General location with the Augustan regions.

General location with the Augustan regions.


In January 2000, Ghent University (Belgium) initiated a geo-archaeological research project called the "Potenza Valley Survey" (PVS) in what were once the fifth and sixth region of Roman Italy, Picenum and Umbria. This interdisciplinary project was set up by the Departments of Archaeology and Geography, under the direction of Prof. Frank Vermeulen. The major aim of the PVS was to measure the evolution of social complexity in Antiquity within the valley of one of the Marches' major rivers of the modern region Le Marche, the river Potenza.

Although Pliny (Naturalis Historia III.13) describes a densely populated land, this project wants to discover how populous the region was, what the different types of settlements were and how the settlement patterns changed, in time as well as in space. Therefore, the project got the subtitle "From Acculturation to Social Complexity in Antiquity: A Regional Geo-Archaeological and Historical Approach". In order to measure long-term evolutions and changes (particularly the global impact of Roman colonialism in the region), the ascent of the Iron Age Piceni culture (9th century BC) in the region has been chosen as a flexible starting point and the transformation of the classical society in early medieval times as a non-abrupt end of the study period. On the regional scale an attempt is made to reconstruct the human occupation and landscape history of the Potenza area during the first millennium before and after the beginning of our era. The questionnaire involved tries to measure the evolution of social complexity within the studied communities and evaluate all tangible phenomena of acculturation. Special attention is paid to evolutions towards the possible centralisation of settlements and via early forms of urbanisation, but also in the growing organisation of the landscape (a network of roads, normative land division, structuring of rural exploitation and territories, centralisation of cemeteries and sanctuaries, good exploitation of natural resources, etc.). The later disintegration and change of these processes are also analysed and explained on a spatial basis. On a higher supra-regional scale correlation of the developments in the region must then be sought with the global history of protohistoric, classical and early medieval Italy. Although the survey strategy was designed to answer questions about the protohistoric and early historic periods in particular, other periods are not ignored, and it is intended that the analysis of the survey will range across the whole period of human settlement.

This geo-archaeological and historical analysis has also some methodological objectives. These concern a/o. the further development of interdisciplinary geo-archaeological survey methods (including the use of satellite imagery and active aerial photography) and the refinement of integrated historical-archaeological GIS-work. In this respect, the Potenza region can be regarded as a test-case for the development of methods for landscape research within a well-defined archaeological and chronological framework.

The main financial support comes from the Fund of Scientific Research - Flanders (FWO) and from Ghent University (BOF-funds). Substantial grants were also obtained from the Belgian Federal Government (IUAP V/09 and VI/22).