Circular Economy in the Roman Period and the Early Middle Ages – Methods of Analysis for a Future Agenda

Irene Bavuso*, Guido Furlan, Emanuele Ettore Intagliata, Julia Steding

*Corresponding author for this work

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In recent years, studies on reuse practices in premodern societies have multiplied. Nonetheless, a linear model (production – usage – discard) is still widely employed for describing past economic systems. Integrating it with a circular model, instead of assuming that products were discarded after their usage, would greatly benefit our knowledge of ancient and medieval economies. In this work, we present a model of circular economy and define the terms used in this context. Thereafter, a possible agenda on how to study circularity both through archaeological material and written sources is traced. This covers archaeological fieldwork methods, as well as the process of interpretation and the re-evaluation of old data. It also proposes new strategies to use and read written sources to explore reuse practices. If different theoretical and methodological approaches are combined, a more holistic and vivid picture of premodern economies can be gained and help our understanding of how past societies used the resources available to them.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20220301
JournalOpen Archaeology
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Roman period
  • circular economy
  • medieval period
  • reuse
  • urban archaeology


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