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Exchange and Reuse: Economy and Circularity at Roman Palmyra


Professor Nathanael Andrade (University of Binghamton) and Professor Rubina Raja (Aarhus University)

Dates: 11-12 October 2021

Time: 13:00-17:00 (Day 1); 9:00-17:00 (Day 2)

Venue: Moesgaard Museum, Moesgaard Allé 15, 8270 Højbjerg, building 4240, room 301 (enter through back of building)


Ancient economy has been a research topic for decades. However, recent advances in archaeological and technological practices enable us to pose new questions about urban economic patterns, which include the following. How did ancient cities like Palmyra survive? How did their people produce and manage the resources for short- and long-term needs? Were their methods circular and therefore sometimes potentially sustainable, or were they wasteful and destructive? Were their commercial transactions efficient or costly (economically, socially, or ecological). Did people arrive at collective resolutions to economic and ecological problems? Or did they pursue their own divisive ends, even at the risk of social conflict and instability? To what extent was a monetarized economy the basis for economic patterns in Roman period Palmyra?

The material culture of Palmyra offers unique potential for addressing these questions in a concrete way. The city’s tax law and inscriptions have long afforded glimpses of economic life not documented for other cities. Its overseas commerce has attracted consistent treatment. A century of excavations and a series of recent in print publications and digital enterprises have put unprecedented amounts of material objects at the disposal of scholars. These include statues, tesserae, coins, glass and metal finds, and textiles, which can cast new light on labor specialization, production economy, reuse and recycling, and wealth and poverty. Yet, much work remains to be done on Palmyra’s intrinsic web of economic relations, the circulation of its resources, and the agency exercised by many parts of its labor force. In particular the archaeological evidence from the city may shed light on the questions posed above if structured and approached with these issues in mind. Recent work undertaken within the Palmyra Portrait Project and the Circular Economy and Urban Sustainability Project respectively has shown the potential and challenges which working with the archaeological evidence holds.

This workshop seeks to envision ways to use this material, largely unparalleled, to conceive of social relations and object exchange in one ancient city. While all ancient cities are different, Palmyra’s unique range of surviving and excavation material will hopefully enable concepts and models useful for the study of other urban economies. With a range of papers addressing various aspects we want to bring the archaeological evidence into a closer dialogue with the narrative about Palmyra’s trade based economy and to challenge this narrative by also addressing other economies – alternative economies – which were in place in the oasis city. We also want to explore to which degree a set of independent or entangled economies were in place and to investigate their sustainability and vulnerability, their fluctuations – peaks and lows – in order to begin to understand such patterns and behaviors in a more holistic manner within this urban setting.

The workshop is funded by the Circular Economy and Urban Sustainability in Antiquity. We hope to host the event in person at Centre for Urban Network Evolutions, Aarhus University. We offer to pay travel (economy) for non-AU-speakers as well as three nights of accommodation (organized by us) and catering during the event.


  • *Andrade, Nathanael (Binghamton University)
  • Bobou, Olympia (Aarhus University)
  • Butcher, Kevin (University of Warwick)
  • Campmany Jiménez, Joan (Aarhus University), Romanowska, Iza (Aarhus University), *Raja, Rubina and Seland, Eivind Heldaas (University of Bergen) 
  • Cobb, Matthew (University of Wales Trinity Saint David)
  • Cussini, Eleonora (Università Ca' Foscari Venezia)
  • Intagliata, Emanuele (Aarhus University)
  • Kubiak-Schneider, Aleksandra (Independent researcher)
  • Schörle, Katia (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
  • Steding, Julia (Aarhus University)
  • Zuchowska, Marta (University of Warsaw)

* organisers

Practical information for speakers


For invited speakers, up to three nights of accommodation will be covered as well as travel expenses (economy class only). Please book your own travel to Aarhus (see also further information under 'Travel to Aarhus'), and we will reimburse you after your stay (*please note that we are only allowed to reimburse tickets booked directly through an airline and not via Momondo or other search engines*). We would appreciate it if you could book sooner rather than later, in order to get a reasonably priced flight.

NOTE: As soon as you have booked your flight, please forward your itinerary to Christina Levisenso that the hotel booking can be finalised.

After the event, you will receive a link to a travel reimbursement form.


Scandic The Mayor
Banegårdspladsen 14
8000 Aarhus C  

Tel.: +45 89 31 81 11 

Email: themayor@scandichotels.com

Transport to Moesgaard Museum

From the city centre, you can take Bus 18 (see timetable). The closest stop to the hotel is at Park Allé (see map), and the bus leaves three times an hour (direction: Moesgård).

Note that you have to purchase your ticket BEFORE you get on the bus - either through the Midttrafik app or through their webshop (Link to app and webshop).

Get off at the bus stop "Moesgård Museum" (end station) - the ride takes approximately 25 min. From there, walk up to the museum and enter through the back of the building.

Map of AU Campus Moesgaard including the museum 


We will host dinners for speakers both 11 and 12 October, and we will of course cater for you during the conference.

Speakers' dinners will be held at: 

11 October
Restaurant Slap Af
Studsgade 8
8000 Aarhus C   
See map here

12 October
Restaurant ET
Åboulevarden 7
8000 Aarhus C
See map here

NOTE: If you have any dietary restrictions (incl. allergies), please let Christina Levisen know no later than 27 September, so that the restaurant/caterers can be notified.