Project CIRCE – Drivers of change in ancient circular economies over the longue durée

The term Circular Economy (CE) refers to those sustainable economic models in which Repairing, Reusing, and Recycling activities (the so-called ‘three Rs’) allow products to be reintroduced into societies after their disposal. CE has been the subject of the attention of archaeologists for decades. Modern scholarship, however, is inconsistent in the way it explores this phenomenon. Certain processes, such as repair, have been investigated less than others. In addition, CE has been studied mainly based on narrowly-dated case studies. Therefore, our understanding of this economic model over the longue durée in antiquity remains patchy.

Project CIRCE (= CIRCular Economies in Antiquity) aims to be the first step to overcome the fragmentation that has characterised the studies dedicated to CE in past societies. This is achieved by developing a research protocol that explores all three Rs over a long period (1st to 6th centuries AD) and based on data from a wide variety of sites and contexts (from cities to villages, from households to artisanal quarters). The protocol consists of a qualitative and quantitative methodology that makes use of traditional autoptic macroscopic and microscopic analyses (e.g., chrono-typological approach, use-wear analyses) coupled with state-of-the-art analytical studies (chemical trace and isotope analyses). The project aims to test this integrated methodology in northern Italy, with a specific focus on three case studies (1. Aquileia; 2. Verona and its hinterland; 3. Cremona and its hinterland). This new research approach allows the team to explore for the first time and at a regional level how regenerative and conservative economic processes affected different types of communities over a long period and the drivers behind the development of such an economic model in ancient societies.

This two-year project, which started in December 2023, includes two research units based at the University of Milan and the University of Verona. The research team include Emanuele E. Intagliata (PI – UniMi), Diana Dobreva (Co-PI – UniVr), Lorenzo Zamboni (UniMi), Anna Riccato (UniMi), and Michele Pacioni (UniVr). It is funded by the Ministero dell’Università e della Ricerca under the PRIN 2022 PNRR programme.

Papers at conferences and seminars

Emanuele E. Intagliata, Anna Riccato. Archeologia ed economia circolare. Come e quanto si riciclava nell’antichità? In “Archeologia tra Adda e Mincio – Ciclo di conferenze ‘Luca Restelli’ 2024” (organised by Lorenzo Zamboni – Visitors Centre Calvatone Bedriacum, Calvatone, 21/06/2024).

Anna Riccato, Chi rompe ripara: usi, riusi e riparazioni di contenitori ceramici nel mondo romano. In “Non si butta via niente. Economie circolari nel mondo antico” (seminar series organised by Margarita Gleba and Guido Furlan – Università degli Studi di Padova – 12/06/2024).

Emanuele E. Intagliata, Amedeo De Lisi, Tra economia circolare e analisi geospaziali – nuove prospettive di ricerca per l’Archeologia Cristiana e Medievale all’Università degli Studi di Milano. In “IX Giornata della Ricerca del Dipartimento di Beni Culturali e Ambientali ‘“’Maria Teresa Grassi'” (Milano, Dipartimento di Beni Culturali e Ambientali, Università degli Studi di Milano – 23/05/2024).

News from the project