Relating Law and archaeology in search of commercial structures

I have recently (March, 2014) defended my PhD in Roman Law based at the Universities of Valencia, Alicante and Palermo. It focused upon the issue of criminal liability for shipwrecking in the light of the edict De incendio ruina naufragio rate nave expugnata (D. 47, 9, 1), and I have tried to relate legal sources with the archaeological evidence in order to explain the measures provided by the praetorian edict.

I have just joined the PortusLimen project with the aim of undertaking a PhD in the subject of epigraphy and merchandise. The basis for my research will be the inscriptions that could be found on the so-called instrumentum domesticum (sets of tools and objects for everyday use and household). My aim is not to make a catalogue of inscriptions, but to undertake comparisons and to try to understand their meaning of inscriptions in relation to the controlling procedures of various authorities, a goal that can be achieved in the light of our understanding of legal sources. My research will be touching upon the following issues:

  • Possible systematization of the inscriptions
  • Spatial distribution of the inscriptions.
  • Their broader context in private and public Law.
  • Relationship between the inscriptions and the liability of the subjects involved in the transaction.
  • Duties and responsibilities of the custodes of the instrumentum domesticum.
  • Role of the inscriptions in terms of guarantees of particular transactions.
  • Understanding the control procedures involved in the business developed (annona, customs, market control) in the light of the inscriptions.

One clear example about the research that we would need to develop to achieve this goal, would be based upon the study of published materials, especially the tituli picti upon amphorae in general, and the Dressel 20 in particular, in comparison with many other items, as casks, lead-tags, marble and ingots.

Some similarities between fullones’ lead tags and amphorae may well refer to the common treatment of fullones and the magistri navium in the Digest as far as their liability towards res suscepta was concerned, most notably title 4, 9 of the Digest, Nautae caupones stabularii ut recepta restituant. As we know, the praetor enacted his edicts in order to prevent irregular situations. In this case, it is clear that if the praetor related together three subjects in the same edict, it was because they had an element in common, such as the custodia of other people’ s belongings. This one is just an example that how the epigraphy of the instrumentum domesticum can help us understand key questions of relating to the activities carried out in the ports of the Roman Mediterranean.

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