Between Town and Monastery. Peasant economy in the first millennium AD (Premio Ottone d’Assia e Riccardo Francovich 2020)


Author: Louis Pinchetti
Year of printing: 2021
ISBN: 9788892850743
e-ISBN: 9788892850750


Approaches to early medieval peasantry are often polarized, either enhancing the benefits brought by the weakening of aristocratic dominance or emphasizing the limited prospects for peasant development in the absence of a solid extra-regional trade network. This study offers a long-term overview of the peasant economy throughout the 1st millennium AD in the Upper Volturno Basin, between the town of Isernia and the monastery of San Vincenzo al Volturno. The reader is presented with data collected from two archaeological surveys, and is invited to scrutinize changes in settlement patterns, ancient land use and ceramic distributions while the main economic center shifted from town to monastery. These proxies of economic performance offer an advantage point to reconstruct the history of agrarian production and of exchange networks in Central Italy, opening a novel outlook on peasant social dynamics at a time when the Roman economic system transitioned into the feudal system. The results show that the “golden age of peasants” was an age of experimentation, forcing to reconsider the role of the peasantry in the making of the feudal economy.

  • Preface: Luigi Pinchetti and the promising future of the early medieval peasant, by Richard Hodges
  • Acknowledgements

1. Introduction

  • 1.1 Rural economy in the 1st millennium AD: slave, peasant and feudal modes of production
  • 1.2 Central Places and rural economy: theoretical background and archaeological implications
  • 1.3 Conflicting scenarios and the potential of landscape archaeology
  • 1.4 Introducing the case study and the research questions

2. History and Geography of the Upper Volturno Basin

  • 2.1 Geomorphology of the research area
  • 2.2 The communication network
  • 2.3 The climate and the modern demographic situation
  • 2.4 A brief history of Aesernia and San Vincenzo al Volturno
  • 2.5 The San Vincenzo Project
  • 2.6 The Colonial Landscape Project

3. Surveying the post-Roman countryside: issues, methods, potential

  • 3.1 Survey data for post-Roman periods: issues and methods
  • 3.2 New frameworks for survey comparisons
  • 3.3 Reconstructing settlement dynamics in the post-Roman Upper Volturno Basin

4. The ceramics of the Upper Volturno Basin

  • 4.1 Late Roman Red Slip Wares
  • 4.2 Imitations of ARS
  • 4.3 Red Painted Ware
  • 4.4 Forum Ware
  • 4.5 Coarse wares from the UVB
  • 4.6 The material of the SVV and the CLP projects

5. Land suitability and agrarian production

  • 5.1 Agrarian change between Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages
  • 5.2 Approaching land productivity from survey data
  • 5.3 The agrarian suitability of the ancient UVB
  • 5.4 Land exploitation through the 1st millennium AD
  • 5.5 Towards an agrarian history of the UVB

6. Ceramic distribution, economic integration and exchange networks

  • 6.1 Economic integration and the pervasiveness of small-scale exchange
  • 6.2 Archaeological approaches to small-scale exchange networks and their value for economic integration
  • 6.3 Fine wares: a proxy for inter-regional integration
  • 6.4 Ceramic distributions and the economic role of settlements
  • 6.5 How integrated were early medieval rural communities?
  • 6.6 The transformation of exchange in the UVB

7. Discussion

  • 7.1 Demand as the determinant factor of economic change
  • 7.2 The chronology of economic change in the UVB
  • 7.3 The aristocracy between town and territory
  • 7.4  San Vincenzo al Volturno as center of a new economy
  • 7.5 The eternal struggle of peasants: a limited autonomy

8. Conclusions

  • Appendix I: SVP material
  • Appendix II: SVS17 diagnostic material
  • Appendix III: Drawings diagnostic material survey 1980-81
  • Appendix IV: Drawings diagnostic material SVS17
  • Appendix V: Plates


Additional information

Weight :0,700 kg
Dimensions:29x21x1 cm

Place of printing

Sesto Fiorentino (FI)

Year of printing






illustrations in black and white and color



Number and series

17, Contributi di archeologia medievale






Open Access

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under license Creative Commons Attribution - Non commercial - No derivative works 4.0 International.