Production Economy in Roman Greater Syria: Trade and networks

Organised by PhD student Julia Steding (Aarhus University) and Professor Rubina Raja (Aarhus University).

Date            Thursday 8 February 2018

Time            8:45-18:00

Location     Studenterhus Aarhus, Frederik Nielsens Vej 4, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark (Preben Hornung Stuen)


Within the framework of the Palmyra Portrait Project directed by Rubina Raja and funded by the Carlsberg Foundation a series of one day workshops have been organised over the last years. The workshops in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 focus on production economy as a main line of enquiry into understanding processes of production and economic patterns related to spheres of production related to sculpture in Roman Palmyra.

Sculptures, sarcophagi, and reliefs are well-studied remains of ancient societies, which provide information about identity, self-representations and status in ancient societies. However, only over the last decades focus in research has shifted to view these objects as lines of enquiry into other areas of ancient societies, such as production economy issues, which in turn give information about societal hierarchies and lines of production. The aim of the workshop to be held in February 2018 is, to bring researchers together, who focus on various aspects of trade networks and the supply of cities and their workshops with stone and other materials. The focus area is the region of Greater Syria. However, since material such as marble was not available locally, but imported, other relevant regions from which imports came are also included.

Research on networks and trade patterns have become central to research in the last years. However, there are still questions, which remain open. Some workshops resorted to local stone while others imported material from regions far away. Questions that can be addressed include those evolving around the transportation of material from the quarries to the production centres, be it from close by or far away. Transportation issues are connected to questions about infrastructure and trade routes, means of transportation and transportation costs as well as the question why specific materials were chosen by some people and not by others? The interplay between availability, costs and preferences of carvers and costumers is one aspect, which still needs consideration. How did matters of status expressions through costly (mostly imported?) materials and local preferences come together? Was a marble object in a region without natural marble sources an expression of value and thus of status? Would it in some locations have been more important to keep the costs low? Can we see a difference between the materials that were used in the public sphere and in the private sphere? Various materials would have needed different carving techniques and so carving techniques in themselves might also be considered as status expressions in some contexts.

Another reconsideration is the place of carving when focusing on material that was not quarried in the surrounding. If a specific material was not available in a region, did the workshops or costumers import only raw material that was then carved locally? Or did they import partly carved or complete carved portraits/sarcophagi/sculptures? Where would the final carving have taken place and may we trace transfer of carving techniques from areas with a natural deposit of a specific material to areas where the material was unknown?

The workshop will bring together all these aspects to create a comprehensive overview over the networks and trade in the region of wider Syria and behind during the Roman period.

More can be read about the Palmyra Portrait Project on the following webpage: 

We cover the travel (economy) as well as two nights of accommodation in Aarhus for the invited speakers. The speakers commit to publishing their papers in the series “Palmyrene Studies” edited by Rubina Raja and published by the Royal Academy of Sciences and Letters. For further questions contact Julia Steding ( or Rubina Raja (

Confirmed speakers

  • Bessac, Jean-Claude (CNRS Montpellier)
  • Colins, Adam (University of Liverpool)
  • Degryse, Patrick (KU Leuven)
  • Hirt,  Alfred (University of Liverpool)
  • Lenghan, Julia (University of Oxford)
  • Waelkens,  Marc (KU Leuven)
  • Wielgosz, Dagmara (University of Warsaw)

Practical information for speakers

Please make your own travel arrangements to/from Aarhus. After your visit, your travel expenses will be reimbursed (only economy class). Please fill out this travel reimbursement form and return it (preferably in Excel-format) to Christina Levisen ( along with scanned copies of your receipts and boarding passes (no need to send the originals).­