Evaluating Roman influence in southeast Europe by zooarchaeological meta-analysis

Sarah Everett, David Clive Orton

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This study uses increased specialisation in husbandry practice and the development of larger livestock as a proxy for spatial and temporal variation in Roman influence in southeast Europe. Data are presented from three regions subject to varying levels of Roman control: (a) the Balkan provinces, under long-term occupation; (b) Dacia, a province from 106 to 271/275 CE; and (c) regions beyond the Empire to the northwest and northeast. While little change in husbandry practice occurs during the early Roman occupation in the first centuries BCE and CE, clear changes are evident across occupied regions in the second and third centuries CE. A cattle-focused economic system develops, likely influenced by an increased focus on arable production, and a significant increase in cattle and sheep/goat size is observed. In the Balkan provinces, while larger livestock persist into the early Byzantine period, there is a decline in specialised cattle exploitation at rural sites in the late Roman period, and at urban sites in the early Byzantine period, concurrent with a decrease in Roman political control. In Dacia, in contrast, average livestock size decreases after the Roman withdrawal, while specialised cattle husbandry persists for several centuries. Beyond the Empire, specialised cattle husbandry is evident from the late Iron Age, but increases in the second and third centuries, perhaps indicating the spread of Roman influence beyond occupied regions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalQuaternary International
Early online date3 Nov 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Authors


  • zooarchaeology
  • meta-analysis
  • animal husbandry
  • Roman Empire
  • limes
  • Southeast Europe

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