Production Economy

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

Date            Thursday 5 October 2017

Time            8:45-17:45

Location     Jens Chr. Skous Vej 5, 8000 Aarhus C (Nobelparken, 1461-516)


Within the framework of the Palmyra Portrait Project, funded by the Carlsberg Foundation, a series of one-day  conferences have been organised over the past years. The conferences held in fall 2017 and spring 2018 will focus on the theme of production economy and use this term as a main line of enquiry into understanding processes of production and economy in Palmyra in the Roman period.

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 in recent decades has the focus in research shifted to view these objects as lines of enquiry into other areas and mechanisms of ancient societies such as production economy, which in turn offer substantial information about societal hierarchies and lines of production.

The aim of the first one-day conference is to bring researchers together who focus on various aspects of production and the participants involved in the production process of stone-carved products. This includes studies of different materials that has been used frequently in the region of wider Syria. Therefore, specialists dealing with carving techniques and tools in relation to marble and limestone are invited.

Little is known about the technical aspects of the production process. Only one workshop situation has been excavated, and the archaeological remains from the workshops at Aphrodisias were able to answer only a few questions. By looking at the production outcome itself, we will get to know more about the different steps of the production process of portraits and the development of the techniques in the region of wider Syria.

Through the debate about the technical methods, further investigations on the division of labour and productivity (speed and scale) can be made. During the conference the work of sculptors, painters and workers at the quarries will be brought together, to answer questions on the interactions of the different participants in the process and the distribution of the different steps of production. Was a single sculptor responsible for the production of a complete portrait, including the carving/working of the background, the facial details and the inscriptions? Or where specialists hired to focus on individual details of the portrait? Was the working speed – and therefore the productivity – influenced by a division of labour? Another focus closely connected with these questions is the relation between the sculptors and the costumer: Was the carver able to make a costumer-made representation, and to which extent was the costumer able to influence the final product? Were portraits produced to be sold ‘off the shelf’ or individualised from the first to the last step of production?

The conference will bring together all these aspects to create a comprehensive overview over the production economy in the region of wider Syria during the Roman period.

Confirmed speakers

  • Abdul Massih, Jeanine (Lebanese University)
  • Blömer, Michael (Aarhus University)
  • Blume, Clarissa (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
  • Claridge, Amanda (Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • Raja, Rubina (Aarhus University) – organiser
  • Steding, Julia (Aarhus University) – organiser
  • Wootton, Will (King’s College London)

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).­