A thousand and one columns: observations on the Roman granite trade in the Mediterranean area

Williams-Thorpe, Olwen (2008). A thousand and one columns: observations on the Roman granite trade in the Mediterranean area. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 27(1) pp. 73–89.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0092.2007.00297.x


Provenancing and archaeological information on Roman granite columns in the Mediterranean area has been collated from a range of published papers by the author and others, together with new analyses for Rome, to produce an integrated dataset comprising 1176 columns. This dataset allows an overview of Roman granite trade in seven regions across the Mediterranean area. Examination of the data indicates that columns made from Troad (Turkish) granite are the most numerous observed overall (compatible with Lazzarini's earlier (2004) observation that this is the most widely distributed type), followed by Aswan, then Elba and Giglio, and Kozak Dağ (Marmor Misium). In the city of Rome, Mons Claudianus columns predominate. In geographically peripheral parts of the Roman world (Spain, Israel), granite columns are mainly from local sources, and are generally of smaller sizes than those seen in Rome and Tuscany. Analytical data can be used to suggest multiple extraction sites within some quarries, and have the potential for identification of specific intra-quarry provenance. Dating evidence for primary use of columns from the quarries considered is relatively sparse, but suggests early (first century BC) exploitation of Spanish and Elba granites, while column production at Aswan and Troad persisted into the fourth century followed by reuse within later antiquity, in the fifth and seventh centuries AD.

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