of `Rome the imperial power´ – drawing on the resource of its provinces rather than its hinterland